We have been looking at the 10-point Bible study tool, which helps us identify the purpose or application of each verse and/or passage of Scripture. The first three points are for believing, for understanding, and for building faith.
In the most recent lesson, I presented point 4, application in daily living. I explained why it is important that every believer learn to live Scripture, not just to memorize it. In fact, the last six points of the Bible study tool are all aspects of point 4.
In this lesson, we will consider point 5, for denying self. After believing in Christ, and establishing a little knowledge and understanding of the faith, denying yourself is the next step for growing up into this salvation.
Of the six aspects of applying Scripture to daily living, this is the only “negative.” Sadly, some ministries get so caught up in this that they miss the fullness of the gospel of God’s grace. They preach hellfire and brimstone, and always tell you what you cannot do, making the Christian faith a heavy burden. As we will see in future lessons, this is not the whole story. While denying self is a critical aspect of the faith, what we lose by denying self is far superseded by what we can and should gain in the Kingdom.
(Mark 8:34) Jesus said,”Whoever desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me.” (See also, Matthew 10:38)
If you would be a disciple of Christ, then you must begin learning how to deny your natural desires and thoughts to follow His way. In the above two passages, Jesus gives us some examples of how we must deny ourselves.
Most of us believe our family relationships are very important. We also value friendships and other associations. Many times, though, these ties can drag us away from following Christ the way we should, can cause us to compromise what we know we should be doing.
For example, perhaps someone’s dad is an atheist or an ungodly man, and hangs out with those like himself. The son decides to follow Jesus. Chances are the dad will apply pressure on the son to try to make him stumble, or simply to be quiet about his faith around the father and his friends. This pressure can take many forms, from ridiculing the faith to inviting the son into questionable activities, etc.
The son must be willing to stand firm in the faith regardless of the father’s wishes. I don’t mean shove religion down his dad’s throat, but simply to live and speak in a manner becoming a Christian in front of him and his friends. The son may even have to cut back or cut off the relationship if necessary, in his stand for Christ. Likewise, he may have to break off old, worldly friendships in favor of new friendships with other believers. This is denying self to follow Christ.
Denying yourself may require you to endure persecution for your faith, or even die in your stand for Christ. By the signs, it appears that the second coming of Christ is drawing near. Scripture is clear that as that time draws near persecution will increase in all nations against those who take a stand for Christ. If I am right, then most of us will probably have the opportunity to deny self in this area in the near future, perhaps even to the death.
An area every believer needs to learn to deny himself is the sin nature. We all have it, and we all need to crucify it daily. Whether it is homosexual attractions, or “merely” gossip, it all stinks in the nostrils of God. The first two chapters of Romans clearly state that those who practice a whole list of natural tendencies will not inherit the Kingdom of God.
This can be one of the hardest areas to deny self, especially when we are still spiritual babies. The nature is the enemy of God, and it will fight tooth and nail to keep us under its power. This will manifest both in whatever sins each of us is prone to, and in self-righteousness. The nature will find an excuse to keep gossiping, an excuse to keep dwelling on sexual thoughts, an excuse to keep hating. It will find a way to justify what we do.
Christ came to save us from sin, to deliver us from its power. He came to set free those who are captive to any type of sin. Therefore, if we are really saved, then one of our goals should be to walk in that truth. This means we must deny self, put to death our nature.
However, our focus should not be on the sin, but on the goal, on the prize. As I mentioned at the beginning of this lesson, we often become so focused on the Law and sin, on what we should not do, that we cannot get past the nature to walk into God’s victory. That is where the last five points of the 10-point Bible study tool come into play.
In the next lesson, we will learn about building up the inner man, the born-again spirit of the believer. This is the other side of the coin of denying self, where we begin to learn to walk in victory.