12 minute read
Some guys and I do a Bible study at my house every week. We call it: Beer, Bible, & Brats. It’s what’s up.
Last week we strolled into a conversation about “dying to yourself”. Our Bible studies are always like that, we start in one place and slalom slowly through dark, heavy forests, into wide open ranges of snow & sunlight. I am not sure exactly how our path found us talking about dying to ourselves but we got there nonetheless.
"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. 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.'” - Luke 9:23-24
Fundamental to the Christian faith is this notion of dying. Here in Luke’s account, Jesus tells his disciples that if anyone wishes to come after him, follow him, be his disciple, be saved, be a believer, be in his inner circle, be his friend, they must deny themselves & lose their life.
They must deny themselves.
They must take up their cross daily
They must follow him.
This isn’t something only radical Christians do. This is the bare minimum of getting in. To be a disciple of Jesus one must do these things. There is no exception.
But I have to be honest - these things are not that easy to do, and most of the time simply the command itself is complicated. What does it actually mean to deny ourselves & follow Jesus?
First these terms are very similar in nature. You cannot follow Jesus without denying yourself. And Jesus is certainly not asking us to deny ourselves as an end in itself. We deny ourselves so to be truly able to follow Jesus.
If we don’t deny ourself we cannot truly follow Jesus. We can’t follow our own heart and follow Jesus because often those two are not aligned. That is just basic logic. If someone asks us to follow them and we begin to follow them, in the very essence of the action we are denying ourselves. We have stopped following ourselves and followed them to wherever they are leading us.
So first - we deny ourselves.
This is the act of taking every aspect, every desire, every action, every gift, talent, and laying it on the “altar” at God’s feet and saying, “Not my will, but yours.” And then doing it everyday after that. It is the bare minimum of being a believer but that doesn’t mean you do it once and that’s it. It is a lifestyle and as sinners being sanctified we grow in our ability through the Spirit to more fully realize this death. We don’t die once, we die everyday. And it is one hell of a struggle.
It makes me think of the story of Abraham and Isaac. Abraham is promised a son in Isaac and he gets that after many years of waiting. And then sometime in the future God says, “Abraham I want you to offer up Isaac as a sacrifice.”
Wait. Whoa. Why?
Wait, God, you gave me Isaac. You promised him and now you want him back?
Abraham packed up his son, his supplies, and his servants and travelled to offer up a sacrifice. He places his son on the alter. He literally tied down his own son and raised the knife to kill him. This literally happened. I can’t even imagine what sort of screams were coming out of Isaac’s mouth, what sort of pleading & yelling!
In this moment, God cries out - “Don’t kill your son. I have provided a sacrifice. A ram stuck in the bushes.” There is a ton of significance and foreshadowing here but that isn’t what I plan on getting into. This story is an illustration of dying to self.
See, people will say, “God was doing that to test Abraham…”
As if God wasn’t sure what Abraham would do. No. No. Definitely not.
God did this so to “kill” off the idol that Abraham had formed Isaac into in his heart. See, Abraham had overvalued Isaac, though a good thing, a good gift from God, Abraham had given him a place in his life that was too big. He had put Isaac in the place that only God should have been. He valued Isaac in and of himself, not because of the gift he was from God.
Abraham valued Isaac in such a way that the value he saw, enjoyed, derived from Isaac started and ended in Isaac. Abraham was not valuing Isaac as a thing from God, or through God, or because of God. He was valuing him simply as Isaac. This makes Isaac out to be an idol. Only God can be enjoyed completely and utterly in and of himself.
Therefore, God called him to task. Kill your son. I will have no rivals.
The goal wasn’t to kill Isaac physically, but to spiritually kill the role he had taken in Abraham’s life.
This is what needs to happen to us so we can truly follow Jesus. We have rivals, idols that live in our heart in the place that God should live and where he should be the only thing that lives. God and only God can be the driving force, the “why" behind everything we do. If we don’t kill them, they will pull us off the path behind Jesus.
Again simple logic, if someone asks us to follow them and we begin to and then every few steps or so we have hundreds of other people calling us to follow them and then WE DO, then we aren’t following that first person. We are being tossed around like a ragdoll following whoever looks more enticing, whichever we want more.
Dying to self is dying to each and every idol, and lastly and most importantly ourselves. Each and every last voice that calls for our attention.
We take our family and we lay it on the altar.
