First, we have more to affirm because, you see, we were not only created in God’s image, but we are being re-created, like him once again – like Jesus himself.
Ephesians 4:22-24 (NLT2): “22throw off your old sinful nature and your former way of life, which is corrupted by lust and deception. 23Instead, let the Spirit renew your thoughts and attitudes. 24Put on your new nature, created to be like God—truly righteous and holy.”
Our minds, our character, our relationships are being renewed through Christ. Christ followers are now adopted into the family of God – we are His children and heirs
with Christ and his glory.
We are Christ’s disciples, his followers, and our bodies are the temple of the Holy Spirit, and God’s Spirit endows us with fruitful lives and spiritual gifts. Our lives are
being changed, transformed, and this changes our self-image.
We now have even more to affirm, but because these are all gifts of God, we can’t brag about them – all we can do is gratefully receive them & use them daily. But, at the
same time, those of us who are now Christ followers also have more to deny. Not only must we deny our fallen, sinful natures – there are time when God calls us to deny
things that are not wrong in & of themselves, but they stand in the way of us fulfilling God’s plan and will for our individual lives. This is why Jesus, who was perfect and
never sinned, still had to deny himself.
Philippians 2:6-8 (NLT2): “6Though (Christ Jesus) was God, he did not think of equality with God as something to cling to. 7Instead, he gave up his divine privileges; he took the humble position of a slave and was born as a human being.
When he appeared in human form, 8he humbled himself in obedience to God and died a criminal’s death on a cross.” Jesus’ self denial came not because he had done
something wrong but in order to fulfill God’s plan for his life, he voluntarily took up his cross and died for our sakes. This is the picture of self-denial that those of us as
Christ followers also have, for we, too, are to deny ourselves, because we are to live as Jesus lived.
Philippians 2:5 (NLT2): “You must have the same attitude that Christ Jesus had.”
There are times when Christ followers are called to renounce their rights & deny themselves for the sake of others, to keep them from stumbling & sinning. We are called
to truly love our neighbors, often at a cost to ourselves, because Jesus did this for us.
The truth is, Christ followers who have been on the journey for a while still struggle sometimes with the sins we commit – called sins of commission – but the greater
struggle is with the sins where we fail to act – the sins of omission.
Where I fail to act, to help one another, to care for one another, to support one another, to love one another – there are dozens of “one anothers” in N.T. I fail to deny
myself because I’m still battling a part of my self that’s self-centered. I need God’s help every day, I need the power of His Spirit working in me to truly deny myself and
follow Jesus wherever he leads me.
As a Christ follower, I really am a mixed bag this side of heaven. I am created in God’s own image and I’m being recreated through the cross. Yet, I still battle a fallen and
rebellious nature that is selfish and greedy. I am both holy and depraved, beautiful and ugly, good and bad, a child of God, and at the same time still too close to the
corrupting influence of the devil.
My true self is what I am by creation, and what I am once again becoming by Christ’s redemption. My false self is what I am by the Fall, and what Christ came to destroy
So, I can affirm that there is still sin at work within me that must be denied by my daily actions – I have to turn from those things and have nothing to do with them. At the
same time, I can affirm that I am being recreated and redeemed, a child of God now through Jesus Christ, and that life must be lived out by my daily actions – I must turn
to those things that are of Christ, even denying good things to make room for Jesus and his very best.
And this is where many of us miss the boat – we fail to live toward our redeemed lives, toward God’s best, because we settle for what we have, versus denying ourselves for
something even better.
The cross shows me simultaneously the great worth of my true self, which must be affirmed daily, and the great damage by sin of my false self, which must be denied
God is calling us to live for Him, each day, all day, in order to experience the power and resurrection of the cross in our daily living.
- It’s through the cross and denying ourselves that we discover full, joyous and abundant living.
- It’s through taking up our crosses and following Jesus – which goes against the fallen side of us – that we find true worth and freedom.
- It’s through self-sacrificing love – like we received from Christ – that we become the people we were created to be.
And part of God’s vision for us is here at Gateway is that each of us who are Christ followers begins to understand the important role we each have to live out our calling
and invest in and come alongside others, to deny ourselves for their sake.
It’s not what just the pastors, or just the staff, or just the leaders do, it’s what we all do as followers of Christ – we deny ourselves for the sake of others. We are not here to
satisfy ourselves, which is all too often the result of our fallen nature – the cross calls me to self-sacrificing love for others, which is the result of our redeemed nature,
through the power of God’s Spirit at work in us.
We are called to make disciples, who make disciples, who make disciples – we invest in others, denying ourselves, and this is a real culture shift. That’s the essence of
Christ’s life, that’s the truth we see on the cross, it’s the reality that most of the folks on that first Palm Sunday missed, and it’s where Easter and new life lead each one of
Jesus: “A thief is only there to steal and kill and destroy. I came so they can have real and eternal life, more and better life than they ever dreamed of.” (John 10:10 Message)