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millennials self-denial selfishness unselfishness

Denying Self

Friday’s Column: Supplemental Strength

brent 2020

Brent Pollard

Self-denial is tough. Yet, for us to be obedient to God, we must lay our will to the side in order to pick up God’s Will for us (Luke 9.23). But God is not the only One deserving our consideration in this matter. Sometimes, a Christian’s self-denial requires acquiescing to his or her fellow man (Philippians 2.4).

You’ve likely watched the news about young people insisting that they have their spring break despite admonitions to provide for “social distancing” from the threat of the novel coronavirus. When interviewed, these young people said things such as, “I had been waiting for this for two months and wasn’t going to give this up/lose my money.” With youth, we realize that there is a certain feeling of invincibility. More than one spring breaker stated that he or she felt that the entire threat was being overblown. One fellow, however, stated his feelings thusly: “At the end of the day, I’m not going to let it stop me from partying.” 1 Fortunately, Governor DeSantis stepped in to bring an end to this partying. 2 Even so, the consequences may be irreversible.

I’ve heard the statistics. Yes, they do seem to be on the side of young people (i.e. lower death rates). 3 Even so, it is not a matter of the welfare of these revelers. The CDC guidelines are intended to ensure that fewer people contract the virus, especially those at higher risk. By selfishly engaging in risky behavior (beyond that of the typical spring break fare), these young people put themselves at risk of contracting Covid-19. When they return home, they may pass the virus on to an elderly grandparent, despite not showing any symptoms. 4 Suddenly, that spring break that they insisted on partaking of becomes someone else’s problem, a potentially life-threatening problem.

That’s easy to see, isn’t it? But what of other situations where our refusal to humble ourselves and cede our way to another creates other unintended circumstances? For example, Paul says that if the stronger brother doesn’t bear with the weaknesses of the weak, he is just seeking to please himself (Romans 15.1ff).  Paul immediately follows this up by saying that even Christ did not please Himself (Romans 15.3)! Here is the Son of God, Whom Paul said thought it not robbery to be equal to God (Philippians 2.6). (John more plainly states that He is God—John 1.1.) Despite this truth, God decided for the sake of those “made lower than the angels” that His Son would taste death for the greater need of His creation (Hebrews 2.5-9).

Sadly, the flesh wants what it wants. This blinds us to the greater needs of others. When we act selfishly, we are not being like Him Who is our example (Philippians 2.5-8; 1 Peter 2.21). This is why I said at the outset that self-denial is tough. In perilous times, as well as during the good, we may find ourselves asking the Lord to increase our lacking faith. Let us strive to determine to do things not solely based upon its impact or cost to us, but the impact our course of action has upon others. That makes sense not just in pandemics, but when you strive to be a mature member of God’s Family on earth.

 

REFERENCES

1 “US students party on spring break despite coronavirus.” BBC News, BBC, 20 Mar. 2020, www.bbc.com/news/av/world-us-canada-51955362/us-students-party-on-spring-break-despite-coronavirus.

2 Elizabeth-Matamoros. “’The Party Is Over’: Florida Governor Shuts Down Beachgoers.” Washington Free Beacon, Washington Free Beacon, 19 Mar. 2020, freebeacon.com/issues/the-party-is-over-florida-governor-shuts-down-spring-break/?fbclid=IwAR1VNde4flHCtg3dzFvLH4ePKHGTkPYoAo_HNxG2gCNxpOv2B1a1EidzD1Q.

3 Belluck, Pam. “Younger Adults Comprise Big Portion of Coronavirus Hospitalizations in U.S.” The New York Times, The New York Times, 18 Mar. 2020, www.nytimes.com/2020/03/18/health/coronavirus-young-people.html.

4 Salo, Jackie. “Ex-CDC Head Tom Frieden Says Kids May Be Secret Coronavirus Carriers.” New York Post, New York Post, 3 Mar. 2020, nypost.com/2020/03/02/ex-cdc-head-tom-frieden-says-kids-may-be-secret-coronavirus-carriers/.

