Mark 8:34 “When He had called the people to Himself,with His disciples also, He said to them, “Whoever desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me.”
A few years ago a Christian recording duo called ‘For king and country’ recorded a song that made it to the top of the charts, the song is called “Burn the Ships” and part of the chorus goes like this:
Step into a new day
We can rise up from the dust and walk away
We can dance upon our heartache, yeah
So light a match, leave the past, burn the ships
And don’t you look back
The idea came from the heartache of a wife who had been hooked on drugs and the husband who supported her recovery.
The process of transformation from death to life in Christ Jesus stems from the conscious acceptance that all of the past thoughts, lifestyle, and allegiances must take on the new life that is found when the Spirit of God takes over.
The transformation that occurs on a daily basis finds its way through self-denial and acceptance of Christ. The flesh desires sin, it hungers for self-satisfaction, it yearns for pleasure, and strives after the empty promises this world never will supply. The spirit of man longs for true Life, but it can only be found in one place.
The Dilemma of Self
Romans 7:21-25 “I find then a law, that evil is present with me, the one who wills to do good. For I delight in the law of God according to the inward man. But I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members. O wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? I thank God—through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, with the mind I myself serve the law of God, but with the flesh the law of sin.
Charles Spurgeon, known as the ‘prince of preachers’ was a minister in London in the late 19th century. Many present day pastors and teachers have gained insight through his teaching and have modeled their practices after this man’s example.
“The chief business of a Christian is to follow Christ. You may sum up all his life in that expression. He has Christ in him, Christ gives him new life from day to day and the very way in which that life expends its force is in the following of Christ. I would, dear Friends, that you and I would aim at so following Him as to gain a distinction for the closeness of our walk—for there are some in Heaven of whom it is written, “These are they which follow the Lamb wherever He goes.”Charles Spurgeon
The battle of the flesh versus the spirit is one that mankind has wrestled with from his inception. The decision of whether to follow the flesh or submit to the Spirit of God is a dilemma that we all must face. It didn’t take Adam and Eve long to recognize their weakness in the flesh, all it took was the introduction of heresy by Satan and the subsequent rebellion of man toward God.
The error of mankind resulted in the inheritance of a sinful nature in every generation since Adam. You cannot be of the human race and not endure this conflict. Praise God, He has not left us alone in the battle. The Lord has given us tools and resources to fight with a chance toward success.
Divine grace must have a divine origin. This free gift given was not freely won, it came at a great expense. Jesus traded the glories and riches of Heaven that He might earn the quality of purchasing His people back into His care.
I’ve heard it once said, “Hell is the measure of God’s wrath to those who reject so great of a salvation.” and yet Jesus is the measure of His grace.
* When grace is offered, it must be received. God doesn’t cast out this gift to be trampled by men who carelessly reject His love, He carefully measures the hearts of those who will receive it and cherish it’s value. When a person is called to receive this grace, they are then given the opportunity to receive a gift that has more value than the world combined. Grace is freely given to the one who then seeks it.
Psalm 119:2,3 “Blessed are those who keep His testimonies, who seek Him with the whole heart! They also do no iniquity; they walk in His ways.”
* The purpose of Grace is to restore. The regenerating qualities of God’s love is made possible by His grace. The restoration of mankind from death to life doesn’t come lightly, it takes a sudden, powerful surge of God’s presence to begin the process of turning a sinner into a saint. The moment this grace is received, the position of humility required to receive it allows for the transforming effects of God’s Spirit.
1 Corinthians 1:18 “For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.“
Once grace has been received the process of self-denial carries weight. You see, without the boundless grace of God we would only be attempting to justify ourselves in light of our guilt. We cannot earn our own exemption, as the perpetrators of crime against God’s laws we have already been judged and found guilty.
The perfect sacrifice of Christ is the only means by which we might be absolved of our crimes.
Trust the process
Psalm 1:1-3 “Blessed is the man
Who walks not in the counsel of the ungodly,
Nor stands in the path of sinners,
Nor sits in the seat of the scornful;
But his delight is in the law of the Lord,
And in His law he meditates day and night.
He shall be like a tree
Planted by the rivers of water,
That brings forth its fruit in its season,
Whose leaf also shall not wither;
And whatever he does shall prosper.”
The conscious decision to follow God’s path of righteousness has been made possible— now the believer must walk in it.
Understanding what this process looks like is made evident by the Word of God and is then revealed by the Spirit of God. Once the believer receives God’s instruction, it is up to them to follow through with the faith by which God ascribed.
The flesh cries out for satisfaction and it yearns to be fulfilled, the acts of denial require a focused intent that brings our carnal nature into submission to God’s will. The more we practice this, the better we become at it. The desires of the flesh are insatiable, they cannot be quenched. Once we come to the realization that pleasure is but for a moment but the joy of the Lord lasts a lifetime, we will recognize the value of self-control.
2 Corinthians 4:17 “For our light and momentary affliction is producing for us an eternal glory that is far beyond comparison.”
To deny the flesh is to walk in freedom from it’s constraint. The Lord has His people’s best in mind, He knows what they need, if they trust Him for the process they will see the reward that awaits in the end.