Tag Archives: deny thyself

Dead Man Walking- One Year Later

So many things can change in a year, and somehow the struggle, while wearing a different mask, can still be rooted in the same place.  With Easter looming around the corner I needed this encouragement, this reminder. 

“Christ says ‘Give me All. I don’t want so much of your time and so much of your money and so much of your work: I want You.'” Why is ME so hard to give up?

Originally posted 3/13/14 – Just checking in today to see how everyone who decided to take the “Journey to the Cross” is faring now that we are one week in. As I have been studying and praying and listening I have come to a realization. God has been at work on me peeling away my layers of “yes, buts” and showing me that in this season of sacrifice, while chocolate was a nice thing to give up, unless it draws me closer to Him it’s just stuff. The sacrifice that I have been more and more convicted to lay over is that of self.

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Deny thyself. It was at the heart of the very first post of our Lent journey.

If you cling to your life, you will lose it; but if you give up your life for me, you will find it. (Matthew 10:39 NLT)

I tell you the truth, unless a kernel of wheat is planted in the soil and dies, it remains alone. But its death will produce many new kernels—a plentiful harvest of new lives. Those who love their life in this world will lose it. Those who care nothing for their life in this world will keep it for eternity. Anyone who wants to be my disciple must follow me, because my servants must be where I am. And the Father will honor anyone who serves me. “Now my soul is deeply troubled. Should I pray, ‘Father, save me from this hour’? But this is the very reason I came! (John 12:24-27 NLT, emphasis mine)

And so, dear brothers and sisters, I plead with you to give your bodies to God because of all he has done for you. Let them be a living and holy sacrifice—the kind he will find acceptable. This is truly the way to worship him. Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect. (Romans 12:1, 2 NLT, emphasis mine)

Lead me to the cross
Bring me to my knees
Lord I lay me down
Rid me of myself
I belong to You
.

A.W. Tozer said, “among the plastic saints of our times, Jesus has to do all the dying, and all we want to hear is another sermon about his dying.”

Here are C.S. Lewis’ thoughts on this subject from Counting The Cost.

The terrible thing, the almost impossible thing, is to hand over your whole self–all your wishes and precautions–to Christ.

Christ says ‘Give me All. I don’t want so much of your time and so much of your money and so much of your work: I want You. I have not come to torment your natural self, but to kill it. No half measures are any good. I don’t want to cut off a branch here and a branch there, I want to have the whole tree down. I don’t want to drill the tooth, or crown it, or stop it, but to have it out. Hand over the whole natural self, all the desires which you think innocent as well as the ones you think wicked–the whole outfit. I will give you a new self instead. In fact, I will give you Myself: My own will shall become yours.’…

The goal toward which He is beginning to guide you is absolute perfection; and no power in the whole universe, except you yourself, can prevent Him from taking you to that goal. That is what you are in for. And it is very important to realize that. If we do not, then we are very likely to start pulling back and resisting Him after a certain point. I think that many of us, when Christ has enabled us to overcome one or two sins that were an obvious nuisance, are inclined to feel (though we do not put it into words) that we are now good enough. He has done all we wanted Him to do. And we should be obliged if He would now leave us alone.

But this is the fatal mistake… The question is not what we intended ourselves to be, but what He intended us to be when He made us….

Imagine yourself as a living house. God comes in to rebuild that house. At first, perhaps you can understand what He is doing. He is getting the drains right and stopping the leaks in the roof and so on: you know that those jobs needed doing and so you are not surprised. But presently he starts knocking the house about in a way that hurts abominably and does not seem to make sense. What on earth is He up to? The explanation is that He is building quite a different house from the one you thought of–throwing out a new wing here, putting on an extra floor there, running up towers, making courtyards. You thought you were going to be made into a decent little cottage: but He is building a palace. He intends to come and live in it Himself!

“Yes, but” cottages are cute and chocolate is so much easier…

How are you doing?

