Brother Eliseo Fernando Soriano THE TRUTHCASTER
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For many people, following God is something that is very hard to do, as if serving God is a burden to them. For many, serving God is tantamount to giving up most of their worldly concerns. But from the teachings of the Scriptures, we will realize that it is not very difficult to follow God. Perhaps, we will really find it difficult if we do not know Him and if we are ignorant of His ways. This is the reason why we need to clarify first the initial step that we need to take if we want to follow God.
Let us find out from the Bible the foremost thing that we need to do if we want to follow God … if we want to be worthy in His sight … and if we do not want to fall into sinfulness.
This is what our Lord Jesus Christ says in Luke 9:23—
“And he said to them all, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself …” This is a statement that concerns all. If we want to follow our Lord Jesus, we have to deny ourselves and … “… and take up his cross daily, and follow me.”
Therefore, if the first step is self-denial, the second step is to carry one’s cross daily. These are two of the requisites that Christ set to those who want to follow Him. And we will use this verse (Luke 9:23) as our basis in this study.
The very first thing that a man has to do is to deny his self. For those who do not understand what our Lord Jesus said, they would think that He is being selfish. He says—
“And he said to them all, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me.”
It is not that easy to deny oneself. Perhaps, the first question that we need to answer is, what are the things that are of oneself? There are things in this world which are not really ours, like our body and our life. And neither is our breath nor the properties we possess are truly ours. So, which is that of one’s self that we have to deny when there is really nothing that is truly ours? I Corinthians 4:7 says—
“For who maketh thee to differ from another? and what hast thou that thou didst not receive? now if thou didst receive it, why dost thou glory, as if thou hadst not received it?”
Is there any person who had stood out of the rest because of his doing only? For instance, if you became an outstanding model, or a beauty queen, did it happen due to your own doing only? Who made you stand out? Who gave you a pretty face and a beautiful body? Who made you intelligent? Who gave you that beautiful voice? Who made you outstanding? If you became a powerful person, if you became an excellent basketball player, is it because you made yourself one? Can all those things be done by man alone? No! In fact, there are people who want to grow tall but they couldn’t, even if they have tried all kinds of vitamins that would enhance growth. Of course, you could not blame your parents for making you short.
Therefore, if we will talk about traits like, a good voice, intelligence, creativity, etc., all of those are not products of your own doing. But who made you stand out over the rest? What have you that you did not receive? God said, “what hast thou that thou did not receive?” What is your answer? For example, you now have a diamond ring. But did you already have that diamond ring when you were born? If you are a lawyer now, were you already a lawyer when you were born? No! You have a prudent wife. Whose is she? You also just received her. Let us go over the verse again to be sure of what Christ is trying to tell us. I Corinthians 4:7 says—
“For who maketh thee to differ from another? and what hast thou that thou didst not receive? now if thou didst receive it, why dost thou glory, as if thou hadst not received it?”
Why are you boasting when you have really nothing to boast for? You only received everything that you possess. They are not originally yours. Is there such a man who, by nature, is already rich? Is there any man who, upon birth, is already decked with jewels from head to foot? Is there a man who is already equipped with wisdom the moment he was born? A person came out of his mother’s womb naked. Job 1:21 says—
“Naked came I out of my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return thither:”
Just try to think of it. We do not really own anything when we were born. Perhaps, others would retort, “I own my body; I own my breath.” That is not true! If we are to consider what the Bible says, even those that we think we own are not really ours. They were just given to us. We are mere recipients. Acts 17:24-25 says—
“God that made the world and all things therein, seeing that he is Lord of heaven and earth, dwelleth not in temples made with hands. Neither is worshipped with men’s hands, as though he needed anything, seeing he giveth to all life, and breath, and all things;”
Now, which is really ours? None! God gave us everything, including our life and our breath. He gave us our whole being. (Acts 17:28)
“For in him we live, and move, and have our being.”
