Friday, August 31, 2012
Today’s Topic: Living in Denial
Today’s Text: 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.
Over the last few weeks I have been bombarded with evidence that we are living in a time of huge spiritual crisis. People who call themselves followers of Christ are turning to lives of rebellion and sin and personal pleasure at a scary pace. Not a day goes by lately that my wife and I are not being asked to give advice or counsel to someone who is being affected by a spouse’s or friend’s decisions to serve self rather than God. These are people whom we have participated with in ministry and heard their testimonies of faith in Jesus Christ.
I believe more than ever that these are the last days before the return of Christ. The gray area of personal choice between the truth positions of morality and immorality that once was very small has become increasingly immense. That’s because we’re participating with our culture in redefining the truths that establish the standards of each absolute position. Those who choose to redefine morality and embrace immorality justify it with the argument of the pursuit of personal pleasure and happiness. They are motivated by a deep and deadly desire to eventually destroy the position of immorality by turning everything gray for a time until it begins to appear not gray at all. Their goal is to move all the black and gray into the light of white and declare everything moral. As this happens, they are becoming increasingly intolerant and abusive towards those who maintain a position of morality based on God’s truth. The attacks against truth are more consistent and louder than ever, and the attacks against those who hold a position of truth are gaining cultural acceptance at an alarming rate.
Here’s a thought that came to me as I prayed this morning – It is a good thing to live in a state of denial. In fact, it is an absolute truth that all of us do, one way or another.
The follower of Jesus is commanded to live in a state of denial towards self. This is where I see the evidence of the great falling away in today’s church. We are not living in this state of denial. Rather, we are living in a state of entitlement to self with all of its pleasures and prosperity. So many in the church today have a claim to faith without the following that inherently must follow true faith. How can one claim to have faith without obedience?
Those who compromise their faith and follow self are usually unaware that they are still living in a state of denial, but one with deadly consequences ahead. You see, if we are not denying self and following Jesus, then we are denying Jesus and following self. One way or another we are ALL living in a state of denial. It’s our choice which one.
Listen to these words from the Apostle Paul and from Jude, the brother of Jesus.
Titus 1:16 (ESV) They profess to know God, but they deny him by their works. They are detestable, disobedient, unfit for any good work.
Jude 1:4 (ESV) For certain people have crept in unnoticed who long ago were designated for this condemnation, ungodly people, who pervert the grace of our God into sensuality and deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ.
In the last three days I have counseled two people who are increasing the territory of the gray in their lives. In both cases I asked them one question – Whom do you love? It is the very root of the problem for all of us. Whom do you love? In both cases of counseling, neither person was willing to admit verbally that they love themselves more than anything. Yet it is obviously true. It is true of me in places of my own life and I am on my knees every day gaining insight from the Holy Spirit as He guides me to deny self and take up my cross and follow Jesus – in EVERYTHING!
We must recognize that in any and every area of our lives, when we choose to pursue self for any reason, it can only be defined as denial of Jesus. But when we pursue Jesus we are in denial of self. That is the state of denial I want to be in consistently. We are always in one or the other. It’s our choice. Choose wisely, and do so with eternity in view.