As we turn the page into the new year, many of my friends on social media are posting about their goals and resolutions, hopes and dreams, and projects for themselves for the next 12 months. As I read through many of them I am greatly encouraged by the perspective that many have found. Some, however, give me great pause and concern. You see, many of these aspirations are accompanied by the presumption or assertion that, based on the fact these individuals are professing Christians, God is going to make all their dreams come through and that because of their faith He will not deny them their “happiness”.
This troubles me.
I know it isn’t a new thing and I know that these aren’t the first people to believe this lie but I sense it is growing. This lie/ idea, that God’s priority is to spoil His children by granting every wish that they hold onto, is becoming so ingrained in our churches that the world has started to use it against the body of Christ itself! Take for example this story that I saw in my Facebook feed: http://bit.ly/2A7PYCS . It details the backlash against a woman, who professes to be a former lesbian, and the Christian group that helped tell her story of her journey out of homosexuality. Now do not misunderstand me, I fully expect the world and those who are apart from Christ to attack and ridicule the church and anything to do with God but what is alarming is that in this culture the world has no concept of a church that believes in a sovereign God, who has sacrificed to save us, calls us to repentance and to DENY ourselves in order that we might be more like HIM.
The Bible is full of verses that speak of self-denial:
Matthew 16:24 Then Jesus said to His disciples, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me.
Philippians 3:7 But whatever things were gain to me, those things I have counted as loss for the sake of Christ.
Mark 9:43 “If your hand causes you to stumble, cut it off; it is better for you to enter life crippled, than, having your two hands, to go into hell, into the unquenchable fire,
Matthew 19:29 “And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or farms for My name’s sake, will receive many times as much, and will inherit eternal life.
Hebrews 11:25 choosing rather to endure ill-treatment with the people of God than to enjoy the passing pleasures of sin,
Galatians 2:20 “I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me.
But today, even within the church, the idea that God may want us to go without for His sake is a foreign concept. What is even more of a foreign concept is the idea that we might actually CHOOSE to deny ourselves even when culture gives us an out. Consider an athlete that gives up a promising career to serve a s a missionary or go into the ministry or a person choosing not to take a promotion because it would keep them from serving in their church. And what would happen, and I can confess that this is coming from my life as a youth minister, if parents decided that instead of signing their child up for ANOTHER BALL TEAM they were going to teach their child the importance of being faithful to their church not only as an attender but as a servant. We have forgotten the “seek ye first the kingdom of God” part of Matthew 6:33 or have diluted it down to simply “getting saved” and have focused on getting our desires filled.
Maybe, this year, the resolution for all of us that are a part of the body of Christ should be more like:
“This year I will die more to myself”