Saving Faith is a Self-Renouncing Faith

by Mike Ratliff

24 Τότε ὁ Ἰησοῦς εἶπεν τοῖς μαθηταῖς αὐτοῦ· εἴ τις θέλει ὀπίσω μου ἐλθεῖν, ἀπαρνησάσθω ἑαυτὸν καὶ ἀράτω τὸν σταυρὸν αὐτοῦ καὶ ἀκολουθείτω μοι. 25 ὃς γὰρ ἐὰν θέλῃ τὴν ψυχὴν αὐτοῦ σῶσαι ἀπολέσει αὐτήν· ὃς δ᾽ ἂν ἀπολέσῃ τὴν ψυχὴν αὐτοῦ ἕνεκεν ἐμοῦ εὑρήσει αὐτήν. (Matthew 16:24,25 NA27)

24 Then Jesus said to his disciples, “If someone wishes to come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me, 25 for whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life because of me will find it.” (Matthew 16:24,25 Possessing the Treasure New Testament V1)

As we have been emphasizing for quite some time now, the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ is a message given to be passed on as “Good News” of the completed word of Christ on behalf of those he came to save. The message is about his incarnation, his perfect life, his death on the cross, his three days and nights in the tomb, and his resurrection. All of these things were attested to by witnesses. The resurrection is the proof that our Lord is God and that the work of the Atonement is complete.  Those who hear the Gospel, believe it, receive it by grace through faith and repent as they turn to Christ as Lord and Saviour. As is made clear in Ephesians 2:1-10, there is no one is able to do this on their own, God must intervene making then alive in Christ who were once dead in their sins so they could believe and be saved. 

Growing up in a Southern Baptist Church in the 1950’s and 1960’s in Oklahoma, I saw a lot of people walk those aisles during those endless altar calls at the end of each sermon. I also saw many of those same people, some of them my classmates at school, who were completely unchanged just a few days or weeks later. In those Sunday School classes and later Youth Groups during that period, the emphasis was highly moralistic. I’m not saying we didn’t hear the Gospel because we did, but it was always presented in such a way that there was something we had to do about it. As I witnessed a religious system that seemed to be all about moralism, I rebelled. As soon as I was old enough and left home, I severed all my ties with that “moralistic therapeutic deism” that had begun to creep into the SBC during that period. The odd thing was, in all those years of Sunday School and Church, I really learned a great deal about the Bible STORIES, but I most certainly did not know Jesus. I knew what was right from what was wrong. That came from knowing the Law so well from all those years in that type of church system.

What was wrong? These people meant well. However, they had taken the Gospel and turned into a works-righteousness based religious system even though they would never have admitted to having done that. They could not conceive of simply preaching the Gospel as the completed work of Christ after presenting the Law that no one is worthy before God. They would get that Law part right, but when it came to the Gospel part and talk about death of Christ on the Cross then it would change into me having to complete the transaction and that Jesus was calling me, hoping that I would come, but only I could finish it. I remember hearing an entire sermon on the two words “Believe on” as when Paul told the Philippian Jailor to “Believe on” the Lord Jesus Christ and you shall be saved… It was all about completing that transaction.

            [35] Jesus said to them, [x]“I am the bread of life; [y]whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst. [36] But I said to you that you have seen me and yet do not believe. [37] [z]All that [a]the Father gives me will come to me, and [b]whoever comes to me I will never cast out. [38] For [c]I have come down from heaven, not to do [d]my own will but [d]the will of him [e]who sent me. [39] And [f]this is the will of him who sent me, [g]that I should lose nothing of [h]all that he has given me, but [i]raise it up on the last day. [40] For this is the will of my Father, that everyone who [j]looks on the Son and [k]believes in him [l]should have eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day.”

(John 6:35-40 ESV) 

[Cross References]

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[x] ver. 41, 48, 51; [ver. 58]

[y] ch. 4:14; 7:37; [ch. 5:40; Matt. 11:28; Rev. 7:16]

[z] ver. 39; ch. 17:2

[a] ch. 10:29; 17:6, 9, 24

[b] ch. 10:28; 17:12

[c] See ch. 3:13

[d] See ch. 5:30

[d] See ch. 5:30

[e] See ch. 4:34

[f] ch. 10:28, 29; Matt. 18:14

[g] ch. 17:12; 18:9

[h] ver. 37

[i] ver. 40, 44, 54; [ch. 11:25; 1 Cor. 6:14]

[j] ch. 12:45; 14:17, 19

[k] ver. 47; ch. 3:15, 16

[l] ver. 27, 54; ch. 4:14

 

            [43] Jesus answered them, “Do not grumble among yourselves. [44] No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me [q]draws him. And [r]I will raise him up on the last day.

