“Walk by the Spirit and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh.” Gal. 5:16
Howard Hendricks, my favorite seminary professor, wisely said, “You need to say no to something every day.”
When is the last time we said no to: getting the last word, indulging in extra food, looking at our phones—again, drinking another glass of wine, judging another person, buying clothes we really don’t need, or succumbing to gossip?
Before I go further I want to be clear. This is not a post about bolstering your will-power and making lists of do’s and don’ts. My thoughts today are about what it means to die to self—a tough issue to be sure and one that is rarely discussed, even in the Christian community.
For the Christian, we are called to submit all things to our Heavenly Father. When we chose to follow Christ, we relinquished our rights to be our own boss. As believers, the Holy Spirit indwells us and convicts us when we are stepping out of His will. Our response to this conviction should include the ongoing practice of denying or dying to ourselves. This must include telling ourselves no, with the Lord’s help, repeatedly.
If we aren’t saying no to ourselves very often we’ve likely left the door wide open for the enemy to have his way building a stronghold in our lives. Remember Satan is a deceiver and crafty in his ways, transforming even something neutral or benign into something that can literally destruct. In the Christian culture we can be so caught up in grace it can masquerade as a license to sin. And the things we laugh off the most may be the things we most need to deal with.
Legalism and grace are difficult to balance and so everything has to be done with the leading of the Holy Spirit. What may be ok for someone else may not be okay for me. The goal is not obeying a list of do’s and don’ts so much as seeking to honor the Lord by submitting to Him when I hear His voice.
These kind of boundaries create healthy parameters. When I say “no” to things when I feel prompted by the Holy Spirit, I am choosing to not be mastered by anything. Scripture says that sin shall not be my master (Rom. 6:14). The things I am saying no to may not be bad in themselves but if I throw an internal fit when I am struggling to deny myself something, it is an invitation to delve deeper and find out if there is something behind it. Am I not “ok” if I don’t have it? Have I built an idol?
This is a struggle for me to be sure. I’ve tried for a while to figure out what makes the most sense with shopping for clothes, for example. Do I set a budget and stick to it? Do I buy a few well-chosen pieces each season and then say no until the next season? Should I “fast” from shopping for a whole year knowing I have plenty of clothes in my closet and I don’t need anything else? While this may seem silly, I have a feeling I’m not the only one who struggles with this and it’s difficult to know how to do this without becoming legalistic.
The point here is to live in peace and freedom and to not be ruled by anything— even a sale! So, you can fill in the blank for what it is you have a tendency to struggle with. Let’s bring it all to the Lord and ask Him to rule over every area of our lives and trust HIM to guide us, convict us and help us to walk in obedience and freedom. It’s there where we will find joy, peace and true fulfillment.