Let’s Go Deeper

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If it seems we are crazy, it is to bring glory to God. And if we are in our right minds, it is for your benefit. Either way, Christ’s love controls us. Since we believe that Christ died for all, we also believe that we have all died to our old life. He died for everyone so that those who receive his new life will no longer live for themselves. Instead, they will live for Christ, who died and was raised for them. This means that anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun! For God made Christ, who never sinned, to be the offering for our sin, so that we could be made right with God through Christ. (2 Corinthians 5:13-15, 17, 21 NLT)

I love the beginning of that passage as Paul writes to the church in Corinth. If it seems we are crazy…that, I can easily identify with. But truly I just want to bring glory to God. I hope that you are continuing this Journey to the Cross and learning more about God and yourself through it.

These verses also say, those who receive His new life will no longer live for themselves. Here we are again old friend, the cross of sacrifice. A life for a life. He has provided us through death with the gift of eternal life. We can’t do anything to earn it. All we have to do is believe and accept. But if you want to do more than that, if we want to follow Jesus, live for Him we have to get ourselves out of the way and give up our life.

Then, calling the crowd to join his disciples, he said, “If any of you wants to be my follower, you must turn from your selfish ways, take up your cross, and follow me. If you try to hang on to your life, you will lose it. But if you give up your life for my sake and for the sake of the Good News, you will save it. And what do you benefit if you gain the whole world but lose your own soul? Is anything worth more than your soul? (Mark 8:34-37 NLT)

I am admittedly stumbling and fumbling through this and appreciate so much the messages and comments through this site and Run And Be Still’s Facebook page after my last post Dead Man Walking. It is so nice to know I am not alone on this. But I couldn’t stop there, I want something deeper out of this. Something other than just fluff. I want this journey to mean something, to make a difference in me.

Your struggle may be different than mine. The following words from Kendal Haug and Will Walker were enlightening to me and you will hopefully find some truth to take you deeper as well, no matter what you are facing.

It is possible to believe in God and functionally exclude him from our lives, to act as if we are ultimate. How often do we consider our circumstances and think, “What do I need right now? How do I feel about this? What do I like or not like about this?” We even enter into prayer and worship with these kinds of self-focused questions. In these moments, though we believe in God, we are not functionally aware of his presence with us and his providence in our circumstances. If we were, we might say, “Father, you know what we need;” “How do you feel about this?” “Teach us your will, that we may know what is ‘good and pleasing and perfect’” (Romans 12:3). Notice two key differences: the questions are directed toward God, not self, and are concerned for “us” and not just “me.”

The word “sin” has been defined and applied in so many ways that I think most people have adopted a rather trite view of sin that is focused on specific actions that break God’s rules. The biblical concept of sin is not less than that, but it is more, much more. Let me share a helpful definition of sin from a 19th century philosopher named Soren Kierkegaard: “Sin is the despairing refusal to find your deepest identity in your relationship and service to God. Sin is seeking to become oneself, to get an identity, apart from God.”

We were made for God, to center our entire life on him and find our sense of worth and purpose in him. Anything other than that is sin. Tim Keller summarizes Kierkegaard’s point this way: “Sin is not just the doing of bad things, but the making of good things into ultimate things. It is seeking to establish a sense of self by making something else more central to your significance, purpose, and happiness than your relationship with God.”
This is a meaningful way to think about sin because we all identify with trying to build our identity on something. In our culture it tends to be things like achievements, or relationships, or being thought of as a good Christian. Everyone is building his or her identity on something.

We try to justify our sin. When you become aware of sin, do you feel the need to nuance everything, explain how complicated things are, or make excuses? (Let me interrupt here and say these are my personal “yes, but” moments that I have shared in the past.) Taking responsibility for sin means we say, “I lusted because my desires are perverted” … “I lied because I am afraid of what people think about me” … “I ate that because I do not have self-control around food.”

