The Obedience of Christ

“Though He was a Son, yet He learned obedience by the things which He suffered. And having been perfected, He became the author of eternal salvation to all who obey Him.” (Heb. 5:8-9)

OBEDIENCE is indispensable for spiritual growth. Your degree of obedience determines the degree of authority you will have in the spirit world. Jesus’ whole life testifies to obedience. At first, He obeyed earthly parents: 

“Then he returned with them to Nazareth, and was submissive to them.” (Luke 2:51).

Then total obedience to the Father: 

“Then Jesus answered and said to them, “Most assuredly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of Himself, but what He sees the Father do; for whatever He does, the Son also does in like manner.”(John 5:19).

I can of Myself do nothing. As I hear, I judge; and My judgment is righteous, because I do not seek My own will but the will of the Father who sent Me.” (John 5:30).

“For I have come down from heaven, not to do My own will, but the will of Him who sent Me.” (John 6:38).

Then Jesus said to them, “When you lift up the Son of Man, then you will know that I am He, and that I do nothing of Myself; but as My Father taught Me, I speak these things.” (John 8:28).

For I have not spoken on My own authority; but the Father who sent Me gave Me a command, what I should say and what I should speak.” (John 12:49).

“Do you not believe that I am in the Father, and the Father in Me? The words that I speak to you I do not speak on My own authority; but the Father who dwells in Me does the works.” (John 14:10).

Christ is the perfect example of obedience. He did not even initiate His public ministry. Mary, His mother, had to tell the servants to do what He would tell them (John 2:1-12). He Himself also completely fulfilled the submissive service of a son in His parents’ home until the age of thirty, after which He then began His spiritual ministry with His disciples.

If He, who is the Son of God, has done nothing of Himself, how much more should we not submit to Him? 

“I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing.” (John 15:5).

Since the creation of man, we have preferred to acquire ourselves the knowledge of good and evil from foreign sources rather than embrace dependent obedience to the Father. We were created as God’s children to be God’s image-bearers and representatives, which means we reflect the Father, not ourselves. 

There is no neutral ground. We either reflect His love, peace, joy, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control, or there is a cosmic federation of “principalities, … powers, …. rulers of the darkness of this age, … spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places” (Eph. 6:12), aimed at deterring you from pursuing the purpose for which you were created! 

  • Every time we use communion, we make our alliance with God’s covenant public! 
  • Every time we unite as believers, we join forces to resist evil
  • Every time we act in the opposite spirit, we shine our light in His light. 
  • Every time we let the Spirit lead us, we proverbially strike a stake in the ground to establish God’s Eden, temple, dominion, and habitat on earth as it is in heaven. 

We are God’s instruments of healing and restoration in everything we do. He uses us like leaven and seed to invade the strongholds of evil as an indirect offensive to eventually disarm evil. For this reason, obedience is essential to our spiritual resistance to evil.

The first man failed the test of obedience, but Jesus, the second Man, through His total obedience, restored the purpose of man’s creation before God. This was so that those who obey Him could be reinstated to their rule and mandate of man, as God originally intended to be lived. 

“Who, in the days of His flesh, when He had offered up prayers and supplications, with vehement cries and tears to Him who was able to save Him from death, and was heard because of His godly fear, though He was a Son, yet He learned obedience by the things which He suffered. And having been perfected, He became the author of eternal salvation to all who obey Him.” (Heb. 5:7-9).

Why Is Obedience So Difficult?

To be truly obedient, we must be completely selfless. The self, or ego, is an obstacle to obedience. Since the first man, we have preferred to follow our own heads, pave our own way, choose our own pace, and get to the answers ourselves. The immature mind does not value a teachable spirit.

How much frustration is not caused in the world because obstinate and rebellious people simply do not carry out commands or seek good advice? The opposite is also true: the most obedient at school often reach the highest positions. Children who do their homework and follow instructions from the teacher do the best in that subject. Patients who follow the doctor’s instructions heal the fastest. 

Recently, a friend told me of his frustration with his brother. Because of financial restraints everywhere, he asked his brother to redo the epoxy of his holiday home. The instruction was to use a clearcoat epoxy because he wanted to let the original concrete colour tones shine through. When he came to inspect, his brother painted the floor with grey epoxy, very proud of his accomplishment!! You want to scream your dissatisfaction, but you can’t because it is your brother, and you want to remain friends. Maybe this is why most people prefer not to do business with a family member, or church member.  

Would there be a need for law enforcement if everyone obeyed? The essence of the word obedience is: listen! But can we really hear anyone else when we are still full-of-ourselves.

The Hebrew word for obey and hear is the same (1 Kings 20: 8): shama ‘(shah-mah); Strong’s # 8085: To hear; to listen, consider, pay attention; to listen carefully and intelligently, to obey. The word has a certain intensity and seriousness. 

The best known verse where this word is used is Deut. 6:4:

“Sh’ma Yisrael! Lord, O Israel! The Lord our God, the Lord is one!”  