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Categories
self-control self-denial Uncategorized

Self-Control Means Saying “Yes” As Well As “No”

Neal Pollard

Don’t you normally associate self-control with self-denial?  Certainly, Jesus says that following Him means denying self in a variety of ways (Matt. 16:24).  Gluttony, sexual sin, alcoholism and other physically detrimental habits, cursing, and the like involve this negative dimension of self-control.  Yet, how many times have you heard a preacher or teacher emphasize the positive sphere of this fruit of the Spirit?  Doesn’t it take self-control to get up out of the chair on Tuesday night and visit that non-Christian who came to church services the previous Sunday?  Doesn’t it take self-control to work up the nerve to speak to a co-worker about the Bible?  Doesn’t it take self-control to make time for daily Bible study and prayer?  Doesn’t it take self-control to spend quality time with your spouse and children?  My experience tells me that most people say “no” more often than they say “yes.”  Many times, our saying “no” to bad things needs to be quickly coupled with saying “yes” to better and righteous things.  Neither evangelism, edification, nor benevolence get done without this positive side of self-control!  May I encourage us all today to say “yes” to opportunities to serve our Lord, His people, and the lost (cf. Gal. 6:2,10).  He will bless us for such self-discipline.

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resolutions resolve self-control self-denial Uncategorized

Resolutions Reinforcements—#5

Neal Pollard

If this is not one of your resolutions, it is a part of all of them. It is almost a dirty word, if we ponder what it demands. “Self-control.” We call it will power, self-discipline, or restraint, but it invokes those difficult life principles like commitment, duty, and drive. It’s doing a little bit more of what it takes or doing a little less of what you want in order to reach a goal (paying off debt, 10 more minutes in the workout, passing up cake, choosing Bible reading over social media or TV, etc.). The Christian understands that God has called him or her to a life of self-control. In what is really God-control—submitting our hearts and lives to God’s will—we are to live lives that call for self-denial and lead to discipleship. Our resolutions probably take that central truth into consideration.

The word used in the New Testament can seem daunting. The word ἐγκράτεια (enkrateia) means “to exercise complete control over one’s desires and actions” (Louw-Nida 750).  It is daunting because it is exhausting (“exercise”),  exhaustive (“complete”), and extensive (“control over desires and actions”). It leaves no part of me unexplored and unchecked. It takes in the internal and the external.

Yet, it is a mark of the redeemed. You find it in the fruit of the Spirit (Gal. 5:23). You find it in the Christian virtues, which speak of all that is gained or lost depending on whether those things are incorporated into our lives (2 Pet. 1:6). You find it attached to judgment and eternity (Acts 24:25). So, it is something God calls for in our lives anyway.

Pray for self-control. Identify the saboteurs of your self-control and eliminate, avoid, and address them. Be intentional, thinking specifically about the area where self-control is lacking (tongue, temper, tastebuds, etc.) and considering ways to improve there. Acknowledge times when you have succeeded or are succeeding and appreciate how good that feels.

What follows the exercise of self-control is almost always tangible results. Be patient. If you stumble, get back up and keep trying. At the end of that road is success!

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authority choice free will freedom truth Uncategorized

The Logical Progression Of The Line

Neal Pollard

Suddenly, it has become imperative that bathroom concessions be made for those who are struggling with gender identity issues. The comprehensively consuming coverage it has garnered, the blistering backlash against any opposing of this baffling blurring of the lines, and the preeminent priority this has become for a problem pestering a puny percentage of the population is actually not surprising. At least, it should not be.

The premise behind “transgender rights” is the same as that behind gay rights, but also the “right” to choose abortion, the “right” to become sexually active before marriage, the “right” to divorce and remarry at will—as well as the “right” to commit adultery. Neither does this clamor for rights reserve itself to matters identified in scripture as sexual sins. The watchwords of our culture include “feel,” “want,” “choose,” and the variants of “I,” “me,” and “my.” Self has been enthroned and each call to express, practice, and flaunt each co-opted right is expected to be not just tolerated by everyone else, but wholly embraced by them.

If you think our society lost its collective mind overnight, you have not been paying attention. If you think that this sickening syndrome was born in the 21st Century, you are likewise mistaken. We are seeing the spoiled fruit of sinister seed planted by mankind in every generation since the first generation.  There is a moral ebb and flow in every civilization and generation, but the issue is ever-present. The majority succumb to the temptation to crown our desires and condemn the declarations of Deity.

