Aug 17 – This week’s prayer letter is based on the Blog article from 5 August on Self-Denial.
Self-denial is setting aside or stopping anything that hinders our walk with the Lord. It is recognising that there are things we do which negatively impact our discipleship journey. Self-denial reminds us that there are difficult choices to be made in following Jesus. Throughout the history of the church, self-denial has been one of the key cornerstones of biblical faith.
Father, as I wrestle with the cost of self-denial, and seek to follow the pathway Jesus walked, fill me with Your Spirit and word, with Your grace, love and strength. I lay my life on the altar today – I hear Your call to do so.
This moment I obey. The fields are white unto harvest, Lord, and Your servants are relatively few. Hear am I – fit me for Your worship, service and purposes. In Jesus’ name. Amen
Aug 18 – Luke 9 is all about the cost of being a disciple, being prepared for ministry, and commissioned into Christ’s service. This reaches its apex in verses 21-27.
Read these verses speaking the words out loud – speaking out the words of Scripture produces faith and is a powerful means of reading: ‘Jesus warned His disciples not to tell anyone who He was [Peter had just declared Him to be God’s Messiah]. 22“The Son of Man must suffer many terrible things,” He said. “He will be rejected by the elders, the leading priests, and the teachers of religious law. He will be killed, but on the third day He will be raised from the dead.”
23Then He said to the crowd, “If any of you wants to be My follower, you must give up your own way [deny yourself], take up your cross daily, and follow Me. 24If you try to hang on to your life, you will lose it. But if you give up your life for My sake, you will save it. 25And what do you benefit if you gain the whole world but are yourself lost or destroyed? 26If anyone is ashamed of Me and My message, the Son of Man will be ashamed of that person when He returns in His glory and in the glory of the Father and the holy angels.’
Father, the difference between the world’s definition of self-denial and Christ’s is starkly presented. To hang onto your life, seek to protect your life determining when and where you will choose to follow Jesus, does not work. To be willing to lay it all down for the sake and cause of Christ is at the heart of Jesus’ teaching – help me to do so.
There is nothing we can barter with You for the salvation of our souls. To stand with Christ is to follow the pathway He walked. Following a life of self-interest, of putting yourself first, is tantamount to being ashamed of Jesus and His commission to make disciples. I pray for all those in our church online and in person – enable each of us to follow this pathway denying self and embracing the cause of Christ. Amen
Aug 19 – Deny yourself – aparneomai – to have no relationship with self, to deliberately forget one’s self, to not focus on one’s own self or your own interests. It carries the idea of giving up your own way and will.
Lord Jesus, the challenge is to let You lead. Peterson puts it this way in The Message, ‘You’re not in the driver’s seat—I am.’ When You are in the driving seat – our lives are then so much more fruitful and pleasing to Father God. A lady in my home church used to pray, ‘Lord, be thou my pilot through life.’ Lord, be thou the pilot of my life.
So often we want to take back the steering wheel and redirect our lives taking the easier route avoiding suffering, difficulties and challenges. Yet the wise choice is to give You the steering wheel.
Forgive me for those times when I have sought to take back control of my own life – or to use controlling means to ‘manage’ other people’s lives getting them to do what I want. This is never a godly route, is carnal and destructive, and does not bring honour and glory to You. Cleanse me of the negative effects these actions bring into my life, and sanctify me setting me apart to follow You free of this guilt and sin.
I pray today that I will be able to forget self and my own interests whenever these are contrary to Your will and interests. As our church teaches Your truth on self-denial, taking up one’s cross and following Christ – anoint us in order to be effective seeing many lives transformed into mature disciples who make disciples as a result. Amen
Aug 20 – Take up your cross daily – the Amplified adds in brackets, ‘expressing a willingness to endure whatever may come.’ Father, the cross is always the place of death to self-protection or serving our own self-interests. It is a choice we have to make ‘daily,’ something Matthew and Mark do not mention in their parallel accounts (Matthew 16:24-27; Mark 8:34-38). This is a daily choice choosing spiritual life and power over against spiritual weakness and ineffectiveness.
Paul emphasised the centrality of Christ’s cross to our salvation, life of discipleship and mission, on Christ’s behalf, to the world. However, our cross is the place where we identify with Christ – often a lonely place which identifies us with Christ in the full glare of the world’s gaze and displeasure.
Lord Jesus, You linked this self-sacrificing, focussed life with being a true disciple. You continually say to us today – just as two thousand years ago – ‘follow Me.’