We try to downplay our sin, hoping or assuming that God overlooks our sin. We don’t think sin really affects our ability to relate to God, or hinders the flow of his blessing. We think we are the exception. Taking responsibility for sin means we say, “My sin is destructive and grieves God. I will not be right with him until I deal with this.”

We pretend things are better than they really are, cleaning the outside of the cup while we are filthy on the inside.

Taking responsibility means we say, “It doesn’t matter how good people think I am. God sees right through me, and is not impressed or tricked by my lip service. God hates hypocrisy!”

Our problems are bigger than our circumstances: we are broken on the inside. And repentance is deeper than what we do: we need to repent of who we are. Remember, repentance is good news. It is hope that God will restore us. Conviction of sin is a difficult pill to swallow, but it is good medicine to the soul.

Are you ready to be taken deeper? This is my prayer tonight…
Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. Point out anything in me that offends you, and lead me along the path of everlasting life. (Psalms 139:23, 24 NLT)

Dead Man Walking

 

Just checking in today to see how everyone who decided to take the “Journey to the Cross” is faring now that we are one week in. As I have been studying and praying and listening I have come to a realization. God has been at work on me peeling away my layers of “yes, buts” and showing me that in this season of sacrifice, while chocolate was a nice thing to give up, unless it draws me closer to Him it’s just stuff. The sacrifice that I have been more and more convicted to lay over is that of self.

20140313-204451.jpg

Deny thyself. It was at the heart of the very first post of our Lent journey.

If you cling to your life, you will lose it; but if you give up your life for me, you will find it. (Matthew 10:39 NLT)

I tell you the truth, unless a kernel of wheat is planted in the soil and dies, it remains alone. But its death will produce many new kernels—a plentiful harvest of new lives. Those who love their life in this world will lose it. Those who care nothing for their life in this world will keep it for eternity. Anyone who wants to be my disciple must follow me, because my servants must be where I am. And the Father will honor anyone who serves me. “Now my soul is deeply troubled. Should I pray, ‘Father, save me from this hour’? But this is the very reason I came! (John 12:24-27 NLT, emphasis mine)

And so, dear brothers and sisters, I plead with you to give your bodies to God because of all he has done for you. Let them be a living and holy sacrifice—the kind he will find acceptable. This is truly the way to worship him. Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect. (Romans 12:1, 2 NLT, emphasis mine)

Lead me to the cross
Bring me to my knees
Lord I lay me down
Rid me of myself
I belong to You
.

A.W. Tozer said, “among the plastic saints of our times, Jesus has to do all the dying, and all we want to hear is another sermon about his dying.”

Here are C.S. Lewis’ thoughts on this subject from Counting The Cost.

The terrible thing, the almost impossible thing, is to hand over your whole self–all your wishes and precautions–to Christ.

Christ says ‘Give me All. I don’t want so much of your time and so much of your money and so much of your work: I want You. I have not come to torment your natural self, but to kill it. No half measures are any good. I don’t want to cut off a branch here and a branch there, I want to have the whole tree down. I don’t want to drill the tooth, or crown it, or stop it, but to have it out. Hand over the whole natural self, all the desires which you think innocent as well as the ones you think wicked–the whole outfit. I will give you a new self instead. In fact, I will give you Myself: My own will shall become yours.’…

The goal toward which He is beginning to guide you is absolute perfection; and no power in the whole universe, except you yourself, can prevent Him from taking you to that goal. That is what you are in for. And it is very important to realize that. If we do not, then we are very likely to start pulling back and resisting Him after a certain point. I think that many of us, when Christ has enabled us to overcome one or two sins that were an obvious nuisance, are inclined to feel (though we do not put it into words) that we are now good enough. He has done all we wanted Him to do. And we should be obliged if He would now leave us alone.

But this is the fatal mistake… The question is not what we intended ourselves to be, but what He intended us to be when He made us….

