It’s about this time during these cold, dull days of January that it’s easy to begin questioning those New Year Resolutions. You know, the ones like, “I resolve to give up junk food, get up early, floss everyday, don’t stay up late on the weeknights, etc., etc.,” Then one very chilly morning, all toasty in bed with the clock ticking close by after a late night of having enjoyed deep fried tortilla chips and queso, questions like these start coming to mind: “Are these really worth the doing?” “Maybe I don’t have to give some of these up…completely.” “I’ve messed up a couple of times already!” “This is a lot harder than I thought it would be.” We may not say them aloud, but given enough time to roll around in our minds, the momentum they achieve can eventually conquer our best intentions and relegate all our determination to the dust bin. Then we are left staring at discouragement in the mirror.
Thankfully, those types of resolutions do not have eternal consequences attached to them and many people, in the face of previous failures, resolve not to make resolutions altogether. But in becoming a Christian, the commitment we have made to God is the ultimate resolution to follow Him whatever the cost. We put off the old man of sin and death (Romans 6:6). Not a one time offering, but a daily, living sacrifice we become (Romans 12:1). The rest of our frail, “dusty” lives are spent denying self and glorifying God in our bodies (Psalm 103:14; 39:4).
When we withhold from ourselves the pleasures of sin for a season because of our love for the Lord, there is sweet victory for the cause of Christ and we cultivate that precious fruit of the Spirit. In so doing, we take on more of the beauty and character of our Savior. But what happens when the brush of sin in the world makes self denial look nigh impossible? What do we do when those same questions about those trivial New Year’s Resolutions begin to whisper to us when there are matters of the soul at stake? “Are these really worth the doing? Maybe I don’t have to give some of these up completely. I’ve messed up a couple of times already! This is a lot harder than I thought it would be.” They are not outright thoughts of a decision to indulge and be led by our own desires, but they assist in chipping away at our determination. In examining our thoughts, we need to see these as red flags. They are a door to temptation. Don’t entertain them.
There is another area where self denial becomes a type of martyrdom. Many times it is only seen by ourselves and our God, but without much mindful inspection, can grow like an insidious cancer of the soul. The heavy, burdensome feelings of deprivation can exist even in the midst of withholding ourselves from sin. It feels like the picture of a child, shoulders slumped and hands jammed into his pockets kicking the gravel with the toe of his shoe, sighing heavily and mumbling, “Well, I guess I won’t do it this time.” The action may be right but the attitude cannot be ignored. That attitude is based on beliefs of what a person perceives as fair treatment or what is “naturally” deserved. If left to fester, refusing sin becomes not a living sacrifice as much as a heart that is being drug along where it really doesn’t want to go. It opens us up to self pity which, even if not expressed outwardly, manifests itself in thoughts of whining, grumbling, complaining, depression, jealousy, envy, and bitterness. God wants the sacrifice to come from our hearts (Romans 6:17; 1 Corinthians 13:3). So what do we do if we find ourselves where self denial in our lives is a burden that has us pouting before God or trying to tell God just how much we’ve given up for Him?
Here are some helps to change this burden into the attitude God is seeking for us:
- Study Christ’s attitude in resolutely and intentionally offering His own innocent and honorable life for what He deemed much more significant (Philippians 2:5-11). Jesus picked up His cross—figuratively and literally—but the reason He valued that hideously painful choice was for the joy to come. Crucifixion was the only way to our salvation and the door that brought Him back home to His Father in Heaven (Hebrews 12:2).
- Examine how what we surrender ourselves compares to the blessings God grants us in this life and/or the next (Romans 8:32).
- Pray about awareness to change this way of thinking. Prayer cannot be over emphasized. It is much easier to recognize and take captive the thoughts to resist temptation than to clean up the mess created when we fall into it. God wants to give us the wisdom so that we can stand up against the forces of evil and be triumphant (James 1:5)!
- Go back to our belief system. Does what we truly believe about “fairness” or “what we deserve” have its basis in Scripture? We honestly don’t want what we truly deserve. It is only through God “being rich in mercy and grace” that we are given anything of value (Ephesians 2:4-6). Taking time to meditate on God’s words and redirecting our minds and heart regularly can implant a new program. At each and every brand new day, may we be resolved to be transformed by the renewing of our minds that in so doing, denial of self can be viewed as a privilege and honor from a heart full of love for the great God whom we serve (Romans 12:2). Below are a few verses and directives with which to saturate our minds and improve our attitude in denying self.
Those of us who have experienced deep discouragement or depression for very long may find they gain no comfort or encouragement from the Scriptures because their habitual thought processes foster a toxic atmosphere in their minds. The meditations written with the verses help direct the mind to be encouraged by the truth and with repetition can equip us to bring those thoughts to the forefront during struggles. Although one may not feel like the directives are true for them, they are those things found in Philippians 4:8 that we are to make our new way of thinking—in mind and heart. (Click for a printable for these verses & directives January 2015 Divine Percolations)
Matthew 19:29 (ESV)
And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or lands, for my name’s sake, will receive a hundredfold and will inherit eternal life.
With a full heart, for the love of Christ my Savior, I willingly give up whatever might stand in the way of my sharing eternal life with my God in Heaven.
Romans 8:32 (ESV)
He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?
I wholeheartedly commit my thoughts and actions to the One who has provided everything I could ever need in this life and for the saving of my soul.
Matthew 16:24 (ESV)
Then Jesus told his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.
I have determined to put aside sinful actions and attitudes, gratefully accept the challenges of Christianity with God’s help, and keep my eyes focused on Jesus.
Hebrews 12:2 (ESV)
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.
Jesus being my example, I continue to look toward the joy of Heaven determining to set aside anything that may keep me from that lovely goal.
Romans 8:18 (ASV)
For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed to us-ward.
I can willingly endure any sacrifice made here on earth to follow Christ, continually looking forward to Heaven one day.
1 Peter 2:5 (ESV)
you yourselves like living stones are being built up as a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.
As part of Jesus’ precious church, I live daily offering myself with a humble heart full of love and devotion to Christ my Savior.
By Cheri Deaver
Cheri is wife to Weylan Deaver who preaches at the Sherman Drive Church of Christ in Denton, Texas. She is mother to Orrin, Lacey, Lexie and Ethan, as well as a new mother-in-law to Aubrie Deaver. She is blessed beyond measure for which God has so richly provided.