Sunday, June 7, 2009


Then he said to them all: "If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me."
Luke 9:23

My pastor shared a really great message today. Well, I use the word "great" to encapsulate "convicting, thought provoking, wisdom imparting, challenging, clear and direct." So please know that's what I mean when I say "great" as I now go on to tell you the painful truths I have been evaluating in my mind since about noon today.

The message had a lot of meat to it. He spoke for 45 minutes or so, but he probably could have given a three day seminar on the truths that he shared. I'm not going to recap the whole message (although if you want to listen to it for yourself you can find it here. If it's not up yet, it will be soon, and there are several good sermons from the series he's been doing, Living in an Upside Down World.)

The scripture above is at the crux of what has been sticking with me today, the concept of denying myself. It's a requirement. It isn't a suggestion or a optional plan of action - read the verse again, "If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself..." It's non-negotiable.

So here's the thoughts I've been chewing on. I have two specific battles in my life right now that I feel like I am not only struggling through but actually most days I feel like losing. #1 is our finances. We are hurting. What comes in isn't covering what goes out. And the fact of the matter is, we probably don't say "no" to things the way we should. We live in the OC, and there is a lifestyle that is common around here... we don't live like a lot of people in our neck of the woods do, but we have built a habit of living beyond our means. It isn't completely our fault, our struggles started with massive medical bills and things like car troubles and the like, but once we had debt, it was easy to continue onto the path of credit card use and the like, and before you know it you're paying 12% interest annually on a meal I don't remember or a birthday gift for a boy in a class who won't even remember the lego set we bought him buried beneath 24 other lego sets from 24 other kids in the class.

It's too hard to be the mom that says no to birthday parties or dinners out on date nights, so instead of stamping the request the way I should...

...we foolishly make concessions and dig a deeper hole. Did you know it's really hard to fill a hole from the bottom of it? It is on the other hand the perfect place to be to dig it deeper. It's also a rather precarious place to try and remain, for fear the walls may come down in on you.

Grrr... it's a tough thing to admit, and it's a hard place to be. We need the Lord to help us. I'm praying in grace and mercy He will, but along the way, we will have to choose to stamp that denial stamp on choices we have to make. We may have to learn to say "no" more often.

Sigh. So on to problem #2, my weight. It's completely out of control. And before I get a rush of encouraging comments, and emails with the perfect diet plan, hear me, this is a spiritual issue, not a physical one. The irony is not lost on me that the Lord was speaking this to me as I was in the middle of a huge buffet style restaurant. I don't know how to tell myself "no."

I can take the weight off. A couple of years ago I lost nearly 70 lbs. I looked good, I felt great, and then I put the weight back on, refusing to deny myself any longer. I refused to deny myself the right to eat emotionally. I refused to deny myself the right to eat poorly. And now I am paying the price. I am paying the price as I look at the scale and realize I weigh more than I ever have in my life - ever, as in even more than I did at nine months pregnant, either time. The elastic in my clothing has become so tight, and I'm heavy enough that I'm not comfortable in my own skin, literally, physically uncomfortable.

This is often how I start and end my days. I wake up determined, I am going to eat better, less fat, less sugar, more fruits and veggies. I play with the ideas, all protein, all organic - always some new plot or plan. And at the end of the day, who am I kidding, often by breakfast, I have failed. Stumble once and I never even try to get back on the right path, and the stamp on the end of the day looks like this. And the road to the fat farm is paved with good intentions.

But as I look at both of these battles, the sin at the root is an inability to just say "no" to self.

"No, self, you cannot afford to go there, do that, buy that, eat there....."

"No, self, you shouldn't eat that now, for dinner, dessert... at all!

I realize that the verse is also referring to far greater things. There is a much bigger and more profound picture than my spending and eating habits, but it still applies in just as profound a way because to be trusted to be faithful in the big things, you have to be faithful in the little things first. (Luke 16:10)

Stewardship, that's a tough word. It isn't just about finances, but about all the Lord has blessed us with our time, resources, talents, spiritual gifts, our bodies...

