Human beings are creatures of habit and formed by repetitive routine. Our habits, whether good or bad, have been developed over long periods of time. Trying to change bad habits and sinful tendencies is not easy. We would all prefer to seek our own will, see life from our own point of view, and live life our own way. Christians however, are called to “die to self.” If we want to be a Disciple of Jesus Christ, dying to self is not optional. I invite you to read more…..
Every human being was created by God for a purpose. John 15:8 tells us: “By this is my Father glorified, that you bear much fruit and become my disciples.” God desires that we remain connected to Jesus in order to be fruitful. This means we must turn away from our own ways and live in Christ. Galatians 2:20 says: “yet I live, no longer I, but Christ lives in me; insofar as I now live in the flesh, I live by faith in the Son of God who has loved me and given himself up for me.”
Even strong committed Christians have a tendency to pray to God for the things they want in life and for the outcomes in various situations that they desire. We must learn to pray more like Jesus. Our prayers to our Heavenly Father should always include: “Not my will, but yours be done.”
Jesus tells us in Matthew 16:24-25: “Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.” John 12:24 states it this way: “Amen, amen, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains just a grain of wheat; but if it dies, it produces much fruit.”
Dying to self is a difficult challenge and a tall order, but it is by no means a punishment. God knows that when we turn away from a life of self-obsession and self-centeredness we discover the real joy of Christ. Jesus calls us to set ourselves aside and live for others. He knows that we must die to ourselves in order to see the needs of others all around us. By being outwardly focused, we will experience true Christian peace and happiness.
The world encourages us to be self-focused. Promoters bombard us with ads focused on self-pleasure. Our fallen human nature wants to put our needs over others. The life of a Christian is just the opposite. We must constantly progress in our efforts to put our needs behind the needs of others. More importantly we must constantly strive to seek out God’s will and live in a way pleasing to Him.
So far, I probably have not told you one thing you haven’t already heard before. The life of a Christian is challenging. It is counter-cultural. This forces us to ask ourselves a difficult question. Do we really want to live our life so that we put God’s will before our own? Luke 9:23 tells us: “Then he said to all, “If anyone wishes to come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.”
What might this cross of ours look like? We may be called on to endure abuse, poverty, loneliness, persecution, failures, disappointments, distress, heartache, condemnation from others, and even humiliation all as the price of following Jesus. Are we up for the task?
I believe the New Testament makes it clear that dying to self is not optional for a Disciple of Jesus Christ. We must pray each day asking God to “give us our daily bread” so that we have the spiritual nourishment and strength to embrace the dying to self process.
Author Dietrich Bonhoeffer once wrote: “When Christ calls a man, he bids him come and die.” Martin Luther said: “Until a man is nothing, God can make nothing out of him.” Thomas á Kempis wrote: “The more a man dies to himself, the more he begins to live unto God.” Finally, St. Ignatius stated: “Few souls understand what God would accomplish in them if they were to abandon themselves unreservedly to Him.”
Let’s make time for some deep introspection. What parts of our behavior need to change? What sinful habits need to be put to death? What viewpoints do we hold tight to that are contrary to the teachings of Christ? Could today be that day that we proclaim: I live, no longer I, but Christ lives in me?
Heavenly Father, the call to die to self requires more than mere human strength. It requires your grace. Please pour out your grace upon me and give me the strength and desire to live according to your will not mine. I ask this in the name of Jesus Christ, amen!
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