Our fitness plan.
Our clothes and how we dress.
The time we get up in the morning.
The time we go to bed.
The things we watch on TV.
The ways we spend our money.
The ways we spend our time.
The things we are good at.
The things we like.
The things we don’t like.
The people we like.
The people we don’t like.
Where we live.
Who we live with.
We take it all and we lay it on the altar. We don’t just assume because it is good, or bad, or something we like, or something we don’t like that we do or don’t lay it on the altar. Every voice, every thing, regardless of whether it is “good” or “bad” we lay it on the altar.
We kill it's hold over our motives, and passions.
We are held sway by only one voice: the voice of Jesus.
We don’t assume just because we are good at it that God wants us to do it.
We don’t assume just because we like it that God must want us to have it.
We don’t assume just because we aren’t good at it that God doesn’t want us to do it.
We don’t assume just because we don’t like that God must not want us to have it.
We stop assuming all together. We give everything without reservation.
And we put it on the altar.
“Not what I want. Not what I don’t want. Just you.”
“Not my will but yours.”
Will you struggle? Yes.
Will you hold onto things too tightly? Yes.
Will you wish that God didn’t want you to die to that thing? Yes.
But that is the struggle. That is the daily dying.
I can’t even imagine what sort of prayers Abraham prayed the night before he was supposed to sacrifice his son, or the language he used to yell at God.
But the next day he woke up and laid his son on the altar.
Practically, I know we don’t have a physical altar to take our money or our job or our passions to but still we do it. I actually envision laying those things on the ground in front of me. Like I will close my eyes, in prayer and I will imagine taking it out of the seat of my heart and laying it down, then I turn my eyes upward. “Lord shift my focus. Don’t let this thing consume me. I want to be consumed by you.” Again, think of the voices calling for our attention as we are following another. It as you, me, us, closing our eyes and direct our attention to the back of Jesus. These voices are not all bad, but in themselves without Jesus they are.
For example: Your spouse.
My wife calling for my attention in and of herself, or my heart clamoring for her in and of herself is death. It is only another shackle. But does that mean Jesus doesn’t want me to love and enjoy my wife? No, he most certainly does. But how?
I am to enjoy, listen to her voice, only as a thing that has come to me through the leadership, voice, heart of Jesus. My wife’s value and deserved love finds its value in the fact that Jesus tells me to value & love & enjoy my wife.
I love my wife because of Jesus, not because of her. Otherwise it will become toxic for her, for me, for my kids.
When we hear “deny yourself” we usually think of it as this negative. But our God isn’t out to make us miserable. He is out to give us abundant life. That is his goal. Abraham laid his son on the altar and he truly prepared himself to kill his son and then God gave him back. Think of the tears Abraham and Isaac shared.
But because of that - Abraham was dead to Isaac and alive to God. Abraham now enjoyed Isaac as a gift from God that he didn’t deserve. Not as an idol that held sway over his heart. Not as a competing voice.
As Christians, as a follower we must do this action every day. Every minute. Every second.
Everything we have we place on this “altar”. We are willing to lose it all if only we get Christ. There might be things that we really hope that Jesus doesn’t take. But lay it down. We lay it down. It might not be easy but we lay it down.
God might give it back like he gave back Issac.
He might not.
But we don’t hold on. We want Jesus. We want him, we don’t want something he doesn’t want us to have. What could cause us to want something God doesn't want us to have?
We die to it all. Every day. Every hour. Every minute.
It is easy to assume, “Well I don’t have to die to _______. God gave me that.” Or “This is a good thing. I don’t have to die to that.” But we can never assume that something, no matter how much we love it, no matter how much we want it to be our job, our future, our thing, can we assume that we aren’t supposed to die to it. We die to everything, trusting that our Saviour knows what is best. God may give us something only to take it away.
See, Jesus says, “You must die to yourself.” And I said that is the bare minimum of being a believer. This doesn’t mean that the one time you hold on too tightly that Jesus kicks you out of his grace. No! Never! Instead, it is the posture of your heart.
Does your heart cry out, “Not my will but yours.”
Does your heart cry out, “Silence every other voice, desire, passion, thing in my life. I want none of it except through you.”
If this is not the posture of your heart, then cry out to Jesus that he may give you a new heart.
But if this is the posture of your heart, even though you struggle, and you hold on, and far too many times you don’t want to die, I encourage you, Jesus implores you, you must kill Isaac.
