The Cross As An Instrument of Denial

Steve Viars July 31, 1999 Mark 8:34

- How many people here would say, One of the problems I face is the ability to say “no”?
- Probably most of us would say that this morning.

- Let me ask you this --- In what areas do you struggle saying “no”?
- now, the answers to that could get interesting.
1) Some would undoubtedly say.....My “trouble area” is the matter of my schedule.
- someone asks me to do something a few weeks down the line, and I say “sure”.
- someone asks me to go somewhere with them and I say “sure”.
- someone offers me tickets for this event and before long the calendar on the wall is looking like a wild beast.....
- and every time I glance in its direction it growls at me.

2) Someone else might say, my trouble area is eating.....
- I was determined to do better but then we had a family picnic.....
- or we were invited to a cookout....
- and there was that smoked sausage....
- or there was Aunt Bessie’s chocolate cream pie....
- it’s almost impossible to say “no” in those situations......

3) Someone else might say, for me the problem is saying “no” to projects.....
- you wouldn’t believe how many half finished projects I’ve got.....
- at the time, that new restructuring at work seemed like a great idea....
- but that project is going to do me in.....
- then my wife started talking about building a screened in porch.....
- then there’s the old car I’m going to restore some day.....
- I just have trouble saying “no” to projects.....

- Many of us struggle with saying “no”.....
- let’s change the focus.....
- with what person do you especially struggle saying “no”?

1) Maybe its your boss......
- you told yourself that you couldn’t handle one more responsibility, and if he or she asked you to chair one more committee, or oversee one more project, you were going to say “no”....
- you even practiced it in the mirror....no, no, no.....
- and then when you were asked, you went to say “no”, and “sure” came out.

2) For someone else it may be a person at the church....
- when so and so calls, I just hate to tell that ABF leader, or that deacon, or that pastor “no”, and before long I’ve got 14 jobs going.....

3) You might say, its my mother, or its one of my friends......but when that particular person calls.....I just can’t tell them no.

- now you say, PV, why are we talking about this?
- well, the word of God speaks about someone to whom we have to learn to say “no”.
- in fact, this is such a significant issue, that its even wrapped into fundamentally what it means to be a Christian, to be a follower of Jesus Christ.
- it’s not an exaggeration to say that you and I won’t grow in our relationship with the Lord unless we learn to say no to this entity, and to say no on a consistent basis.

- to learn the identity of this rascal, let me invite you to open your Bible to the Gospel of Mark, chapter 8.
- This morning we’re continuing on in our study entitled “Embracing the Cross.”
- We’ve been looking at what the Word of God teaches us about the cross-work of Jesus Christ.
- so far we’ve seen that the Bible teaches that the cross is an instrument of peace, the cross is an instrument of power, and the cross is an instrument of shame..

- one of our goals for this series is that we’ll each walk away with several key verses that we know so well that they guide us in the days ahead....
1) For example, the first week we learned that the cross is an instrument of peace from that great phrase in Col. 1:20 - “having made peace through the blood of His cross.”
2) We also saw how the cross is an instrument of power from 1 Corinthians 1:18 - “For the word of the cross is to those who are perishing foolishness, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.”
3) Last week we looked at Hebrews 12:2, and saw how the cross is an instrument of shame when we read that we should fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame

- so the cross of Christ is an instrument of peace, and instrument of power, and an instrument of shame.
- Today we’d like to study how the cross is an instrument of denial.
- there is someone to whom we have to say “no”.
- there is someone we have to deny.....
- let’s read these verses and see who that might be......

- Read Mark 8:31-38

- We’re talking this morning about The Cross: An Instrument of Denial.
- in the time we have left, I’d like us to think about The Person of Self-Denial, and The Process of Self-Denial, and The Product of Self-Denial.

I. The Person of Self-Denial.


- this phrase “deny yourself” is very important to Christian living, and I would like us to think very carefully about it this morning.
- we’re actually going to consider the words in reverse order.....
- right now I’d like to ask you think with me about the question, when Jesus said, “deny yourself”, who exactly did He mean?

- specifically who is it that we’re to be denying?
- the answer to that is not, everything about you.
- its not, your entire personal identity as an individual.

