Although this blog focuses on our efforts to be faithful followers of Christ, our hope is fully in God’s grace. It is not a cheap grace, and it will cost us everything to accept it, but neither can we earn it. When we stand before God, our sole response must be that we have thrown ourselves on the mercy of our Advocate, Jesus Christ the Righteous. Our most righteous acts are still as filthy rags before the Holy God. This does not mean we cannot please him. In fact, God is easily pleased, but he is impossible to satisfy.
To modern ears, lauding the power of self-negation sounds so negative. The world tells us to taste, touch, feel, do, and just be who we are. Of course, God wants us to do all those things, but he knows we will enjoy the sensual life most within boundaries. The Evil One lies that we will be happiest without limits. Take sex, a very good gift of God, intended for our pleasure and for bearing children. Outside of marriage, sex sows pain and destruction in our lives.
God does not call us to deny ourselves because he is grouchy and mean but because he loves us and wants us to be happy—his kind of happiness, which is deep and true and right. Like a key to a locked door leading to a wonderful room, self-denial is the means of restoring a measure of the life he originally intended for us before sin and death entered the world. We say no to ourselves to say yes to life. In heaven, sin will not be present and self-denial will no longer be necessary, because we will be free of selfishness. We will only want to do good, and the enervating resistance to sin will be no more.
Living like it is not about you, but all about God, turns the natural order of the world on its head. It unlocks the deep mysteries of the universe. The way up is the way down. The way to live is first to die. To become wise we must become fools. These counter-intuitive mysteries make sense when we understand who God is, how we were originally made, how we rebelled, how we can be redeemed, and God’s plan for a new heaven and a new earth. The more we walk in reality, the more the “foolishness” of the cross—of life triumphing over death—shames the “wisdom” of the world.
God’s ways are more invigorating than our ways. He leads us to live a more daring life. He is not safe, and he will challenge us to walk through minefields with our eyes closed. He wants us to walk by faith, not by sight. He wants to lead us, and he wants us to learn to hear his voice and to trust him.
Thankfully, he can see around corners, making all things work together for good for those who follow in faith. This is not to say we will never be blown up by one of the mines, figuratively or literally. We will all die, and before that we may lose our reputations, our homes, our families, our health, our comfort. But like the apostles, ten of whom were martyred, God will also use our triumphs and our defeats to his glory and for our eternal good.
In the words of the twentieth-century martyr Jim Elliot, “he is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain that which he cannot lose.”