It was an illuminating moment, looking at Mark 8:34-35 last night during Teens In The Word. Michael Hite pointed out a thread used by Mark that’s summed up in those two verses. Several times, Mark speaks of what individuals “want” or “desire.” Herodias wanted to kill John the Baptist (6:19). Her daughter wanted his head as payment for the dance which pleased Herod so much (6:25). Herod did not want to refuse her (6:26). People did whatever they wished with John the Baptist (9:13). Jesus speaks of those who desire to be first (9:35). James and John wanted a position of prominence (10:35). Jesus warns about those who desire greatness (10:43-44). But, if we desire to come after Jesus—to be His disciple—we must put self to death! This is a radical idea, one completely rejected by the world. Instead, the world says to keep moving the line to wherever you want it. You decide! You’re the boss. Discipleship acknowledges that God and His Word determine where the lines are drawn. We follow Jesus and stay behind His lines.

But Jesus does not ask us to do what He did not do to the greatest degree. Facing His imminent death on the cross, Jesus prayed in the garden, “Abba, Father, all things are possible for You. Take this cup away from Me; nevertheless, not what I will, but what you will” (14:36). All these words, variously translated “desire,” “want,” and “will” in Mark’s gospel, are from a single Greek word meaning “to desire to have or experience something; wish to have” (Louw-Nida, BDAG). Jesus followed His Father’s will and denied His own. In essence, He says to us in Mark 8:34-35, if you want My salvation, you must do the same thing. The world doesn’t get that, but we must! This life is not about getting everything we want. It’s about self-denial, murdering self-will, and following Jesus. It’s about staying within His lines when it comes to everything. That’s a message we must gently share with a world bent on a self-destructive, self-guided journey!

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cross Jesus Jesus Christ poetry Uncategorized

A Tale Of Two Crosses

Neal Pollard

“Tell us father, were you really there that day?

Did they make you take His burden the rest of the way?”

“Son, I stood in the crowd when I got my painful commission,

And they thrust it on me without asking my permission.

He was staggering and bloody and gripped by exhaustion

I was pressed into service, whether expediency or precaution.

The skull-shaped brow scowled back from a distance,

As I offered that Sufferer my lowly assistance

I was far from the lush valley that cradled my idyllic town

In the bustling, boisterous crowd full of heckles and frowns

Taking outside of Jerusalem this rough-hewn beam

Accompanied by His friends and more foes, what a curious team

Every step in the cacophony of the heckling hateful

When I got to the spot, I was wearily grateful

To cease my assignment and be through with this affront

But I stayed long enough to see men with a malice so blunt

Take the man I relieved and affix Him securely

To the implement I’d carried so slowly but surely

With frightening precision they attached Him with nails

To the cross which they lifted, oblivious to any wails

For the pain, sons, I know must have been unrelenting

As I watched this plain gentleman hang, with no champions dissenting.

No, the crowd with their clamors. bloodthirsty and wild

Made a contrast with this Man, His face loving and mild.

He hung for six hours, and during that ordeal,

Things happened that day, both incredible and surreal.

At the end, after the torture and the mockery were through,

He’d said, “Father, forgive these who know not what they do.”

Now He offered the Father Himself, His own spirit,

I wonder how many of the rabble there could hear it.”

Alexander and Rufus, the sons of this infamous servant

Had a father involved in a task he did, whether feckless or fervent.

We know him today, though we know not what became of the man.

Did it cause him to follow or, like Pilate, to wash his hands.

Was the Rufus of Romans Simon’s son, whom Paul adored?

Was Alexander the villain Paul scornfully deplored?

We won’t know on this earth just who all these men were,

Though we’d like a clear picture in place of the blur,

But we know on that morning, when we gained by Christ’s loss,

That this Simon of Cyrene carried Jesus’ cross.

Today we are called to assume a great load,

Not His cross, but ours, is the burden that’s bestowed.

The cross of self-denial, we must kill our self-rule

And be His, day by day, until our journey is through.