(John 6:43-44 ESV) 

[Cross References]

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[q] ch. 12:32; Jer. 31:3; Hos. 11:4; [ver. 65; ch. 4:23]

[r] ver. 39

Who does the work of drawing his people to belief? It is God himself. All those who are drawn believe, all who believe are kept, and all of them will be raised up on the last day. Here is another one.

[The Conversion of Lydia]

            [11] So, setting sail from Troas, we [n]made a direct voyage to Samothrace, and the following day to Neapolis, [12] and from there to [o]Philippi, which is a leading city of the[f1] district of Macedonia and [p]a Roman colony. We remained in this city some days. [13] And [q]on the Sabbath day we went outside the gate [r]to the riverside, where we supposed there was a place of prayer, and we [s]sat down and spoke to the women who had come together. [14] One who heard us was a woman named Lydia, from the city of Thyatira, a seller of purple goods, [t]who was a worshiper of God. The Lord [u]opened her heart to pay attention to what was said by Paul. [15] And after she was baptized, [v]and her household as well, she urged us, saying, “If you have judged me to be faithful to the Lord, come to my house and stay.” And she [w]prevailed upon us.           

(Acts 16:11-15 ESV) 

[Cross References]

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[n] ch. 21:1

[o] Phil. 1:1; 1 Thess. 2:2

[p] [ver. 21]

[q] See ch. 13:14

[r] [Ezra 8:15, 21; Ps. 137:1]

[s] Matt. 5:1

[t] ch. 18:7

[u] See Luke 24:45

[v] See ch. 11:14

[w] Gen. 19:3; Luke 24:29

 

[Footnotes]

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[1] 16:12 Or that

Who opened Lydia’s heart? Did she do it or did the Lord? Now, let us look at the passage I placed at top of this post. What is the nature of this saving faith that all whom God saves have? Is it self-focused? Is it focused on the world and its ways? What does Jesus say? No, it is self-denying faith that is focused on following Jesus. We see this as evidence of genuine saving faith all through the New Testament and it becomes more and more prevalent as believers are correctly shepherded or led after they believe. I’d like to look at one more passage that was part of my daily Bible reading today.

[Sacrifices Pleasing to God]

            [13:1] Let [u]brotherly love continue. [2] [v]Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for thereby [w]some have entertained angels unawares. [3] [x]Remember those who are in prison, as though in prison with them, and those who are mistreated, since you also are in the body. [4] [y]Let marriage be held in honor among all, and let the marriage bed be undefiled, for God will judge [z]the sexually immoral and adulterous. [5] Keep your life [a]free from love of money, and [b]be content with what you have, for he has said, [c]“I will never leave you nor forsake you.” [6] So we can confidently say,

            [d]“The Lord is my helper;

                        [e]I will not fear;

            what can man do to me?”

            [7] Remember [f]your leaders, those who spoke to you the word of God. Consider the outcome of their way of life, and [g]imitate their faith. [8] Jesus Christ is [h]the same yesterday and today and forever. [9] Do not be [i]led away by diverse and strange teachings, for it is good for the heart to be strengthened by grace, [j]not by foods, which have not benefited those devoted to them. [10] We have an altar [k]from which those who serve the tent have no right to eat. [11] For [l]the bodies of those animals whose blood is brought into the holy places by the high priest as a sacrifice for sin are burned [m]outside the camp. [12] So Jesus also [n]suffered [o]outside the gate in order to sanctify the people [p]through his own blood. [13] Therefore let us go to him outside the camp and bear [q]the reproach he endured. [14] For [r]here we have no lasting city, but we seek the city that is to come. [15] [s]Through him then let us continually offer up [t]a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, [u]the fruit of lips that acknowledge his name. [16] Do not neglect to do good and [v]to share what you have, for such [w]sacrifices are pleasing to God.