The idea of hearing and doing is the central credo of Judaism. The word shama is also the key word in Samuel’s name: “God has heard” (1 Sam. 3:20). Clearly, obedience is an attitude of the heart. So I am empty of all self, I am set on listening and gaining understanding so that I can go and do exactly what is expected of me.

The Crucified Life of Self-Denial

When Jesus laid down the criteria of how to follow Him, His answer was simple: 

“Then Jesus said to His disciples, if anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me. For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it.” (Matt. 16: 24-25).

It seems that when we try to do great things for the Lord, He does allow them, but they usually do not last long. How many human efforts have really been inspired by the Lord? All this points back to the original sin, where people ate from the tree of knowledge of good and evil rather than obey God. The Word is clear that if the Lord started it, it would be sustainable

And now I say to you, keep away from these men and let them alone; for if this plan or this work is of men, it will come to nothing; but if it is of God, you cannot overthrow it—lest you even be found to fight against God.” (Acts 5: 38-39).

Years ago, a spiritual mentor gently put me in my place when I asked him about a certain sin that I could not overcome. “Why are you not just obedient?” was his unexpected answer. “You know you should not do it, so just stop doing it. Be obedient! ” His words exposed the root of the rebellion in my heart. I sincerely confessed and not only experienced immediate deliverance but also how the Holy Spirit continues to empower me to overcome this weakness.

Obedience to the principles of literature—such as adherence to vocabulary, spelling, grammar, readability, and authenticity—creates a lasting legacy. Consider great authors like William Shakespeare, whose works remain timeless due to their meticulous craft, or Jane Austen, whose novels continue to resonate because of their precise language and keen social insights. Their commitment to literary excellence has ensured that their words remain true and relevant across generations, inspiring countless readers and writers.

Surpassing these secular authors are spiritual examples of authors whose words lined up with their life examples. People like Thomas A Kempis, Jeanne Guyon, and Brother Lawrence are just a few examples. Contemporary examples may include Mother Teresa, who not only preached on self-sacrifice but also set an example. 

We need more such leaders who have been surrendered in every way to deny themselves.

Defining Self-Denial

This is a rare commodity in the church today. Competition, power play, strife, and discord are rather the order of the day. The atheist Nietzsche said on occasion that people talk about their faith but live according to their passions. The newspapers are full of church leaders who transgress, especially in this area.

Paul’s call in this regard today is more than ever a clear call and cry for truth

Then make me truly happy by agreeing wholeheartedly with each other, loving one another, and working together with one mind and purpose

Don’t be selfish; don’t try to impress others. 

Be humble, thinking of others as better than yourselves. Don’t look out only for your own interests, but take an interest in others, too. 

You must have the same attitude that Christ Jesus had. Though he was God, he did not think of equality with God as something to cling to. Instead, he gave up his divine privileges; he took the humble position of a slave and was born as a human being. When he appeared in human form, he humbled himself in obedience to God and died a criminal’s death on a cross. 

Therefore, God elevated him to the place of highest honor and gave him the name above all other names, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue declare that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” (Phil. 2: 2-11 – NLT).

If we compare our spiritual maturity to being like Jesus, then the church falls far short, and we are still babies. Self-denial is apparently not a popular theme and clearly does not attract such large audiences, otherwise we might have preached more about it. We often pray our pious prayers with words such as: “He must increase, but I must decrease.” (John 3:30) and“…let Your will be done” (Matt. 6:10) but our actions contradict our verbal request.  In any case, Scripture places the focus first on God who must first become more and then I become less. 

The problem with self: 

  • it is still on the throne in so many Christians’ lives in so many ways, but we are not even aware of it. 
  • humbleness and obedience is the “fragrance of death” (2 Cor. 2:14-16) and the eternal aroma of life. 
  • It is a deep mystery that cannot be worked out with the intellect. When one talks about it, it slips out of your hands even before you can pin it down exactly. 

The Act of Self-Denial

It is for the above reasons that the word self-dying can never be found as a noun in the Bible, but rather as different verbs.

We find such verbs in Rom. 6: 11-13: 

“Likewise you also, reckon yourselves to be dead indeed to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus our Lord. Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body, that you should obey it in its lusts. And do not present your members as instruments of unrighteousness to sin, but present yourselves to God as being alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness to God.”

“…reckon yourselves to be dead...” 

The word reckon in the Greek language is logisomai from which our word ‘logical’ is derived. It means to: 

  • work something out
  • do a calculation
  • come to a logical conclusion

Furthermore, the verb was written in the aoristic sense, which means that: 

  • the action started somewhere in the past
  • you are still doing it 
  • you will still be doing the act until somewhere in the future. 

This information sheds much light on the act of self-denial. For example: I think about it and come to the logical conclusion that I have already given my life to the Lord, and that I still have to do it now, and I will do it thousands more times until I am united with Him in the hereafter. 

Defining Self-Denial

This then corresponds to Paul’s admonition to the brethren: 

“I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service.” (Rom. 12:1). 

The same word logikos as a noun, is translated here as “reasonable service”.

