Monday, January 12, 2009

January 13- Self Denial

January 13
Self-denial as a form of simplicity
Then he said to them all: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will save it. What good is it for you to gain the whole world and lose or forfeit your very self? (Luke 9:23-25)

Calvin: “The sum of the Christian Life: The Denial of Ourselves” (Inst. III.VII. title); “the first step is that a man depart form himself in order that he may apply the whole force of his ability in the eservice of the Lord. The second point is that we seek not the things that are ours but those which are of the Lord’s will and will serve to advance his glory. ..It remains for us not greedily to strive after riches and honors—whether relying upon our own dexterity of wit or our own
diligence, or depending upon the favor of men, or having confidence in vainly imagined fortune—but for us always to lok to the Lord so that by his guidance we may be led to whatever lot he has provided for us. Thus it will first come to pass that we shall not dash out to seize upon riches and usurp honors through wickedness…or greed to the injury of our neighbors. (III. 7.7-9)

If the Christian life is denial of self, then American Christians have been missing something. I remember talking to a German theologian at seminary who wrote a book about the Christian life saying it was all about self fulfillment. I think American Christians easily bought into that thinking- Christ came for our blessing and comfort. Calvin would point out that Christ’s example was one of sacrifice, self-denial for a higher cause, and the cross. Christ’s own words were not “if anyone wants to follow me, let them fulfill their highest expectations and dreams of comfort.” But as one bard said, “when Christ bids us come, he bids us come and die.” Calvin emphasized over and over the dual ideas of mortification and vivification. We must deny ourselves- dying to our own selfishness and greed in order for us to really bear fruit for Christ and live for Him. Calvin rightly pointed out that we cannot love our neighbor if we do not deny ourselves. He said, “Now in seeking to benefit one’s neighbor, how difficult it is to do one’s duty! Unless you give up all thought of self and, so to speak, get out of yourself, you will accomplish nothing here” (III.7.5).

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