That is why we cannot brag of anything to God. Everything that we have came from Him. So, if you are short, or if you are tall, that is God’s doing. Your beauty came from God. You may be ugly in the sight of men, but you are beautiful in the sight of God. Actually, nobody is ugly in the sight of God. It is only man who ridicules and scorns those who have physical defects like a flat nose, or a pimpled-laden face. But we must always remember that as far as our Maker is concerned, everybody is beautiful. If you will just look around you, you will notice that God created more ugly or plain-looking people. That is why actors and actresses, who had been endowed with good looks and beautiful bodies, capitalize on their physical appearance to earn a big amount of money. And that is because they are fewer in number. God made only a few beautiful men and women – beautiful in the standards of men. God created more plain-looking people. Are you agreeable to that? But, is the God who created man intelligent, or not? Of course, He is intelligent. Is He a loving God? Yes, He is. Does it mean that He loves the ugly more because He made more of them? Bear in mind that, for God, nobody is ugly. He regards men equally. For Him, there is no darkness and there is no light. They are but the same. Psalms 139:12 says—
“… the darkness and the light are both alike to thee.”
For God, darkness and light are alike. What does God consider as beautiful? What does He prefer? I Corinthians 12:23-24 says—
“And those members of the body, which we think to be less honourable, upon these we bestow more abundant honour; and our uncomely parts have more abundant comeliness. For our comely parts have no need: but God hath tempered the body together, having given more abundant honour to that part which lacked:”
If we are going to talk about the body, St. Paul said that, some members, which we think are less honorable, or insignificant, are the ones most needed, while our members which are “comely” are of without much use. That is why God tempered the body together to give greater honor to the parts which are “uncomely”.
Take a look at our brows. They look good but they are not very important. Of course, they are important but not that much because we can live without our brows. The nose, for instance. Cut the nose but leave the nostrils and the person could still live. The same with the ears. Cut a part of your ears, and you’ll still live.
But the uncomely parts of our body – the ones that we cover and hide – are very important, like our buttocks for instance. For God, the physical appearance does not matter. The ugly and the beautiful are alike to Him. However, man does not regard his fellowman justly. Most of the time, he regards highly the beautiful, the intelligent, and the sexy, but despises the physically deformed. For that reason, God is giving him a reminder.
“For who maketh thee to differ from another? and what hast thou that thou didst not receive? now if thou didst receive it, why dost thou glory, as if thou hast not received it?”
Why are you bragging when you just received everything that you possess? Your riches and your intelligence came from God. All of the good things that a man possesses came from God. Therefore, have you anything to brag with God? None! Do you have anything that is really yours? None! You just received all of them from God. So, why did Christ say that if you want to serve Him and follow Him, you have to deny yourself first? What was He referring to?
In my thorough studies of the Bible, I have found out that there is but one thing that we can consider truly ours. Your mother is not yours. She was given to you by God. Your child is not really yours. You received him from God. Your body, your breath, and your whole being are not yours. They all came from God. But there is a particular thing in man that is truly his. Do you know what that is? That is the very thing that Christ is asking you to deny – yourself. What, specifically, does it mean? Lamentation 3:35 says—
“To turn aside the right of a man before the face of the most High,”
The only thing in us that is truly ours is our own righteousness. Your own righteousness, your point of view, your own beliefs, your likes, your preferences – they are all yours. And you have to set aside all of those if you want to follow God. I Corinthians 6:12 says—
”All things are lawful unto me, but all things are not expedient:”
St. Paul said that, for him, all things are lawful and righteous. However, he was also aware that’ in the sight of God, not all things are expedient for him. Man has his own sets of standard; he has his own righteousness. But it does not follow that, whatever is righteous and expedient for him is also righteous in the sight of God. In fact, Proverbs 14:12 says—
“There is a way which seemeth right unto a man, but the end thereof are the ways of death.”