            [17] Obey [x]your leaders and submit to them, [y]for they are keeping watch over your souls, as those who will have to [z]give an account. [a]Let them do this with joy and not with groaning, for that would be of no advantage to you.

            [18] [b]Pray for us, for we are sure that we have a clear conscience, desiring to act honorably in all things. [19] I urge you the more earnestly to do this in order [c]that I may be restored to you the sooner.           

(Hebrews 13:1-19 ESV) 

[Cross References]

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[u] Rom. 12:10; 1 Thess. 4:9; 1 Pet. 1:22; 2 Pet. 1:7; [1 Pet. 2:17; 3:8; 1 John 3:10; 4:7, 20, 21]

[v] See Matt. 25:35; 1 Pet. 4:9

[w] Gen. 18:3; 19:2

[x] ch. 10:34; Matt. 25:36

[y] 1 Cor. 7:38; [1 Tim. 4:3]

[z] See 1 Cor. 6:9

[a] 1 Tim. 3:3

[b] 1 Tim. 6:7, 8; [Phil. 4:11]; See Matt. 6:25

[c] Cited from Josh. 1:5; [Ps. 37:25; 2 Cor. 4:9]

[d] Cited from Ps. 118:6; [Ps. 27:1]

[e] Ps. 56:4, 11

[f] ver. 17, 24

[g] [ch. 6:12]

[h] ch. 1:12; John 8:58; Rev. 1:4, 8; [2 Cor. 1:19]

[i] Jude 12; See Eph. 4:14

[j] See Col. 2:16

[k] [1 Cor. 9:13; 10:18]

[l] See Ex. 29:14

[m] ver. 13

[n] ch. 9:12

[o] Matt. 21:39; 27:32; John 19:17, 20; [Acts 7:58]

[p] [Rev. 14:20]

[q] ch. 11:26; 1 Pet. 4:14

[r] [ch. 11:10, 16; 12:28; Mic. 2:10]; See Eph. 2:19

[s] Eph. 5:20

[t] Lev. 7:12; Ps. 107:22; 116:17

[u] Isa. 57:19; Hos. 14:2; [Ps. 119:108]

[v] See Rom. 12:13

[w] Mic. 6:7, 8; Phil. 4:18

[x] ver. 7, 24

[y] See Ezek. 3:17

[z] Jer. 13:20; Ezek. 34:10

[a] [Acts 20:24, 31]

[b] 1 Thess. 5:25; 2 Thess. 3:1

[c] [Philem. 22]

This is all good, but lets focus on vv 12-13. Jesus bore our sins outside the camp. He bore our reproach for us. He became sin on our behalf paying the debt that we could not pay. Now, let us take up our own crosses and follow him outside the camp to bear the reproach he endured. What this means is that this world is not our home. True saving faith is self-renouncing faith that is willing to lose whatever this world has to offer if that means we bear the same reproach as Christ.

All of us undoubtedly have loved ones who are outside of the Family of God. They are not in Christ. They are in their sins and, even though that is an empty, worthless lifestyle, they see no value in what we have in Christ. The only way that they will ever believe is if our Lord opens their heart to believe, just as he did with Lydia and just as he did with you and me. Therefore, we must always be ready to give them the Gospel, to give an account of the hope that is within us. God’s will be done.

Soli Deo Gloria!

16 thoughts on “Saving Faith is a Self-Renouncing Faith

  1. Finally, a man who sees it right! (all along I might add) Thank you brother! The system would only cleve to one part of what you put forth today, just as they always do…out of context…and that part being:
    [17] Obey [x]your leaders and submit to them, [y]for they are keeping watch over your souls, as those who will have to [z]give an account. [a]Let them do this with joy and not with groaning, for that would be of no advantage to you.
    Thus many are kept in darkness as the Word is twisted into a hobble of tradition they gladly wear with a smile upon their face as they worship their annointed one and his building program! So sad, really…

  2. Dear Mike,

    This one teaching has so many insights it would really make for a week long study:)

    You said “True saving faith is self-renouncing faith that is willing to lose whatever this world has to offer if that means we bear the same reproach as Christ.” AMEN!