- often this concept is misunderstood and misapplied.....
- for example, a person is buying a car.....and it come down to a red one or a white one....
- they both cost the same, they have the same miles, etc.....
- and the person wonders --- which one does God want me to buy.....
- well, I like the color red, so God would want me to deny myself and buy the white one.

- or ordering at a restaurant....well, what should I order ---- I like chicken, so God would want me to deny myself and get the fish.

- well, that’s not even close to what this passage is talking about....and those illustrations are trite....but its wrong to believe that God wants us to find every last thing about ourselves, and just say no to it.
- I remember back in seminary when people were trying to determine God’s will regarding a place of ministry....where the thinking was.....I’m interested in Spanish speaking countries, so I better go to Africa.
- or I like the Northeast United States, so I better look for a ministry in Texas.
- that’s not the point of passages like this.
- we’re not talking about denying everything about you, or your entire personal identity as an individual.

- now you say, PV, how do we know that?
- one of the most important principles of Bible study, or Bible interpretation, is that we compare scripture to Scripture......our interpretation of one verse has to be able to bear the weight of the rest of the Bible, because the Bible doesn’t fight itself.

- and the Bible says a lot about the importance of individuals to God....
- for example, he knows how many hairs are on your head....
- He knows your name....

- one of the beauties of Christianity is that its possible to have a personal relationship with God through His Son Jesus Christ.
- so if He knows you in that kind of individual way, He’s not going to turn around and ask you to deny every last thing there is about you.

- also, if you’re a believer in Jesus Christ....the Bible says that you’re a new person...
- old things have passed away, behold all things have become new.
- it will be illogical for God on the one hand to make you a new person, and then on the other hand to tell you to deny that new person.

- so if the question is, who is the person of self-denial....the answer is not.....every aspect of who you are, your entire person.
- the “self” that we are to learn to say “no” to is that composite of sinful habits that we brought into the Christian life.
- the NT also refers to this as our “flesh”.
- when Paul said in Romans 7 that there were times when what he wanted to do, he didn’t...and what he didn’t want to do, he did.....
- he was talking about that wrestling that we all have with our SELVES.....our flesh....our sinful habits that we carried into our relationship with Christ.
- that’s why Paul said in Romans 7:18 - For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh.....
- so when Jesus spoke of the cross as an instrument of denial....where we learn how to deny ourselves....He was talking about learning to say “no” on a consistent and growing basis to our sinful habits that don't please God.
- if we are going to effective in our relationship with God, we have to learn how to deny ourselves.

- now, as I alluded to a moment ago....this subject of your “self” is not by any means a topic that is entirely negative.
- because who you are in Christ is something that is of great beauty to God.
- now you might say, then why doesn’t that flesh itself out more in my day to day experience?
- I thought some things, or did some things, or said some things this week that weren’t very beautiful to Him.
- that brings up an issue that is very important for every Christian to understand.
- the difference between positional truth, and practical truth.

- see, when we talk about your “self”, we have to ask---are we talking about that positionally or practically?
- now I know some of you might be saying, PV, you’re about to lose me here.
- this is really pretty simple.

- when a person repents of their sin and trusts Jesus Christ as savior and Lord....the Bible says their position before God radically changes.
- God no longer sees you as an alien or a stranger, He know sees you as a son.
- He now longer sees you in your sin or your rebellion, He now sees you clothed in the righteousness of Christ.

- that’s what the word “justification” means......as soon as you trust Christ, you are declared righteous before God.....
- some folks think of salvation as having your sins forgiven...which is true....but that’s only half of the story......
- you not only have your sins forgiven but you also receive the righteousness of Christ imputed (or placed) on your account.

- so positionally, your “self” stands before God in the righteousness of Christ....that’s why its such a beautiful thing to read many times in the Bible the phrase “in Christ”....”in Christ”.
- however, this side of heaven, there’s always a gap between what’s true of you positionally, and what’s true of you practically (in your everyday life).
- and a key aspect of a Christian’s growth is learning to close that gap....
- is learning how to live practically in a way that is consistent with your position....

