We started off Sunday discussing being fake. We’ll see how Jesus takes this to a whole-‘nother level this Sunday as His confrontation with the Pharisees escalates even more. But, I go back in my mind to the many years of real and fake Christians in my life. I recall one pastor who you just could never get close to. He had a fake tan year-round, could never be wrong, boasted quite often, and was often the hero of his sermon examples. In fact, the church created a folder at the end of each pew for people visiting to become acquainted with the church, and right off it boasted of being one of the fastest growing churches in America (besides my first impression of “Who cares?”, the church was not one of the fastest growing, and actually became stagnant a short time later).
Let’s get down to brass tacks, folks, and stop trying to make people think we’re something we are not. Christianity is about vile sinners finding the perfect Savior. It’s about the lost becoming found. It’s about the unacceptable becoming accepted. And it’s about leaving our pride and haughtiness at the cross, trading it in for authentic abundant life in Christ. We exalt Christ and we forsake any efforts to build our own identities.
- “If you profess to be a Christian, yet find full satisfaction in worldly pleasures and pursuits, your profession is false.”—C.H. Spurgeon
- “So many people professing Jesus Christ as their ‘Lord and Savior’ and yet when you look at their lifestyle it appears with all evidence that they are walking in the broad way. They live just like everybody else in the world.”—Paul Washer
- Titus 1:16 They profess to know God, but by their deeds they deny Him, being detestable and disobedient and worthless for any good deed.
- John 1:5-10 This is the message we have heard from Him and announce to you, that God is Light, and in Him there is no darkness at all. If we say that we have fellowship with Him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth; but if we walk in the Light as He Himself is in the Light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin. If we say that we have no sin, we are deceiving ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say that we have not sinned, we make Him a liar and His word is not in us.
Notice what John says here in this 2nd passage:
- We cannot be truly saved and walk in darkness.
- We will only have salvific and continual fellowship with Christ by walking in the Light.
- Look up John 8:12 as a cross reference.
- Ephesians 5:8 as well.
- Walking in the Light does not mean sinlessness because if we were sinless, we wouldn’t have to have our sins cleansed.
- It does mean (I. John 2:8-10) that to walk in the light we must abide in love.
- “The Scripture does not say, ‘Ye must be improved,’ but, ‘Ye must be born again.’”—C.H. Spurgeon
- It also means continual confession of our sins because the Light shows you how ugly your sin is, and you then hate it, are broken by it, and are repentant of it.
- Self-deceived liars never see themselves as they truly are. It’s like when you see someone at a store with 20 pounds of fluorescent makeup on, wearing a mullet, and sporting some jumper suit from the ‘80s and thinking it’s all normal. Sin is hideous and yet those who are not in the Light will not think themselves to be so bad, or will excuse their sin away as merely small “mistakes” (“Heck, everyone makes ‘em”). They don’t see their pride and the false image they portray to others because when they look in the mirror they see a neon sign over their head that says, “You’re so stinking awesome!”
We need the raw and honest truth of the Word to show us who we really are. It’s like one of those horror movies where the gorgeous girl walks by a mirror but sees a hideous, wicked version of herself staring back. That is what the Bible does—it points out our hideousness. It should drive us to our knees in confession and fill us with hatred for who we really are.
But, the Bible does something else for us. When we confess our sin and walk in the Light, we are also given a loud and resounding message of “God loves you, God forgives you, God accepts you, God cares for you, and God wants His best for you!” We don’t need a self-esteem boost; what we need a God-esteem boost that can only come from His all-sufficient Word.
- “If you’re into self-love, and self-esteem, and making sure all your little needs are met, making sure you’re indulged with all your fantasies, dreams, hopes, and ambitions, your going to lose your life in eternal Hell. If you love yourself so much to hold on like the Rich Young Ruler (Luke 18:18), you’re going to go away without eternal life. But if you hate yourself (Luke 14:26), then you’re going to receive eternal life…You either save your life now, or lose it forever…lose your life now, and save it forever.”—John MacArthur
God wants us to be authentic through and through, to stop seeking our own glory and advancement, and to stop trying to build our own false kingdom on earth. Subjects of the King give up their rights, give up their identities, and submit wholly to His rule. He requires us to walk in the Light, to forsake the ways of the world, and to be cleansed from all unrighteousness. Only then can we have a victorious and authentic life for Him.