    I found myself in an interesting situation. I was in a mixed group (men and women) being taught biblical instruction by a man and grewing increasingly upset by a logical fallacy that was being used to draw an incorrect conclusion. Well, it would have been “correct” of me to point out the issue [and believe me I held my chair with both hands so as to not raise my hand or fly out of my seat] but at the same time Scripture went through my mind. “Let a woman learn in silence with all submission. And I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man.” 1 Timothy 2:11&12

    The proper, submissive, godly thing for me to do in that situation was to remain silent. I prayed in all earnest that if it was God’s will to deal with this issue then He would raise up a man to approach the teacher. But that is where my prayer ended.

    The point is if I truly believe that God is Sovereign then I must operate within the framework provided in the Scriptures and have the assurance of faith that He will carry out His plan perfectly. Wow, this is a constant struggle because I can sense the reproach they cast on Christ and it is very difficult to bear.

    Praise God for tender mercy of sustaining us! In Christ alone, charisse

  3. That Mike, is the key to all of it God’s Will…not what man says is God’s Will. Keep bringing the meat brother! Every jot and tittle of His Word is perfectly true, yet most pulpits preach 23 pat verses out of context, and most in the pews refuse to see the many warnings against following another. Well did isaiah say, “The profits (pun intended) prophesy lies and the religious leaders rule by their own authority and the people LOVE to have it so, but what will they do in the end there of?”
    Mike, we love our friends and families, and want them to know the joy of the Truth, yet we must accept that there is a very narrow road and few find it, further there is a broad road to destruction where they love to enter in thereby…and there is nothing we can do to convince them otherwise…as sad as that is to our human mind.

    If we work some math, we can see that this great “church age” is a false church age.
    Metropolitan area= 100,000 people
    Admitted christians 70%= 70,000 people (That now includes Jehovah’s Witnesses, and Mormons today thanks to christian ministerial associations decree).
    People who are nominal (pick a percentage? I say 95+%, but lets us 90% are nominal) = 63,000
    That leaves 7,000 believers in 100,000 population (and I believe I am being generous) divided by 2,000 preachers in that Population (if only 2% of population has a preacher degree), and you have 3 believers per preacher who have an average of 70 folks attending a church with an average of 2 preachers per congregation.
    The odds of those 2 people sitting together and fellowshipping are quite low I imagine.
    Think I’m way off?
    Divorce is higher in the church right now then outside the church.
    Abortion is higher among admitted christians then those who do not profess the faith.
    The top faith reported in prisons is christian, then muslim convert in prison is number two.
    But hey do your own math folks, for your area and then divide by the number of churches in your phone book. You will never sing, “We’re together again just praising the Lord” with the same happy feeling again I imagine. Oh, and by the way, the bible says they will think they are doing God a service by destroying you…if you believe we are near the end of some age, and are banking on a pre-tribulation rapture…
    Monergism not synergism folks! His Word is absolutly true in its every word. It is not a cafeteria menu…
    Be prepared in this “out of season” season, to give a (scripture in context) answer for your belief and not an opinion. Let them argue with God and perhaps be convicted by the Word.
    The Good News is only Good after they are convicted by hearing the (Law) bad news.
    Are we not tired of being friends with folks such that we do not jeopardize that friendship with the Truth, only to watch them pass away, to a damned eternity? Is their friendship so valuable to us that we covet it more then an eternity together with our Lord? We do not hang around “bad” people but “good” folks, and grieve at their passing…Spurgeon said something like,” I do not know the elect, for God did not paint a yellow stripe upon their backs, so I preach to who so ever will listen.” We can not convince them, but we can invite them…not to “church” but to the only Savior and our Lord Jesus, just as the Apostlle’s showed us how. Then we can be prepared to disciple them in the Truth, rather then get them “connected” in to a system of traditions where the majority are tares that will set them back…
    My intention is none other then to spur us on to Good Works, which do not bring our salvation, but are a fruit of the Life in us! Let us all be found as faithful servants and wise virgins when He returns to gather us!!

  4. Thanks for sharing that Charisse. I know of your struggle and being placed in circumstances in which “the right thing to do” to us would violate our “taking up our crosses and following Jesus, taking upon ourselves, his reproach outside the gates…” Yes, there is a part of us that demands that we cry foul, that it isn’t right, and we can justify being assertive, et cetera. We all fight the battle as we walk that fine line between self-rightous morality and walking by self-renouncing faith, denying ourselves while exalting our Lord in all things, taking no credit for anything for we know that even in our abiding, which is how we are able, it is by the power of the Holy Spirit.

