I have lived much of my life thinking that Christianity can be summed up in a single word:
The negative is the mark of the mature Christian. Or to put it another way, you can measure a person’s devotion by what they are willing to say no to. Alcohol, drugs, sex, cursing – no, no, no, no. And if you are really good at saying no, then you are a good Christian. The issues with that kind of measuring stick are numerous, but the question I think for this morning is where does it come from.
A desire to quantify your spirituality? Absolutely.
But also this – those who approach their faith like that do so because they are reflecting what they perceive to be the modus operandi of God. We are a people of the no because God is a God of the no. Now you can look through the Bible and see plenty of times when God says no about different issues of conduct. But the no is only the beginning point. It’s not the end.
But wait, our hearts say. The Ten Commandments are all about saying no. Saying no to idol worship, saying no to adultery, saying no to Sabbath corruption. Where is the positive in these commandments?
It’s on the other side of the no – in the love the commandments point us to. Jesus pointed us this direction in His commentary on these commandments, making sure that we understand that the physical act of saying no isn’t enough. We need to not just say no; we need a new heart of love that looks past the love to the yes of the gospel.
God doesn’t have us say no to adultery and stop there. He has us say yes to a love and grace filled marriage that is so fulfilling that we need not look elsewhere.
God doesn’t have us say no to covetousness and stop there. He has us say yes to our riches in Christ that drive out our desires for trivial material things.
God doesn’t have us say no to lying and stop there. He has us say yes to the truth and the freedom that it brings to all situations.
When Jesus commanded us to take up our cross and die, it wasn’t so that we would lose our lives. It was so that we would find our lives, for Jesus knows that true life is only found on the other side of death. The glorious yes is the flip side of the coin we often leave with the “no” facing upward.
The path of self-denial is one that must be walked. But it’s only the path. The destination is of self-fulfillment. Self-fulfillment when, having denied oneself, Christ is your all.