“Whoever finds their life will lose it, and whoever loses their life for my sake will find it.” (Matthew 10:39)
The journey towards Salvation is a very personal one and often takes time. We are complex beings, but God works in us, and through us, to try to bring us to that point.
I didn’t wake up one morning and totally surrender my whole life to God. No! it was a long hard struggle with my pride and my strong will to do things my way!
I surrendered bit by bit. I don’t think I even chose it in the beginning. Life just got really tough and it was in my brokenness that I turned to God, and He redeemed me.
Even now, many years after turning my life over to God, I struggle to obey. It’s never easy to keep walking the path that God sets out before us, but if we know it’s the right way and that God is in it, we can endure.
I think we can endure because we come to realize that there is a battle going on between good and evil all the time, and we want good to win out in the end, so we persevere in faith. As St Paul said in the New Testament, we are fighting the good fight!
“Fight the good fight of the faith. Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called when you made your good confession in the presence of many witnesses.” (1 Timothy 6:12, NIV)
The spiritual journey is ultimately about the death of the old self. The old self is often referred to as the false self or the old man in Christian terms, or the old sin nature. It is very painful to put this part of us to death.
Following Jesus is not an easy call. That is why Jesus said, you must consider the cost. You have to give up everything to follow Jesus! Many people have considered embarking on the spiritual path only to fall away at the early stages when they see what it means to be a real disciple.
We must die to the self. We are selfish by nature, all of us. We want to do life on our terms.
There is nothing good in the old man (flesh) and as soon as we understand this the better because it is not until you see and believe that there is no good thing in the flesh, that you can see and experience the abundant life that Jesus talks about in John 10:10:
“The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I come that they may have life, and have it to the full.”
THE DEATH OF THE SELF
Jesus said to his disciples, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.” (Matthew 16:24)
The world’s philosophy says LIVE FOR SELF… but The Bible says DIE TO SELF! ‘Many people came to Jesus and asked to be His disciples, but most of them turned away because they were not willing to give themselves to Christ.’ (Dying to Self, Dr. D. W. Ekstrand)
We are living in an age of the self-life (without any need for God), where people are led to believe that happiness is found in their circumstances, and so if they experience any loss or lack, it is perceived as a failure, and they should just try a little harder, only reinforcing their feelings of inadequacy.
The problem here is in how we are measuring our personal worth/value. What you have (possessions) should not determine your value as a person. You are valuable, just because you breathe. This is your birthright. God loves you regardless.
This has also crept into the churches where the goal of prayer is to receive personal favour, blessings, and wealth. And anyone who doesn’t make it probably didn’t pray hard enough, work hard enough, or maybe is not righteous enough to be worthy of God’s favour.
We have to be careful of this because if you choose to follow Jesus, you are no longer in the driving seat and so if He blesses you financially that’s wonderful, but if He doesn’t, does that mean He is not God or that He does not hear you, like you or care about you?
Charles Stanley in his sermon – “The Narrow Path to Personal Peace,” said, ‘you don’t have to have anything or anyone to have peace in your heart.’
We must be prepared to get to know the real God, not one who fits into our plans, but one who is Sovereign and Lord over our lives. God can use our poverty to work on our character.
Who are you without your job, nice house, family, cars, etc? If they were all taken away, as in the case of Job in the bible, would you have a rock to stand upon? What would sustain you? Hopefully, your faith, because, let’s face it, without faith, what have you really got?
“Faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.” (Hebrews 11:1)
God wants to give to his children. Jesus does say in the bible that you do not have because you do not ask correctly. This means you are asking with the wrong motives. You want things for your own pleasure that give no glory to God.
“Ye ask, and receive not, because ye ask amiss, that ye may consume it upon your lusts”. (James 4:3)
God likes to bless us, but He also likes to receive the glory. He says, you will bear fruit, so I get the glory. “By this, My Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit, and so prove to be my disciples.” (John 15:8)
Also, when you become a child of God, it means God is your Abba, Father. What does a loving Father do for his children? Does he give them everything they want, whenever they want it?
Of course not, the child doesn’t even know what’s good for him, but the Father does. It’s the same with your Heavenly Father.
Perhaps God has withheld things from you because He loves you and wants to teach you patience, endurance, and trust. God is usually training us and protecting us, so be careful what you wish for! Maybe it’s not what you need. Learn to pray like Jesus, not my will Father, but let Your will be done.
Following God does not mean that all your problems go away, it just means that you will have more strength, peace, and joy in your circumstances. But, don’t worry God will bless you, but in His perfect time! After all, He is God, not us.
If you had no money, would you steal? If you lost your job would you get depressed or anxious or do you put your trust in God? These are important things to ask yourself? Who am I really? What is it that gives me my identity? What do I believe in?
What Does It Mean To Die To Self? What Are We Really Dying To?
We are dying to:
- Self importance
- The need for praise
- Attention seeking
- Self – obsession
- Lies / Falseness
Transformation means restoring the Truth back into our lives that was lost in the beginning during the Fall of Adam.
“For God knows that when you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” (Genesis 3:5)
We are all like the first man (Adam), full of pride, wanting to be like God. Because we are proud, we chase after things to please ourselves and not God. This is what’s known as idolatry.
According to Dr. D. W. Ekstrand (www.thetransformedsoul.com), ‘idolatry takes many forms – a relationship we value more than God; the desire for material wealth that is greater than our love for God; the desire to draw attention to ourselves rather than directing the attention of others toward God. The world is full of idols that dethrone God from our hearts. Anything that causes one to have a “self-focus” rather than a “God-focus” is a form of pride and is abhorrent to God.’
