Sunday, November 27, 2011

Why self denial is at the heart of discipleship

Galatians 2:20 - “I have been crucified with Christ; and 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 up for me."

A disciple is someone who follows Christ by faith, and continues on in faith, acknowledging Him as Savior, Lord and Treasure.  Yesterday we began looking at the truth of "dying to self"  as essential to living effectively for God.  We saw this concept illustrated in the life of Jacob in Genesis 32.  Jacob would learn, like every believer, that in order to follow the Lord, you must die to that principle that daily rears its ugly head in your soul - self. 

How essential is "death to self" to the believer's faithwalk?
Without question the New Testament unfolds this truth most fully, since God typically unfolds all that He has to tell us in a progressive fashion.  We find out that "dying to self" or "self-denial" is at the heart of what takes place when one begins following Christ by faith.  Jesus states in Luke 9:23-24 - 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. 25“For what is a man profited if he gains the whole world, and loses or forfeits himself?" 

Furthermore this teaching is affirmed most clearly by the Apostle Paul in the passage above.  The imagery of being "crucified with Christ" is a common image used to describe what it means to die to self, since the chief aim is intentionally identifying oneself with the life and work of Christ Himself. 

Self-denial is essential to the Christian's daily growth or "sanctification"
As a work of grace that accompanies the believer's saving faith at salvation, the notion of "dying to self" continues to unfold itself, like a rose, throughout the course of the believer's faith-walk or "sanctification".  The great apostle Paul states in 1 Corinthians 15:31 - "I affirm, brethren, by the boasting in you which I have in Christ Jesus our Lord, I die daily."  So daily I must do what we saw in the last blog in dying to self:
1. Get in order with what God said
2. Reckon or consider my former identity (formed prior to conversion) to be dead
3. Only then in God can I move ahead

Paul writes these words in Romans 6:11 - "Even so consider yourselves to be dead to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus."  Only when I choose to regard "self" (the source of "self-centeredness", "selfishness", "self-seeking) as worthy of crucifixion, death, can I live more fully for God, and Him live more fully through me.