“Then Jesus said to his disciples, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.”/ Matthew 16:24
I’ve read and heard this verse so many times in my life and even more so in the past couple of years where Jesus has become bigger and bigger to me. The past couple of days this verse has taken on a whole new meaning to life and life with as a follower of Jesus. I’ve been faced with some exciting opportunities, some big decisions and the possibility of a lot of life change happening really fast. I’ve been spending the last couple of days visiting a church, checking out their ministry and interviewing for a position to be apart of their staff. I’ve had job interviews before and walked into plenty of new situations but this one was a whole new world to me. With marriage on the horizon and coming up quicker than ever, all the new things that go along with that new chapter of life, these last couple of days have held big implications for myself and my beautiful fiance Sarah. I give you all those details to give you a little better idea of why this verse has become so big. It’s been terrifying to be honest going through all this and anyone could say, “yeah pf course going through all of those big things would be.”
I learned quickly the biggest reason behind the scary in this was ME. When looking back at every piece of fear, the word “I” was the root of the fear. Playing the pro’s and cons game trying to be level headed in this decision, almost every con started with “I”, “I don’t know if I’m ready to step into a new situation, I don’t know if I have what it takes to make an impact in the area of ministry I’ll be serving in.” Different things like that, a whole bunch of “I’s.” Then not only fear but pride also played a big role, and guess what word was at the beginning of that, the root of my pride, “I.” “I feel like I’m prepared for more, I think I can do more than this position entails, I think I’m ready for more.” Can you see the reoccurring theme in all the con’s and doubt, “I.”
Think about your life, your current situation or your big decisions, honestly even the little decisions like going out of your way to talk to someone, be a friend to somebody or whatever it is. Think deeply for a second and look at why you haven’t done the things that God has told you to do, why you haven’t taken the little steps of faith and the big leaps of faith into what God has perfectly placed right in front of you. Now be honest about it, what’s holding you back from all the MORE that God has for you and that He’s divinely placed in front of you? The word I comes up a lot doesn’t it??? Yep. I say all that because it’s more evident now more than ever that the majority of steps of faith I don’t take in my life, whether with personal bad habits, sin strongholds, decisions, and opportunities to serve others in a way that may change their life. Whatever it is, little or big, “I”is always at the root of my regret, at the root of my doubt and failure, “I” is the biggest problem for all of us humans because that one letter word “I” holds so much power in our lives. “I” is the root of what’s holding us back from taking that next step of faith, to make that decision that we’ve been putting off, the decision that can change the course of the rest of our lives and most importantly as followers of Jesus Christ, “I” completely hinders and hurts how we follow Jesus in our lives.
Of course the day I’m stuck in my “I’s” the worst, this verse came up as the verse of the day on the Bible app yesterday. Pretty cool how God works things together. Jesus says, to be his disciple, DENY YOURSELF. I’ve spent a lot of time getting caught up in the other parts of this verse because they sound really cool to do, “take up your cross and follow me.” But look what Jesus says first, before any talk about following Him. The first thing He says is to DENY SELF. Looking at it in the view of all the “I’s” in my life and the power they have to hold me back from ever moving forward following Jesus. It make sense why Jesus says this first, because following Him is near impossible when you are battling following your “I’s” and self. Denying oneself changes everything. Jesus knows that the moment we get our weak, doubting, prideful, sinful, and fearful selves out of the way, that’s the moment we change that “I” to “He.” When living out of what we got, what we think we’re capable of and how we see things, talk about some low living, regret filled, sad lives. When we realize that we don’t have to use “I” anymore because when we came to know Jesus as our Lord and Savior and that personal relationship with Him was established, we died to self just as Jesus died on the cross and Jesus raised us to new life as one with Him, no more “I” just Jesus.
