Real Faith = Self-Denial…No Exceptions
Faith! We all want it. We all want our kids to have it. So what does real faith look like? Jesus tells us what it is like in Mark 8:34.
And calling the crowd to him with his disciples, he said to them, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.”
Being a Christian, being saved, and having faith consists of three things: denying ourselves, taking up our crosses, and following Jesus. If we and/or are kids do these things, we can walk forward with the hope and confidence of heaven. Because these truths are so foundational to our faith, let’s take some time to look at each one in detail.
Is there anything as simple and yet as hard? Our culture encourages us and our kids to daily look within ourselves for hope, success, and life. In the movie Mullan, we are told to be “True to your heart … you must be true to your heart. That’s when the heavens will part.” We learn from the movie Brave, “Our fate lives within us.” And in the Lion King, we are told to directly, “Look inside yourself, Simba. You are more than what you have become.” Disney and a majority of the American culture encourages us to listen to our hearts. We are encouraged to find the salvation to our earthly struggle and heavenly struggles by staying true to us. If we dig down deep enough and listen closely enough to the ideas in our heads and hearts the “heavens will part.”
But when we look within we do not find hope, success, and salvation. We find despair, fights, and hurt. Notice what Jesus says one chapter earlier in Mark 7:21-23:
For from within, out of the heart of man, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, 22 coveting, wickedness, deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride, foolishness. 23 All these evil things come from within, and they defile a person.
If we listen to our hearts, we will think evil thoughts about those who dislike us, we will steal when we feel deprived, we will angrily lash out when we feel wronged. The more we look within the dark things get.
And so Jesus departs from the Disney mantra and from the song our culture and calls us to deny ourselves so that we may have true life.
Are You Denying Yourself?
So how do you know if you are denying yourself how do you know if you have faith? When the idea pops in your head to attack the mean guy on Facebook do you it? When you flunk your test and go home, do you follow your initial inclination and lie about your grades? When the idea pops in your head to look at some porn because you’ve had a rough day, do you do it?
Now I am not saying that you should write “perdition” on your forehead the moment you sin. Rather, I am saying that the believer will have a life dominated by self-denial. A majority of the time, you will not listen to yourself. A majority of the time, your life will be marked by obedience to the Scriptures.
Think of it this way. If a majority of your Instagram pictures are filled with inappropriately dressed men and women, people would rightfully deem your feed a bad influence even with if posted a cute baby pic once in a while. On the other hand if a majority of your photos were pictures of little puppies, people would conclude that your feed was wholesome even if an angry college football rant appeared from time to time.
In the same way, the life marked by self-denial will not be perfect. But it will be marked by self-denial.
What does your life feed say about you? Are you denying yourself?