Saturday, September 07, 2013

Deny Myself, Deny Every Pleasure?

I suppose it has been tried down through history, after all, "If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, take up his cross daily, and follow Me." (Luke 9:23). That must mean that we are to deny the self every pleasure, right? The question to ask is, will that save me? We know that without Christ, self-denial counts for nothing. I cannot by living a secluded life of bare necessity in eating and clothing save myself. I will not save anyone else by denying myself every pleasure. Perhaps the self-denial we tend to think of is on the wrong track. What if the denial of the self Jesus speaks of is the denial of our desire to save ourselves through our own works?

We do face a temptation to polish the outside of the cup as the Pharisees did through a life of strict religious self-denial. We think that by living a monkish life avoiding all pleasure in food, sex, companionship, and activity that we will somehow be holy. Doing this we end with a horrible loneliness and eventually fall to boredom and despair. A period of this kind of life might be good for us all, but only a season, and perhaps a short season at that. Attempting to deny every pleasure is not what we were made for. If God denied himself every pleasure, how could He delight in us? If Jesus denied himself every pleasure, how could He eat and drink with the tax collectors and other sinners?

However, if denying myself means that I no longer rely on my efforts or good works to achieve my salvation, then the salvation of Christ Jesus can shine in me. I can witness by enjoying a dinner with friends. I can witness by enjoying a time of, uh, I almost hate to say this, flying little airplanes with remote controls and pointing out the beautiful sky God made for us. I can witness by watching children play, or playing in some activity we as adults like to call a hobby or sport. A period of pleasure denial may be helpful, but a lifetime of that sort of thing is not attractive to anyone but a few nuts trying to save themselves. I think that I would much rather take pleasure in Christ and with Christ in fun activities, rather than to deny every pleasure in life and try to convince God that I am good enough in my own efforts when His word says that I am not.

Jesus saves, I live in Him!

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