Jesus says “deny yourself.” Deny your I. In this new life with Jesus we don’t live playing the odds, counting the chance of success, or asking the question, “can I do this?” With Jesus we live off faith, we move off faith, we make decisions out of faith, we walk in the fullness of life and the MORE that God has prepared for us off of faith. Not faith in “I”, faith in “HE”, Jesus Christ. The coolest part of Jesus calling us to be disciples for Him and following Him is He gave us the biggest most powerful, life-changing, chain-breaking, risk-taking truth to embrace this life as a disciple. DENY YOURSELF. Jesus wants nothing more than for us to live in the fullness of the life He’s given us and point others to Him so they too can live life with Him. Jesus tells us “DENY SELF” because “I and self” is the biggest chains holding us back from walking in the freedom He’s given us. When our faith is not in ourselves but in who we are with Jesus, who He says we are, born again children of God, those chains are gone and we’re set free to just live, have fun waking up everyday and making the most of what God has for us, instead of getting torn up and worried because our “I” problem, we can just live, take risks, have peace that even if we make the wrong decision, even if we fail, that’s okay because Jesus doesn’t only give us life, He gives us an abundance of grace where He forgives us, picks us up, renews our mind and hearts back to Him and His ways, and moves us forward.
Denying self changes everything about how we follow Jesus. If “I” is the root of why you are where you are today and why you feel stuck to move forward, don’t let it hold you back any longer. Give yourself, doubts and fears to Jesus and He will show you how to move step by step, as His disciple, following Him. The biggest lesson about denying self was my perspective on this situation and in a lot of my life, when we are so focused on our insecurities we miss out on seeing the goodness of God and how’s He is so perfectly putting you in the best situation to grow, live, and move into the MORE He has for us. It won’t always be easy but from my experience with this, don’t waste your days letting the incapability of yourself clutter your perspective and vision in what God has for you, the divinely orchestrated parts of His plan that knocks on your door saying “Hey you, child of God, lets roll out of this weak life and roll with me, leaning on my strength, my hope and my love moving into a life where impossible is not even a word, faith is the gasoline that fuels you, and where LIFE can be embraced with Jesus and lead into others receiving this same LIFE.” It’s crazy how everything changes when we deny our selves and live in the truth of who we are, children of God. The scariest part of this is how easy the “I” problem can sneak up on you and hold you back from what God has in store for you but we have His Word to remind us that life doesn’t have to be lived that way any longer.
“Then Jesus said to his disciples, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves”
Prayer: ” Lord thank you for this truth and this powerful instruction you have given us. It’s truly amazing how everything is flipped upside down and changed when we get ourselves out of the way and come to beginning of you. Thank you for loving us to the point of giving up your Son as a sacrifice for us, thank you for giving us a way out of the life that we deserved to die on the cross and giving us new life with you! I ask Lord that you teach us how to step out of the comfort zone of our “I’s” and move into the MORE and fullness of life that you have for us. Teach us how to live off faith in you, and deny ourselves Lord so together as children of Yours, we can step out in faith, just live and enjoy this life, open our eyes to see your goodness and perfection being worked out in front of us and move our eyes from our own imperfection. Help us Lord be disciples of you and help us take up our cross so we can live humbly as tools for you to help others see you working through every area of our lives and help others see you so they too can experience the awesomeness and love in a life with you. Thank you Lord for today. Thank you for the gold found in your word and continue to renew our hearts and minds with your truth and help us apply these truths to our lives! Love you Lord! In your holy and precious name we pray, Amen.
“Some of the traveling teachers recently returned and made me very happy by telling me about your faithfulness and that you are living according to the truth. I could have no greater joy than to hear that my children are following the truth. Dear friend, you are being faithful to God when you care for the traveling teachers who pass through, even though they are strangers to you. They have told the church here of your loving friendship. Please continue providing for such teachers in a manner that pleases God. For they are traveling for the Lord, and they accept nothing from people who are not believers. So we ourselves should support them so that we can be their partners as they teach the truth.”
