Jesus said if anyone wants to follow Him, that person needs to deny self. Denying self is a tricky thing.
If my self decides to deny self, am I not denying self just like my self wants to do? If denying self is what my self wants to do, how do I deny self? By denying my desire to deny self?
I ask the question only partially in jest. These types of questions, however, are what pop into my head.
Self denial has to mean I don’t do what I want to do, I can’t see how it would mean anything differently. Now, is the “self” my flesh self, my old man, or is it more a generic term referring to me in general?
Can a person play baseball while denying self? Does a self-denying baseball player strike out every time? Or, since he’s not playing for self but for the team, does he try even harder? Or perhaps no self-denying person could play baseball.
I can’t see the logic in saying a self-denying person couldn’t play baseball. If self-denial meant I can never do anything I want or enjoy, then I’d have to find the least appealing thing to do and go do that all the time, which would result in weird asceticism.
A self-denying person wouldn’t just strike out because that would be highly selfish, since baseball is a team sport. Doing something while not doing it is pointless. If your attempt to deny self leads you to not actually do the activity, then just don’t do it.
But again, where is the line? I like writing, should I not write? I like waking up in the morning, should I not do that?
Self denial takes some thought. I am convinced it looks different for every person.
I remember in my days at a Christian college there was a guy who was awesome at basketball. The coaches of the college team asked him to play and he didn’t, he didn’t want to make the commitment, even though he would have been awesome. He dunked on me once. My first time ever getting poster-ized. I felt honored.
For him, not playing college basketball was something he wouldn’t do, even though he could. Does that mean he’s a better Christian then the guys on the actual team?
Paul talks in Romans 14 about being convinced in your heart about that thing you allow. If you allow it for yourself, don’t disparage those who don’t allow it for them. Don’t flaunt it. Hast thou faith, have it to yourself before God.
We need to make these choices and give people grace to make their choices. Don’t judge people, you do not know what God is doing in them.
Every follower of Christ needs to think about this issue. Consider everything you do in light of Matthew 16:24. Come to your decision and go for it until your heart tells you to back off, then be sure to back off.
“Hast thou faith? have it to thyself before God. Happy is he that condemneth not himself in that thing which he alloweth.And he that doubteth is damned if he eat, because he eateth not of faith: for whatsoever is not of faith is sin.”