Basic Christianity 101
I love the old Irish Blessings! Like, “May you be in Heaven 30 minutes before the devil knows you’re dead!” Here’s one I read by Joey Adams “May all your troubles last only as long as your New Year’s resolutions!” Most resolutions have very short life spans. They’re born in December and die in January! The one I’m suggesting today may die soon too, but I hope you make it anyway! “This year, I resolve to deny myself more often, even daily (if possible), so I can take up His cross and follow Him.”
Basic Christianity means: Stuff we should have learned in Sunday school. Principles we should have been practicing since Junior Church. (“Christianity for Dumdums”-Rudy Hyatt) J. Konrad Hole said, “What should be entry level Christianity, i.e.: the explicit denial of self is instead presented as something for only the veteran believer.” That commentary is sad but true! Instead of teaching new converts about self denial right off the bat, most modern churches today try to save it till last, or hide it altogether; hoping their new converts never find out about it. Instead of preaching it until everybody practices it, we gloss it over by saying, “Well, maybe Jesus didn’t really mean that the way it sounds!”
If the focus of self-denial was Jesus Himself, I think I’d do better but the focus of Jesus has never been on Himself. Jesus doesn’t need a manicure, or a massage. He doesn’t need me to sit at His feet and clip His toenails. Jesus’ focus has always been on His people. So, when Jesus asks me to deny myself, it’s not usually to do something for Him personally; it’s to do something for somebody else He loves. And, in most cases, it’s not heroic stuff. We say, “Lord, I’m willing to die for you!” because that’s heroic! Maybe someone will build a Memorial in our honor! But the Lord says, “Actually, I don’t want you to die for Me! What I would like you to do is offer to cut your next door neighbor’s grass.” We’ll die but we won’t mow! And so, for most Christians, like me, it is every man for himself.
I think the only way to practice true self denial is to stay very sensitive to the Spirit of Jesus in you, and then follow your feelings. Self denial is really as simple as doing what the Spirit of Jesus is telling you to do. Make that resolution today and God bless you in the keeping of it!