Saturday, November 1, 2014

Self Denial                                11-1-14

23 And He was saying to them all, " If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross daily and follow Me. 24 For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake, he is the one who will save it.
Luke 9:23-24 (NASB)

I am,at my job, what is called a 4 star route. That is a designation for routes that are loaded and leave at a later time. This is due to being situated more locally than some routes that must leave at earlier times due to time sensitivity.  There are about four or five of us that come in at midnight and don't leave until 3 A.M. or even later at times. So we sit around every night and watch football or find a cubby and read or scroll the web on our phones until loaded and ready. Last night I was reading my Kindle App on my phone when out of nowhere the title of my message floated into my mind. Now, I am absolutely sure the Lord whispered it to me. How Ronnie, do you know that? Well, a cursory glance at my waistline and you will realize that I don't dwell too much on self denial.  And everybody said "Bon Appetit!"

A dictionary rendering of the term self denial puts it this way: " the surrender of something prized or desirable for the sake of something considered as having a higher or more pressing claim"` A HIGHER CLAIM. When I saw that, I realized that indeed God was speaking to me concerning some issues in my life. Let me interject some 'sho nuff ' truth here before proceeding. When we go boldly before God in a "mountain top" moment and ask Him to search our hearts...
23  Search me, O God, and know my heart; Try me and know my anxious thoughts; 24 And see if there be any hurtful way in me,
Psalms 139:23-24 (NASB)

Don't be surprised if God does just that. And don't be surprised if it turns out to be somewhat painful.
Be careful what you pray for. Those Amens may turn into Oh Me's.(smile)

Jesus words to His disciples followed His stern rebuke of Peter(see Matthew 16 and Mark 8) He
got in Peter's face because Peter was concerned with the interests of man, in this case Peter's interests and not God's. Now, because I haven't done too much study on the subject, I checked out some references and discovered that the meat of self denial is in the phrase "take up his cross." The subject of that phrase is us, me and you. And it is first and forever more, voluntary. We are to voluntarily take up, and shoulder our own cross, to  surrender our will to God's. It is different from "bearing a cross." Bearing a cross implies bearing a load that is involuntarily put upon you. It is dealing with life and the burdens it lays on you. This verse however is talking about voluntarily sacrificing your will and desire for the sole purpose of serving God or your fellow man.It can be painful, it's a cross. Jesus said if anyone "wishes" to be a follower of Him, then, this is what it looks like. Now, this does not mean that we go searching for ways to take up a cross. No, no. That is nothing more than soul annihilation, which left unchecked, turns into religious asceticism and legalism. A work of man. That is not what Jesus is saying here. When God desires a change, IF we are listening, He will speak to our hearts. If He isn't speaking to you, don't go searching for something. Remember Jesus' words.

 28 So Jesus said, "When you lift up the Son of Man, then you will know that I am He, and I do nothing on My own initiative, but I speak these things as the Father taught Me.
John 8:27-28 (NASB)

".....I do nothing on my own initiative...."

God speaks, we yield and we do. Sometimes better than others. The spirit is willing but the flesh is weak. Amen?

 Our culture today is obsessed with instant gratification and self satisfaction. It is a "me first" mentality. Personal victory and power are considered absolute rights.That doesn't really preach in West Africa or Iraq right now though, does it? I digress. It's everywhere in Western culture and we are all influenced by it to some degree. Oh yes, I will serve my fellow man, but only after I satisfy my own wants and desires. Maybe you don't battle that, but, I assure you this writer does. The old cliche holds true." Salvation is free, discipleship is costly." Listen, I can't tell you what "following after" Jesus means to you. That is a personal relationship between God and the rest of us. It's a" me and God" thing. I can make this assertion however. It's an unpopular subject in the secular and church world; it's almost always painful and if I had my way, I would just skip over that page.(smile)

It's painful, it's sobering(read vs. 24 at the top again) but it will yield eternal rewards.

14 Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart Be acceptable in Your sight, O Lord, my rock and my Redeemer.
Psalms 19:14 (NASB)

God Bless