  5. I am very much looking forward to the gathering Mickey. I can do nothing about the hypocrisy except warn the Body of Christ about it and make sure I am not part of it. Go and do likewise.

  6. Loved this post, Mike….Was comforted, especially as I’m reading Hebrews 13 and knowing that all I need to do is carry my cross and follow Him outside the camp…..while I wait on Him to open the hearts of my loved ones..as He did mine….to have mercy on them as He had on most-undeserving me!

  7. You got me started about the failure in the SBC to distinguish between law and gospel in their teaching and preaching. I was called to the mission field and strove for several years trying to prepare to serve with the IMB. It always felt like I could not measure up and ended up frustrated, bitter, angry, and even depressed for several years. I venture to say that serving in the SBC is even “law based”, since it always seemed like a competition and people always try to measure you up. I felt like a total failure and it was even hard to pray to the Lord because I found it hard to believe that He would accept me. But God graciously used other Christians outside of the SBC and His Word to open my eyes to law and gospel. Now I joyfully serve the Lord and trust that He will use me as He pleases in His time. He accept me and my service on account of Christ’s perfect work on my behalf. Now that’s a great reason to serve the Lord all the more!

  8. Stephanie, I was a Deacon and Bible teacher in the SBC in multiple churches for decades and you nailed it. I can remember walking across the parking lot one Saturday afternoon after giving up an entire day off that I could have spent with my son to do some worthless activity at church that was expected of all Deacons and wondering if it was good enough on God’s scales. Was I good enough, et cetera.

    What freedom we have in Christ that we do not have to EARN! What robbery that me and my family went through during that time of running the churchianity treadmill of works! I regret so much of that now, but we can’t change the past…

  9. Dear Charisse, I agree if someone is teaching something that is slightly off base during a gathering of the body of Christ a woman should remain quiet so as not to usurp the teaching of the man ( another words this was to keep certain women in the body Paul was writing about from openly disrupting or taking a higher place than the men in the gathering of the early church). But… with that said… there is nothing forbidding you as a woman in the body of Christ from approaching that person off to the side in basic privacy to clarify a possible false or a teaching that the person maybe doesn’t have a full understanding of. All this of course is to bring edification to the person and the body of Christ you fellowship with.
    Let’s look at this example;

    Acts 18:24-26
    English Standard Version (ESV)

    Apollos Speaks Boldly in Ephesus
    24Now a Jew named Apollos, a native of Alexandria, came to Ephesus. He was an eloquent man, competent in the Scriptures. 25He had been instructed in the way of the Lord. And being fervent in spirit,[a] he spoke and taught accurately the things concerning Jesus, though he knew only the baptism of John. 26He began to speak boldly in the synagogue, but when Priscilla and Aquila heard him, they took him and explained to him the way of God more accurately.

  10. Mike,

    Another wonderful exposition of the glorious Truth of the Gospel! I am a couple chapters behind you in my personal reading of the Bible – in chapter 10 of Hebrews this morning :-)

    I’ve long loved the simplicity of John 1:12 – 13, which makes it very clear (preceding the oft misunderstood John 3:16) that all of salvation is of, from, and for God. “12 But to all who did receive him, s who believed in his name, t he gave the right u to become v children of God, 13 who w were born, x not of blood y nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.”

    Let all who have been called and given the faith to believe in the Son of God be unashamed and be known as His in this crooked and perverse generation – for the glory of God and the good pf His people.

  11. Dear Brent,

    Thanks for taking the time to pass along wise counsel, I agree. Like Mike says it is a fine line we walk to continually honor Christ in our lives. As a woman if I write an article or review for public consumption in general I will have my husband review it and get a pastors opinion to boot. This is to be accountable and following proper lines of authority so that the adversary does not have an opportunity to accuse. Basically it comes down to wanting to please my heavenly Father.
    Blessings to you, I have been edified by your comments. In Christ alone, charisse

  12. Mike, Thanks to our Lord for the ministry to the Body you have here. Thanks Charisse for your concern that those who teach do it with the Holy Spirit that will guide truth to the Body you fellowship with. That is why He uses ALL of us to bring edification to the body in an orderly way for His glory. He used a man and his wife to do that for ‘a Jew named Apollos’ in the early church and He can do that now in your local body.
    His love doesn’t leave His sheep in the dark.

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