17 May 2017
Our feature verse: Matthew 16:24 – And Jesus said to His disciples, “If anyone desires to follow Me, let him deny himself, take up his cross and follow Me.”
Broader text for your meditation: Matthew 16:21-26
This is the second part of our series on TRUTHS ABOUT LIFE BEHIND THE NARROW GATEWAY! Last week, we discussed the first step we need to take as Christians who have chosen to “enter by the narrow gateway”, which is that we need to desire more of that God-life. We agreed that if our hearts desire more of the Lord, and we pursue that desire, He has promised to meet us where we are at, even if our hearts are broken and unworthy.
I believe the next step to life behind the narrow gateway is to be willing to “deny yourself”. Hmmm…”Deny yourself? What in the world?” you might be thinking. Well let’s unpack it.
Here at The Narrow Gateway, we always ask ourselves the question, W.I.T.N.G? What Is The Narrow Gateway when I encounter life’s different faces and phases? How do I respond when life hits me for a six and gnarls at me, baring bloody fangs? Or on the other hand, who do I become when it feels like life is blowing sweet airy kisses in my direction because everything is going like a fairy tale? Basically, what comes out of me when life happens? This concept of “deny yourself” simply means that when I choose to follow Christ, I choose a life that is driven and led by God’s template for living, and not mine. So instead of responding to life by doing what comes naturally to me, my decision to follow Christ means that I may sometimes (possibly often) need to actually turn myself down – that is, say no to my natural inclination – in favour of opting to be directed by the Spirit of God. That’s what denying yourself is; turning yourself down when your inclination is to do something or respond in a way that is out of line with God’s values, and His leading.
So for example, and this example is very close to my heart, if I was being mistreated because of my gender or my race, or my faith, for that matter, or if someone else was being mistreated for these reasons and I happen to be a witness to this, as someone who has chosen to follow Christ, I do not get to respond by shooting from the hip, and saying just about anything, or reacting in just about any way that feels right in the moment based on my sense of justice and fairness, or based on what I feel I deserve or am entitled to. If I am serious about following Christ, then His Word, His example, His life and HisSpirit should be the map and the compass, the template which informs what comes out of me when life happens.
Now, let’s be honest. This is a TALL order for the most “straight and narrow” of us. I know it’s a giant-sized order for me, and I often do not get it right. Just this past week, I was faced with a situation and I was “this close” to taking offence, whipping out the claws, and fighting for myself. But thank God because He quickly reined me in and reminded me that this was a perfect opportunity to “practice what you preach”. And what’s interesting is that when I calmed my spirit and asked the question, W.I.T.N.G, and I allowed my responding feelings and reaction to be determined by the Holy Spirit, I realised that I had actually completely misunderstood the situation and would have over-reacted, and even looked like a fool! I would have made a mess, if God had not reined me in.
So when you think of the need to “deny yourself” or “turn yourself down”, remember this: 1) God’s grace and Spirit is available to help you to choose His way over yours, 2) The God-ways and the God-thoughts surpass ours by kilo-miles, if there is such a thing! Who better to align your choices and responses to life with, than the Author of Life Himself? You cannot possibly know better about what is good in life, than God, the Creator of life does, can you? So, trust His-way. There’s no better way. 3) Don’t give up. We will falter and fumble and many times, we will look from the God-way to ours, and be like, “Yea, I am going ‘the my-way.’” But when you discover that yet again, you have chosen your way, and refused to turn yourself down, don’t give up. Run to the Lord, let Him know what you are feeling, and ask Him to help you to pick up, dust yourself off and carry on! That, dear friends, is life behind the narrow gateway. In time, if your heart is really into this thing of following Jesus, you willbecome more and more averse to picking the ‘you-way’ over the ‘God-way’, because soon, your way will appear paltry and foolish in comparison to God’s way. So keep at it, relying on God’s grace. In every circumstance, ask yourself, W.I.T.N.G? What Is The Narrow Gateway, and when you discover it, align, and run with it, following Jesus all the way, even if it means you need to turn yourself down!
Let us pray:
Lord Jesus, so we have established that I do indeed desire to follow You. But now I am hearing that I need to be willing to deny myself – to turn myself down – when my way clashes with Yours? Gosh, it feels like a tall order. But I believe You have made grace available for me to do this. So I key into Your grace. I make a choice today that in every circumstance, I will ask myself, W.I.T.N.G? What Is The Narrow Gateway? And when I discover the answer to that, give me the boldness and commitment to choose the God-way at all times. I’m going to need Your help on this one Lord. Please help me to choose You always. In Jesus’ name, Amen.
Let’s have a last word:
Guys, this thing of “turning yourself down” is the real deal. But like everything behind the narrow gateway, you need to be intentional in hooking arms with Jesus, staring life down and choosing the God-way every time. So be practical. Be real. Look at the week ahead. Are there circumstances in your life that warrant for you to ask yourself, W.I.T.N.G? What is the narrow gateway? Is there any situation that you are facing in which you have given a trigger response that feels good and logical in the moment, but is actually not the God-response? It’s not too late to turn things around. Let’s do some narrow gateway living together this week, shall we?
Written by: Toyin Oladiran for The Narrow Gateway (www.thenarrowgateway.com)