- now let me ask you to pause here for a moment and think about this past week, or these past couple of weeks....
- Can you think of instances where you didn’t deny your “self”.....
- where there were clearly evidences of your sinful “self”, of your flesh hindering you from pleasing God?

- every one of us ought to be able to think of concrete examples that fit into this category.
- words that were said that just were selfish....were sinful....were unlike the Lord and savior we say we know and love.....there was a gap between our position and our practice.
- or thoughts that were selfish...they were sinful....they were unlike the Savior we say we know and love....there was a gap between our position and our practice.
- the major point here is......when we talk about the Person of self-denial, we’re not referring to every aspect of our identity, or our personality.....
- but we are talking about those sinful habits we bring into the Christian life, we are talking about our flesh.....
- and every one of us knows that persuasive power of this person know as our “selves”.

- now, let’s move from the Person of Self-Denial, to.....


II. The Process of Self-Denial.


- I said that we were going to work hard on this two-word phrase.....
- we’ve talked about “self”, now let’s zero in on the word “deny”.
- what does it mean to “deny” yourself?

- well, in the providence of God, our Lord couldn’t have selected a word that would have been more memorable, and more meaningful to the Christian church than this one.
- because we all know of a man who denied someone else, in a powerful, and life-changing way.

- please turn over to Matthew chapter 26.
- I imagine this is a story that is familiar to every person in the auditorium.
- when we think about denying something, this event should help us understand what that means.

- we’re in the upper room, and Jesus look at Peter in verse 34, and says....READ 34-35.

- who was right?
- look at verse 69 --- Read 69-75.

- the word that is used in our key text in Mark 8:34 (deny yourself) is the same one that is used in each of these occurrences in Matthew 26.
- its the Greek word “ap-ar-neomai”....it literally means to “completely disown, to utterly separate oneself from someone”.
- what does God want you to do with your flesh?....with the sinful habits you brought into the Christian life?.....
- it wants you to learn to deny them.....to disown them.....to utterly separate yourself from them......to aparneomai them.....

- see friends, the cross is an instrument of denial.
- and if you are going to be a cross-centered believer in Jesus Christ, you will have to be committed to denying yourself.

- now, there are several different ways we need to take this theme....but let’s start very practically.
1) Friend, how much effort are you putting into self-denial?
- I didn’t ask you if you gave up chewing gum for lent....I’m talking about looking for evidences of the flesh, evidences of selfishness.... and then being disciplined enough to deny yourself.....to say no to self and yes to Christ?


- were you sensitive to those matters this week?
a) for example, if you were watching television, did you find yourself having to change the channel, because you knew such a program would not please God...or did you keep watching it even though it fed the flesh.....
- I’m asking you, did you deny yourself?

b) Perhaps you were having a conversation, and you really wanted to gossip, or you really wanted to explode, or you really wanted to stomp away, or you really wanted to let this person have it.....
- but then you said “no”.....
- “no”.....I’m going to deny myself......
- I’m going to embrace the cross, this instrument of denial.....I’m going to say “yes” to Christ and “no” to my flesh.

- I’m asking you, how much effort are you putting into self-denial?

2) This principle also has application to the person who has not yet come to Christ....
- friend, the first step of denying yourself is admitting that you have a need.....
- admitting that you fall short of the glory of God....
- admitting that you have sinned, and that there is no way of being reconciled to God by yourSELF.

- that’s what Jesus meant in the Sermon on the Mount when He said, Blessed are the poor in Spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
- it is impossible to become a child of God apart from repentance.....
- it is impossible apart from humility....
- it is impossible apart from recognizing one’s inability to save oneself.

- Just as I am without one plea, but that thy blood was shed for me, and that thou bidst me come to thee, O Lamb of God, I come.
- and I wonder if there might be someone here today who has not yet come to Christ because you haven’t been willing to deny yourself......
- friend, do you see from the words of Jesus Christ that that is the only way to become a disciple?
- would you repent and trust Jesus Christ today?

