Death to Self – The Importance of Self-Denial in the Christian Walk – Part 1

We learned last week of the importance of self-denial in properly loving God.
·  Self-denial necessitates that we cast off all of our desires, will and motives.
·  And in their place, fill ourselves with God’s desires, will and motives.
o   These are to be found in His commandments…the imperatives of Jesus’ words.

It was clear last week that a life lived in self-denial is fundamental to the Christian walk.
·  If we are saved and yet insist on living for “self”, we will not find the satisfaction in God that He desires for us.
·  We cannot usurp the headship of Christ and expect any different.
·  If what John Piper says is true – God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in Him.
·  Then we must establish our satisfaction in Him.
·  This cannot be done without death to self – a life lived in self-denial.

What others say of self-denial (death to self):
·  "In this and in this alone lies the key to the soul's restoration. Christian spiritual formation rests on this indispensable foundation of death to self and cannot proceed except insofar as that foundation is being firmly laid and sustained” – Willard.
·  “For as the surest source of destruction to men is to obey themselves, so the only haven of safety is to have no other will, no other wisdom, than to follow the Lord wherever he leads” – John Calvin.

What Scripture says of self-denial:
·  Luke 9:23–24 (ESV) — 23 And he said to all, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. 24 For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it.
·  Luke 14:26 (ESV) — 26 “If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple.
·  John 12:25 (ESV) — 25 Whoever loves his life loses it, and whoever hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life.
·  Colossians 3:3 (ESV) — 3 For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God.
·  Acts 21:13 (ESV) — 13 Then Paul answered, “What are you doing, weeping and breaking my heart? For I am ready not only to be imprisoned but even to die in Jerusalem for the name of the Lord Jesus.”

We must excel in self-denial.
·  I hope we are all in agreement and under conviction on this point.
·  But how do we do so?

To get at this question, we will look at three things.
1.       Are we equipped to live this way?
2.       What role does God play?
3.       What role do we play?


We first need to understand that we are capable of living a life of self-denial.

First act of self-denial:
·  The act of belief in response to the Gospel is itself an act of self-denial.
·  When we believe in Jesus we are trusting in what?
o   That Jesus has covered our sin; justified us; redeemed us; satisfied God’s wrath; etc.
·  And in this act we are rejecting any hope in what?
o   That we can save ourselves through our works.
·  And the fact that we could trust in Christ – have ears to hear and eyes to see –  and deny self is to be found in what?
o   Did we reason our way to belief?
·  Absolutely not!
o   We were the beneficiaries of a work of God.
o   Ezekiel 36:26 (ESV) — 26 And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh.
o   Our hearts were transformed; born again.

What this means is that God has changed us.
·  He has supernaturally transformed our hearts.
·  This transformation has equipped us to live a life of self-denial.
·  Our salvation is evidence of this fact.
·  This is great news and should serve to encourage us.

Scriptural confirmation of this Good News:
·  Romans 6:1–4 (ESV) — 1 What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? 2 By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it? 3 Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? 4 We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.
·  Galatians 2:20 (ESV) — 20 I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.

Ok, so we have seen that self-denial is fundamental to the Christian walk.
·  We have even seen that our hearts have been equipped to live this way by a work of God.
·  Let’s move on to how God helps us live a life of self-denial


Why would we ever seek to live a life in self-denial?
·  Why would we ever seek God’s will and desire over ours?

Scripture tells us:
·  John 14:16–17 (ESV) — 16 And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever, 17 even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, for he dwells with you and will be in you.
·  Ezekiel 36:27 (ESV) — 27 And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules.
·  Philippians 2:12–13 (ESV) — 12 Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, 13 for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.

We seek God’s will, and desire to keep His commandments because the Holy Spirit is prodding us to do so.
·  Through the Spirit “God energizes both the believer’s desires and his actions” – John MacArthur.
·  The impact of this “energizing” is a daily reality in the life of the believer.
·  We are faced daily with a choice to live for God or live for self.
·  And His grace through the Holy Spirit has equipped us to actually choose today to live for God.
·  The unbelieving world simply cannot do this!

We also seek to live a live a self-denial because God’s word, His commandments, tell us to do so.
·  However, importantly, the law is no longer our condemnation because we are in Christ.
·  His works justify us and His righteousness is imputed to us.
·  But, the law “…does not stop teaching and exhorting and urging [us] to good, even though before God’s judgment seat it has no place in [our] consciences” – John Calvin (3.19.2).
·  It is our “guardian” or “schoolmaster” to guidance in the will and desires of God.

Yet we do struggle with our new identity in Christ.
·  And this tension between our new identity and it’s transformed and “energized” heart, and our old identity is itself evidence that God’s energizing grace is at work within us.

Again, all of this should be a huge encouragement.
·  God has removed the penalty of the law.
o   Our trust in Christ as moved the law from the court room, where it would condemn us, to the “family room” where it guides us – Michael Horton.
·  All of this has freed us to glorify God and fully apprehend the freedom we have in Christ.
·  2 Corinthians 4:16 (ESV) — 16 So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day

But, unlike salvation, sanctification – pursuing a life lived in self-denial – is not just a work of God.
·  It requires our active participation.
·  Action is required on our behalf in unison with God’s.
·  “We are justified by grace through a faith that simply rests in Christ [but] we are sanctified by grace through a faith that, resting in Christ, is working through love” – Michael Horton.

So we have seen the following thus far:
·  We are supernaturally equipped via a transformed heart to live a life of self-denial.
·  God, in His grace, has “energized” us and prompts us through the Holy Spirit and His law to choose to live this life.
·  But what role do we play in the sanctification process?