The Lie in Religious Self-Denial


The call of the average Christian life is all about giving up and sacrificing one’s desires—often times our greatest desires and passions—to a bitter death on a cross with Jesus. It’s really pretty depressing, the thought of giving up what you love most…forever. It’s easy to see why so many Christians feel more like victims instead of victors. Those are probably the folks we see walking around, popping Prozac.

I happen to know. This used to be my story.

I’ve given up a lot of loves and dreams for God throughout my life, thinking I was waving goodbye f-o-r-e-v-e-r. These were not bad things. On the contrary, they were good things most precious to me: relationships and people I loved deeply, a beautiful home we built and put our entire hearts into (we had no idea God would ask for it back), a book I wrote lovingly and painstakingly over the course of two years (and the giant dream to go along with it), chocolate chip cookies and that includes the dough, :( and by far the worst of all, opportunities for normal parent-child relationship and memory making with my girls in the never ending wake of a very bitter divorce more than 14 years ago.

There came a time when, for the sake of my girls’ well being and best interest, God asked me to let them go. He used the story of the two women fighting over the baby in front of Solomon, where the real mother gave her baby up so it could be kept whole, spared being cut in two by a sword. My own heart, slashed in two more times than I could count, became the casualty of the sword instead. But a mother’s love can overcome its own self, if necessary, for the well being of her children.

I didn’t consciously realize that the hopelessness brought into my life from all this giving up. At times I was drowning in the feelings of permanent lostness of things I loved and desired down to my toenails. I didn’t recognize that this is why I was so gloomy for so many years. It wasn’t until I discovered the great truth that I was set free from the hopelessness and the lie of forever self-denial.

This alternative truth of which I speak? Delayed gratification. God doesn’t require that we give things up forever, only sometimes that we delay receiving them for some greater good (which we might not fully understand now).

Today I know that NOTHING IS EVER LOST because everything is in God.

“For from Him and through Him and to Him are all things…[He] ascended far above all the heavens, so that He might fill all things…He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together” (Rom. 11:36; Eph. 4:10; Col. 1:17).

“What man among you, if he has a hundred sheep and has lost one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the open pasture and go after the one which is lost until he finds it” (Luke 15:4)?

Let that beautiful truth sink in for a minute. God knew all along that those things He asked me to give up (and those that wandered away from Him, lost) were only temporary losses, not forever losses. What a liberating, empowering, hopeful, life-changing truth.

…And today I know that everything He created is truly good in its original, renewable form. Everything (including people) is in the process of going back to God’s best intent, fully restored.

“And that He may send Jesus, the Christ appointed for you, whom heaven must receive until the period of the restoration of all things about which God spoke by the mouth of His holy prophets from ancient time… For it was the Father’s good pleasure for all the fullness to dwell in Him, and through Him to reconcile all things to Himself, having made peace through the blood of His cross; through Him, I say, whether things on earth or things in heaven.” (Acts 3:20-21; Col. 1:19-20).

Let’s apply this to some real life. In addition to myself, I have met people for whom this truth could radically alter the course and karma :-) of their lives. What if…everything you love about this world—and especially everything you feel that you’ve been asked (or forced) to give up for now—would be waiting for you in an even higher, better, and more satisfying form in your “next phase of life”?

Imagine what it could do for those who gave up or never had homes? Or for those who lost lovers, or never knew the magic of intimacy, or were never able to have children? Or for those who were for some reason separated from their children? What if they could just know that “not now” was never meant to be “forever”?

“And everyone who has given up houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or property, for my sake, will receive a hundred times as much in return and will have age-abiding life” (Matt. 19:29).

Do you believe this? I do.

Am I suggesting that there will be literal houses and, God forbid, sexual intercourse and reproduction in the Kingdom? Here’s what I AM saying (haha, nice parallel). I believe that God keeps His word. He is the one who promised that Abraham’s descendants would number like stars, Isaac’s descendants would number like sand, and Jacob’s descendants would number like dust. Sure, these are also symbolic spiritual implications, but I also believe God plans to fulfill His promises on many levels, including within the natural world. There are many such pictures and promises in the Bible about offspring being a part of our future. There are many, many promises about all lost dreams being restored.

When the LORD brought back the captive ones of Zion, we were like those who dream. Then our mouth was filled with laughter and our tongue with joyful shouting; …those who sow in tears shall reap with joyful shouting. He who goes to and fro weeping, carrying his bag of seed, shall indeed come again with a shout of joy, bringing his sheaves with him” (Ps. 126 selections).

In Revelation 21:5, Jesus said, “Behold, I am making all things new. …Write, for these words are faithful and true.” What a promise! I love the Greek word used for new, “kainos,” (from the Hebrew word Canaan or the Promised Land). Strong’s 2537:kainós – properly, new in quality (innovation), fresh in development or opportunity.” Kainos primarily conveys the idea of being made fresh and young, and to me implies the renewal of our dreams and passions to a youthful state.

I don’t know for sure how it’s all going to happen, but whatever the coming reality, I believe it will be similar to but infinitely better and more fulfilling than what we know or have now. After all, the Kingdom is not about the absence of desire, but about the fulfillment of it. We will find that nothing was ever really given up, or sacrificed, or lost. And whatever dreams we’ve watched go down the gutter here are only small droplets of water, making their way toward an ocean of joy, desire, passion, and beauty. I believe the new will be familiar, but it will far surpass what we have ever experienced here.

One of my favorite sayings in life is this: Every “no” is a “yes” to something better. What is that something better? It is the restoration of everything that is lost at a time when we can appreciate it and enjoy it most.

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