David Cotrone Jr is the Owner of ODG Apparel, a Christian brand looking to break the stigma that Christian stuff has to be lame. With fun Tees, Stickers and more meant to create gospel conversations. He is father to Hudson James & Elijah David and husband to Courtney.
This post originally appeared at the ODG Apparel blog.
I have an addiction. And as is the case with all addictions, I didn’t realize it was a problem until it was too late. In general, I’m addicted to my phone.
Now there are various things people can be addicted to on a phone like social media or YouTube clips, but my problem was games. Yes, that’s right, those silly, free games you can download anytime from the app store.
I don’t own a single video game console, so I wouldn’t call myself a “gamer.” “Gamers” are those unemployed 20-somethings that live in their mom’s basement and play games all day. I’ve always considered myself a responsible person who likes to read and think deeply about things. But if I find a free game that I really like, I’ll tap away for 2-5 hours a day. I still may not fit the stereotype of being a “gamer” but in a way, I’m worse. I’m a hypocrite. It’s embarrassing to admit, but it’s a real problem.
Breaking The Addiction
I’ve gone through several cycles of getting addicted to games and it all started when I got my first smartphone in 2011. I find a game I really like, usually something that involves strategy or puzzles, and I play it a bit. I figure, everyone wastes time doing something, so it’s no big deal. But before long, I get kind of good at the game, and then I’m hooked. I want to beat all the levels. I want to be better than everyone else. I’ll play right when I wake up in the morning, and then again for a couple hours before bed. At some point, usually 6 months later, I realize it’s a problem and I quit playing altogether. I delete the app. I never play that game again.
But a couple months later I download a different game. The cycle begins again.
Three or four months ago I hit the point where I once again realized I needed to quit, and I did. I haven’t touched a game since. This cycle was especially bad. I found a game that had some very difficult tactics involved, and I love a good challenge. This particular game also had a more robust version coming out on a real game console. I wanted it, bad. My birthday was coming around and I had every intention of buying the console and the game with the birthday money I was sure to get. But praise God, that didn’t happen.
A couple days before my birthday I was reading one of my favorite blogs where author Jeff Goins gives advice to aspiring writers. He asked this question,
“What are you doing when you love who you are?”
At that moment I realized when I spend hours playing games, I hate who I am. I feel guilty. I feel ashamed. Because my hobbies don’t just affect me, but my family and friends as well. I knew if I bought the console, I would get lost even deeper into playing games, and that scared me.
There are two main things I love doing: learning and sharing what I’ve learned. When I play games I’m not learning anything, and then I also don’t have anything of value to share. I realized that if I’m going to have a hobby, I’m going to have one that enriches my life, benefits others, and glorifies God. So, I made the change, and I am determined never to go back.
I Know I'm Not The Only One
While my problem may have been games, there are so many different things you can get addicted to on your phone. A writer and former college classmate I highly respect shared how he had to quit Twitter, even at the expense of losing a chunk of his online platform. Famous Christian author Philip Yancey shared how mindless internet browsing has damaged his learning and concentration. The internet and smartphones, in particular, are addiction minefields. If you’re not careful, you can be consumed.
Since I’ve stopped playing games on my phone, I’ve seen so many benefits in life. Here are just a few.
1) I’m playing more with my kids.
For about a month I didn’t even tell my wife I had quit playing games on my phone and she said she loved how I was spending more time with the kids. I don’t want to miss a moment.
2) I’m socializing more.
I’m planning visits with friends and family. I’m going to conferences and events that I find interesting. Being an extrovert, these things have been fuel for my soul.
3) I’m reading and writing more.
There aren’t many things I love more. I even started a personal blog.
4) I’m thinking about God more.
I think about Bible verses I’ve recently read. I think about theology, apologetics, and ministry. I even pray more.
With rapid developments in technology, so many of us have been caught unprepared. But I want to offer hope. There is so much joy to be had in the Christian life, and even more joy awaiting us.
Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God. –Hebrews 12:1-2
We don’t have to spend our lives enslaved to our technological devices. We can overcome this new norm. We can live fulfilling lives with our eyes wide open to see the glory of God. His blessings are all around us. If only we would look up to see them.