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Categories
Christian living discipleship example godliness holiness

“This Perverse Generation”

Neal Pollard

What was life like in the first century?  One historian writes, “It has been rightly said, that the idea of conscience, as we understand it, was unknown to heathenism. Absolute right did not exist. Might was right. The social relations exhibited, if possible, even deeper corruption. The sanctity of marriage had ceased. Female dissipation and the general dissoluteness led at last to an almost entire cessation of marriage. Abortion, and the exposure and murder of newly-born children, were common and tolerated; unnatural vices, which even the greatest philosophers practiced, if not advocated, attained proportions which defy description” (Edersheim, Book 2, Chapter 11, p. 179).  Thus described the culture of the dominant world power of the day, Rome.

Those descriptions, almost without exception, could be applied to the current culture.  So many specific examples could be, and often are, set forth to depict life in our world today that mirror Edersheim’s chronicle of the world into which Christianity was born.  Not surprisingly, New Testament writers are prone to speak of the world in stark terms and with specific admonitions.  What they said then apply to us today, and they contain counsel that will help us to spiritual success in our slimy setting.

You can save yourself from this perverse generation (Acts 2:40). That was the final recorded appeal of the first recorded gospel sermon.  The message is one of hope and faith.  There is escape from the pollutions of the world (cf. 2 Pet. 2:20).  There is forgiveness of the sins like the ones described above as well as any and all others.  The promise of the gospel message is, “Repent, and each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of sins” (Acts 2:38).  Those who gladly received that word did just that (Acts 2:41).

You can shine yourself to this perverse generation (Phil. 2:15).  Paul urges the Philippian Christians to prove themselves blameless and harmless in such an environment. He’s calling for distinctive Christian living, a life that would stand out in such deplorable circumstances.  We’re not trying to be oddball misfits, but faithful Christian living is detectable in the crowds we find ourselves in.  That example is the first step to helping someone else save themselves from this perverse generation.

You can share your Savior with this perverse generation (Mark 8:38). Jesus warns those whom He calls “ashamed of Me and My words in this adulterous and sinful generation.”  He tells us that a true disciple’s life is one of obedience, self-denial, sacrifice, and courage (cf. Mark 8:36-38).  If we never share the saving message of Christ with the people we meet and know each day, why don’t we? Could it be that we are ashamed to share His distinctive message to a world that pressures us to conform to and go along with it.  If we do not tell them about Him, how are they going to find out? What hope will they have to discard the perverse life for the pure one?

It is a scary, sinful world out there!  But God rescues us from its guilt through Christ’s sacrifice, then sends us back out there to tell them they can be rescued, too.  Live it and then share it, no matter what, until your end or the end—which ever comes first!

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What If He Wanted YOU Hung There?

Neal Pollard

What would happen if God changed the “plan of salvation” in this dramatic way? What if the voice of God parted the skies and spoke a new revelation to us, saying, “If you are crucified on a cross for your sins, you will be eternally saved!” Would you do it? Assuming that every human living heard and understood His mighty voice, don’t you suppose countless millions would line up to fulfill this requirement?

The Bible says with Divine credibility that death on the cross was absolutely necessary for the saving of mankind. Many may scoff at that, but that truth must be believed. Yet, no one could save himself by dying on a cross for his own sins. God would reject that sacrifice! Such a sacrifice is blemished and flawed by the filth and disease of sin. The only spotless and unblemished sacrifice that could ever be offered was Jesus (1 Pet. 1:18), who condemned sin in the flesh (Rom. 8:3) and “put away sin by the sacrificing of himself” (Heb. 9:26). He was “once offered to bear the sins of many” (Heb. 9:28) upon the cross.

If Christ had taken the mockers’ challenge to come down from the cross to prove His deity (Mk. 15:32), all mankind would have lost all hope of heaven. He endured the shame and pain of Calvary (Heb. 12:2) to make heaven possible for all who obey Him (Heb. 5:9).

Now, consider this. Through the Bible, the voice of God rings out, demanding that we figuratively crucify our desires and lives on Jesus’ cross through sincere obedience (Gal. 2:20). He tells us to obey the Sacrificial Lamb, Jesus, in order to have sins forgiven (Rom. 6:17). No one has to die the death of a thousand deaths, nailed to a literal cross, to be saved. No one could! But if we come to the One who did so die, we can avoid the only fate that is worse than crucifixion (see Rev. 14:10-11)!

God does not call you to get up on a cross for your sins. He calls you to take up the cross of self-denial, following Him (Mt. 16:24). In this way, may we crucify ourselves!