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Deny (Dynamics of the Spiritual Life, Part 3)

But what things were gain to me, these I have counted loss for Christ. Yet indeed I also count all things loss for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord... Philippians 3.7, 8

The spiritual life

We are grouping the various dynamics of the spiritual life under three general and overlapping headings: define, depend, and demonstrate.

The first two headings of the spiritual life are easy enough. First, we must be clear about the life to which we are called; we must define spiritual life as God does – a life focusing on, sustained by, and expressive of the risen and exalted Lord Jesus Christ. We must say as Paul did, “I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me” (Gal. 2.20).

Then we must depend on the Lord, beginning with desiring this life above all else. We must say to ourselves, and be renewed daily in this resolve: “This is what I want my life to count for all my days.”

It’s when we get to the next dynamic of the spiritual life that things begin to become more difficult; for the next dynamic requires that we deny everything in our lives that hinders, obstructs, or supplants the life of following Jesus Christ. As Paul put it, we must learn to “count everything as loss” that keeps us from looking to Jesus, being filled with Jesus, and living for Jesus in every area of our lives, all the time.

We will never fully depend on the Lord until we deny, set aside, and count as loss everything else on which we might depend for the joy and purpose we seek.

Time and activities

In order to do this it can help us to recognize that, at bottom, our lives consist of two primary components: time and activities. Everything we are and do amounts to these.

It has pleased God to give each one of us the same amount of time each day, week, month, and year. Time is a gift of God, and He expects us to use it wisely, in ways that overcome the foolishness of living apart from God and glorify Him in all the details of our lives (Ps. 90.12; Eph. 5.15-17; 1 Cor. 10.31). What we do in the time God gives us amounts to various kinds of activities – eating, sleeping, working, talking, reading, and so forth. Who we are, how we define our being-in-the-world, and what we’re actually depending on in life will come to the surface in the activities of the time of our lives.

The challenge of the spiritual life is to claim all our time and construct all our activities in order to pursue what we desire as the life of following Jesus. Anything that doesn’t contribute to that objective distracts from it.

Certainly there are necessities in each of our lives – caring for our bodies, making a living, taking care of our homes and families, and so forth. But these are not merely worldly activities, at least not for the Christian. Even these must be pursued according to the priorities of the risen Christ and His Kingdom, so that they further our objective.

But we must not allow into our time any activities that are merely frivolous, mundane, worldly, sinful, or otherwise not in line with the spiritual life to which we have been called. To do so is simply to cling to the crutches of this secular age to help us make our way in life. We must throw those crutches away and depend on the strong hand of King Jesus to lead us into the joy, meaning, and purpose in life we seek.

The time of your life

As we make our plans and review our daily lives, we must deny any time to interests and activities which flow against our spiritual calling in Jesus Christ. In their place we must put activities and disciplines which will further our pursuit of that life, and which enable us to transform even such mundane activities as we must engage so that they become critical components in expressing the life of Christ.

What do the time and activities of your life reveal about what you desire in life and what you’re depending on to give your life purpose and joy? Paul instructs us to pay careful attention to how we use our time, and to make sure we deny any time for anything that might blur our focus, divert our path, or compromise our vision and pursuit of King Jesus (Eph. 5.15-17).

This dynamic of denying must become a daily, and even a moment-by-moment practice if we are to make progress in our desire to know the Lord and true spiritual life in Him.

Next steps

What is your approach to “making the most” of the time God gives you each day? Talk with a Christian friend about this question.

Additional Resources

Download this week’s study, Dynamics of the Spirtual Life.

Sign up for ViewPoint Leaders Training and start your own ViewPoint discussion group.

The spiritual life begins and ends in the vision of Christ. T. M.’s book, Be Thou My Vision, provides a helpful series of meditations on the Lord in glory. It’s available by clicking here.

Except as indicated, Scripture taken from the New King James Version. © Copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

T.M. Moore

T. M. Moore is principal of The Fellowship of Ailbe, a spiritual fellowship in the Celtic Christian tradition. He and his wife, Susie, make their home in the Champlain Valley of Vermont.
Books by T. M. Moore

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