"Uniting Christian & Jewish Clergy from Around the World"
SERMON: "DYING TO SELF" Co-Authored by Elder Rev. Dr. Martha Andree' Lewis, DNH, DTH. HON.DD, HON.D. Letters and Elder Rev. Dr. Jerry D. Lewis, Esquire, JD, DTH, HON.DD
August 21,, 2020
Mark 16:24 or Luke 9:23:Then said Jesus unto his disciples, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me.
The Bible says in Genesis 2:7 that "the LORD God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul" (KJV). Because Adam "became a living soul," Adam was aware of his identity. In other words, Adam was a three-part being consisting of dust (flesh), breath (spirit) and soul (self-awareness through the mind, will and emotions). This self awareness of Adam's was what set him apart from the rest of God's creation. Man's self-awareness or "soul life" enabled him to relate to his world and to God.
Self-awareness is a wonderful thing, but it is also a dangerous thing. If Adam and Eve had not been self-aware, they would not have been tempted in the Garden of Eden to eat of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. Because Satan appealed to their "soul," and they exercised their freedom of choice to give in to the soul, they brought sin into the world.
Satan appealed to their souls by tempting them in three areas: the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes and the pride of life. Satan is still tempting human beings in these three areas today in order to try to get us to give in to the soul and indulge its lusts. Here is how Genesis 3:6 categorized Adam and Eve's temptations:
And when the woman saw that the tree was good for food (lust of the flesh), and that it was pleasant to the eyes (lust of the eyes), and a tree to be desired to make one wise (pride of life), she took of the fruit thereof, and did eat, and gave also unto her husband with her; and he did eat. (KJV)
There is nothing wrong with eating, looking at pleasant things or desiring to be wise. However, these things become sin when we desire them rather than God. It is sin to live in such a way that these "things" are the focus of your attention rather than God. If Adam and Eve had denied their souls, God would have satisfied their souls' desires from his storehouse of goodness. However, since they gave in to their souls, they "lost" their souls and God's goodness. When we say they "lost" their souls, we mean that the very thing they left God for turned out to be their downfall. They ate from the tree but it did not bring the pleasure they sought. It brought only sorrow. The lesson for us is that all the "things" in the world cannot satisfy us if we do not have fellowship with God. This is because God is the only one who can satisfy us and give us the capacity or ability to enjoy the "things" of life. Three of the gospels, Matthew, Mark and Luke, emphasized this point by discussing an incident when Peter rebuked Jesus for being willing to suffer and die. Matthew 16:21-27 says:
From that time forth began Jesus to show unto his disciples, how that he must go unto Jerusalem, and suffer many things of the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and be raised again the third day. Then Peter took him, and began to rebuke him, saying, Be it far from thee, Lord: this shall not be unto thee. But he turned, and said unto Peter, Get thee behind me, Satan: thou art an offense unto me: for thou savourest not the things that be of God, but those that be of men. Then said Jesus unto his disciples, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me. For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: and whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it. For what is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul? For the Son of man shall come in the glory of his Father with his angels; and then he shall reward every man according to his works. Verily I say unto you, There be some standing here, which shall not taste of death, till they see the Son of man coming in his kingdom. (KJV)
Jesus is not talking about Peter losing his salvation in this passage, but rather, he is speaking of losing the "self or "soul" life. Remember, it is through the soul that we have self-awareness. Those who want to follow Jesus must deny the "self," take up their cross and follow Jesus. The cross is an instrument of death. Before one can follow Jesus, the "self or "soul" must die.
Jesus goes on to say that whoever lives in such a way that the "self is on the throne of their life will "lose" their "soul" life. In other words, those who seek to satisfy the lusts of the flesh through their souls will find only emptiness. However, those who "lose" their "soul" life by denying themselves the indulgences of the world and by following Jesus will experience the "abundant life" Jesus spoke about.
Jesus reminds us that if we seek the "things" of the world, we will lose out on the blessings he has in store for us in this world, but if we deny our "self in this life, we will gain God's presence and rewards in this life and additional blessings in the world to come.
When Mark told the same story he added another detail. Mark recorded Jesus as also saying, "For whosoever will save his life shall lose it; but whosoever shall lose his life for my sake and the gospel's, the same shall save it" (Mark 8:35, KJV). Jesus emphasizes the importance of those persons who risk their lives for the sake of the gospel. It is dangerous to teach and preach the "whole gospel" of God. However, Jesus promises those who do so that they will "save" their lives by "losing" it for Jesus' sake. This does not necessarily mean physical death (though it could mean that), but it means denying the "self the pleasures of this world in favor of being willing to suffer for the sake of Christ and the gospel.
Mark adds Jesus' words: Whosoever therefore shall be ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation; of him also shall the Son of man be ashamed, when he cometh in the glory of his Father with the holy angels. (Mark 8:38, KJV)
If we are ashamed of Jesus' word as found in the King James Bible, then Jesus will be ashamed of us when he returns to establish his kingdom on this earth. It dishonors God when we use watered-down versions of the Bible designed to change the meaning of Jesus' words. We will pay dearly for this sin.
Luke 9:22 quotes Jesus as saying that we must take up our cross "daily" and follow him. The crucified life is a daily walk with God. Jesus asked the question in Luke 9:25," For what is a man advantaged, if he gain the whole world, and lose himself, or be cast away" (KJV)?
Again, Jesus is not talking about losing salvation, since eternal life is forever. Jesus is referring to those persons who begin the race well but allow the lusts of this world to entice them and they wind up being cast away from Christ. They have caused themselves to be contaminated by the world and God can no longer use them to preach his gospel or minister to his people. Their sin has found them out (Numbers 32:23, KJV).
We Christians have a duty to live in such a way that our life does not cause someone else to stumble. This purtains to every facet of our lives, even what we eat. Romans 14 tells us that we should deny ourselves the luxury of eating meat in the presence of someone if it offends them, because "the kingdom of God is not meat and drink; but righteousness, and peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost (Romans 14:17, KJV).
Persons who are willing to deny the "self in this manner are "acceptable to God, and approved of men" (Romans 14:18, KJV). This attitude of self-denial glorifies God and draws others to Jesus Christ through you. Everybody knows how difficult it is to deny the "self," so when they see someone who does it, they know that it takes a power greater than the "self," and only God's power is greater than "self power on this earth.
Man is the highest created being on this earth, and that includes Satan himself. God gave mankind the power and authority to rule this world. That power and authority is possible only when the "self or "soul" of man is under the control of the Holy Spirit of God. That's why when we deny our "self," God blesses us. We were created to live under the authority and dominion of God. Denial of "self places us in subjection to God, and when we "humble" ourselves in this manner, God will exalt us in due time (First Peter 5:6, KJV).
Father, forgive me for not denying my "soul" life. Help me to deny my "self," take up my cross and follow you daily. Help me to crucify my flesh and soul so that I can come alive through the power of your Holy Spirit, in the name of Jesus. Amen.