Thank You for the hope in Your famous words twice repeated to Peter as You restored his spiritual walk (John 21:19, 22), after Peter’s denial of You in the courtyard on the night of Your arrest. Peter had said that he would deny himself and follow You even to death (John 13:31-38), but fear took over and he denied You. As You spiritually restored him – so You still restore the prodigals and those who didn’t pay the price of self-denial in the past.
I pray today that many prodigals, and many who made bad choices in the past, will be spiritually restored through the ministry of the Spirit in Telford Elim, online and in person. That these men, women and young people will, like Peter, enter a new stage forgiven, filled the Spirit, whole-heartedly committed to Your cause, and willing to deny themselves, lay their lives down as living sacrifices, take up their cross, and live as Your worshipping servants. In Jesus’ name. Amen
Aug 21 – Father, it is one of the impressive things about this passage, Luke 9, before challenging the people about the true cost of following Him, Jesus informed the disciples of the terrible cost He Himself would have to pay in order to follow Your way. Thank You for all that He did to purchase our salvation – we fall down in worship and adoration giving thanks and praise for his amazing atoning sacrifice.
When laying out the reality of the challenges, and cost of following Your way, in essence He said, ‘I am going before you preparing the way and setting you an example.’ Jesus wasn’t asking anything of the people that He wasn’t personally willing to do Himself – He walked the pathway that included suffering, rejection, and death, but also gloriously, resurrection.
As I reflect on this today, I ask that in my relationships, finances, work, rest, study, relaxation, mission and devotion – I will walk the pathway You call me to following Christ in step with Your Spirit. Amen
Aug 22 – Father, to follow Christ is to follow the pathway He Himself has trod. The footsteps we follow are the footsteps of Your Son, the Messiah. This idea of a journey or pilgrimage through life is at the heart of the biblical narrative. Help me to see myself as a pilgrim in this world passing through following the sacred Way of Christ. Whatever holds me back, or any in our church, help us to recognise these things denying ourselves through the guidance and wise counsel of Scripture, Your Spirit, and our brothers and sisters.
The Dictionary of Bible Themes says this about self-denial, ‘The willingness to deny oneself possessions or status, in order to grow in holiness and commitment to God’ (https://www.biblegateway.com/resources/dictionary-of-bible-themes/8475-self-denial). As we live this way we grow in our commitment to Christ, and, as we spend time in His presence, He shares His holiness with us. As we do this we gain spiritual power and understanding. The Bible has many references to people who lived this way – thank You for these examples, Lord.
Hebrews 11:25 says that Moses chose ‘instead to suffer mistreatment with the people of God. Moses preferred faith’s certainty above the momentary enjoyment of sin’s pleasures’ (TPT). Paul said to the church at Caesarea, which was trying desperately to stop him going to Jerusalem after Agabus’ prophesy that Paul would be arrested there, ‘“Why do you cry and break my heart with your tears? Don’t you know that I’m prepared not only to be imprisoned but to die in Jerusalem for the sake of the wonder of the name of our Lord Jesus?” (TPT). I lay myself on Your altar and ask for the grace I need in order to do so. In Jesus’ name and for His sake. Amen
Aug 23 – Father, the question is a powerful one, ‘do you want to follow Jesus?’ It is the question that the Gospel still poses. If you want to be Christ’s follower – then this passage tells you what you need to do – to choose to do so, deny oneself, take up your cross and give Him the steering wheel of your life. I pray that Your word, Spirit, church and general revelation will guide me.
To keep following Jesus when it is difficult, when it is impossible, when it costs too much, when the world rejects us because of the message we live out and preach – is not easy, but is possible when we are totally committed to His cause in the Spirit’s power.
In order to do so – every day I need to hand the steering wheel of my life over to Christ, ‘be thou my pilot,’ deny self, take up my cross, and follow Jesus.
It is denying myself and laying my life down as a living sacrifice – the point where my flesh refuses to die, the place where I die to the life of self and embrace the life of Christ.
Thinking of all in our church online and in person – as we fill our lives with Your word, asking for the Spirit’s fullness, become single-mindedly committed to the cause of following Jesus, You will give us the grace, love and strength we will need.
In this world we have no permanent home. We are not to root ourselves in a location or country – we are to root ourselves in Christ. Our lives may be lived in a particular nation or locale, but it is only the setting for our discipleship journey. It is worshipping and serving Christ through life that counts – enable me to do so.
Selfish interests always take me away from the pathway of Christ, from following in His footsteps. I pray that Telford Elim will lead many men, women, young people and children to Christ because of its people’s witness and Christian manner of living, and its ministries, and to follow Him according to His way. In Jesus’ name and for His glory. Amen