- the person in this equation is “self”, and the process is learning to “deny” ourselves.
- the cross truly is an instrument of denial.
- you know, this thrust also has to do with the kind of gospel we proclaim as a church.
- I agree with John MacArthur who wrote:
This passage sets forth the heart of Christian discipleship and it strikes a death blow to the self-centered false gospels that are so popular in contemporary Christianity.  It leaves no room for the gospel of getting, in which God is considered a type of utilitarian genie who jumps to provide a believer’s every whim.  It closes the door to the gospel of health and wealth, which asserts that if a believer is not healthy and prosperous he has simply not exercised his divine rights or else does not have enough faith to claim his blessings.  It undermines the gospel of self-esteem, self-love, and high self-image, which appeals to man’s natural narcissism and prostitutes the spirit of humble brokenness and repentance that marks the gospel of the cross.
- one of the things that I really appreciate as a pastor is that, at least at this point in time in our church’s history, we can be honest about the price of following Jesus Christ and the still continues to grow.
- I realize that the day may come when that is no longer the case, and of course we would still be honest with the Word of God anyway....
- but I am convinced that there still are many people who just want to hear the truth of God’s Word....
- they don't want it sugar-coated.....they don't want it watered down.....
- and if you’re that kind of a person this morning, I want you to know, we’re very thankful for you.

- now I realize that some might say this morning, PV, I want to do right...but I’m struggling with all of this.....
- it’s hard to relinquish control of my life and be willing to deny myself....
- the cross as an instrument of denial is a difficult thing....

- something that might help us is remembering the context in which this principle was given.
- remember, we read the verses at the beginning this morning.....
- Jesus had been telling his disciples how He would have to suffer many things, and be rejected by the elders and the chief priests and the scribes, and be killed, and after three days rise again.
- the Scripture even says, And He was stating the matter plainly.

- do you remember what Peter did with that information?
- the Bible says that  he took Jesus aside and began to rebuke Him.
- wouldn’t you have liked to hear that conversation?  (talk about putting your foot in your mouth!)

- but do you remember how Jesus responded?
- "Get behind Me, Satan; for you are not setting your mind on God's interests, but man's."
- see, when we’re struggling with this issue of embracing the cross as an instrument of denial, of learning what it means to deny ourselves....
- its very likely that we too, are setting our minds, not on God’s interests, but man’s.

- friend, in what area of your life do you need to especially practice “denying yourself”?
1) Is it in the way you handle your anger?

2) Is it the way you respond to authority?

3) Is it in the way you treat those under you?

4) Is it in the way you handle your money?

5) Is it in your willingness to serve?

6) Is it in your unwillingness to study God’s Word and pray?

7) Is it in the effort you’re putting into getting rid of a sinful habit?

- the cross is an instrument of denial....in what area of your life do you need to especially practice “denying yourself”?

- now, we’ve talked about The Person of Self-Denial, and the Process of Self-Denial....let’s conclude with.....


III. The Product of Self-Denial.


- a fair question to ask would be, what happens to the person who follows this principle?
- Jesus answered that in Mark 8:35
Mark 8:35 - For whoever wishes to save his life shall lose it; but whoever loses his life for My sake and the gospel's shall save it.

- when you learn to deny yourself, there’s an abundant life available in Christ that is worth the effort.
- and these disciples learned that.
- I encouraged you several weeks ago to read a book by Max Lucado entitled “No Wonder They Call Him Savior”.
- let me read a section from the book entitled “The Roar”

- read chapter 33, pp. 143-44.


 

 

 

 

 


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Steve Viars

B.S. - Bible, Baptist Bible College
M.Div. - Grace Theological Seminary
D.Min. - Westminster Theological Seminary

Pastor Steve Viars has served at Faith Church since 1987. He and his wife Kris were married in 1982 and have two married daughters, a son, and two grandchildren. Pastor Viars’ gifted teaching ministry, enthusiasm for the Word of God, and organizational skills are instrumental in equipping Faith Church. He oversees the staff, deacons, and all Faith ministries and serves on the boards of the Association of Certified Biblical Counselors, Biblical Counseling Coalition, Vision of Hope, and the Faith Community Development Corporation.

Read Steve Viars’ Journey to Faith for the full account of how the Lord led Pastor Viars to Faith Church.

View Pastor Viars' Salvation Testimony Video