There is a movement of people taking on projects of self-denial as of late. Jen Hatmaker and her book, “7, a mutiny against excess” is just one example. I loved the book, and have also been looking for ways to get rid of my excess-consumer mindset to embrace a simpler life that can be filled with more meaningful activity.
As a culture rebel, I’ve been asking myself for over a year now: What does it mean for me to deny myself? I heard a very interesting message by Steve Osmond on this very subject just this past week. I’d love to pass on to you what I heard and discover what this looks like for us.
Here’s some myths he mentioned about what self-denial is not:
1. Denying yourself does not mean removing everything from your life that is enjoyable. (Horray!!)
2. Self denial is not self-hatred or denying yourself of anything good.
Those who will punish themselves by never enjoying anything fun or material because they feel it’s somehow “bad” to indulge a bit? Like they don’t deserve it or it would be considered “greedy” or “carnal”?
3. Your self denial is not an excuse to judge others of their non-denial
I have to admit how easy this is for me to fall prey to. I mean, if I’m choosing to live more simple, then shouldn’t everyone else!? I can easily find myself thinking, “What a bunch of materialistic, greedy people there are in the world!” I’ve had to eat humble pie time again and come back to a place of non-judgment. If humble pie only tasted like apple pie… but it doesn’t.
4. Self denial is not about denying yourself TV, facebook, chocolate, coffee, shopping, etc.
We have a petty view of self denial. I laughed when Steve said; “Can you imagine Jesus saying, ‘I’m going to give up chocolate for lent…” It’s not about denying yourself of “stuff”, it’s denying your SELF. It is not the opposite of self love, it is the exact opposite of denying Christ. What on earth does that mean?? Let’s chew on that a bit.
The definition of “deny” was given as this: to disclaim any connection with another person (and may I add, “thing”). If self denial is the opposite of denying Christ, then I’m disclaiming association with my SELF and anything that feeds my SELF in order to take on Christ, His will, His kingdom, His life.
Some of you may wonder why anyone would do that. You’re not a fan of religion or of Christ and this just confirms your suspicions of Jesus as a fun-killer. If that’s you, read the next few paragraphs before we move on. If that’s not you, skip down to the smiley face. Our culture tells us whatever is best for us we should do (even if that means leaving our kids to pursue our true selves), whatever we feel in our heart we want to do we should do (as long as we’re not hurting anyone). However, did anyone catch the contradiction? When we live for self, someone always gets hurt; us and others around us. Selfishness goes right against the rule in motion that governs the world we live in, whether we want to acknowledge the Author of that rule or not.
If you don’t like religion, you’re in the right place. Neither did Jesus. Neither do I. His movement is much more about taking off the ridiculousness of this life to embrace something so much more real, meaningful and true. But to embrace that movement takes a rebellion against our hearts. It’s a call to die to our own selfishness to live for His cause.
🙂 You can still enjoy life, but now you have an awareness of a greater purpose that it is no longer you who live but Christ in you. Self denial is to leave the comfort of safety, plunging into a dark world that needs hope. It’s not our valiant effort to avoid things – it’s a call to passionately place ourselves in Christ and love our neighbor.
Our job is not to spend ourselves on ourselves but spend ourselves for a kingdom thats greater. Denial is not about my own personal experience but understanding the groaning of the world around me – and providing a solution to that groaning.
So, the question remains: what does it look like for you to deny yourself? Once you answer that, you’re on you’re on your way to becoming not just a culture rebel, but a culture maker for the kingdom
If you grasp and cling to life on your terms, you’ll lose it, but if you let that life go, you’ll get life on God’s terms. Luke 17:33 (The Message)
* this blog was quoting notes from Steve Osmond’s message last week at First Assembly (Sunday, May 6)