24 May 2017
Our feature Bible passage: Matthew 16:21-26 -> 21. From that time, Jesus began to show to His disciples that He must go to Jerusalem, and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and be raised the third day. 22. Then Peter took Him aside and began to rebuke Him, saying, “Far be it from You, Lord, this shall not happen to You!” 23. But [Jesus] turned and said to Peter, “Get behind Me, Satan! You are an offence to Me, for you are not mindful of the things of God, but the things of men.” 24. Then Jesus said to His disciples, “If anyone desires to follow Me, let him deny himself, take up his cross and follow Me. 25. For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it. 26. For what profit is it to a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul? 27. For the Son of Man will come in the glory of His Father with His angels, and then He will reward each according to his works.”
This is the third instalment of our series on TRUTHS ABOUT LIFE BEHIND THE NARROW GATEWAY! Last week, we explored “turning yourself down” as a critical element of entering by the narrow gateway. Now even as I was writing that devotional, I knew I would need to perch right there for a while and unpack it. That’s why today we are asking ourselves a question that you may have muttered in response to last week’s Truth Turn Up. I know I did. “Why, oh why should I ever have to turn myself down? My salvation was a free gift from the Lord. My righteousness is not by my works but by my faith in Jesus Christ. Uhmmm well…I do not steal. I do not smoke. I do not drink. I do not bribe. Most of the time, I am doing what I think is good, or right…I think… So what more does God want from me?!”
Well, if you take anything away from this week’s Truth Turn Up, let it be that when studying the Word of God, it is critical to go in search of the context within which a Bible verse is placed. So let’s look at the context of this “requirement to deny yourself,” shall we? Jesus did not just wake up one morning and tell His disciples that the life that awaited them if they wanted to follow Him was going to be a life of self-denial, neither did Jesus treat self-denial as an end in itself or as a means to attain righteousness. On the contrary, Jesus treated self-denial as an inevitable, unavoidable and ongoing part of the journey to manifesting God’s glorious plan for one’s life. Let me explain. In this passage, Jesus was sharing with His disciples some hard and imminent truths about what was lying ahead for Him as He went about “living out His passion and God-given purpose”. He told them that He was going to be betrayed, tortured, killed in the most gruesome way, and then raised from the dead. A few verses prior, in verses 17 – 19, Jesus told His disciples that He was going to build His church and He would give to those who believe in Him the keys to the Kingdom of Heaven. This was God’s plan for Jesus’ life, and the ultimate end was for the world to be saved, through Jesus’ choice to deny Himself. This is the context of this Bible passage about denying yourself. But Peter was not having that! In fact, he “scolded” Jesus, as I am sure many of us have done before when we get a glimpse into life behind the Narrow Gateway, and we think, “No way! I reject it! It is not my portion!” And in turn, Jesus rebuked the enemy for convincing Peter to focus only on the temporary discomfort that comes with “turning yourself down” instead of being liberated and energised by the eternal glory of the underlying purpose for which Jesus was choosing to deny Himself.
Now because most of us cannot identify with what Jesus had to endure along the road to achieving His purpose and attaining glory, (that is, being hammered to a wooden cross and left there to suffer and wretch for hours, with thick thorns driven into His skull), let me make it more relatable. Is there someone you need to forgive who does not deserve forgiveness? Is there something else that God wants you to use your upcoming vacation days and spending money for, other than splashing out on that hard-earned holiday you saved up for since last year? Is there a people group, social group, racial group, class group, that you need to learn to love, understand, identify with, learn from? Is there a work opportunity or relationship you may need to think differently about because it sets you on a course that bleeds the light of God out of your life? Do you need to rethink your entertainment choices because they celebrate sinful values which just have no business being on the screens of someone who has chosen life behind the narrow gateway?
The path of self-denial that Jesus had to take was exactly the path that God had planned for Him since before time began. In fact, it was prophesied centuries beforehand that the road to the redemption of mankind would be paved with the blood of Jesus, but that because Jesus was willing to deny Himself by humbling Himself to this kind of death, not only would mankind be redeemed, but Jesus would be exalted to the highest place and given the Name that is above every Name! Hallelujah! You can NEVER EVER out-give God! Ever. Turning yourself down is part of the journey to walking in God’s purpose for your life. It is. And it leads to glory! We’ll talk more about the Glory of Turning Yourself Down, next week. But for now, let us pray.
Let us Pray:
Wow! Jesus. Please open my ears to hear Your voice. Open my eyes to see Your face. Open my heart to receive Your Word. Right now, it feels like this life You have called me to is impossible. It is beyond me. I do not feel like I have what it takes. I actually feel like even if I commit to this way of thinking today, tomorrow, I will falter and fall away. But I know that there is nothing impossible for You to do! You can help me live this life, day by day. So I surrender to You today. Help me so that when tomorrow comes, I surrender again…and again…and again. In Jesus’ name. Amen.
Let’s have a last word:
Meditate on this Week’s Truth Turn Up, but do so with a heart of rejoicing as you cast your mind back to the many ways in which God has shown up and shown Himself faithful to you at times when you boldly chose His way over your way! Be on the look-out, this week for opportunities to turn yourself down in favour of the God-way. However, do not do this in a mournful manner, but rather with much peace and confidence, knowing that there is glory and purpose awaiting you along the path, behind the narrow gateway.
Written by: Toyin Oladiran for The Narrow Gateway (www.thenarrowgateway.com)