Then Jesus told his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what shall a man give in return for his soul? For the Son of Man is going to come with his angels in the glory of his Father, and then he will repay each person according to what he has done." -Matthew 16:24-27
When I have someone come up to me to receive my blessing or approval on something (being in a position of influence, people want me to do this, often), I often say “let’s see what Scripture says about this.” I am not equating myself with God, by any means, though being a preacher, some believe I have an “in” with Him, so, to keep from abusing my position, I always want to consult Him about anything. In doing so, you’d be surprised at how often I have been called hateful, a bigot, and many other names beside. I’d like to blame social media: it seems that it exists as a way to say “affirm all my choices, or I can block you out of my life!” Yet, as I look back on History, I can see this is nothing new. It’s Satan repackaging the same lies with new wrapping paper. It’s happened since the beginning: people have tried to have God on their terms since Adam and Eve ate the fruit.
The fact is, we don’t need our egos stroked, we don’t need our self-esteem boosted, and we don’t need to have our self-image bolstered. Anything to do with self, we’re to put to death! Jesus even said “If anyone is to come after me, he must deny himself, take up his cross daily, and die to me” Matthew 16:24, Luke 9:23). The world says “love your self,” but the world is at war with God! What is more, the self is at war with our spirit, which calls us to seek after our Designer! If we’re to truly find, follow and walk with Jesus, affirmation is not what we need. We need to hear His call “come and die,” denying ourselves, picking up our crosses and walking as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God each and every moment of each and every day (Romans 12:1). It’s not a “Come and get dunked once, and you’re okay” it’s a daily process until we see Him face to face. If we seek to save our lives, we will lose it, but if we lose our lives for His sake, only then can we find it (Matthew 16:25, Luke 17:33).
What then shall we say? That the law is sin? By no means! Yet if it had not been for the law, I would not have known sin. For I would not have known what it is to covet if the law had not said, “You shall not covet.” But sin, seizing an opportunity through the commandment, produced in me all kinds of covetousness. For apart from the law, sin lies dead. I was once alive apart from the law, but when the commandment came, sin came alive and I died. The very commandment that promised life proved to be death to me. For sin, seizing an opportunity through the commandment, deceived me and through it killed me. So the law is holy, and the commandment is holy and righteous and good.
Did that which is good, then, bring death to me? By no means! It was sin, producing death in me through what is good, in order that sin might be shown to be sin, and through the commandment might become sinful beyond measure. For we know that the law is spiritual, but I am of the flesh, sold under sin. For I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate. Now if I do what I do not want, I agree with the law, that it is good. So now it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me. For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out. For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing. Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me.
So I find it to be a law that when I want to do right, evil lies close at hand. For I delight in the law of God, in my inner being, but I see in my members another law waging war against the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members. Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I myself serve the law of God with my mind, but with my flesh I serve the law of sin.