There was a woman who thought that in getting married she made the right decision. Only to find out that the man she married was a good-for-nothing idler. So, after three months of marriage, she came back home to her parents very repentant for the mistake that she committed in marrying her husband. She was very sorry for not listening to the admonitions of her parents. She thought that the man she was marrying was a saint, but later, she found out that he was a devil.
That is a realization of God’s pronouncement. There are people who think that what they are doing is right, without them realizing it that their inevitable end is death, or perdition.
We, human beings, have our own righteousness. That is the only thing that is truly ours. And our self-righteousness is what Christ is asking us to deny. The Bible says—
“Turn aside the right of a man before the face of the most High.” Because if you will not turn that aside, you will still insist what you think is righteous.
Let me say it straight. There are people who get engaged in religion without them understanding first what they are in to. Many would say, “I’ll just stick to the religion where I grew up with. Why do I have to change my religion?” Well, that is just their point of view. That is not biblical, and that is wrong. “To stay to where you woke up” is a wrong principle in life. Supposing that you woke up with your house burning, don’t tell me you’ll just stay there because that is how things were when you woke up. See if you’re not consumed after an hour.
Let us suppose you woke up with some mote in your eyes, will you just leave it that way? Will you not even bother to wash them off? Of course, you will. You were born with a long umbilical cord. If you will leave it that way, if the doctor will not cut it, you’ll end up dragging it while you are walking. Chances are, a dog might even chase you, thinking that such is a “longanisa” or a “chorizo de bilboa”. It is just to prove to you that it is wrong to say that you’ll just stay to where you where born, or to where you grew up with.
In the same manner that in practicing religion, God does not want you to abide by only your own righteousness. God does not want you to follow your own beliefs only. God does not want you to do what you think is good and right. That is why God said that if we want to follow Him, we have to deny ourselves. You cannot say that you are following God if you are exercising only what you believe is righteous. Luke 16:15 says—
“And he said unto them, Ye are they which justify yourselves before men; but God knoweth your hearts: for that which is highly esteemed among men is abomination in the sight of God.”
God does not want you to do only what you think is righteous, if you want to follow Him. What is the use of serving Him when you would only follow yourself instead of God? What is the use of your service to God if you will only let your own righteousness prevail instead of God’s? The Bible said that, he who serves his own righteousness is an abomination in the sight of God. That is why, what did St. Paul do when he learned of the right way of serving God, what did he do? Philippians 3:9 says—
“And he found in him, not having mine own righteousness …”
On the other hand, there are those who claim that they are serving God, yet, they follow not His laws. They are at liberty to do what they want to. They are just like the drivers who, in their desire to earn much, take for granted the traffic rules. They don’t care about the traffic lights. In the first place, they have no plans of following the laws.
But when it comes to God’s righteousness … when it comes to man’s service to God, we should not follow what we think is righteous. God does not like us to do that. That is why, the very first requisite set by our Lord Jesus to those who want to follow Him is, “Deny yourself.” Set aside your own righteousness!
You cannot tell God, “God, I do not want to borrow from others. I do not want to be burden to my fellow men. I hate making loans that is why I do not want to give loans also.” Ask God if that is a right attitude. Ask Him if it is wrong to borrow money from others. Ask Him if it is right if you are just choosing the people that you want to lend your money, and God will give you an answer. Matthew 5:42 says—
“Give to him that asketh thee, and from him that would borrow of thee turn not thou away.”
That is God’s answer. Give to him that asks something from you. Do not turn your back to those who are borrowing from you. That means, if you have something to lend, then, lend your fellow. However, others do not want to ask for loans because they do not want to give loans either. There are people who are like that. There was this somebody in a television program who said, “Why, do I have an obligation to the world?” Such a question comes only from a greedy, selfish, and ignorant person. Why? You see, when we were born, there is already a responsibility that is vested on our shoulders. We have a responsibility even to the worms, birds, dogs, and insects. We have a responsibility to ourselves, to our brothers and sisters, to our fellowmen, to our parents and grandparents, and to our relatives. But above all else, we have an obligation to God. We must realize that our birth carries certain responsibilities; in the same manner that when we were born, we were already entitled to certain rights and privileges. We have the right to be born; we have the right to be taken cared of by our parents or guardians; we have the right to be healthy; we have the right to eat; we have the right to a good education. But together with these rights are responsibilities to our fellowmen. We have the responsibility to open our door if our fellowman is knocking. We have the responsibility to give alms to the beggar.