3 John 1:3-8
So I learned about these verses in class today and to be honest, I didn’t even realize there was a 3 John, I mean there are already so many other books with John’s name on it. Obviously I need to keep learning all I can. What’s so cool about this letter John writes to Gaius, which to be honest once again I would’ve never noticed by just skimming over these powerful verses like I would usually do. John is writing to Gaius who is a local church leader/pastor, encouraging him and thanking him for all of the faithful service he has dedicated his life to by serving the Lord and serving people with the Lord. This part stuck out to me because John is commending him for the hospitality he’s shown towards traveling ministers coming through his town. These guys are complete strangers to Gaius but he is still willing to do whatever it takes to help in advancing the Gospel and bringing the life changing truth of Jesus to people. It may seem like it wasn’t that big of a deal what Gaius was doing but that’s what’s cool about Gaius’ example of service.
He didn’t have to open his doors and give a place to stay to these traveling pastors, in the context of these verses it says that Gaius is sick and struggling with some kind of illness that won’t seem to leave him. On top of that, he faced scrutiny from some members of his congregation about having these traveling pastors coming in and messing up what they had going on. Gaius probably didn’t feel like serving and being faithful in these moments but it’s obvious that the truth was the driving force of His life. The Gospel of Jesus Christ and the spread of that good news to people in need of Him, that was the most important part of his life. Everything else was secondary. I’m sure at times whether it seems like a little or big act of service, we so often make excuses, “I don’t have time for that, well if I serve in that way then it will mess up this or that.” At the end of the day, isn’t the good news of Jesus Christ coming to this earth, dying for the sins of man, and giving us a gift of eternal life when we deserved the death on the cross. I was extremely convicted today to think, what could possibly be more important than that??? Although I so often enter ME into the equation and what I want, I find myself wasting time focusing on me instead of focusing on the only truth that really matters on this earth. Whether it’s showing hospitality to someone through literally letting them stay at your house or showing faithful hospitality in little daily life ways with others, either way you put it, it’s important and no matter the size of the act of service, each moment we step aside from ME and live in God’s goodness and truth, the Gospel of Jesus Christ is spread and when God is in it fully without our selfishness, the little becomes huge Kingdom impact.
It’s crazy to think about all the times I base my life and the opportunity I have to serve others off of ME and my wants, making excuses and listening to the opinions of the people around me, justifying my lack of faithful hospitality because it’s not what my neighbors doing or it’s looked down upon in our church culture or our culture we live in outside of church. Learning from Gaius example today, all the stuff we deem as important is nothing compared to the goodness, faithfulness, and love that God shows us daily and has shown us through the good news of Jesus Christ and what He has done for us. What’s holding us back from being faithful in our service in this mission to spread Christ to the broken lives all around us? When seeing the truth in the magnified way that Gaius sees it, seeing the truth in the magnified, extremely HUGE life changing way that it is, changes a lot about how we serve and how we seek out opportunities to serve and when God shows up at our front door with a chance to serve someone in our daily lives, instead of saying no because of this, that or the other, embrace each opportunity to serve in the truly important and BIG lens that it is. It may seem little at times but little is much when God is in it.
Also, talk about some humbling hospitality, I’m out of town for a job interview and my buddy who lived not too far from where I’m checking out is letting me crash at his place for a couple nights while I’m here. It’s not anything special or out of the ordinary, it’s just what we do because Christ has called us to serve, the truth is too big to overlook when lives are at stake. My life and heart has been completely humbled and changed by my friends act of hospitality. So who’s life can be changed if we all embrace hospitality in faithful service of the good news of Jesus Christ! I’m excited to see the Kingdom impact that will be made through lives surrendered to the truth of the Gospel! It may be hard at times, we may not feel like it, we may be sick even, we may face so much opposition it doesn’t make sense, but with the view of eternity, it’s an eternal sacrifice for an eternal investment and God’s eternal glory will be magnified.
Ran across my friend, Olivia’s post on Instagram today and I’m telling you, she was bringing the HEAT!!! It is such a powerful Word and one that changed my day completely around, reminding me that despite all the craziness and stuff going on in my life, the Lord has got me, He’s in full control, I need to step back and watch Him do what only He can do. In Olivia’s Words, NOTHING is too big for Him! Couldn’t help but share this awesome truth with you today and as much as it has impacted me, I pray you too can be lifted up by this powerful and awesome promise from God!! Super thankful for her sharing the Truth in this way and excited for you to see why this has got me so jacked up!! Hold on to your hats, Liv bout to preach!!!
