The Inherent Danger of Neglecting Self-Denial

5 Mins read

Although it is helpful to note ways the Bible tells the Christian to deny himself, studying the inherent dangers of neglecting self-denial is also beneficial. The Bible is replete with examples of those who denied themselves and lived for God. They turned their back on the world and fixed their gaze upon Christ and His kingdom.

Moses was a man who had the kingdom of Egypt before his eyes. Moses might have been placed on the throne if he had stayed loyal to the Egyptians. But what does the Bible say? Scripture says, “By faith Moses, when he was come to years, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter; choosing rather to suffer affliction with the people of God, than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a season; Esteeming the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures of Egypt: for he had respect unto the recompense of the reward. By faith he forsook Egypt, not fearing the wrath of the king: for he endured, as seeing him who is invisible” (KJV, Heb. 11:24-27). Herein, the Christian is given one of the primary keys of enduring in a life of self-denial. The Bible tells us that Moses endured by seeing Him, Who is invisible. Thus Moses beheld God with spiritual eyes, the eyes of faith, and endured while denying self.

The Christian will not advance far in a life of self-denial until he learns to look to Jesus and fix his eyes upon His Savior. Simply knowing the inherent danger of neglecting self-denial will not be enough. The foundation for all holiness must be rooted in Jesus. The Christian will not take a single step in the right direction apart from Christ. Thus, with the foundation of Christ laid, let us turn to what the Bible says about neglecting self-denial.

Losing the soul

What is ultimately at stake when someone neglects self-denial? Jesus spoke on the matter, and He did not cease from speaking pointedly. He did not sugarcoat His message but warned the people in the clearest way possible. Jesus said, “For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: and whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it. For what is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul?” (Matt. 16:25-26). It will do no good for the Christian to continue to claim that he is saved by grace through faith while at the same time living contrary to the Word of God.

The Bible gives the Christian two ways to examine his profession. One way is by confessing Jesus as Lord and believing in Christ. The Christian must examine his confession of faith. However, there is a second way in which the Bible instructs the Christian to examine himself. The second is the examination of one’s life.

The Bible clarifies that you can tell the type of tree by the fruit it bears. The simple illustration from nature has profound spiritual implications. An apple tree always bears apples, a cheery tree always bears cherries, and a plum tree always bears plums. Note that they always bear the fruit that they should. Thus, the fruit gives evidence of the type of tree.

So it is in the spiritual realm. When someone genuinely believes, there will be evidence of it in his life. This does not mean perfection, but it does mean direction. There will be a desire to do what is right, evidence of repentance, a conviction of sin, and a desire to get to know the Lord more. None of these will be perfect, but they will be present and will continue to grow.

Elsewhere James has said that faith without works is a dead faith. In other words, there is no faith if there are no works. The two go hand in hand. James is not saying that works save. The Bible tells us that the Christian is saved by grace through faith and that salvation is a gift.

But what does Paul go on to say in Ephesians 2:10? He says, “For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them” (Eph. 2:10). Saving grace is not a get-out-of-jail-free card. Saving grace saves to the uttermost. Christ came to save His people from their sins, not simply the wrath of God, which is only a part of it, not the whole.

Jesus has said very clearly that when someone does not deny himself but instead seeks to live for this life, he will ultimately forfeit his soul. This life must be lived in light of eternity. Too many people think they are saved by grace while traveling on a path that Jesus did not walk. Jesus walked the path of self-denial. The Christian must walk in the footsteps of Christ. Jesus’ words can help us at this point. He has said, “…If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me” (Luke 9:23). The Christian must never be assured of salvation until he has professed faith in Christ and walked in His footsteps.

The soul is ultimately at stake. Eternal life is ultimately at stake. Grace does not get everyone in the door. Grace saves to transform and to give the Christian the strength he needs to bear the cross with Jesus.

Being disqualified

Paul realized the same phenomenon in his life and was absolutely concerned about his walk with the Lord. Surely if there were anyone in the whole of Scripture who could have been assured of his salvation, it would have been Paul. Do you remember how he was saved?

He was traveling on the Road to Damascus when suddenly a light from heaven came and shone around him. He was knocked off his horse, and Christ spoke to him personally. Later we are told of a man who had gone up into heaven. Whether it was bodily or in a vision, it is not said. Nevertheless, it was the humble Paul telling of his own experience without saying that it was him who had been brought up to see heaven.

Despite the remarkable experiences of Paul and his unwavering faith, he says, “But I keep under my body, and bring it into subjection: lest that by any means, when I have preached to others, I myself should be castaway” (1 Cor. 9:27). Paul realized that his preaching was not enough. His ministry was not enough. His work for the Lord was not enough. Instead, Paul knew what he must do. He must live a life of self-denial.

But simply because Paul was saved, it did not mean that his life and ministry for the Lord couldn’t be cut short. It would have only lasted so long if Paul were to preach the Gospel to others while not living for the Lord. He knew that if he wanted to stay on the path that God had him, he must keep his life and habits in subjection.

Elsewhere Paul has said, “Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, that ye should obey it in the lusts thereof. Neither yield ye your members as instruments of unrighteousness unto sin: but yield yourselves unto God, as those that are alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness unto God” (Rom. 6:12-13). Paul knew that he must not let sin reign. If he did let sin reign, God would not have allowed Paul to continue down the path that he was on. Discipline would have come in swiftly, and the servant of God would be taken out of the ministry.

Final prayer

Father, I pray that You would help me to deny myself this day. I pray that You would help me to be disciplined like Paul. I see the words of Jesus and how if I live for this life, in the end, I will find that I have forfeited my soul. I pray that You would help me show evidence of my salvation through my life. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

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