Monday, April 25, 2016

Self-Denial, Not Self-Preservation

“So everyone who acknowledges me before men, I also will acknowledge before my Father who is in heaven, but whoever denies me before men, I also will deny before my Father who is in heaven.”

(Matthew 10:32-33 ESV)

            We live in a time, and in a society, where we’re encouraged to keep our faith to ourselves.  This is emphasized because we live in a pluralistic society, made up of people from many different belief systems and walks of life.  And we’re told that it’s respectful to allow others to believe what they believe and to live how they want to live.

            This resonates with us because, after all, we want the freedom to live out our faith.  We want the freedom to hold to our faith without interference from anyone.  However, we often fail to realize that this mindset is in direct opposition to the faith we confess.

            As believers, we’ve been called to proclaim the gospel to the whole creation.  We’ve been called to make disciples of all nations.  And this isn’t something we can do if we keep our mouth shut and our faith to ourselves.

            Worse yet, keeping our faith to ourselves means leaving people in their sin.  It means leaving them to the consequences of their sin.  It means that we desire to receive salvation while leaving them in their condemnation.

            Carrying out this call of God requires us to speak up.  It necessitates that we share our faith with others, even though they believe differently than us.  It requires us to buck the morals of our society in favor of this mission God has entrusted to us.

            When we look at a passage, like the one above, it’s greatly convicting.  I would even say that it’s scary.  It’s convicting and scary because, so often, we’ve failed to acknowledge Jesus.  When given an opportunity to share the gospel, we’ve kept quiet.  And, when facing rejection by men, we’ve often denied our Lord.

            I know this is true of me.   Even knowing that I was called by God into the pastoral ministry, I struggled greatly with this in my younger years.  I didn’t want to come off as too religious because I was afraid of rejection.

            Even now, there are occasions when I fail to share my faith as I should.  I’ve had encounters with unbelievers where I’ve had the chance to speak of Jesus, and I’ve failed to do so.  I’ve grown so much in this aspect of my life, yet there is so much more room for growth.

As we face this struggle, we must realize that the temptation to keep our mouth shut will only grow as time goes on.  It will only grow because, as society turns further and further away from the Lord, the consequences of our outreach will become more and more intense.  And, in response, our tendency toward self-preservation will grow stronger and stronger.

The question we must keep in mind is this: Would we rather be received by God and rejected by the world?  Or would we rather be received by the world and rejected by God?  The Christian life is one of self-denial, not self-preservation. 

By seeking to preserve our life in this world, we’re rejecting the blessing that God has provided.  As Jesus says to us in Matthew 16:24-25: "If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.”

Knowing what Christ has done for us, and knowing the blessing he’s provided us, let us carry out the call we’ve been given.  May the hope that we possess remove any fear that we feel.  And may our hope instill within us a desire that others receive the same blessing, no matter what it means for our life in this world.