The two things that keep us from God are:
1. Pride (Self) – the belief that you are better or more important than other people
2. Idolatry (Desires) – the worship of a physical object as a god
You might be asking yourself now, why would anyone want to sign up for something like that? Dying to Self sounds absolutely awful, who on earth would want to do that? I get nothing!
What have I to gain from denying myself and following Jesus?
That’s a good question, all His disciples asked the same question. He told them to drop their nets and follow Him. Their nets were their livelihood as they were fishermen and, he also told them to follow Him and to leave their families behind. In other words, all their worldly attachments.
“Come follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.”
“If you want to be my disciple, you must hate everyone else, by comparison, your father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters – yes, even your own life.
Otherwise, you cannot be my disciple. And if you do not carry your own cross and follow me, you cannot be my disciple.” (Luke 14:25-27)
But, Jesus explained to his disciples that dying to self is actually a positive thing, that would bring them abundant life. Without death, there can be no resurrection.
“Unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit”
(John 12:24; Galatians 5:22-23)
St John of the Cross (1542 – 1591) is one saint who understood the paradox of the cross very well. St John of the Cross was a Carmelite friar and priest, a reformer, mystic, poet, and theologian.
He was often referred to as the Dr. of detachment as he mastered the art of detachment. He was able to detach from things of the world to live for God alone.
“His prose works are outstanding in underscoring the cost of discipleship, the path of union with God: rigorous discipline, abandonment, purification. Uniquely and strongly John underlines the gospel paradox: The cross leads to resurrection, agony to ecstasy, darkness to light, abandonment to possession, denial to self to union with God. If you want to save your life, you must lose it.” (Franciscan Media)
So, dying to self is not the goal – Life is the goal
TAKE UP YOUR CROSS
What does it mean to take up your cross? Taking up your cross means that in every minute of every day, you hand over your work, your finances, your relationships, your health, etc. to God.
You have to take up your daily struggles and face them with a positive, grateful attitude and never complain. Instead, we should rejoice in the face of trials and tribulations as they will help us to grow and mature.
St Paul wrote in the book of Philippians, “do everything without complaining and arguing so that no one can criticize you. Live clean, innocent lives as children of God, shining like bright lights in a world full of crooked and perverse people.” (Philippians 2:14-15)
“Be of good cheer; I have overcome the world” (John 16:33)
God is trying to save us from our selfishness because self-obsession leads to death. It’s amazing how many Christians choose to ignore this important command.
Many people wanted to follow Jesus during his ministry, they were excited, and they could see that He was a great person. They listened to His teachings and felt inspired and moved by his sacrificial life.
But, when it came to denying themselves, they just couldn’t push through. They didn’t want to give up the self-life. Nobody wants to give up the self-life, but it’s the only thing that will save you from a life of misery.
COME FOLLOW ME
What does it mean to follow Jesus?
To know God – God really wants to build a relationship with you and He has made a way through Jesus. But, he does not leave you without instruction, for we have The Word of God and The Holy Spirit to teach us all about Him. ‘My people are destroyed by lack of knowledge.’ (Hosea 4:6)
To establish His kingdom here on earth – seek first the kingdom of God. God wants to bring heaven to earth and He does this by choosing us to change our ways and be reconciled to Him through faith in Jesus Christ.
To learn how to live a godly life – we do this by applying Jesus’ teachings to our life. We may not be physically following Jesus as the disciples did, but we follow Him by following his ways. We can learn through the Word of God and the Holy Spirit.
To find your life purpose – our purpose is to shine and to live in truth and love like Jesus did. To be transformed into His image and likeness.
To develop your faith in God – faith is a gift, to believe without seeing is a miracle. God helps us with our unbelief. Jesus lived by faith, so you can learn from Him and many of the saints in the bible too, such as Abraham, Moses, Job, etc.
To learn to love like God – this is the goal of the Christian to be able to love unconditionally as God does. Agape love is unlike any other love. Love never seeks its own. Love grows in you as you grow. Real love seeks the good of others, regardless of how you feel about them.
To learn how to listen and obey – how can you listen to God? Through prayer, meditation, and reading of the Scriptures. God will test your obedience, so be ready for that.
To learn about the Holy Spirit – every new believer receives the gift of the Holy Spirit. This Spirit of Truth will guide you and direct you in all your ways. The Holy Spirit is God’s power given to you by faith.
To learn by example – imitating Jesus. He was a servant leader, He washed his disciple’s feet. ‘Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet. I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you’ (John13:14). He teaches us about humility, how to live with meekness and lowliness.
To be transformed into His image and likeness – walk as Jesus walked, so you can be transformed from glory to glory into His image.
Union with God – communion with God is what you were created for. It was sin that separated you, but once you come back to God you can learn to be in relationship with Him again. You will learn of God’s holiness.
To be healed and restored – as you walk with God each day, you will heal more and more, as only God has the power to do the deep transformational work in your spirit, soul, and body.
To conclude, so when someone decides to follow The Lord, they are essentially saying, ‘I am dying to my self.’ My self-life is no longer the reason for my existence. I am exchanging my old life for a new life.’ It is a supernatural exchange.
This change will be seen more and more in your decisions and actions when you have gone through a process of transformation.
It is in surrendering that you receive power because it’s not your power, but the power of God dwelling in your regenerated soul.
The Lord wants you to be happy. Dying to self sets you free. It is in dying to yourself that you find yourself (when you lose your life, you find it). This is the paradox of the gospel. Come and see for yourself.