The Art of Self-Denial: The Christian's Response to the Demand of the Kingdom
The Demand of the Kingdom
Christian living demands self-denial. One has to be willing to die to self. Though death is the enemy of the Christian, a personal death to ways, traits, and habits that will hinder our walk with Him has to take place. The Christian who understands this knows that he or she is “crucified with Christ”
From the beginning, God used death in order to produce life. After Adam and Eve sinned, God killed animals in order to provide clothing for their nakedness. When the Israelites were in Egyptian captivity, the blood of lambs was used so that their lives would be spared as the Lord slew the firstborn of the Egyptians.
After the inauguration of the Law, animals were slain and their blood used, not only for consecration, but also for the preservation of the lives of those who needed atonement for sin. When the Law failed, God sent Jesus into the world. However, He was not sent to live, but to die. The Jews rejected Him and did not know Him, even though Caiaphas (the High Priest during the days of Christ) prophesied that a man (Jesus) should die for the nation.
Paul said that in Adam, many were made sinners, but through Christ (and His death) many were made righteous (Romans 5:19). His death gave us the opportunity to live again, as children of God. It took Christ’s death on the cross for us to be made alive again under the New Covenant. His death gave us access to the Kingdom of God. If we are to, presently, live and walk properly in the Kingdom of God, we must meet the demand of the kingdom.
The Realization of True Self-Denial
The demand of the kingdom is self-denial. However, to clarify our thought, it could also be called death to self.This is the true realization of self-denial. It is at the heart of the Art of Self-Denial: one’s willingness to “die” to traits and ways opposed to Christian living. Death was required to make us partakers of the kingdom, and death is required for us to demonstrate our place in the kingdom.
It is hard for us to die to ourselves for many reasons. The first reason is that we are born with inherent self-preservation instincts. Our natural bodies go through changes daily, so that it can live. When the body needs nutrients, it experiences hunger. When the body needs water, it experiences thirst.
Other natural defenses are also in the body. When the body is sick, symptoms are experienced. This is the body’s way of notifying you of where the problem is. When there is a cut or scratch, the body automatically mends it. When there is an infection, the body becomes feverish in an attempt to destroy the problem. All of these things occur for the sake of self-preservation.
In addition to the body’s natural drive for self-preservation, cultural influences teach us to fight for a place in society, to make a name for ourselves, and lay hold of your own identity. With all of these influences in our lives, God’s call for death to self then becomes a call to change our approach to life.
However, as partakers of salvation, it is not only our responsibility to die to self, but it is also the command of God. It is a prerequisite for living in victory in the Kingdom of God, both now and forever.
There are certain steps we can take to die to ourselves. If we will humble ourselves before the Lord, we will be able to overcome the flesh and its desires and live as God through Christ has purposed. In this issue, we will discuss three necessary steps.
Step #1: Surrender to the Will of God
The first step to self-death is surrendering to the will of God. The will of God is not only in answering a particular “calling,” but also in becoming like Christ.
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. (Romans 8:29)
We have to understand that the will of God for every believer is that we become like Christ. Our service to Him is secondary to our character. When we surrender to this, the foundation for self-death is laid (see Romans 12:1-2).
The way we surrender to the will of God is by presenting our bodies to the Lord. We prove what the will of God is when we live holy. In addition, we are to live separate from the world. Herein is the will of God:
- Live holy lives before Him.
- Live separate from the ways and the course of the world’s system.
- Live in expectation of becoming conformed to the image of Christ.
The will of God is to have sons and daughters. Therefore, when Christ came, He came in the form of a son. He was to be the pattern that we should follow. He lived a holy and righteous life and He never conformed to the world’s system, but He came in conformation and demonstration of the Father’s love and character.
Step #2: Submit to Authority of the Word of God
The second step to self-death is submission to the authority of the Word of God. We have proven, historical evidence that we can trust the manuscript of the bible. Therefore, we can assuredly trust and submit to its authority. Submitting to the Word not only entails quoting it, but consistent application of the Word in daily living. In order to do this, one has to believe that the scriptures, as recorded, are the final authority on righteousness, religion, and relationship with God (see II Timothy 3:16-17).
One cannot submit to the authority of the Word, if there is no belief in the Word. The Word of God contains the answers to life’s problems and gives us the tools needed to succeed in our walk with the Lord. The Word causes us to know who we are in Christ and shows how we can overcome the flesh and its desires.
It is only through following what is written, will we be able to die to ourselves. We can only overcome sin, through obeying the Word. If we obey the Word, we will not obey the lusts and desires of the flesh.
Our way is cleansed by giving heed to the Word of God. We, thus, are secured in our salvation. Submission to the authority of the Word of God aids us in death to self because the Word:
- Assures us of our salvation
- Instructs us in righteousness
- Gives us tools necessary for victorious living
The Word has to be the final authority in our lives. It challenges the hearts and minds of men to walk in righteousness. The Word exposes the inner thoughts and intents of the heart. Without it, we will deceive ourselves and not be able to overcome the battlefield of “self.”
Step #3: Sell-out Completely to Him
The third step to self-death is selling-out completely to the Lord. When we usually hear the term “sell-out,” it is usually in a derogatory manner. Someone who is a sell-out has forsaken an alliance for another. This is what we must do in order to die to self. We have to become “sell-outs.”
We have to forsake the world and the lusts thereof. If we are not careful, the world will ensnare us with its enticements. The apostle John, in his first epistle, challenged the Christians to not be in love with the world and the unfruitful things it has to offer.
We have to break our allegiance with the world. We cannot think, act, and live as unbelievers. In addition, we have to become a sell-out to old friends and family; if not, we will not be able to succeed in death to self.
Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you. (II Corinthians 6:17)
In order to die to self, we cannot allow friendships and family relations to stunt us in our growth. We must have healthy family, friend, and other personal relationships. These will help us to overcome ourselves.
Acquaintances can sometimes keep us in familiar patterns and habits. To break this, separation is sometimes needed. Separation is not always a physical separation. However, a separation from the influence of ungodly family and friends is required.
In addition, we must become “sell-outs” to ourselves. We have to forsake selfish motives, ambitions, and desires. These attributes will bring stagnation to our spiritual growth. We must recognize them and remove them. This is the only way we can meet the demand of the Kingdom.
To become “sell-outs” to God, we must do three things. We must remember to:
- Forsake the world and its lusts
- Forsake the influence of ungodly family and friends.
- Forsake selfish motives and ambitions
If we will do these things, we can call ourselves ‘sell-outs’ for the Lord.
Concluding Thoughts on Mastering Self-Denial
The demand of the Kingdom is self-death. God requires it. God sent Jesus to die, but He was resurrected with all power. If we die to ourselves, we will also be resurrected in righteousness, joy, peace, and power, which come from His presence. Remember that Jesus said that if we save our lives, we will suffer loss, but if we lose it for Him, there is gain (Matthew 16:25). Here are some final points to consider.
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Remember the importance of self-denial to a Christian’s success.
- Giving up everything entails inner sacrifice.
- Surrendering to Christ will result in personal, spiritual gain.
- Making the Bible an authority and priority is crucial to overcoming self.
- Be honest about what hinders you from a full commitment to Christ daily.
Let us through patience rise up and meet the demand of the Kingdom of God: Self-Denial; that is, death to self.