Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Pastoral Pings (Plus) ~ The Saving Grace of Self-Denial

          Is your view of denying yourself, taking up your cross daily, and following Christ, [1]  based on what you do for God, or what God is doing in you?

          Some people see denying ourselves, taking up our cross daily, and following Christ, as though Jesus was suddenly reverting to a law-based, good-works kind of worldview. In this mindset, it sounds like Jesus is calling strong people to dutifully deny who they are as persons, take up the banner of the cross as some strong David-against-Goliath kind of soldier, and courageously follow Christ through thick-and-thin with the exemplary devotion and courage of a fearless-hearted, faith-consumed, good Christian soul.[2]

          On the other hand, if Jesus was speaking through the gospel of grace, identifying those in whom we would recognize the good news of Jesus Christ taking its gracious effect, then he was really speaking of little children who would put aside the prideful, adult-minded, full-of-themselves worldview in order to live in unobstructed fellowship with him.[3]

          These people would deny all dependence on the self, the flesh, the sark,[4] as the means of having a right relationship with God because they have already mourned the poverty of their souls, and meekly accepted that they could never make themselves good enough for the holy God of heaven.[5]

          These child-hearted people would take up the cross of Jesus Christ as their only reason for hope in relationship with God, or in relation to anything in life whatsoever,[6] because the gospel of Jesus Christ satisfies their hunger and thirst for the righteousness their created-in-God’s-image souls longed to know.[7]

          And then, these satisfied-in-Christ people would follow Jesus Christ as little lambs who have finally found the Shepherd whose perfect love transforms their fear-based hearts into love-based homes for God.[8]

          When Peter was a self-made disciple, trusting in his own competency, he fell prey to his adult-minded pride because he believed that he had the personal resources to stand with Christ no matter what terrifying things Jesus was about to endure.[9] However, Jesus’ arrest, beatings, and false trial, exposed that the Peter who was full-of-himself was actually running on empty. In himself, he had nothing. He could not stop himself from denying his Lord three times.

          It was only hours before this that Jesus had told Peter and the other disciples, I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.[10] Abiding in Jesus so that we bear much fruit is another way of saying that we deny ourselves, take up our cross daily and follow Christ. Peter was full of himself, so his declaration that he would never desert Christ was made “apart from” Christ, hence he was unable to do the thing of which he boasted. He proved Jesus’ promise that, apart from him, Peter could do nothing.

          However, fifty days later, the Holy Spirit was poured out on the church just as Jesus promised.[11] Peter was filled with the Spirit instead of with himself. He was able to deny his self, his sark, his flesh, his prideful, independent, adult-mindedness, and experience the transforming power of the cross of Jesus Christ filling him with the very presence of Jesus Christ his Lord. He was then able to follow Jesus through the same encounters with the religious hypocrites who crucified Jesus, and yet without any fear of what they might do to him.

          The change in Peter was that, his boasting prior to the cross left him with a self-centered identity that thought far more highly of himself than he ought to have thought, and so his good-religious-person-self-dependence left him unable to do anything. His boasting after the cross was in the cross, instead of in himself, and so his abiding relationship “in Christ” was filled with the Spirit,[12] he was able to live in the power of the cross of Jesus Christ that had converted him from the kingdom of Israel to the Kingdom of God, and he was able to follow Jesus wherever the Holy Spirit led him.

          What this tells me is that God will continually expose “self” things in our lives in order to replace them with his Spirit. We are to humbly wait for “power from on high”[13] for whatever it is God is calling us to do to join him in his work. We are to rest in God by our humble, childlike dependence on the word of God and prayer as the gracious gifts of God to bring us to know him everyday more than we have ever known him before.

          From my heart,


© 2013 Monte Vigh ~ Box 517, Merritt, BC, V1K 1B8 ~
Unless otherwise noted, Scriptures are from the English Standard Version (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers.)

[1] “And he said to all, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.” (Luke 9:23)
[2] NOTE: I am not attacking good qualities, like faith, but identifying how “a law-based, good-works kind of worldview” changes good things into counterfeits of the real thing.
[3] “Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 18:3);
[4] For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God's law; indeed, it cannot. Those who are in the flesh cannot please God. (Romans 8:7-8)
[5] “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted. Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.” (Matthew 5:3-5)
[6] “For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified.” (I Corinthians 2:2)
[7] “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.” (Matthew 5:6)
[8] “There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love.” (I John 4:18) “Jesus answered him, “If anyone loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him.” (John 14:23)
[9] Matthew 26:30-75
[10] John 15:5
[11] Acts 2
[12] instead of the sark/flesh as Paul describes in his epistles, cf Romans 7
[13] “And behold, I am sending the promise of my Father upon you. But stay in the city until you are clothed with power from on high.” (Luke 24:49)

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