Episode 221: Hope for the Journey – Self Denial

March 15, 2022

If there is no self-denial there is no following Jesus. While at first glance that may seem like a bold statement, think of it instead as a countercultural statement. After all, Jesus’ invitation reminds us, “All who want to come after me must say no to themselves, take up their cross daily, and follow me.” Luke 9:23

In a world where personal preferences can often take center stage, the topic of self-denial is often overlooked or ignored. In this episode, Tim and Sara have a conversation about self-denial, explore how it’s more than “giving something up for Lent” and end with love being the primary motivation for self-denial. 

We’ll explore how the means of grace keep us focused on Jesus. Self-denial is less about you and more about living into who God created you to be. 

Throughout the episode we look at several scriptures, including the following:

Reminders from Scripture

These things were my assets, but I wrote them off as a loss for the sake of Christ. But even beyond that, I consider everything a loss in comparison with the superior value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. Philippians 3:7-8.

For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory. Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires, and greed, which is idolatry. – Colossians 3:3–5

I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. And the life that I now live in my body, I live by faith, indeed, by the faithfulness of God’s Son, who loved me and gave himself for me. – Galatians 2:20

“Fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of our faith” Hebrews 12:2a

“Instead of each person watching out for their own good, watch out for what is better for others.  Adopt the attitude that was in Christ Jesus:  Though he was in the form of God, he did not consider being equal with God something to exploit. But he emptied himself by taking the form of a slave and by becoming like human beings. When he found himself in the form of a human, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.” -Philippians 2:4–8

“The Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now abide in my love. If you obey my commands you will abide in my love, just as I have obeyed my father’s commands and abide in his love. I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete. … Love one another as I have loved you. -John 15, selected verses.

Mentioned in this Episode

Episode 221


[00:00:00] Sara: You're listening to Leadercast episode 221.

[00:00:07] you're listening to leader cast, transforming missions podcast with Tim Bias and Sara Thomas. Providing you with resources to navigate the challenges and opportunities of courageous christ centered leaders

[00:00:20] Tim: Well this month, we're focusing on hope for the journey by exploring hope and the themes of Lent. Over our last two episodes episode two 19 and two 20, we explored hope through repentance and forgiveness. In this episode, we want to explore another theme of lent which is related to repentance and forgiveness.

[00:00:45] It's hope through self-denial. Sounds like a fun episode. Doesn't it, Sara.

[00:00:51] Sara: Well, of course, it's going to be fun. We're doing it. Even if we're talking about self-denial, it's going to be fun. So, let me remind you that you can find show notes for this episode@transformingmission.org forward slash 2, 2, 1. And anything that we talk about will be listed on the show notes page for you to connect with and reflect on or take action on.

[00:01:15] So Tim, get us started with this topic of self denial. I'm not sure that self-denial is fun, but something tells me that we might have fun exploring it in a different.

[00:01:32] Tim: Well, I th I think all of us, who've been a part of the church for a while have gone through Lent, all the themes of land. We'd say that self denial is one of the defining characteristics of being a Jesus follower. And although it's not a popular trait, it's important to know. It's meaning its purpose as it relates to being a hope filled leader.

[00:01:53] And that's what we're talking about. There are several scriptures that we could point to. I'll just use the one from Luke where Jesus says all who want to come after me must say no to themselves, take up their cross daily and follow me, Sara. I think it's safe to say that self denial is so important.

[00:02:14] If there's no self denial, there's no following Jesus.

[00:02:18] Sara: Tim. I think you're probably right about that. But before we go down that path, can we get clear about something, about what we mean when we're talking about denying ourselves, picking up our crosses and following Jesus and look at what self-denial means. So before attempting a biblical definition, let's talk about what self-denial does not.

[00:02:44] And it's going to be no surprise that you're hearing me say this self denial does not mean you're you were denying everything about who you are. It doesn't mean that you deny your strengths, your talents, your personality, or your lifelong desires. You are a beloved child of God. You were fully accepted, forgiven, adopted, and loved by God in and through Jesus.