The truth of the matter is, I have gained this revelation and am not sure I am any better for it. Even as I sit here and type I am contemplating a glass of milk and chocolate - even though I'm not even hungry. Do I want to say no to self? I don't actually, and I'm not even sure I can say no. But I'm also not sure I can not.

I do know I want to live through this revelation, I'm pretty sure it's going to be there haunting at my conscience if I choose not to deny myself. Sigh.

But if I want to follow Him, especially in these specific areas, I will have to learn to choose to deny self. It's the only way I can follow Him. And if I cannot do it in the little things, will I ever learn to do it when it matters?

What about you? Do you have areas in your life where by choosing to say "yes" to self you are saying "no" to the Lord? Hmmm... that's a harder way to look at it, and perhaps the place where the strength will be found.

Instead of seeing it as "Yes, I want the cookie and will allow myself to have it..."

What if I say "No, Jesus, I will not let You be Lord over my body..."

"My finances..."

"My time..."

"My resources..."

"My mind...."

"My life..."

"Why do you call me, 'Lord, Lord,' and do not do what I say?
I will show you what he is like who comes to me and hears my words and puts them into practice."
Luke 6:46-47

Help me Lord, to follow You...


Brook said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Sheryl said...


this is a fabulous post with some very deep truths! i will tell you that i gave into an addiction for years - knowing that i was saying no to God. they were some of the most miserable years of my life.

the way you have reworded that at the end should make us all stop! do we have the audacity to NO to God being Lord over any area of our lives?

i am asking God to bring you to my mind to remember to pray for you!

Anonymous said...

Hi Diana,

This is great. Please forgive me for sounding like a Know it all but the key to denying self is ALWAYS "I surrender" . The first step is the realization of the sin and then to surrender each time. We all fail every day. I find for myself that I fail the most when I place the burden on me to deny myself. The first part of the scriputure is If any one wants to follow me he must deny himself, take up his cross. My eyes and focus must be on the Lord first. As I surrender myself to Him He fills me with all I need to deny self. It is the same priorities but with ONE major difference. All emphasis must be on Jesus as Lord and not on what I can or cannot do. I can do all things through Jesus--implying it must be brought to and surrendered each and every time so to go through Jesus not me.He took our burdens. Me, myself and I fight all the time and I fail every time they are in charge. It sounds like the same thing but in truth it is absolutely not. I picture it like a race. I look down the track or road and focus on the goal and who is standing down there to encourage me. If I see Cindy or even the Lord just looking at me--I fall but when I see Jesus with open arms and me focusing on Him looking into His eyes of love and encouragement I suddenly have the strength and desire to go into those arms of love and hearing His voice say this is the way--walk in it. I still have to do the steps but the focus is not on me and what I have to do but rather on HIM and what He did already. The victory is mine but the enemy wants us to never receive it or walk in it. It is a one day at a time--one hour at a time for me. I fail every time I put up in front of me the I statements but each time I surrender by faith I surrender Jesus to you--be Lord of my appetite, Lord of my mouth, Lord of my marriage etc. etc.--I have far more victories because it is about Him and what He already did for me. I know this is Truth---first because it is throughout scripture and second because I live it experientially every day. I struggle with so many things and it never fails when I deny self by saying I deny self I fall. Denying self comes naturally via the Holy Spirit through my spirit when I continuously surrender self to the LOrdship of Jesus Christ. I have to say and do that 50 times a day but when I am being sincere---IT WORKS. Self control lasts for a moment and the next moment I grab the cake--like last night. Surrender is faith exercised and it is so hard too but picturing my Lord helps me tremendously and it works. Resurrection Life with all it's freedom is always at the feet of Jesus and His cross and never, ever, ever, through the I will's and I won'ts. I have failed more times than I could ever count but the Lord has brought me more Victories than I could ever count also--so who is counting --me or HIm? I have to quit counting and start focusing ON HIM! Thanks for allowing me to share. Love Cindy

His Girl said...

you weren't kidding about this post.

wow and wow.

gonna go think on this a bit.


Brandy said...

Good words, and good to see how God is working in your life. I am so glad you can share it. It helps me, and I agree with the principal of what Cindy said.

May the Lord continue to direct you and give you His abundant Grace to walk in the victory in all these things.

And me too. =-)