Imagine yourself as a living house. God comes in to rebuild that house. At first, perhaps you can understand what He is doing. He is getting the drains right and stopping the leaks in the roof and so on: you know that those jobs needed doing and so you are not surprised. But presently he starts knocking the house about in a way that hurts abominably and does not seem to make sense. What on earth is He up to? The explanation is that He is building quite a different house from the one you thought of–throwing out a new wing here, putting on an extra floor there, running up towers, making courtyards. You thought you were going to be made into a decent little cottage: but He is building a palace. He intends to come and live in it Himself!

“Yes, but” cottages are cute and chocolate is so much easier…

How are you doing?

Giving something up

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It’s the million dollar question. What are you giving up for Lent? I feel like this is the “business end” of Lent. At our house Phil and Ty have given up Oreos (like father, like son) Madison gave up candy, well Sour Patch Kids to be more specific. (Let’s not over do it!) And I have settled upon chocolate (Gasp! Yes, I am that spiritual. Just kidding. Remember my confession in I will be a subway preacher, my desire to go big or go home.) Sadly, I already inadvertently failed at this only one day in. I had a chocolate chip granola bar as an afternoon snack yesterday. It wasn’t until hours after the fact that I even realized it. Oh boy!

If this was all the more there was to it we would have seriously missed the boat because a Chips Ahoy cookie can just as easily be dunked in milk and as my 11 year old pointed out already she can just eat Sweet-Tarts instead of Sour Patch Kids. (This is an admitted work in progress.). Chocolate is a little harder to substitute when a stress storm hits in all of its fury. But there are substitutes and besides as I have admitted, I already failed. I am throwing myself and my family under the bus on this one (sorry guys) to prove a point. It’s about more than what we give up. This goes deeper than the external appearance to the why.

I love what authors Kendal Haug and Will Walker say in their Lenten devotional.

You may be familiar with the outward aspects of Lent: ashes on foreheads, conversation about giving up sugar or caffeine or TV. But Lent, like spiritual life in general, is not merely external. There are internal realities that give depth and meaning to our actions, things like humility, sacrifice, repentance, and faith. In other words, there is more to Lent than deciding between coffee and TV.

You could, of course, just decide that you are not going to drink coffee for forty days and be done with it, but to do so would be to deprive yourself of far more than coffee. You would miss something that God wants to do in you this season.

Jesus fasted from food and water for forty days in the wilderness. It was not a religious ritual or merely a display of his restraint. Rather, it was a time of trial and temptation which he endured by entrusting himself to God and being nourished on the Word of God. The point of the wilderness, for Jesus, was to experience the real presence of God with him, and power of God at work in him.

Though they may look the same from the outside, participating in Lent and “playing” at Lent are entirely different realities. So give up coffee if you want to, but don’t pretend that the absence of a beverage will sufficiently help you draw near to God.

The Lenten practice of denying usual comforts is a means of deepening our sense of union with Jesus, and reorienting our life around the things of God. We give up that which distracts and entangles because we want to experience some real joy and freedom in Christ.

He then began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests and the teachers of the law, and that he must be killed and after three days rise again. He spoke plainly about this, and Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. But when Jesus turned and looked at his disciples, he rebuked Peter. “Get behind me, Satan!” he said. “You do not have in mind the concerns of God, but merely human concerns.” Then he called the crowd to him along with his disciples and said: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me and for the gospel will save it. What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul? Or what can anyone give in exchange for their soul? If anyone is ashamed of me and my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, the Son of Man will be ashamed of them when he comes in his Father’s glory with the holy angels.” (Mark 8:31-38 NIV)

After yesterday’s post I found myself humming this song and have decided that it is my prayer for the next 40 days…

Lead me to the cross
Where your love poured out
Bring me to my knees
Lord I lay me down
Rid me of myself
I belong to You
Lead me, lead me to the cross

Lead Me To The Cross by Seventh Day Slumber…no frills…no lyrics to read…just the music. Let it wash over you today. May it become your prayer too.