The doctrine of self-denial is nothing new, but even this doctrine has undergone several extreme interpretations: Thus it was taught that: 

  • the body is evil and that the body must be castrated and deprived of all enjoyment and pleasure so that we can then live more acceptably before God. A few years ago in my own search for truth on this matter, the Holy Spirit one day revealed to me something that radically changed my perspective. “You cannot try to kill yourself, it is called suicide.” 
  • Any self-denial born of self is stillborn and does not lead to life. 
  • On the contrary, it often leads to pride and condemnation of others who have not died as much as you have. “Self” is rather glorified in this way – how long you fasted, how much and how long you prayed. These all become indicators of spirituality with an alarming negating dissonance.

“I Am Crucified With Christ” – What It Means 

“I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.” (Gal. 2:20 NKJV).

We can only concede, surrender and yield when He is “killing” us. When He asks you to drink the cup (a covenant act) you finally come to full surrender like He did in Gethsemane. Even through blood-sweat and tears you cry: “no more my will, Lord, but let Your will be done”. At that moment you are crucified and declared dead. Therein lies a deep mystery: 

“For whosoever will save his life shall lose it; but whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it.”(Matt. 16:25).

Our efforts to change or deny ourselves are thus futile. After all, it must be so, because if we could change or improve ourselves, then why would we need Jesus? 

This is exactly what distinguishes us from any other religions. We are the only religion that believes that you can do nothing to get closer to God, or please Him. For this He gave His Son who kept all the precepts in our place so that we might be justified by His works.

“But to him who does not work but believes on Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is accounted for righteousness.” (Rom. 4: 5).

When Paul discusses the sinful condition of man in Romans 7 and expresses it so beautifully, namely, “the things I want to do I do not do, the wrong things I hate I do,” he comes to the end of the chapter with a desperate and powerless cry: 

“Oh, wretched man! Who will deliver me from the body of this death?” (Rom. 7:24). 

When I come to the end of my efforts, trials and works, I am ready to experience a miracle of resurrection.

By Grace (Mercy) Saved and Empowered

“The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, ‘God, I thank You that I am not like other men—extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I possess.’ And the tax collector, standing afar off, would not so much as raise his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me a sinner!’ (Luke 18:11-13). 

The tax collector’s prayer is accepted but not that of the Pharisee, who tried to do right. The sinner’s deep sense of sin and inability to change himself causes him to cry out to God for mercy! The Pharisee justifies himself by all the good things he does. He was certainly sincerely grateful that he was not like the bad people, but without realizing that it was God’s grace and not his good works that made him a better person.

Thus, with his “thorn in his flesh”, Paul had to be content with the words:

“My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness. Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in needs, in persecutions, in distresses, for Christ’s sake. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” (2 Cor. 12:9-10).

Self-Denial and Heart Motives

James says that our prayers will not be answered because of our selfish desires (James 4: 2-3). 

When our ego is still alive with personal agendas and motives, we are spiritually at a closed door. It does make sense, though, because the Bible clearly states that no living flesh will see God and stay alive (Ex. 33:20). But through Jesus Christ we now have boldness to speak without fear to God  and about Him (Heb. 10:19).

The church is in the business of life transformation. This is ultimately what every church and preacher should aim for, namely to see that lives change positively and become equal to the image of Jesus Christ (Rom. 8:29).

Different Human-Directed Practices Of Self-Denial

Each of these principles contains a strong element of truth, and consequently, there is a degree of success in each. Also, none of these focus areas are wrong but cannot be grounded in Scripture. The problem is that none of these aspects and truths will ever be completely successful if man is the initiator.

Over the centuries, various intellectual processes have been proposed and tried out by churches:

  • Some believe in the law. By imposing strict rules and regulations, people are instilled a fear of the consequences if you break a rule. The leaders are presented as very holy and exalted above the rest, as if they had attained a higher or deeper spirituality by keeping their laws. These predecessors are honoured and slavishly imitated, even after their deaths.
  • Other clergymen try to evoke the emotions of people through various techniques and activities to the point where they experience an emotional experience. Emphasis is placed on feelings and emotions.
  • Other churches believe that your thinking is the key to everything you do. After all, one is what he or she thinks. Bible schools, courses, books and long, intricate sermons stimulate the intellect and seek to renew people’s thinking with the Word.  I’m afraid this focus, has any some cases produced clever sinners.  
  • Yet others believe that the will of man is the key to his existence. “You just have to make a decision of the will!” Life is about choices, and you have to take responsibility for your decisions. A will-driven-decisionwill never be able to stand the test of time if the decision came from yourself. “If I could just make a decision and change course…” – but why do I then need the Lord? 

So when I come to Him in my misery and weakness and want to lay my weakness before Him, He cultivates in me the enablement to make a decision and change my course. Not so much because I have “will”, but because He places the ability in me by His grace (Phil. 2:19).

Self-discipline or keeping the law should not come from myself, but because He guides me and teaches me(I present myself teachable) to avoid certain things I am enabled to refrain, restrain and abstain. After all, He has now written the law in our hearts (Jer. 31:34) so this change of attitude will have lasting character success.