[00:03:08] Tim: And Sara, after 48 years of ministry, I'm going to say self denial is more than giving up chocolate smoking alcohol or any host of other vices for 40 days of lent. I remember. And my first appointment out of seminary. Uh, A sunrise service after it was over on that Easter Sunday one of the members of the church walked up to me, put a a wad of chewing tobacco in his in his jaw and said, Lent's over.

[00:03:40] I can go back to chewing my tobacco. I think self-denial is a little more than that.

[00:03:47] Sara: So are you saying to him. It's now we're now what, two weeks into lent as this episode drops. Are you saying that.

[00:03:56] we shouldn't give up something for line two? Because the practice of giving something up has its roots all the way back in Judaism, Christian tradition of fast.

[00:04:08] Before religious festivals was borrowed from our Jewish brothers and sisters.

[00:04:13] Tim: No, I'm not saying we shouldn't give up things for lent, but I am saying that the practice of self denial. It's more than just giving up something for a short period of time and then taking it up again when the time's up, I mean, fasting or giving up food for a period of time has been in the Christian tradition for a long time.

[00:04:35] And I actually read recently that there was a time that candidates for baptism. We're to fast for a period of time before being baptized. Can you imagine us doing that today? You fast this week and next week we'll baptize you. I mean, you know, fast, thing's been a long time practice of self denial, but it's not the practice we're talking about regarding bringing hope through self denial.

[00:05:04] So Sara let's examine a Christian perspective of self-study.

[00:05:09] Sara: So self-denial is the willingness to deny one's own interest and needs in order to grow into who God is. Did you to be, whether that's to help others, to advance a cause to become holy, to grow in commitment to God. Self denial is ultimately the way of following Jesus. So look for a minute at Luke nine, verse 23, all who want to come after me must say no to themselves.

[00:05:37] Take up their cross and follow.

[00:05:39] Tim: Even Paul, the apostle Paul wrote about those things. He said it this way, these things were my assets, but I wrote them off as a loss for the sake of Christ. But even before that, or even beyond that, I consider everything. In comparison with the superior value of knowing Christ Jesus, my Lord. And see what was writing to Philippians.

[00:06:06] I'm going to think of it in this. In other words, the purpose of self denial is to become more like Jesus by giving up the things that get in the way.

[00:06:15] Sara: So Tim, what I appreciate about what you're reminding us about self-denial is even though the word self is in it, we're really focusing on Jesus. That is the whole point. Self denial means that you, the individual are not the center of your existence, the center of your life. Now may be saying, yep.

[00:06:37] And that goes against my natural inclinations of being the first on the list, thinking of myself first, my own needs my own ones. Yup. Welcome to the world of being human. Self denial is about recognizing Jesus as your new intrusive. It means acknowledging that the old self is dead and the new self is now hidden with Christ.

[00:06:59] So as we're going through this, I'm going to just interrupt myself here and say, I will list on the show notes page, a series of scriptures, and maybe part of your practice this week will be each day to read through one of those scriptures and reflect on what Jesus is inviting you to do in that. As you focus more on him, this Lenten season.

[00:07:21] Okay. Back to self-denial now one way. To learn self denial and to live into Jesus. Being the center of who of your life is through the means of grace through developing and practicing a daily pattern of reading the scripture. What I just mentioned, reflecting on it, responding by looking for how the scripture is lived out in your daily living and returning at the end of the day to reflect and evaluate on how you've lived out the screen.

[00:07:47] So again, look at the show notes page and I'll list out those scriptures that we're mentioning here. One that we didn't didn't mention as I was just walking through that piece as Colossians three, verses three through five, that'll be on the show notes. Page two. Now go look it up so that you know what we're talking about.

[00:08:04] When we say, gosh, it's three.

[00:08:06] Tim: I'll say I really, I, as I think about it, I really like that. It's the pattern that helps us become more who God created us to be. And in fact, the practice of the pattern even makes, makes you more aware of God's grace. And you're able to recognize God in everyday situations and circumstances. So self denial.

[00:08:30] Is in the practice of the means of grace and the development of the pattern. And what I really like about it is that the next time I ask you, where have you seen Jesus? You're going to be able to answer that question.

