Over the past few weeks, we’ve been exploring the issue of self-denial. We talked about the difference between self-denial and self-sacrifice, in an excerpt from B.B. Warfield’s comments on Philippians 2. This article showed us that self-denial can be it’s own idol, and the more we focus on self-denial, the more we are really just focusing on ourselves. Our examination of the event in history known as the Affair of the Sausages showed us that self-denial done out of obligation or duty, rather than from the heart, becomes a mindless and purposeless gesture.
As I’ve been contemplating these issues, I’m drawn over and over to John the Baptist’s example. Here was a man who from birth was steeped in a tradition of self-denial, since he had been set apart with the Nazirite vows (see Numbers 6). He lived a life of self-denial on par with anyone.
Yet that is not the compelling part of his example to me. Hindus, Buddhists, Muslims–anyone can learn the skills of self-denial. For John, though, his self-denial was wrapped up in one important purpose: the worship of Jesus.
In John 3:29-30, John says of Jesus, “Therefore, I am filled with joy at his success. He must become greater and greater, and I must become less and less.”
For John, self-sacrifice had a clear purpose: to increase the renown of Christ in the world. His wasn’t a self-focused denial, but a mission to which God had called him.
As we meditate on this scripture passage, reflect on this question:
What in your life might need to be sacrificed so that Christ can be exalted?