So, we can discuss every aspect of being part of a church: praise and worship, preaching, evangelising, interceding and praying, and many more. Everything that is born of itself leads to death, but that which is born of Christ and the Spirit brings life!

Living From His Resurrection Power

One day, I was preparing a sermon on one of my favourite subjects – the weapons of the Spirit. This was not a new message and I started delving into topics like: our testimony; the Blood; the name of Jesus; the Word; etc. As I was waking up that morning, the Holy Spirit said to me, “You missed the most important weapon!” I wrote this sentence down on a piece of paper and asked the Lord to teach me what this weapon is that He is referring to. 

After a while, the answer came to me: Self-denial is our most powerful weapon against the onslaught of the enemy.” As believers re-created in His image, we can agree with Peter:

“Therefore, since Christ suffered for us in the flesh, arm yourselves also with the same mind, for he who has suffered in the flesh has ceased from sin (1 Pet. 4: 1). 

You cannot fight with someone who is “already dead”. Someone who is “dead”: 

  • may not seem too compliant with everything demanded (focused on Christ)
  • does not easily carry offense
  • does not care that they are taken advantage of or fear abuse 
  • does not have selfish dreams and desires and ambitions.

“For you died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is our life appears, then you also will appear with Him in glory.” (Col. 3: 3-4). 

In this verse, “you HAVE died” is written again in the aorist form (an action that started in the past, is still continuing and will continue up to a certain point). That is, our life was given to Him at some point, and through His resurrection power He made us a new creature in Him (2 Cor. 5:17). However, this process continues every day as we face the glory of the Lord with honesty and openness:

“as in a mirror, we are transformed into the same image, from glory to glory, as by the Lord who is the Spirit.” (2 Cor. 3:18). 

“Having been crucified with Christ, our life is now also hidden in Him, and the enemy can do us no harm.” (Col. 3: 2; Gal. 2:20).

The sum total of our new life is that:

  • we no longer live
  • we only continue to exist when we obey His commands
  • our life is merely a reflection and response to His love, His grace and His plan for our lives.

What About Free Will?

The greatest wonder of all is that God does not want to control our free will since He designed us in His image. Although God has a free will, His desire as a good Father is that His creation be intertwined with His will. There should therefore be no conflict and distinction between our will and His will. 

When we have lost everything and given up, after we have relinquished all control and given up our own (destructive) will, He gives us: 

  • new authority and authority in Him. 
  • complete satisfaction in being satisfied in Him
  • true freedom to enjoy life in the abundance that He has planned for us. 
  • peace – we are unafraid of death, danger and crises as it has “lost their sting”. 

After all, we can lose nothing if we never had ownership in the first place! Someone who is “dead” owns nothing, desires nothing, and longs for nothing except the will of the Father.

This is once again a great mystery, but true life and deep peace lie only in our total surrender to Him. When all works motivated by with selfish interest come to a standstill, all attempts to escape are in vain and you as an individual just yield, He comes by His grace and lifts you up and brings you close. Everything else falls into place accordingly.

Even our faith can sometimes become an obstacle because “I have to believe, I have to do this-and-that now…” No, it is His love ingrained in our hearts that leaves His Presence within to remain throughout a lifetime. 

Peter’s life is a striking example of how his relationship with the Lord deepened to the point where he could no longer prove, impress or progress by himself: 

“Lord, You know my heart, You know that I love You.” (John 21:15-17).

Self-denial is central to the church’s success in discipling the world, making “disciples of all nations” (Matt. 28:19-20). You can only make someone a disciple if you are one yourself and know what it is about. Jesus taught His disciples to lay down their lives for the sheep (John 10:11) – which they, like Him, literally did. 

Self-Denial Questions:

  1. Have we adopted the attitude of intentionally laying down our lives for others? 
  2. How much of what we do is motivated out of routine, ambition, self-exaltation and competition with others? 
  3. Are we not just trying to hide our own inferiority and inner poverty by external successes and pretentiousness?
  4. Why do we praise and worship the Lord? For His pleasure or ours? 
  5. Do we worship and serve to be seen or do we try to get into God’s good books to avoid His judgment? 
  6. Do we fear people, and are we sensitive to their needs and likes and dislikes while not fearing God firstand completely losing sight of Him? Who are we focused on? What do we think about all day? 
  7. Are we, even in our attempts at sanctification, not merely preoccupied with ourselves?
  8. In human relationships, how often do we let our will prevail and manipulate our situations for our own gain? 
  9. Do we colour in a situation so that we look a little better and the other person worse? 
  10. Do we try to draw a little attention to ourselves about exactly how much we are suffering and how much we have given and sacrificed? E.g.: “I have had it so far!”; “I will never do that!” or “The Lord must never ask me to go to that place!” 

Ask the Holy Spirit to help you answer these questions honestly. This should help you assess how much of your ego still prevails in your life.

