Christians can feel pressured to conform to those around them in order to be accepted. Sometimes, new converts feel compelled to be like their mentor to prove their spiritual growth. Some mentors enjoy having protege’s expecting them to imitate their life to show evidence of spiritual growth. However, when we look at the scriptures, we find that God is not looking for cookie cutter Christianity, and He certainly does not want people to be followers of each other. …
Selfishness is promoted in every aspect of society, and it has permeated the culture impacting people’s expectations, ambitions, dreams, and decisions. As God’s people, we are called to live differently. So how do we deal with selfishness in our lives!? Jesus gives us insight and instruction on this important issue.
Then He said to them all, “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me. For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will save it. For what profit is it to a man if he gains the whole world, and is himself destroyed or lost? For whoever is ashamed of Me and My words, of him the Son of Man will be ashamed when He comes in His own glory, and in His Father’s, and of the holy angels. Mark 9:23-26
Jesus spoke to those listening and told them that those who want to follow Him must deny themselves. We cannot deny ourselves on a consistent basis apart from the enabling power of the Holy Spirit in our lives. Our human nature desires to take care of number 1 and do everything for the benefit of self. Our carnal nature does not want to be uncomfortable or inconvenienced. Furthermore, it desires to protect itself from anything that might threaten its interests. Jesus knew this about human nature, and that is why He instructed us to live a spiritual life by denying the natural life.
Definition of Deny (According to Strong’s Dictionary):
- to affirm that one has no acquaintance or connection with someone;
to forget one’s self, lose sight of one’s self and one’s own interests
The above definitions give us insight into what denying ourselves looks like. Denial requires disassociation with one’s old self and also letting go of our ideas and interests.
If we want to deny ourselves, we need to cut away our relationship with the old nature. We cannot cuddle it or go back to it when things are not working out as the way we hoped. That would be like having ended a bad dating relationship but when it all else fails, we go back to the person because they are better than nothing.
The problem with the old nature is that is it ruled by the selfish carnal life, and when you give it an inch, it will take a mile! The self does not go away easily and that is why Jesus tells us that we need to deny ourselves. Furthermore, we live in a culture that wants us to feed self and nurture all its desires. The world tells us that any thought and emotion is valid, and if we want to be real, we need to acknowledge and tend to those thoughts and emotions, so we can be our true self.
On the contrary, the Bible tells us that because we were born in sin and shaped in iniquity, we cannot trust our carnal ideas, thoughts, and emotions. To entertain any and every thought and emotion means that we will be entertaining the lust of the flesh, the lush of the eyes, and the pride of life. We need transformation. We need to get detoxed from our old selves and nurture the new nature in Christ. In addition, the scripture also tells us to hold captive thoughts, imaginations, and arguments.
The second part of the above definition speaks of losing our self-interests. When we are convinced that our ideas cannot bring the satisfaction we desire, we let go of our self-interests. Some of our self-interests are shaped by the culture that encourages people to be performance-oriented. The subtle reality of being performance-oriented is that it becomes about us, our achievements, and our success, and it neglects the impact of our decision on others. Furthermore, the culture does not embrace intimacy because that brings vulnerability. Lack of vulnerability pushes us further into being selfish making sure that we are protected and our needs are met because we don’t trust others.
Can you imagine how many marriages could be saved if individuals were willing to do the hard work of denying themselves and put their spouse’s interests before theirs? How many did not have to fail because one person decided to get selfish and commit adultery? How many could have been preserved because each person thought about the impact of their decision on their family instead of their own their dreams!?
The above scripture shows us to be truly satisfied in life, we need to follow Jesus and not entertain our ideas of happiness. Many times the denial of ourselves or our ideas is not going to be enjoyable or feel good, but we don’t have to be afraid. God sees us and He sees our desire to be a follower of His Son. Jesus was not ashamed of denying Himself in order to gain true life for us. He modeled a life of self-denial and taught His disciples that there is gain in letting go of controlling our lives! The profit we receive from losing our self-interests is far greater than anything we can achieve or make happen in our own strength. The Lord is our shepherd. He knows our needs, and He is the provider of our daily bread!
One of the lies that people have come to believe is that they are not enough and that they need to use whatever means necessary to change themselves. The humanistic philosophies have not helped this mindset as they continue to propagate that man can do life without God and that he has the power to define or re-define himself whichever way he desires. …
One of the main areas of spiritual battle is our internal being. This is also one of the hardest ones to fight. Generally, the main subject in preachings is our spiritual health, but the soul can get neglected in teachings. The soul was the strongest part of us prior to coming to Christ, and it tries to keep its supremacy after surrendering our lives to Christ. Therefore, it is important to tackle this part of our being, which can easily be manipulated by the enemy.
Our soul is made up of our thoughts, emotions, and will. What we see, hear, sense, and feel gets interpreted by our soul based on its prior experiences and worldview. This interpretation creates our perception of reality, which may or not be the truth. For example, if we see a friend at church who does not happen to acknowledge us, we can create one of several scenarios in our minds. Some may move on and forget about the exchange. Others will try to think about their last exchange with that friend and determine what went wrong. Some may confront the friend about the issue. Others might feel rejected and assume the worst.