[00:08:43] Sara: So let's, let's take one more step and bring in someone that is likely familiar to many of you and that's Dietrich Bonhoeffer, and he can help us understand the meaning of self-denial from his writing. And what he wrote was when Christ calls a man, he bids him to come and die. When Christ calls a man, he bids him to come and die. And other words, a follower of Jesus must be prepared to die if death is where the path of discipleship leads that's self-denial okay. I just have to pause. Because there's a war going on. You don't need that. Newsflash maybe by the time this episode airs, I pray by the time this episode airs that that has all ended.

[00:09:30] My fear is that that will not be the case. And I'm thinking about the number of stories are ready that we have heard about the number of people who. Now we're playing, I'm playing out the extreme here who have been willing to do just that.

[00:09:50] And people that, you know, pastors and leaders and people of faith who have said, I'm staying here and I'm be I'm. I will be at the church because our people need someplace to go.

[00:10:07] Tim: What about the president of Ukraine?

[00:10:10] Sara: Well, Yeah.

[00:10:11] it was the first one that I, that I thought of and seeing a picture of him with his family and thinking of how does a person, how do you even, how do you even do that? two young children.

[00:10:25] You know, a picture of a beautiful family and basically says to them, goodbye, I will likely not see you again.

[00:10:37] We could go down a whole path of there and please hear me. I'm the biggest pacifist that there is on the face of this earth. So don't hear me advocating for, for war, by any stretch of the imagination, but. When I think about if the path leads, if the path of discipleship leads to death, how difficult that is for most of us to even comprehend.

[00:11:08] And there's a very real, real life real-world example going on in our midst. And I just didn't want to pay. Let's go back to scripture and look at Galatians two, where Paul wrote to the Galatians, I've been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me and the life that I now live in my body. I live by faith indeed by the faithfulness of God's son who loved me and gave himself for me.

[00:11:40] Now if what we just mentioned, if you hold onto that scripture, that could empower you to take some action and live in, live in a certain way.

[00:11:53] Tim: So Sara, what I'm, what I'm thinking is, is health. Denial is just what it says, giving up ourselves. And so it's by the grace of God, we set aside our own wisdom and we actually trust God's direction. And when we pray the Lord's prayer, I will be done on earth as it is in heaven. We're actually setting aside our wills and trusting God's plan and purpose.

[00:12:22] And it's, it's impossible to be. Self-righteous when you're asking God to forgive you, as you forgive others.

[00:12:32] Sara: So maybe I should have made my other statement spoil earlier because now we've come to the heart of self denial, tend to deny yourself as to focus on Jesus, to keep Jesus at the center of your, why. It's hard to do any difficult tasks, much less be a hopeful leader. If you forget why you're doing it. well, we have the strength.

[00:12:57] If we are not fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of our faith, you know, that scripture comes from Hebrews 12.

[00:13:07] Tim: when you look at self denial, that way we practice self denial and how we love the people around us, the people we encounter each day, we practice self-denial and developing and maintaining healthy relationships. Whether it's with family members, friends, colleagues, strangers, even our enemies.

[00:13:29] And. Since you've been quoting scripture, Sara I'll quote one from Philippians, Philippians two, instead of each person watching out for their own good watch out for what's better for others adopt the attitude that was in Christ Jesus though, he was in the form of God. He did not consider being equal with God, something to exploit, but he emptied himself.

[00:13:58] By taking the form of a slave and by becoming like human beings. And when he found himself in the form of a human, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross that's self denial.

[00:14:18] Sara: So denying yourself means seeking the good of others before looking out for yourself.

[00:14:24] Tim: Yeah. And when Ruth followed Naomi She practiced self denial for the benefit of her mother-in-law oh my goodness. For the benefit of her mother-in-law.

[00:14:37] Sara: Some of you need to rewind that And listen to that again. With apologies to all mother-in-laws when Esther put her life at risk to save her people, she demonstrated self denial. The scripture teaches us over and over again to deny ourselves for the sake of those who are weak in the.