A story is told of a certain pastor from India who visited America. He was warmly welcomed by church leaders and, for a time, introduced to various churches and ministries across America. At the end of his visit, he was publicly asked to comment on what he had observed during his visits to churches in that country. In a typical Indian way, he stood up, stared at the audience, and said, “It’s interesting to see how far the church has come in America, without God!” I do not think he was invited back! (the church in Africa does not look much better). 

In countries where the majority of citizens are Christians, there is still high-profile lawlessness, poverty, and corruption. So many preachers use the gospel to enrich themselves and have greater influence and power over people. Certainly, this is not the case everywhere, and I generalise and exaggerate the point, but that there really is a need to proverbially ” hide one’s hand in one’s own bosom” is a conspicuous fact.

The Importance of “Seizing” Christ

Call it revival or/and reformation, but every great movement of God began with a person or a handful of people who began to “seize God” because they could do nothing more of their own accord. 

“Not that I have already attained, or am already perfected; but I press on, that I may lay hold of that for which Christ Jesus has also laid hold of me.” (Phil. 3:12 NKJV)

“Not that I have now attained [this ideal], or have already been made perfect, but I press on to lay hold of (grasp) and make my own, that for which Christ Jesus (the Messiah) has laid hold of me and made me His own.” (Phil 3:12 AMPC)

The love-covenant act of Jesus as the “slain lamb” on the cross purchased our freedom by His blood from the grip of satan. As a result, we respond to the Father’s claim on our soul by clinging to Him in faith as a worshipful response and a lifestyle of love-covenant. The systems of men (including religious systems) and the structures of mankind have curtailed what God wants to do to reinstate us to His heart and plan. History is full of pioneers and reformers who wanted to do only one thing and that is to obey God in this and so a new movement has started.

So many times, one hears sermons about who we are in Christ. This is right, and we must understand who we are in Christ, but we must also understand that we can only be in Christ if we have denied ourselves and died to our own desires and plans! Self-denial does not become another work we add to receiving Christ. No, we die as we practice faith, as we obey the love commands of Jesus! I quote Gal. 2:20 again in the Amplified version:

“I have been crucified with Christ [that is, in Him I have shared His crucifixion]; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body I live by faith [by adhering to, relying on, and completely trusting] in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me.” (Gal. 2:20 Amp).

I simply surrender and He does the rest. I’m not trying to punish myself. I SIMPLY RAISE MY HANDS IN SURRENDER AND YIELD!

How Do I Receive Grace?

Let me explain in the light of our struggle with sin: The more I try not to sin, the more I want to sin. When I confess my sin and turn away from my sin and look to Him in desperation to save a wretched man. In faith, I can thus claim His salvation and deliverance for my life. 

Then something supernatural happens in my heart and life towards transformation is activated. Just like the lowly caterpillar becomes a beautiful butterfly that miraculously changes DNA, we suddenly and without trying or realizing it, become the miraculous work of the Holy Spirit. He gives you the presence and power including His grace to no longer sin in the area you have been carrying by yourself.

This means we are living in His resurrection power now! Also we are living according to the ability of His grace. 

“But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name.” (John 1:12). 

He has given us the power to live, right now, according to His will. We see this transition clearly in Romans 7 and 8. In Romans 7, Paul explains that we have been handed over to the law of sinful nature. Then comes the most important turning point: 

“Oh, wretched man! Who will deliver me from the body of this death?” (Rom. 7:24). 

While one still has plans to strive for this while attempting to overcome, you may still be stuck in your sin. But we all have to get to the point of this mysterious death to ego where all self-owned works are stopped ~ a place where our death to self lies both in the arms of our Savior and Lord and in the faith that He will resurrect us. Only then can we move on to the freedom where there is no more condemnation against us because we live in Christ!

Under A New Law

This law of living according to our sinful nature can be compared to the law of gravity. We can try to break this law, but only until our power is depleted or our “gasoline runs out”. Then everything that was up in the air quickly comes down to earth! 

In Romans 8:2, Paul speaks of another type of law – the law of the Spirit. This law can be compared to helium. Helium makes it possible for us to soar and rise from the earth without any strife or effort. That is why Paul says in Galatians 5:16, 

“But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will never fulfill the lust of the flesh.”

How Does One Walk In The Spirit?

By keeping busy with the things of the Holy Spirit (Rom. 8: 5). What things of the Spirit? 

  • That which He commands and tells us to do. 
  • The things for which we received faith for in that He spoke to us about it 
  • The things He revealed Himself clearly to us about. 
  • To learn to “wait” on Him – only to do what He says. It is the spoken (rhema) Word of God that calls us to the new things and life in the Spirit. This guidance of the Spirit is the essence of what it means to live in the Kingdom of God (Matt. 5:27-48). 
  • It will always be in the opposite direction of what your flesh would have wanted to do. 
  • It leads us rather to: give away; forgiveservelove, etc. those who do not deserve it ~ unconditionally (to act in the opposite spirit). 