- “When I understand that everything happening to me is to make me more Christlike, it resolves a great deal of anxiety.”—A.W. Tozer
- Descriptively define being Christlike (e.g. don’t simplistically say, “love” without describing what biblical Christlike love actually is): ________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
- What does it mean to be a real Christian? _________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
- “You may fool your pastor; you may fool yourself; but you will never fool God.”—Leonard Ravenhill
- “There are three persons living in each of us: the one we think we are, the one other people think we are, and the one God knows we are!”—Leonard Ravenhill
- “One of the most cowardly things ordinary people do is to shut their eyes to the facts.”—C.S. Lewis
- As you look in your biblical mirror, what are some fake areas of your life are not in line with being a biblical Christian (I refer to biblical since our culture, and even the church, have redefined many areas of Christianity for us and we must get back to the truth of the Bible to ensure we are what Christ expects us to be): ________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
- Note, Christian cultural things are not necessarily bad. If you like to have a Christian fishy bumper sticker, that is not wrong. Neither is it wrong that I prefer not to have one on my car. But, there are other cultural traditions (such as claiming hymns are spiritual, contemporary music is not) that many promote that are not biblical. Just vet your practices through the Word.
- “A strong, positive self-image is the best possible preparation for success.”—Dr. Joyce Brothers (Psychologist)
- “Our country and this world is overrun with this disgusting malady of self-esteem. Our greatest problem is that we esteem self more than we esteem God. We are also thieves when we do not speak much about sin. We are thieves.” –Paul Washer
- “We are all starved for the glory of God, not self. No one goes to the Grand Canyon to increase self-esteem. Why do we go? Because there is greater healing for the soul in beholding splendor than there is in beholding self.”—John Piper
- Façades have been commonplace in people since sin fell upon the human race. But, in my estimation the advent of man-oriented, God-eliminating psychological doctrines (such as Dr. Brothers’ statement above) have overrun our country’s ability to face reality (if you think I’m mistaken, just look at how younger people have been bred to not accept anything they don’t like to hear, and how anything and everything seems to translate into a microaggression).
- Read https://bible.org/article/why-you-don-t-need-more-self-esteemand reflect on Steven Cole’s insights: ____________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
- Look at what he says in his last paragraph and compare how secularized “Christianity” has glorified man while avoiding dealing with sin, with how the Puritans dealt with life: _________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
- Can you name some of the secularized “Christian” teachers today who promote self-esteem? (there’s a lot of them, BTW, so it shouldn’t be hard): _____________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
- Lastly, what does it mean to have God-esteem instead? _________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
This, Our Time of Self-Denial Hymn by Will Brand
1 This, our time of self-denial
We as faithful soldiers keep;
By our consecrated giving
Wider fields our comrades reap.
Souls in darkness yet are calling,
Come and help us, still they cry;
With our gifts our hearts outpouring,
We will help them lest they die.
2 Laying now our gifts before thee,
We toward thine altar move;
Lord, accept these simple tokens
Of our deep, unswerving love.
None can estimate their measure
When within thy hands they lie;
All that we sincerely offer
Thou wilt use and multiply.
3 Naught we hold save by surrender;
Nothing keep but that we give;
Loving life too much, we lose it;
Dead to self, we truly live.
Jesus, grant us understanding,
Gain is found through sacrifice;
For thy gift of life eternal
Thou didst pay love’s greatest price.
Self-Denial by Richard Baxter. Baxter, (1615-1691), was a well-known English Puritan whose most famous work is The Reformed Pastor.
