Self Denial is the Result of the Spirit’s Work in Your Life

And he said to all, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.

Luke 9:23

Jesus calls us to daily deny ourselves to follow Him. You can’t live half in and half out. You must be all in. You must be willing to die to your own self-interest and live life fully for Christ if you are going to be a follower of Jesus.

Thinking about Jesus’ call reveals our need for Him. We can’t live for Jesus in a self-denying way without Him first changing our desires. The change in desire from self to Jesus reveals the work of God in our life and assures us of our salvation.

Do you see self-denial and Christ-centric living in your life? Do you put Jesus before all other things? Are you willing to give up all for Jesus? If so, you can be assured of your salvation. You would and can only do those things because the Spirit is at work in you.

Does Your Awe and Need of the Cross Grow or Diminish Over Time?

In 1 Timothy 1:12-16, Paul recounts his testimony to Timothy in order to differentiate himself from the false teachers, and give Timothy a reason why he can be trusted over and against them. After recounting his testimony, Paul breaks out into spontaneous worship of God. In verse 17 we read,

“To the King of the ages, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory forever and ever. Amen.” (1 Ti 1:17)

At the thought of God’s grace and his salvation, Paul can’t help but worship God, praising and magnifying Him for who He is.

Likewise, when we think about how God’s grace and mercy worked in our life to provide us with salvation, we should be driven to worship God as well. Our awe and worship of Him should only grow as we grow in Christ.

For some, however, that is not the case. Their awe and need diminishes over time instead of grows. So we don’t make this mistake, it’s important we explore these two mindsets. Let’s start with the negative before moving to the positive.

Awe and Need Diminishes Over Time

awe-and-need-diminishes

As you can see in the diagram above, the cross starts out big, but then it gets smaller over time. This is how some people see their Christian walk. They see a need for Jesus at the beginning, but as time goes on, they don’t believe they need Him or His grace as much. As a result, they start to believe that they can handle most things on their own, and they might even get to a point where they think they are good enough to secure their own salvation.

The above, however, is far from the biblical idea of salvation and our need for God’s grace. We always need Jesus, and He is the One who always sustains our salvation.

Even though that is true, some still go down this path. You know they have gone down that path because this type of thinking produces people whose awe of God and His grace diminishes instead of grows over time, which results in someone who is proud, arrogant, and self-righteous. Someone who isn’t willing to admit they are a sinner or even talk about their sin. As well as it produces someone who thinks they don’t need the church, God’s Word, or prayer.

All this ends with someone who doesn’t worship God as they should. Instead of giving God the glory, they give themselves the glory, patting themselves on the back for what they have accomplished instead of for what God has accomplished through them.

Awe and Need Grows Over Time

While the above represents those whose awe and need diminishes over time, this next diagram represents those for whom awe and need grows over time.

awe-and-need-grows

As you can see, for this person the cross grows bigger and bigger as they grow in Christ. The crosses growth is a result of this person gaining a clearer picture of who they are — an unwise sinner who desperately needs God’s grace and wisdom. Coming to that recognition, they lean on God more and more instead of less and less.

This type of thinking produces people who are humble, who have a sense of unworthiness, who live in awe of God and are driven to worship Him. As well as it produces people whose prayer life is robust, and those who see a need for the church and God’s Word in their lives.

True Christians Grow In Awe and Need

If we are true Christians, the second diagram will represent us. The cross won’t grow smaller in our lives, instead it will grow bigger.

As the cross grows, we won’t hesitate to say with Paul, “I am the chief of sinners.” Neither will we hesitate to break out in worship when we think of our salvation, and the grace that God continues to pour out in our lives. We won’t hesitate to humble ourselves and praise God because we know our salvation and continued acceptance isn’t based on our work, but God’s work. He is the One who saved us, He is the One who continues to sanctify us, and He is the one who will glorify us.

When we recognize what God has done and continues to do, and when we are willing to admit that we are the chief of sinners, and praise God for His salvation, we know that the gospel has changed us. We know we are God’s children because only someone who has been changed by the gospel will recognize and admit their need for a Savior, and will humbly praise God for their salvation, leaning more and more on Him as time goes by.

Question for Reflection

  1. Which diagram represents you?

Resources

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Post developed from my sermon How do we become someone who is used by God for His service?

Ideas are mine, but the diagrams were originally seen in this sermon

Gospel Motivation for Gospel Living

What should be our motivation to live for God? In Colossians 1:3-14 Paul provides a model.

Paul’s Model is the Gospel

Looking at this section, you should notice that Paul mentions the gospel right after he talks about the Corinthians faith and love. Then down in verses 12-14, you should also notice that Paul expounds on the gospel, right after he calls the Corinthians to live lives pleasing to God.

Paul’s focus on the gospel tells us that he wants us to be motivated to live gospel-centered lives out of the gospel.

What Paul Could Have Done, But Doesn’t

You see, Paul could have motivated the Colossians to live for God in a number of ways. He could have told them to live for God because God said so, or because that is what will win favor with God, or because that is how we will make it to heaven, or because this is what makes you a good person. Paul could have used any number of tactics to motivate the Colossians, but he didn’t. Instead he used the gospel.

Just as Paul wants the Colossians to find their motivation for Christian living through the gospel, he wants us to do the same.

Examples of Gospel Motivation

Looking at Colossians 1:3-14, we see that if we are struggling:

  • In our faith – we need to remember that if God provides His Son for our salvation and guarantees our future inheritance, He is able to provide for our daily needs.
  • With loving others – we need to remember the love of God in giving His only Son for our sins.
  • With doing good works – we need to remember that sin no longer masters us, but God is our Master, freeing us to live for Him and not for sin.
  • With growing in our relationship with God – we need to remember that God so desires a relationship with us that He sent His Son to pay the price for our sins, redeeming us from His wrath.
  • With enduring trials and tribulations patiently with joy – we need to remember that this world is not all there is. Jesus will return, defeat our enemies, and setup His perfect kingdom one day.
  • With worshipping God – we need to remember that He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of His beloved Son, qualifying us to share in the inheritance with the Saints.

You see, the gospel is not only given for our salvation, but it is also given as motivation for godly living. So the next time you are struggling in any of these areas, meditate on the gospel; allow it to motivate you to live lives pleasing to God.

Questions for Reflection

  1. How have you tried to motivate yourself, or others, to live for God in the past?
  2. How does a gospel motivation change the way you look at living for God?

Resources

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