In Matt. 5 Jesus gives clear precepts and instructions that are very difficult for the natural and carnal man to carry out: “love your enemies”; be a blessing and do something that will “bless those who curse you”; “do good to those who hate you”; “pray for those who abuse you” or “try to persecute you”! Ouch flesh!  Gandhi applied only a few of these principles, thereby liberating India from British colonialism. It is the greatest spiritual weapon in the arsenal of every believer, if we only want to realize it! 

However, so many times in the midst of conflict we want to justify or defend ourselves and the more we try to do so, the more we end up in disfavor and in trouble. The secular worldview is based on: self-assertion; self-examination; selfishness; self-esteem; self-satisfaction; self-drive; self-obsession; self-promotion; self-esteem. Not to mention the availability of a miriad of self-help books and courses.

Remember, “Self” (Ego) is:  

  • always looking for shortcuts
  • usually has a personal agenda and motive
  • “disturbs the image of God for which every human being was created” (Rom. 8:29). Self is the poison in our DNA that causes us to live contrary to God’s plan and in enmity with Him. 
  • Self-destructive (self-saboutage) of God’s plan in our lives. Thank God that He does not give us what we deserve and kill us in a moment! 

The Sole Purpose of Life and Ministry

The sole purpose of all ministry in the church is to live a crucified life!

The Process of a Life Crucified: 

  • a daily process of learning to die to the law of the flesh and death
  • learning to rise through faith in the law of the Spirit. Paul is our example. “I die day by day, brethren, as I glory in you in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (1 Cor. 15:31).
  • the will of God as revealed to me through the Word and as I am confronted by it to be not only a hearer, but a doer. 
  • new operating system of the Spirit 
  • a daily renewal to a whole new outlook on life.
  • adopting more freedom. The more I die, the freer I become from fears, urges and desires. “But they that are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts.” (Gal. 5:24). Interestingly, when Paul mentions this list of sins, he never wants to make a claim on us, but merely reminds us that we are supposed to be dead to sin.

The Result of A Life Crucified:

  • A life of victory
  • A life where I no longer try to pretend all day. I live unpretentiously, free from inhibitions, no longer self-conscious and self-contained. 
  • A life free of defensive mechanisms. 
  • A life lived embracing my uniqueness and enjoy life exuberantly as a child
  • Enjoyment of silence and peace deep inside you. 
  • Satisfaction ~ a place of truth and light, clarity, honesty and integrity. 
  • Insight and wisdom because you see life from a completely different perspective.
  • An inner joy and eternal steadfast bliss. You are no longer driven to try to prove something. 
  • A life of gratitude and love. Not just grateful that something happened, but constantly thankful and joyful.

The Crucified Life is Truly THE LIFE 

  • It is after your death that He raises you up to sit with Him in heavenly places (Eph. 2: 6).
  • Then you are able to do all things (Phil. 4:13) 
  • more than a conqueror (Rom. 8:37) 
  • free from condemnation (Rom. 8: 1) 
  • made acceptable among the believers (Eph. 1: 6) .

There can only be resurrection from the dead after you have died. 

While I still see things as my property, my ministry, my gift and talent, I am still alive! Someone who is dead owns nothing anymore and has forfeited all ownership. We are now inhabitants and citizens of a heavenly reality and kingdom. 

“For our citizenship is in heaven, from where we also wait for a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ.” (Phil. 3:20).

We do not seek accolades and rewards for the things we do here on earth because we see with spiritual eyes the glorious reward that awaits us in the hereafter. We no longer do things to be seen, much less to try to gain recognition from human institutions. Our recognition lies in the fact that we can talk to the Lord like a friend and that He reveals Himself to us regularly. 

“After these things the word of the Lord came to Abram in a vision, saying, ‘Do not be afraid, Abram.’ I am your shield, your exceedingly great reward.’” (Gen. 15: 1). 

After the earthquake, [there was] a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire; and after the fire, [there was] the sound of a gentle blowing. When Elijah heard the sound, he wrapped his face in his mantle (cloak) and went out and stood in the entrance of the cave.” (I Kings 19:12-13 Amp).

The Lord Himself is our reward!

Some Daily Applications for Self-Denial:

First things: 

  • In the morning, do not linger and procrastinate to start your most important day activities.
  • Never forget who preceded you and who is assisting you. You have achieved nothing alone.
  • Do not worry or have anxiety about things beyond you. God has enough power and provision for each day.
  • prayer life proves that you are truly dependent on God and can do nothing of yourself.

At Work or in Ministry: 

  • Submit to authority. Do not desire to always lead the company or be the center.
  • Do not be arrogant and think too much of your own opinion.
  • Stay within what God has called you to do.
  • Do not go if you have not been sent, and do not help before your help is asked.
  • Do not complain about the lack of time or the amount of work that needs to be done; rather buy out the time and finish what you started.
  • Do everything without murmuring.
  • Do not pay attention to the big and important things you are doing but be diligent with one-day-at-a-time, one task at a time.
  • Do not boast or complain about the weight you are carrying; do everything with joy and conviction.