““The Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still.”/ Exodus 14:14
Holding fast to this great promise this week! There is so much more behind just this one verse! This verse comes right before Moses is empowered by God to part the Red Sea. The Egyptian army is pursuing them and the Israelites are fleeing! They get to the Red Sea and begin to doubt God and even ask Moses, “Why did you bring us out of Egypt?” (Where they were in so much bondage) They have made it so far and are beginning to doubt that God will get them through yet another trial. But in this chapter of Exodus 14, God does the unthinkable and miraculous. God tells Moses to lift his staff, stretch out his hand, and divide it! WHAT! God parts the Red Sea for the Israelites and as the Egyptians follow them they are engulfed in the sea!!! (Praise God emoji) If you are facing a trial that seems completely impossible this week, trust God that He will do the unthinkable to prove His faithfulness to you. Trust that He will fight for you and sometimes we just have to be still. Thankful for the power that is found in the Word and the comfort in reminding our hearts of the faithfulness of our God! Nothing is too big for Him!! Thank you Jesus!”
“When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.””/John 8:12
“THE BIBLE SALESMEN
A pastor concluded that his church was getting into serious financial troubles. While checking the church storeroom, he discovered several cartons of new Bibles that had never been opened and distributed. So at his Sunday sermon, he asked for three volunteers from the congregation who would be willing to sell the bibles door-to-door for $10 each to raise the desperately needed money for the church.
Jack, Paul and Louie all raised their hands to volunteer for the task. The minister knew that Jack and Paul earned their living as salesmen and were likely capable of selling some bibles. But he had serious doubts about Louie who was a local farmer, who had always kept to himself because he was embarrassed by his speech impediment.
Poor Louis stuttered badly. But, not wanting to discourage Louis, the minister decided to let him try anyway.
He sent the three of them away with the back seat of their cars stacked with bibles. He asked them to meet with him and report the results of their door-to-door selling efforts the following Sunday.
Eager to find out how successful they were, the minister immediately asked Jack, “Well, Jack, how did you make out selling our bibles last week?”
Proudly handing the reverend an envelope, Jack replied, “Using my sales prowess, I was able to sell 20 bibles, and here’s the $200 I collected on behalf of the church.” “Fine job, Jack!” The minister said, vigorously shaking his hand. “You are indeed a fine salesman and the Church is indebted to you.”
Turning to Paul, “And Paul, how many bibles did you sell for the church last week?” Paul, smiling and sticking out his chest, confident replied “I am a professional salesman. I sold 28 bibles on behalf of the church, and here’s $280 I collected.” The minister responded, “That’s absolutely splendid, Paul. You are truly a professional salesman and the church is also indebted to you.”
Apprehensively, the minister turned to Louie and said, “And Louie, did you manage to sell any bibles last week?”
Louie silently offered the minister a large envelope. The minister opened it and counted the contents. “What is this?” the minister exclaimed. “Louie, there’s $3200 in here! Are you suggesting that you sold 320 bibles for the church, door to door, in just one week?”
Louie just nodded. “That’s impossible!” both Jack and Paul said in unison. “We are professional salesmen, yet you claim to have sold 10 times as many bibles as we could.””Yes, this does seem unlikely,” the minister agreed.
“I think you’d better explain how you managed to accomplish this,Louie.” Louie shrugged . “I-I-I re-re-really do-do-don’t kn-kn-know f-f-f-for sh-sh-sh-sure,” he stammered. Impatiently, Peter interrupted. “For crying out loud, Louie, just tell us what you said to them when they answered the door!”
“A-a-a-all I-I-I s-s-said wa-wa-was,” Louis replied , “W-w-w-w-would y-y-y-you l-l-l-l-l-like t-t-to b-b-b-buy th-th-th-this b-b-b-b-bible f-f-for t-t-ten b-b-b-bucks—o-o-o-or—wo-wo-would yo-you j-j-j-just l-like m-m-me t-t-to st-st-stand h-h-here and r-r-r-r-r-read it t-to y-y-you??”“