“Do you know what I mean?” He asked. “Yes, I replied” and left it at that.
Now let me say first off that I think it is very important to deny self, and we need to fight with the strength Jesus has given us to not let our flesh dominate us. It can be a huge range of things we fight our flesh against, from wanting to say hurtful things to someone who has hurt us, to eating a panful of brownies we don’t need, to wanting to buy something we can’t afford. Every day is an opportunity to choose to follow the spirit versus following the flesh. The Bible tells us to do so in Galatians 5:16-17: “I say then: walk in the Spirit, and you shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh. For the flesh lusts against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; and these are contrary to one another, so that you do not do the things that you wish.”
It is a daily, even minute-by-minute choice to follow the Spirit and not let our flesh dominate us. I’m going to be very transparent here even at the sake of appearing weird to people, but I often declare, “I am a spirit who has a body. Body, you are not the boss. My spirit is the real me. You must obey my spirit.” Sometimes I will fast from food to try to teach my body that it is not in control of me and that it has to obey the spirit that lives in me. I know you may think that is strange, but it has really helped me. It isn’t me fasting to make God move, but rather to get my body into subjection to better receive what Jesus has already provided in my spirit.
I say all that to declare that I fully believe that we need to deny self, and we should make it our aim to be led by the Spirit instead of by the flesh, but what I truly believe this guy was saying was to basically deny yourself of anything nice in the world and by doing so you have done your duty in God’s eyes to bring yourself closer to God through your works.
I refuse to do that. Why? Because that is an old covenant with a works mind-set. It’s a “look what I’ve done for you” type of approach to God, thinking that somehow we have done our part and now God will look upon us better. Let me do right so that I am right with God. If you ever think that by you doing you are now right with God, you have fallen from the grace of the new covenant. Galatians 5:4 says, “You have become estranged from Christ, you who attempt to be justified by law; you have fallen from grace.” We fall from grace when we step away from what Jesus has done for us and go back to performing to try to please God.
The new covenant mind-set needs to constantly be about what Jesus has done for us. It is taking our minds off ourselves and our performance and putting them on Jesus. It is no longer about our doing but now about our believing. I absolutely believe in holy living, but now it is a by-product of what Jesus has done for me and not a means to try to earn God’s favor and approval. When we believe right about what Jesus has done for us, we will then live right.
I know this angers some people terribly. I know some people like to think they have earned God’s favor through their right living. It gives us a sense of pride, like we have done something to deserve God to be good to us, right? “I deserve this because look at how good I have been living.” Been there and done that, and in Jesus name I shall never go back.
I want to let you all in on a secret: we do not deserve the grace of God, and we could never earn it either. We need to get that in our thick skulls. We need to deny our flesh of ever thinking it has somehow earned God’s approval and turn our focus to Jesus, keeping our focus on the one who has made our right standing with God possible.
Amber can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or through her AmberRiceMiller Facebook page.
Published: July 1, 2016