Relationships with People:

  • Always stay focused on and attentive to His movements, words, impulses, emotions and actions.
  • Do not give an opinion on what God has called another person to do.
  • Mind your own business and ignore the mistakes you see; do not gossip.
  • When confronting someone, do so based on first-hand evidence and not hearsay.
  • Do not seek the honor or gratitude of people; do it all for the Lord.
  • When you do not get the credit or honor you deserve, do not be upset, be thankful for God knows and He sees!
  • Do not feel unhappy or offended if your advice is not sought or used.
  • Do not seek the favour, sympathy or recognition of people.
  • Never compare yourself to another.
  • Never allow yourself to be played favourably against another.
  • Take the blame and take responsibility rather than pass it on to others.
  • Learn to sincerely forgive and apologise quickly. 
  • Stay quiet. Learn to wait. Wait. Listen.
  • Surrender to the process, and do not bail out easily! The people who crucified Jesus were the so-called “church” of that time. Accept it! Christians are going to disappoint you the most and are tools in God’s hand to kill your ego. 

Relationship with God:

  • Leave the great things you want to do for the Lord and allow Him to do great things through you.
  • We cannot always choose how the Lord wants to use us; He does not always use us to perform great miracles. Sometimes, He must use you to correct an error or reveal a deception.
  • Do nothing for which you have no faith.
  • Do not seek the honor of men but of God.
  • Ambition comes after He has given you the command and mandate. Then do everything to the best of your ability and complete what He has given you to do.
  • Success lies in the extent to which you have accomplished what He has commanded you to do.

In Madame Guyon’s writings she often uses the word “abandonment” of self. This is a spiritual apt description of the process of walking away from what self wants, towards what God requires. Self is like a wining child, and demands attention, of self-justification. We need to abandon the self-righteous self by obeying the Father to forgive the unforgiveble, give to the beggar, and love the unlovable.

We Must Deny Ourselves

Jesus said, we need to deny ourselves. Where else in the Bible is this word “deny” used? Well, Peter denied Jesus. What did he specifically do to deny Him? He said he did not know Him. He denied that he knew Jesus at all or that there was a connection between them. He therefore denied Jesus’ existence or knew who He is. 

If only we could do the same with the fleshly self! To forget about self, to deny its existence. That’s how we become free from sin and the old sinful nature. After all, we have been crucified with Him by faith and no longer live. That is why we were baptized as a sign of our dead life in Christ.

“For you died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God.” (Col. 3: 3). 

We no longer exist. We have no rights. We have given up our right to exist on things and people to now exist in Him and through Him.

“For in Him we live, and move, and have our being.” (Acts 17:28). 

Breaking Free From Sin’s Trap

When we struggle with sin we are still trapped in that sin. We must: 

  • Confess it (repent)
  • In faith take up and claim our new character in Jesus Christ
  • Forget” about that sin repeatedly. Days later we realize that we are free and that that sin no longer has a hold on us.

The Lord spoke to me loudly one day because I continued to confess a certain sin without renouncing it and overcoming it. It is not our confession that makes the difference, but our faith to walk away from it.

“For every one that is born of God overcomes the world; and this is the victory that the world has overcome, namely our faith.” (1 John 5: 4). 

Confession without faith is futile and meaningless. On the contrary, we actually confess only because we are afraid we will be caught out and not because we really think about what our sin is doing to God. Our confession is self-centered and born in our own selfishness and self.

But true repentance that God causes is to truly come to a moment of truth where I realize the consequences of what I am doing for myself, for others and for God. In Colossians 3, Paul often uses the image of the old man and sinfulness that we must take off and throw away like old clothes and then put on the new garment in Christ

“Put on therefore, as the elect of God, the saints and beloved, with compassion, mercy, humility, meekness, longsuffering. Tolerate one another and forgive one another if one has a complaint against the other; as Christ forgave you, so you also must do. And above all things clothe yourselves with the love that is the bond of perfection.” (Col. 3: 12-14).

The ultimate goal is not to remain dead, but to rise in the new identity of Christ Jesus our Lord. But He raises us up. He initiates resurrection! We often get up again too quickly.

So often today, we hear the words, “The answer is within you!” or “just be yourself.” There is no question that being yourself or that the answer is in you before the “foreskin” of your heart is not “circumcised.” The answer does not lie in any person. 

“I know, O Lord, that man’s way does not belong to him; not to a man to walk and direct his steps.” (Jer. 10:23). 

“The heart is deceitful above all things, And desperately wicked; Who can know it? I, the Lord, search the heart I test the mind, Even to give every man according to his ways, According to the fruit of his doings.” (Jer. 17: 9-10). 

“There is a way which seemeth right unto a man, but the end thereof are the ways of death.” (Prov. 14:12).

Reformation in Restoration of The Will

The Lord must first remove the poison of self, and then He gives our will back to us. Our DNA needs to be miraculously changed first by the Holy Spirit. Our salvation lies only in the fact that He makes us new creatures by the power of the cross and resurrection (2 Cor. 5:17). Then we can be talking about ourselves and that the answer is within us – Christ within you: 

To them God willed to make known what are the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles: which is Christ in you, the hope of glory.” (Col. 1:27).

