good which through it we seek to confer upon our neighbor. Therefore it is not the blind impulse of self-surrender that is required, but the intelligent appreciation of what the welfare of others requires and how it can best be served. In this spirit, our Lord practiced the great self-denial of his entire earthly life; he brought this sacrifice because he understood its necessity and the beneficial results that would accrue from it for the glory of God and the salvation of mankind. In all minor matters as well the same principle should be applied. We may sacrifice ourselves for the physical, temporal comfort and welfare of our fellowman. But it would be wrong to do this, if by doing so, by indulging his natural desires, we were to endanger his higher moral and spiritual life. It would be a useless procedure if the natural life in one were to be curtailed in order that the natural life in another might be fostered. Both in the one who practices the self-denial and in the one for whose sake it is incurred, the supreme end sought for should always be the true moral and spiritual welfare of the soul; and this thought ought to control and in certain cases to limit the Christian in his altruistic conduct. It may render it necessary for us to deny ourselves the exercise of self-denial in order that the higher good of our brother may be promoted. Next to this stands a self-denial which the disciple is required to practice for the sake of God and the kingdom of God. God claims our supreme affection. He asks that we shall love him with all the mind, all the soul, all the heart, all the strength; that there shall be no division of allegiance; that nothing else shall be interposed between ourselves and him as the great end for whom we exist; that we shall worship no other gods beside him. Now in a perfectly normal state of things, in a world free from sin, there would be nothing in such an absolute claim which would have to interfere in the least with the unrestricted exercise of all the legitimate functions of our natural life. For in man's normal condition, everythingâ€“whether he eats or drinks or does anything elseâ€“ is made subservient to the divine glory, so that the natural instead of encroaching upon the spiritual becomes itself spiritualized and receives a religious consecration, thus rendering all selfdenial superfluous. But in such a state the Christian does not exist for the present. He lives in a world of disharmony and conflicting forces in which the true balance and proportion of things has been lost. And therefore, the natural constantly tends to engross him in such a sense and to such an extent as to draw him away from God. Hence it is necessary that he should force it back within its proper limits wherever it interferes with his undivided devotion to the service of God. Our Lord frequently speaks of self-denial for the sake of God in this sense. The kingdom of God and God's righteousness are to be sought first. The Christian ought to wean himself from that pagan seeking after the things of this life which treats them as if they were the ultimate realities, which virtually puts them in the place of God. Martha was cumbered with much serving while only one thing was supremely needful; and by attending to this one thing Mary had chosen the good part. How hardly shall they that have riches enter into the kingdom of God. Circumstances arose in which Jesus demanded the giving away of all earthly goods; nay, where he warned against the yielding to the claims of natural affection, where he refused permission to go and bury one's father and advised the abstention from marriage because the interests of the kingdom of God could not be properly served without these renunciations. But here again he kept clearly in view the positive end to which all self-denial must be directed. The negative self-repression must be accompanied by a positive self-surrender to God and the concerns of his kingdom. Without the cultivation of the latter, the former would not only be useless but harmful. Our Lord himself is the great example in this respect. He not only perfectly glorified God in his use of the natural world, but also kept his detachment from the world free from every taint of unnaturalness and austerity by the positive joy and satisfaction he found in always serving the Father.
Published on Apr 28, 2010
Published on Apr 28, 2010
A Sermon on Matthew 16:24-25 can render us absolutely secure to the allurements of sin. It is only the continuous supply of the grace of God...