A Christian knows how to handle his life. He knows what he is supposed to do. He knows his obligation to the environment that is why he would not dump plastic wastes in the drainage. Otherwise, it will clog. Therefore, even to the environment, man has an obligation. If you know God’s righteousness, you will realize that we have an obligation to all. So, after eating, collect all the fish bones and give them to the cat. God made the fish to grow bones because He knows that cats need bones for food. Do not throw them away. The bones are meant for the dogs and cats, while the meat is meant for man. But if you will exercise generosity, you will also give meat to the dogs and cats.
In other words, from the time that we were born, we already carry certain responsibilities; but we also enjoy certain rights and privileges. Rights and privileges go hand in hand with responsibilities. Please, bear that in mind. But there are people who lack concern for their fellowman. You would even hear them say, “I do not owe you anything. It is not my fault if you die of starvation!” But you have a responsibility to your starving fellow. In the eyes of God, it is your responsibility to feed him. In fact, God said that we have to feed even our enemy should he hunger. We have the responsibility to give him something to drink should he thirst. So, if you were commanded to do that to your enemy, the more you should do that to your neighbor, who is not your enemy. Do you know how important neighbors are? Proverbs 27:10 says—
“Thine own friend, and thy father’s friend, forsake not; neither go into thy brother’s house in the day of the calamity: for better is a neighbor that is near than a brother far off.”
That is why it is very important that you deal with your fellowmen properly because you have an obligation to them. But there are people who do only what they want. They live for themselves alone. They think of nothing but themselves. They do not care whether or not they are already disturbing their neighbors with their stereo playing in full volume. Their line of reasoning is that, the stereo is theirs, and it is inside their house, so, they can do as they please. How about the noise they are making? Can they confine the noise within their house only? Of course not! Their neighbors couldn’t sleep because of the noise, and still they are saying they do not care?
It is just like getting into a hog-raising business. There is basically nothing wrong with raising hogs. Anyway, you are confining them within your compound. But the point is, you cannot control the foul smell of its excrements from going out of your territory. Definitely, your neighbors will be annoyed because each time that they inhale, they could smell the pungent odor that comes from your pigpen. Be sensitive to the feelings of your neighbors. Remember you have an obligation to them. Do not just think of yourself. The worst that a person can be is to be self-centered and to think of nothing but himself. And that is the very first thing that God wants us to get rid of.
If you want to serve God and follow God, deny yourself. The very first step that we have to take is self-denial. Make it a point to consult God all the time. For example, “God, I love my daughter very much. I do not want her to get married that is why, every time her suitors go to our house, I let my dogs chase them.” On the surface, the parent has a point – she loves her daughter.
On the other hand, there are parents who keep on pushing their children to jump into marriage right away to be spared of some responsibilities. But most parents would not want their children to marry at once. Actually, there are parents who, if they could have their way, would not let their children marry at all. But, for our own righteousness not to prevail, let us ask God. “God, am I doing justice to my daughter if I do not want her to get married? Am I being fair in letting our dogs chase her suitors?” Try to analyze the situation. Who knows? Maybe because of what you are doing, your daughter’s suitors might just court your daughter in the street. That is why, it is very important that you ask God first. “God, as far as I am concerned, I do not want my daughter to be wooed. How about you, will it be alright with you if guys would woo her?” Find out God’s answer from the Bible. Do not let your own righteousness prevail but God’s.
Learn how to deny yourself. Bear in mind what Luke 9:23 says—