Luther and others who started the sixteenth-century Reformation did not simply put ideas on the table. The Reformation of the sixteenth century did not have its origin in the lecture room or on Wittenberg’s door. It was only after Luther had a personal deepening or encounter experience with God that he had the conviction to write the 95 statements and nail them to Wittenberg’s church door.

True reformation, therefore, begins with Him. He is the only measure of our life. We were created for one purpose and that is to be like Him. 

“For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren.” (Rom. 8:29). 

“Who being the brightness of His glory and the express image of His person, and upholding all things by the word of His power, when He had by Himself purged our sins, sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high.” (Heb. 1:3).

Faith and Obedience Always Work Together

“But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him.” (Heb. 11:6).

Those who came to faith were added to the church each time. Faith’s works and fruits must bear witness to the revelation of Christ in your life. Many people in the church believe in God and believe that the Lord saves and saves them. However, they have not yet taken possession of the Promise. It is one thing to believe and another to act in faith. Faith is an action.

I can confess my sin every day but never change. I must, therefore, believe and express my faith like the heroes of Hebrews 11 and, in obedience, do what I believe. Obedience is the evidence of my faith. By being obedient, does my faith turn into action? 

Peter believed he would also be able to walk on water as Jesus did. In the midst of the storm, Jesus agreed to Peter’s request to join Him on the water. Yet, he still had to ignore his natural logic, take that step according to his faith and climb over the boat’s edge. So many people believe but have never climbed over the edge!

How The Word Manifests in my Life:

  • When I believe and do the word, the word becomes flesh in my life. 
  • Quit justifying yourself with logical or theological reasoning to not do so. We tend to look for excuses within because of hidden fear within the challenge to obey Him. Living in obedience to God’s voice is not easy for the flesh. He sometimes asks you to spit on the ground and spit mud with it and put it on the eyes of a blind man (John 9:6). 
  • This may also mean that He asks you to sell all your possessions and give the proceeds to the poor and follow Him (Matt. 19:21). This is why self-denial is a prerequisite for becoming His disciple – otherwise you will be constantly offended by what He asks of you.

God has already given the instructions, He has already moved, He has already paid the price and made the promise and gifts of salvation available to us. We just have to get up and take possession of it by faith.

Pastors of the church must begin to think and reason through the perspective and lens of the cross.

“… for I determined not to know any thing among you, save Jesus Christ, and him crucified.” (1 Cor. 2: 2). 

Like the target in a rifle’s telescope, we must learn to look at everything through the cross. We can preach nothing more important than Jesus the Crucified and that He rose as the Firstfruits of many sons (Rom. 8:29).

Defining Spiritual Success

Let us take for example guidance and suffering in the church. Paul does not give seven common steps on how to be successful in everything you do. In any case, he was not successful according to the standards of today’s preachers, who only preach abundance and wealth. No, he says:

“Now I rejoice in my sufferings for you and fill in my flesh the remnant of the afflictions of Christ for his body, which is the church.” (Col. 1:24).

Suffering and Obedience: We are afraid of suffering and avoid it, but if we allow God to guide us through it, the enemy will no longer be able to hold on to us. Most of the time, someone has to lose everything first before they discover the riches of the kingdom. Paul sees his suffering in perspective of the Body of Christ, because he learned that his life was poured out for the church as a “drink offering”. Every member of the body exists for the body and for the service of the body. We have no right to exist without the body of Christ.

Obedience does not mean that you will always experience only good things. Obedience does not necessarily mean earthly success. There is a difference between suffering because you did not want to listen and suffering because you were obedient. God uses suffering to mature us and develop our characterto bear the blessing of His glory. Suffering gives you depth and brings a spiritual weight to the Spirit. You are no longer tossed around by circumstances and the stories of people. You are anchored in your spirit.

Suffering brings authority. No true authority comes in any other way. Here, too, Jesus was our example. 

“Even though he was the Son, he learned obedience from what he suffered; and having been made perfect, he has become the author of eternal salvation to all who obey him. ” (Heb. 5: 8-9). 

It is through suffering that God frees us from all kinds of fears. That which you fear happens. In suffering, we are confronted with these fears until we cry out to God and trust in Him alone. Thus, death, poverty, conflict and persecution lose their sting (1 Cor. 15:55-58), and we are freed from every hold that satan can have in us at all.

Building God’s Kingdom

The world is eagerly awaiting the revelation of the mature sons of God who do not build their own kingdoms, but each contribute to the building of the kingdom of God through them. 

A crucified life is the product of God that must be spread throughout the world, in every home and workplace. The church does not represent the image of God while still ruling itself. But the more we choose to lay down ourselves, the more clearly Christ becomes visible in our lives. 

Again, we can not crucify ourselves but we can surrender! Let go and let God! 

The book mentioned in the footnote is worth reading on this essential topic. [1]

[1] Guyon, J. (2014). Spiritual progress. [Place of publication not identified]: Whitaker House.

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