Tim is a lifelong student and loves nothing more than a good conversation on faith and truth. He is the chapter director of Ratio Christi at Grand Valley State University. He has spoken on dozens of topics at various universities, high schools, churches, and non-profit ministries. He has a BA in Worldviews and Apologetics from Boyce College. Tim, his wife Alexandra, and children MaryKate and Oliver attend Allendale Baptist Church where Tim also works as an administrative assistant. Anyone who meets Tim easily remembers him as the tallest Filipino they've ever met.
This article originally appeared on the Allendale Baptist Church Blog
It's an interesting time to be a 30-something male in North America. Not a whole lot is expected of us by the world around us. Many men my age have not been married for eight years and don't have three kids. Many guys my age are still happy playing the hookup game without commitment, playing video games, and surfing a seemingly infinite stash of porn on the internet.
Like I said, It's an interesting time to be a guy my age. I remember clearly the first time I looked at porn. I was in the seventh or eighth grade and a buddy of mine invited me over to his house to show me something he had found. What it turned out being was an old stash of his dad's porn magazines. I say old because they were from the 80's and buried in a crawlspace next to the Halloween decorations my friend had been sent to dig out of the basement; that's how he found them. That was my first experience and my only one for a long time.
Things are very different now.
Nowadays, porn is so common on the internet that many innocent search terms can turn up porn if safe search is turned off (sometimes, even if it's not.) Kids are finding porn. If you believe the statistics, 21% of pre-teens have admitted to accessing porn on smartphones. If you, like me, are the father of a young daughter and you want to scare yourself into buying a chastity belt for her and a shotgun for you, read this.
I don't watch porn, not anymore. In my youth, sure, I was an average guy who looked at average things. But I don't anymore. Here are (some of) the reasons why:
1) My Faith.
I'm a Christian blogger, I have to start here. There may not be a "Thou shalt not watch porn" commandment, but Scripture and even Jesus Himself teach pretty clearly that I am not to "lust after a woman who is not my wife." If you're an unmarried guy and see a loophole here, think of it this way: if you don't have a wife, then every woman counts as "who is not my wife" all of them. As a married guy, that's every woman except one. The one I married. Speaking of her...
2) My Wife: It devalues her.
My wife is mine. Don't get all upset because I'm being chauvinistic, in an equal sense, I am hers. We belong to each other. Among other things, this means that I am the only man, the only person who gets to see her naked in a sexual context and the opposite is true of me. Do you know how that makes me feel? Special. No one else gets to see her how I see her. But what happens if I go somewhere else for sexual stimulation? What it communicates to my wife is that she's not enough, or not good enough for me. It devalues her as a person, and in a culture where women are under so much pressure to conform to an unrealistic societal ideal image of beauty, this can be devastating to some women, and some marriages. You are special, married guy, you are the only person who can look at your wife the way you do.
3) My Daughter: It could be her.
I'm in my 30's now. I've reached an age where many of the girls featured online are younger than me, some are much younger. My daughter is only six, but even the idea of looking at a young naked girl fills my head with the knowledge that that girl is some guy's daughter. Now, perhaps her father is like me, loves his daughter dearly, and hates what she does, or perhaps he's no father at all. Still, as she grows, how can I look in my little girl's eyes and teach her to value her body, if I don't value other girls just like her if only older?
4) My Sons: It teaches them a lie.
My sons are very young. But every day, they grow up a little more. Little kids are like sponges, they pick up so much. Someday, I'll talk to my sons about porn, about how destructive it is, how it devalues women like their sister and makes them into toys for men and not image bearers and of the God we worship. My friend found his Dad's porn stash. They may be easier to hide and harder to find today, but our sons will know if we are hypocrites or not when we tell them: Don't look at porn. They'll be right, and we dads will lose credibility.
These are just some of the reasons I stay away from porn. What are yours? Or do you think I'm way off? Leave your thoughts in the comments, we love the discussion here.
For more information on this topic and how even scientists and sociologists are starting to see porn's detrimental effects, click over to Fight The New Drug. It's a fantastic resource.
As a Biblical conservative, a cultural Liberal, a husband, a dad, and a pastor, I want to see the church act differently in the world. My big passion in ministry is to see how believers can bring the Gospel into the world around them while pursuing the lost art of winsomeness. It is what fuels me and drives me to write. Engaging culture with the truth of the Gospel in a way that is winsome, wise, and as Colossians 4:6 directs us: “seasoned with salt.” It’s my hope that what I say here helps you not only in your own faith, but helps you share it more effectively and fruitfully.
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