“If anyone would come after Me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow Me.” Luke 9:23
You hear ministers tell you of the odiousness and danger and sad effects of sin; but of all the sins that you ever heard of, there is scarce any more odious and dangerous than selfishness; and yet most are never troubled at it, nor sensible of its malignity. My principal request therefore to you is, that as ever you would prove Christians indeed, and be saved from sin and the damnation which follows it—take heed of this deadly sin of selfishness, and be sure you are possessed with true self-denial; and if you have, see that you use and live upon it.
And for your help herein, I shall tell you how your self-denial must be tried. I shall only tell you in a few words, how the least measure of true self-denial may be known: wherever the interest of carnal self is stronger and more predominant habitually than the interest of God, of Christ, of everlasting life, there is no true self-denial or saving grace; but where God’s interest is strongest, there self-denial is sincere. If you further ask me how this may be known, briefly thus:
- What is it that you live for? What is that good which your mind is principally set to obtain? And what is that end which you principally design and endeavor to obtain, and which you set your heart on, and lay out your hopes upon? Is it the pleasing and glorifying of God, and the everlasting fruition of Him? Or is it the pleasing of your fleshly mind in the fruition of any inferior thing? Know this, and you may know whether self or God has the greatest interest in you. For that is your God which you love most, and please best, and would do most for.
- Which do you most prize—the means of your salvation and of the glory of God, or the means of providing for self and flesh? Do you more prize Christ and holiness, which are the way to God—or riches, honor, and pleasures, which gratify the flesh? Know this, and you may know whether you have true self-denial.
- If you are truly self-denying, you are ordinarily ruled by God, and His Word and Spirit, and not by the carnal self. Which is the rule and master of your lives? Whose word and will is it ordinarily that prevails? When God draws, and self draws—which do you follow in the tenor of your life? Know this, and you may know whether you have true self-denial.
- If you have true self-denial, the drift of your lives is carried on in a successful opposition to your carnal self, so that you not only refuse to be ruled by it, and love it as your god—but you fight against it, and tread it down as your enemy. So that you go armed against self in the course of your lives, and are striving against self in every duty. And as others think—it then goes best with them, when self is highest and pleased best; so you will know that then it goes best with you—when self is lowest, and most effectually subdued.
- If you have true self-denial, there is nothing in this world so dear to you, but on deliberation you would leave it for God. He who has anything which he loves so well that he cannot spare it for God, is a selfish and unsanctified wretch. And therefore God has still put men to it, in the trial of their sincerity, to part with that which was dearest to the flesh. Abraham must be tried by parting with his only son. And Christ makes it His standing rule, “Any of you who does not give up everything he has, cannot be my disciple” (Luke 14:33).
Yet it is true that flesh and blood may make much resistance in a gracious heart; and many a striving thought there may be, before with Abraham we part with a son, or before we can part with wealth or life; but yet on deliberation, self-denial will prevail. There is nothing so dear to a gracious soul, which he cannot spare at the will of God, and the hope of everlasting life. If with Peter we would flinch in a temptation—we should return with Peter in weeping bitterly, and give Christ those lives that in a temptation we denied Him.
- In a word, true self-denial is procured by the knowledge and love of God, advancing Him in the soul—to debasing of self. The illuminated soul is so much taken with the glory and goodness of the Lord, that it carries him out of himself to God, and as it were estranges him from himself, that he may have communion with God. This makes him vile in his own eyes, and to abhor himself in dust and ashes. It is not a stoical resolution, but the love of God and the hopes of glory—which make him throw away the world, and look contemptuously on all below, so far as they are mere provision for flesh.
Search now, and try your hearts by these evidences, whether you are possessed of this necessary grace of self-denial. O make not light of the matter! For I must tell you that self is the most treacherous enemy, and the most insinuating deceiver in the world! It will be within you when you are not aware of it and will conquer you when you perceive not yourselves much troubled with it. Of all other vices, selfishness is both the hardest to find out and the hardest to cure. Be sure therefore in the first place, that you have self-denial; and then be sure you use it and live in the practice of it.