Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Book Review: Why Should You Deny Yourself?

Why Should You Deny Yourself? by Ryan McGraw is part of the 12-booklet Cultivating Biblical Godliness series published by Reformation Heritage Books.  This short booklet, at just 34 pages, looks at the biblical definition of what it means to deny yourself as a Christian.

The author looks at Luke 9:23-27 and notes that this passage "teaches us that we must come after Christ, deny ourselves, take up our crosses, and follow Him," (p. 3).  In his book he only looks at the first command to deny ourselves and shows (1) what self-denial is and why it is important and (2) what self-denial looks like in practice.

First, Mr. McGraw defines self-denial as a "principle by which, regardless of personal cost, we believe and do whatever Christ teaches us and reject and flee from whatever He forbids us," (p. 4). Then he looks at five different aspects of self-denial: the grounds, the pattern, the reason, the measure, and the principle.  Next, in the second part of the booklet, the author notes that in practice, "[b]elievers must deny themselves by keeping the commandments of God at great personal cost," (p. 15) and gives one negative and five positive examples of self-denial in a believer's life.

This short booklet does an adequate job in exhorting believers to deny themselves and to obey the commandments of God.  However, Mr. McGraw makes some concerning statements, such as (emphasis mine): "Many think that they do well to admit that they need help, but Christ calls men to confess that they are beyond help.  You need a spiritual resurrection as well as a physical one," (p. 6).  He does not clarify what he means by needing a spiritual and physical resurrection.  Spiritual resurrection is a one-time event accomplished by the Holy Spirit's regeneration of an unbelieving heart (Eph. 2:1, 8).  No believer will have a physical resurrection until Christ returns again (1 Thess. 5:16-17).

In addition, he notes that (emphasis mine): "Every aspect of this passage [the passage referenced here is unclear] teaches you that, regardless of personal cost, you must believe and do whatever Christ teaches you and reject and flee from whatever He forbids you.  You must hear His sayings and keep them (Luke 11:28); otherwise you will lose the triune God and your souls at the same time," (p. 13).  Perseverance of the saints is a key teaching of orthodox Christianity.  Saving faith can not be lost by man because a true Christian has been sealed by the Holy Spirit (Eph. 1:13), and if a person leaves the Christian faith, then they were not a true believer (and therefore not sealed) to begin with (1 John 2:19).

Given the importance of this topic to all Christians, I would recommend Why Should You Deny Yourself?  However, if you want a sound, in-depth look at this subject, then I would highly recommend Moses' Self-Denial by Jeremiah Burroughs.

"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.  For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: but whosoever will lose his life for my sake, the same shall save it," (Luke 9:23-24).