Preserve or Deny?

I see a lot of people gravitate to these large megachurches and getting their fill of the preaching in large auditorium settings.  The worship is amazing, and the atmosphere is probably the same.  But I still think some of the best preaching is in the small country churches that sit in little towns across this country.  I think that because I heard one of the best, most inspiring messages in ages this morning from my pastor.

My pastor has been around for a while.  In his 70’s and ready to retire, he has preached all over Iowa, has been a missionary to Mexico, the Dean and a teacher at a Bible College, and well respected for decades.  He’s a good man, he loves the Lord, and he loves his people.  Our church runs about 20 people on Sunday morning, and my wife and he pastor did a wonderful job leading worship this morning.  But the message – oh what a message – put the icing on the cake.  Here is what I brought home from it, along with some of my own thoughts.

Samuel Butler said “Self-preservation is he first law of nature”.  People are so in tune with this concept especially in today’s society.  We have so ingrained  in our culture that I have to take care of me first before I take care of someone else.  Just look around and you will see it everywhere.

Take television for example.  Almost every ad you see appeals to making me better than I am now.  Prettier, slimmer, healthier, stronger, better teeth, better hair – the list goes on and on.  It’s all about me!  Ancient philosophers used to ascribe to the notion that it was important to serve your fellow man and take responsibility, but then along came Freud who convinced everyone they could blame someone else for their problems, and now I don’t have he problem, you do.  I am okay, and that’s all that matters.

In many schools we don’t keep kids back if they don’t learn because it will hurt their self-esteem.  They get ribbons for last place just as well as first.  They get a passing grade because they tried real hard to get it right.  They learn more about who they should be than the general curriculum we had been taught along with generations before us.  And we wonder why our education system is having a problem.

Adults aren’t any better in many cases.  I want to go golfing, I don’t care if the kids are sick and the house is a mess.  I need a night out with the girls.  I need to work late.  I need, I need.  I need to get ahead by doing this or doing that.  Even adults act like children sometimes, putting our wishes ahead of our spouses and our children.  It’s all about me.  Self-preservation.  The first law of nature.

However, there is a different first law in the kingdom of Heaven.  Jesus was the supreme example of that law.  Self-denial.  Take a look at it with me for a minute.  Jesus is Gods son.  He had all of heaven as His footstool, sitting at the right hand of God Himself.  Yet, He chose to come to this earth as a baby in a manger, unnoticed by anyone except a few shepherds and some wise men.  He grew up learning the trade of a carpenter.  he ministered three years out in the countryside, often sleeping outside, with people crushing around Him all the time and the religious leaders of the day taking aim at Hi regularly.  Then He went through a torturous death on the cross, to which h willingly conceded.  The King of Heaven, bruised, scarred, beaten and hung.  The ultimate act of self-denial.

In Luke 9:23 Jesus said “If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me.”  Have you ever really let that section of scripture set into your heart?  Deny myself?  But self-preservation it the first law of nature.  How do I put aside my natural instinct to take on the heavenly vision?

There is only one way, and that is through Christ.  When we look at the example He left us, we see Him ministering to those around Him without regard to how it would affect Him.  Putting others first was His mission, showing all the world how much God loved them.  Healing people, delivering people, feeding people, defending people, teaching people.  Over and over again he is giving of Himself.

Then ask yourself – How much do I give of myself?  Philippians 2:3-5 says it best

Let nothing be done through strife or vainglory; but in lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves.Look not every man on his own things, but every man also on the things of others.Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus:

Esteem others better than myself?  Look on the things of others?  This is not self-preservation!  It is self-denial in it’s purest form.  We get so caught up in what I want, we forget to find out what our spouse, or our children want.  When we get to the point that our spouse, or our children, come before ourselves, we have started to grasp these verses and the whole concept of self-denial.is starting to sink in.

If your not close to this point yet, I know exactly where you are, because I have been there.  I was always looking out for number one.  It was what I wanted, where I wanted to go, what I wanted to do, and he way I wanted to do it.  My wife was afraid to ask for things -she would rather ask forgiveness than permission.  My kids tuned me out in their teen years for the most part.  I had to go through a radical transformation, and I am still learning.  It’s a long road to this humility, but it is extremely rewarding.

And there is an eternal reward for it, and we are looking forward to the heavenly reward, not an earthly reward, correct?  Just take it one step at a time.  Recognize those times when you demand self-first, and try to put that in perspective according to Philippians.  Measure your actions against the actions of Jesus.  Saying what would Jesus do (commonly seen as WWJD) is fine as long as you sincerely mean it.  Let’s start with our little blog group here and spread t to our friends and neighbors.  Who knows, it might just catch on!

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2 thoughts on “Preserve or Deny?

  1. This passage from Philippians is a daily prayer of mine. It is easy to pray and difficult to accomplish. I will say it every day until this pride of mine vanishes. Thanks for such a well written reflection from your pastor.

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