[00:15:00] Tim: And when we are willing to sacrifice time, energy, rights, position, reputation, privileges, comfort. And even your very life,

[00:15:15] I was trying to figure out what else I could add to the list. So I will add this to the list, your very life for the sake of Christ, you exemplify what it means to deny yourself. And we know this scripture, well, whoever finds their life will lose it. And whoever loses their life from us. We'll find it.

[00:15:40] Sara: Okay. So one more John reports, Jesus saying, I am the vine. You are the branches. If you remain in me and IMU, then you will produce much fruit without me. You can't do anything. As the father loved me. I too have loved you remain in my love. If you keep my commandments, you will remain in my love just as I kept my father's commandments and remain in his love.

[00:16:08] This is my commandment. Love each other just as I have loved you. No one has greater love than to give up one's life for one's friends. I give you these commandments so that you can love each other. The very foundation of self-denial is being in relationship with Jesus and in relationship with the people and trusted to your care,

[00:16:36] Tim: So Sara I'm I'm going to repeat what you just said, because this is what it was self-denial well, I'll put, I'll put it in a Bias versus. It was that good? I'll just,

[00:16:50] Sara: I'm teasing.

[00:16:51] Tim: it my way. Love one another deeply from the heart with sincere love at the heart of self-denial is to love of God. As, as we've just said, the father has loved me.

[00:17:06] So I've loved you now. Abide in my love. If you a buy a bay, my commandments, you will abide in my life. Just as I have a bade, my father's commands and abide in his love. I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete. Self-denial.

[00:17:31] Sara: So it brings it down to the one thing, the very essence and the meaning of life and leading with hope, love one another. As I have loved you, that's true to.

[00:17:44] Tim: So, let me go mess it up and just say mutual love is nothing special. Loving the people who love you is not what we're talking about. That means only repaying. Good with good. We talk about the love. That's a part of self denial. It's to love the stranger, as well as your friend. It's you love your enemy or those with whom you disagree or those you don't like, it's not as a repayment for love received, but as being who God created you to be, it's who you are.

[00:18:23] That's self-denial. It helps you grow in a love. That's a prevenient and creative.

[00:18:31] Sara: I hope you hear what just happened in this episode that we have shifted self-denial from giving up something for lent, to being focused on loving one another as God in Jesus has loved.

[00:18:45] Tim: in fact, that gives me a greater understanding of being a hope-filled leader. Through repentance and forgiveness. I can offer myself as an instrument of love. And it's more than if there's no self denial. There's no following Jesus. And since it's not about me, I can make room for those who can and will experience.

[00:19:09] God's love through me. Not because I have anything particular, but because I'm just being who God created me to.

[00:19:20] Sara: That's self-denial loving as you have been loved it's God's love. And then through you, that brings hope to the people entrusted to your. So as we wrap up this episode, Tim, what final thoughts do you have to share with our.

[00:19:37] Tim: Well, Sara, as I, as I think about it now, after we've had this episode I I'm still on the road to self-denial cause I'm still here. I haven't given myself up to death yet.

[00:19:49] Sara: Okay.

[00:19:49] Tim: I may be able to name a few places where I gave up some of my selfish. Where if I had stayed with something longer, I might've gotten what I wanted, but I may have broken some valuable relationships and doing that.

[00:20:06] I think the bottom line for me is, is that if I really believe that God puts people in my path for me to become more who I'm supposed to be. It may be that there are some people on need to learn to love by giving up myself and my thoughts and my opinions and not be right, but to be more who God created me to be, that's kind of what self denial is for me too.

[00:20:38] Sara: And I'm thinking that. What a beautiful practice for lent to that might be that if we took up that practice, that it just might carry over into Easter and beyond. And what transformation might begin to happen in our communities and in our homes and in our relationships, if that was how we approached living out simple self denial.

[00:21:05] So thank you for it.

[00:21:07] As a reminder, you can find everything that we talked about on this episode, on the show notesPage@transformingmission.org forward slash 2, 2 1. And that includes all of the scriptures that we mentioned for today. And remember who you are is how you lead bye for now.