A brother offended is harder to win than a strong city, and contentions are like the bars of a castle. Proverbs 18:19
Such an exchange as the above example seems benign and does not look like a spiritual battle. However, once we open the door to the enemy by believing the lie that something must be wrong, we strengthen the enemy’s power in our lives. Our soul loses its rest, and we are hurt over nothing. The lie leads to offense and intentional distance from those we care about. Furthermore, we are more prone to similar incidents, which can make us think that there must be something wrong with us. These kinds of situations happen frequently at work, church, or family gatherings, and misunderstandings wreak havoc in the person’s soul and their relationships.
We cannot interpret things based on our limited understanding. That’s why it is important to trust God with all our hearts. In the above example, instead of drawing conclusion based on a limited information, we can stop ourselves from going in the wrong direction. We don’t have to assume that the person is mad or intended to reject us. We can just ask the Lord to show us if there is something that we need to do. We submit the situation and the relationship to Him and allow the Lord to guide us. This approach aborts the enemy’s process from playing with our thoughts and emotions. We made the decision to overcome the situation and not allow ourselves to create scenarios based on our limited understanding.
We also choose intentionally to transform our minds based on what is pleasing to God and think of things that are pure, lovely, and praiseworthy. We choose to believe the best in others and fight the battle of feeling rejected or neglected. Whether the action was intentional or not, we can choose to forgive the person, so we can be in a position to remain in a relationship with them and not give a foothold to the enemy.
Is your soul at rest or do you easily get agitated in your mind, emotions, and will? Pay attention to the doors that you open to the enemy and choose the word of God to live differently. The spiritual battle is not always going to announce itself; sometimes it will come in ordinary ways to distract and derail us and cause our soul to lose its peace! Fighting in the spirit is sometimes as simple as rejecting a thought that will lead us down a wrong path!
As believers, we have a loving relationship with our heavenly Father which is based on the work of Jesus on the cross. However, this personal relationship does not give us the permission to be nonchalant with an awesome and mighty God who is the creator of heaven and earth! The knowledge of God should bring us down to our knees and keep us in reverent fear of a holy God who is all powerful!
The very thing that man fights in his carnal nature by thinking and acting independently from God is the very issue that brings us under a curse and bondage to sin. The fear of God brings many blessings to our lives. In this devotional and the next one, I will share some of them with you.
We serve one Master
Now therefore, fear the LORD, serve Him in sincerity and in truth, and put away the gods which your fathers served on the other side of the River and in Egypt. Serve the LORD! Joshua 24:14
We are called to serve God. When we choose to serve God, He asks us to put away all other gods. We cannot have two masters. Even in the natural realm, a servant, an employee, or an athlete can only serve one master or a team. The kingdom of our God is in enmity with the kingdom of this world and darkness. Jesus told us that we cannot serve two masters.
While we have a personal relationship with the Lord, we are still called to submit to His authority for the rest of our lives and serve Him only. We will never grow so old or so mature that we would not need to be submitted to the Lord. We always need to have a healthy reverence and fear of the Lord!! We fear God because He is mighty. He is the one who subdued the Egyptians and delivered the Israelites. He can subdue any one of us who is not living according to His plan, or He can deliver live us we if we live according to His will!!
His fear leads us to transformation
The law of the Lord is perfect, converting the soul; The testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple;
The statutes of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart; The commandment of the Lord is pure, enlightening the eyes; The fear of the Lord is clean, enduring forever; The judgments of the Lord are true and righteous altogether. Psalm 19:7-9
Isn’t it powerful that the law of the Lord converts the soul!? Our souls are in desperate need of conversion; our minds, will, and emotions have been corrupted and ravaged by years of living in sin. When we fear God and recognize that His laws need to be obeyed, we see the transformation that we so have been longing for. As our soul gets converted, we get revelation of how God judges because His judgments are righteous and true. It gives us clarity of vision and understanding. It changes our perspective and gives us a fresh, new, pure way to look at things. That brings joy to our hearts because we are not stuck in the darkness of our perspective, but now we have light, and we can see clearly. Praise Him!!!
God Trusts those who fear Him
The secret of the Lord is with those who fear Him, Psalm 25:14a
Our mighty, omniscient, omnipotent God has secrets that He chooses not to share with just anyone, but he chooses to share them with those who fear Him. If we don’t fear the Lord, we can misuse His secrets by using them to show off, talking about them when it’s not the right time. The Lord knows those who fear Him are not going to take advantage of them. These individuals know it’s a great privilege for the Lord to share His secrets with them, and they will stay in tune and in step to know what to do with those secrets.
Abraham had the privilege of God telling him that He was going to destroy Sodom and Gomorrah (Genesis 18:16-33). Moses tried to change God’s mind and he succeeded because the Lord told him that if there were ten righteous people in those cities He wasn’t going to destroy them. Unfortunately, there weren’t even ten righteous people in those cities!! That was a powerful position for Moses. What would we have done if God had shared a secret like that with us? Would we have been excited because of their gross sin that God was going to destroy them!? Or would we have interceded like Moses did and asked for God’s mercy?
While our culture indoctrinates people into independence from God and has no regard, respect, or reverence for Him, we know through the scripture and through our own personal lives that there are so many blessings to fearing God and walking closely with Him.
Do you fear God? Do you live life the same way whether someone is watching or not?