Yeshua said to let our “Yes” be “Yes” and our “No” be “No” (Matthew 5:37). In context, He was speaking of making religious vows, but we can take this a step further: Good is good; bad is bad (Isaiah 5:20).
To what do we say “Yes”? – everything good! All the promises of God are “Yes” and “Amen” through Yeshua (II Corinthians 1:20). We are to think about every good and pure thing (Philippians 4:4-8). Through meditating on God’s promises we develop an optimistic attitude and are transformed in our minds (Romans 12:1-3).
But we also have to say “No” to bad things. Evil comes from three sources: the World (social pressure); the Flesh (pride and lusts); the Devil (demonic spirits). We say “No” to everything that leads to sin and death.
Burying Our Flesh
Yeshua said, “Whoever desires to follow Me, must deny himself, take up his cross daily, and come after Me” (Luke 9:23). Following Yeshua brings us into all of the glorious blessings of God.
However, the path of following in His footsteps starts with: “deny yourself.” That means saying “No” to our own selfish desires. The Rabbis call them “yetzer ha-ra,” the evil instinct.
- How many of the Ten Commandments start with “Thou Shalt Not…”!
- Psalm One starts with three “Does nots” – does not walk in path of wicked; does not stand in way of sinners, does not sit in seat of mockers.
- Yeshua’s great prayer of Gethsemane repeated over and over, “Not My will, but Yours…” (Matthew 26:37ff).
- The final fruit of the Spirit is “self-control” (Galatians 5:22-23).
- Part of becoming “partakers of the divine nature” is self-control (II Peter 1:3-7).
Paul also spoke of “self” crucifixion: “crucify myself” (Galatians 2:20); “crucify the world” (Galatians 6:14); “crucify the flesh” (Galatians 5:24). This is not speaking in any way of self-flagellation or self-condemnation, but of saying “No” to evil influences, particularly our own sinful instincts.
Self-denial is the opposite of self-condemnation; it is a work of grace by the Holy Spirit. “Now there is no condemnation to those who are in Messiah Yeshua” (Romans 8:1). Thank God, by the blood of Yeshua, we have been cleansed from all guilt (Hebrews 9:14, 10:1-3, 12:24).
However, the same Holy Spirit which frees us from condemnation, also “puts to death” selfishness and lusts. “If by the Spirit, you put to death the deeds of the body…” (Romans 8:13). In all the wonderful, positive verses about the work of the Holy Spirit, did we kind of “glide” past that verse? The Holy Spirit puts a halt to the works of the flesh.
From the Inside Out
Why is this quality of self-restraint so important? It has to do with our destiny as children of God to take dominion over the creation (Genesis 1:26-29). We are called to “rule and reign” together with Him (Romans 5:17; Revelation 5:10; 20:6). Self-restraint is actually governing ourselves. If you can rule yourself, you are ready to rule the world.
“Better is he who is slow-to-anger than a mighty man; and he who rules over his spirit than he who captures a city” (Proverbs 16:32). One has to be able to rule one’s own feelings and desires, before one can rule over the more external things. Taking dominion over ourselves precedes taking dominion over God’s creation. This is an essential character quality to enable us to fulfill God’s highest purposes in our lives.