Give Yourself

Don’t give up anything for lent. Give yourself.

Whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God-1 Corinthians 10:31

But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. Matthew 6:33

*I overheard Ally singing this in the potty and asked her to do it again for the camera.  Please don’t ever tell her I posted it 🙂 🙂 :)*

Then he said to them all: “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me” (Luke 9:23).

“let him deny himself.” This should be clear enough. The “self’ referred to here is the sinful self, everything in us that strives against God; and everything in us that puts our wants first before God and neighbor. To deny self means to say “no” to yourself, to refuse every want and desire of yours that contradicts the will of God. Self-denial is the opposite of self-fulfillment. It means to renounce your own personal fulfillment, your wants, your rights, your dreams, your comfort, your welfare, your personal glory, if any of these things are contrary to what God wants.

“let him carry his cross daily.” Crucifixion, nearly perfected by the Romans, was one of the most gruesome forms of execution in the first century Roman empire. It was well known in Jesus’ day that those condemned to death were forced to carry their crosses to the place of crucifixion as a pitiful prelude to the agony to come. However, when Jesus said that Christians should carry their crosses daily, he certainly didn’t mean this in a literal sense, as if all Christians would be literally crucified as Jesus Himself later would. To “carry the cross” refers to one’s willingness to suffer for the sake of Christ and neighbor, rather then refusing or fleeing from that suffering. The little word “daily” reminds us that we should always be willing to suffer if necessary, and such willingness to suffer should be a way of life. In other words, self-denial, if it really is self-denial, involves suffering:

To “follow” Jesus means to consider him your Leader, your Master, your Lord. It means subordinating your will to his, so that from the moment you become a Christian you do what he wants, living your life the way he wants you to, instead of the way you want to. It means relinquishing the reigns of your life to Him. You are no longer in control. Jesus is. For that is the way of the disciple. The place where Jesus tells us how he wants us to live our lives, of course, is the holy Scriptures.

One word describes what Jesus wants us to do: love. Love is the way that Jesus wants us to live our lives. Love for our neighbor. The passages are so familiar that even non-Christians know them: Love your neighbor as yourself (Matthew 22:39). Love even your enemies (Matthew 5:43-48). Treat others the same way you would want them to treat you (Matthew 7:12). When it comes to loving our fellow Christians, if anything, we are to love them even more. “Love one another even as I have loved you” (John 13:34) says Christ. Don’t strive to be greater or better than each other, but humbly serve one another: “for even the Son of Man did not come to be served but to serve and to give His life a ransom for many” (Mark 10:45). And again: “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves” (Phil. 2:3).

Therefore, to follow Jesus means that your guiding principle in life becomes what He wants, not what YOU want. And what Jesus wants is for you to live your life for the good of your neighbor, even if it is not for your good. Do what is best for them, even if you don’t think it is best for you. As the apostle Paul puts it, “Each of us should please his neighbor for his [neighbor’s] good, to build him up. For even Christ did not please himself . . .” (Romans 15:2-3a).

Serious self-denial means doing what Christ wants you to do, for the good of your neighbor, even when it is not at all what you want to do, and might be the opposite of what you want to do. Yet, nonetheless, you do what Christ wants, even though it hurts.

Whenever I hear of someone giving up meat or sweets for Lent as a way of self-denial, something inside me wants to raise an eyebrow and ask “Do you really think that giving up particular foods is the kind of self-denial Jesus had in mind when he spoke the words above? Especially since the Scriptures specifically declare that “food does not bring us near to God; we are no worse if we do not eat, and no better if we do” (1 Corinthians 8:8). I mean why deny yourself food when God has said that doing so has no spiritual value? (See also Mark 7:19; Acts 10:11-15; Romans 14:14,20)

Are you giving something up for Lent?  What and Why?

I appreciate the Lenten season. I really do but I’m ambivalent about how vogue it is to give something up during Lent.  Especially when it’s something like chocolate, coffee, sodas, sugar, Facebook, Twitter, television, and so on.

I don’t want to knock those who give stuff up.  In fact, I commend you but I want to know why. If the goal is merely the giving up of something without taking up of something more significant, the focus is just merely on that which we give up.

So here’s the question:

In what way does the self-denial of whatever make you more mindful of Christ and His Way?

For me, I don’t want to think of it as a giving up but rather a season of more deeply ‘giving in’ or ‘giving to’…

  • In what way of am I more compelled to give in to the ways of God?
  • How am I more deeply giving in and giving to – to my neighbors, wife, children, church, strangers, etc?
  • How am I more deeply giving or growing in stewardship, generosity, my convictions, etc?
  • How am I more giving in to the Ways of Christ?  How am I more giving in to Mercy, Justice, and Humility?

Here’s an alternative invitation for Lent – whether you give up something or not:

Don’t give up anything. Rather, give yourself wholly and freely to Jesus.

The things written here were copied directly from these two posts and were combined to articulate my opinion:

http://www.orlutheran.com/html/selfdeny.html

http://eugenecho.com/2010/02/18/dont-give-up-anything-for-lent-give-yourself/

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