Instantaneous gratification! Does this phrase sound familiar? With the rise in technology especially in the 21st century, almost everything is at our fingertips and instantaneous gratification has now become a norm much more than ever! We get a lot of things much faster now but how much ever instantaneously we get things, it doesn’t make much of a difference except for reducing the headache of waiting! This gratification is only for a while and then, it evaporates! Fastness in getting things is not making any significant difference then, what is the key to true and lasting joy?
As we have seen in one of my earlier articles, nothing in this world can ever satisfy us truly and we can only have true and lasting joy when we are related to the ultimate and infinite source of satisfaction i.e. Jesus. Jesus said, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never go hungry and whoever believes in me will never go thirsty.” (John 6:35) He also said that he had come into this world so that we may have the fullness of life (John 10:10). Then, how can we be joyful in and through Jesus and have fullness of life? That’s what I’m going to talk about in this article.
Who can be a better guide to this except for Jesus himself who enjoyed fullness of life? What could be a better way except for following him and doing what Jesus did? Then, what is following Jesus? Jesus said, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves, take up the cross and follow me.”(Matthew 16:24) This time we’ll look at what is ‘denying ourselves’?
If we look at the passage and the verse in which these words were written we get the answers in the preceding and succeeding verses. Denying ourselves broadly means putting God’s concerns over our concerns by dying to ourselves so that we may have fullness of life. Wow! That’s startling, isn’t it? The world tells us to live our lives to the fullest by doing whatever we want to do but Jesus says exactly the opposite i.e. deny yourself! It doesn’t seem to make sense. How is that possible then?
Let’s take a look at the life of Jesus then, to make sense. He left his throne in heaven and came into this world – lived in an ordinary household until he was 30 years and later during his ministry, he lived as a homeless man. Finally, he was brutally crucified as planned, as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. He did all of this to deliver us from sin which is a kill-joy, which ultimately leads to eternal damnation out of his amazing love to give us true and lasting joy and eternal life. This is the ultimate example of denying oneself!
What did he ultimately get out of it? The joy of seeing us saved from sin and eternal damnation. That’s why he said to his disciples, “Love one another as I have loved you (by willing to even lay down our lives as Jesus did). I’m telling you this so that ‘my joy’ may be in you and your joy may be ‘full’.” (John 15:11-12) This is fullness of life i.e. having Christ-like (true and lasting) joy through which we can experience fullness of joy. Jesus poured out his life because of his love for us and for the joy that was set before him.
Jesus paid the ultimate cost already for giving us true and lasting joy and we can appropriate it by doing what he did i.e. denying ourselves. He denied himself by giving up all his rights of being God and made himself nothing by becoming a human (in a way that even a fraction of his divine nature was not compromised) for his Father’s glory and for our salvation.
This implies denying ourselves means giving up any rights or privileges (especially, our worldly wants/desires) that we think we have for the sake of Christ, counting ourselves as nothing for Christ’s will to be done in our lives, be willing to give up our lives, our all for the sake of knowing and gaining Christ and his joy which is superior to any other joy.
Jesus calls us to deny ourselves to gain something far more superior i.e. him and his joy!
How can we start this journey of denying ourselves to experience superior Christ-like joy?
It starts with the first act of denying ourselves i.e. surrendering our lives to Christ by trusting in him with our life acknowledging that,
- We are sinners and in our strength we can gain nothing but fleeting pleasures and ultimately end up in hell and
- Through him alone we can be saved and in him alone we can have true and lasting joy, pleasure and satisfaction.
When we deny ourselves, we put God’s concerns above ours! We strive to live Christ-like life than a worldly life i.e. we obey God unconditionally. This is the key to having a superior and everlasting joy. Therefore, denying ourselves is a delight and not a duty!
When we realize that, we give ourselves, our all cheerfully for the superior Christ-like joy that is to come. We start to pour out ourselves for the sake of God and others as Jesus did and that is by giving our time, our talents/skills and our resources for God and others instead of using or keeping or storing them for ourselves. Denying oneself leads to self-giving resulting in utmost joy!
Then, how do we deny ourselves in our daily lives and live like Christ?
See the table* below,
The order of priority in order to live a Christ-like life should be:
(A)Our spiritual needs – Without which we can’t live like Christ.
(C)Our other needs – With which we can live like Christ.
(B)Our desires/wants – Without which we can live like Christ – These can be minimized.
(D)Anything related to sin – With which we can’t live like Christ – These must be avoided at any cost.
In my case, biggest clash comes between spiritual needs (A) and other needs (C) because they both seem legitimate but spiritual needs must always come first because Jesus said, “Man shall not live by bread alone but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.” (Matthew 4:4) Also he said, “Seek ye first the kingdom of God and his righteousness and all these things will be given to you as well.” (Matthew 6:33) And, Jesus lived that way!
Living a Christ-like life may not show desired results immediately and it can be frustrating especially as we live in an age of instantaneous gratification. Because of this, we may be tempted to go back to our self-seeking cycles. In this scenario, let’s remember that, “Self-seeking may give us instantaneous gratification and self-giving may not but, self-giving guarantees us legitimate, everlasting and utmost gratification even though it is delayed.”
In conclusion, we can say that according to the Bible, true and lasting joy can’t be had by self-seeking means but by self-giving means and this is possible only when we deny ourselves and live like Christ!
*Acknowledgement: Special thanks to Amos for making the table colorful!