I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.
Galatians 2:20 NKJV, emphasis mine.
Have you ever heard somebody say, “I have to go and find myself.” ?
On some level, I understand their meaning. They are unhappy with the life they are leading. They feel unfulfilled, disconnected, bored, irritated, purposeless or lost. Something is missing and they can’t figure out what it is.
The black and white reality is their “self” was never missing. Your self goes where you go. Your self is fashioned by experience and attitude. It’s what makes you who and what you are.
To go find purpose, meaning or connectedness makes sense, but not your self. Self is all too often our main motivator. We want what’s best for number one and we don’t care who we have to step on or push out of the way to get what we want.
God tells us that we need to lose our self.
What exactly does that mean?
Does God expect us to be a bunch of mindless robots? That is the image most people have of us Christians—brainwashed, unintelligent, bland, and incapable of uniqueness or reasoning.
When God created man, the Bible tells us that He created us after His likeness.
Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.”
Genesis 1:26 ESV
Of course, there is a lot of debate about what that means. My understanding is that, like God, we have a soul, a spirit and a mind capable of discerning morality and ethics. The animals do not possess those characteristics. Animals do whatever it takes to survive and meet their immediate needs. Humans were placed above the animals because we are supposed to function on a higher level than the animals. God fashioned us to be like Him and to reflect His glory. Unfortunately, many people want to discard that part of themselves and throw their energies into fulfilling their basest needs and desires… like animals.
God does not want us to lose our spiritual self, and he doesn’t want mindless puppets… How do we lose our self?
1) We need to lose our selfish desires and sensual behavior.
Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry.
On account of these the wrath of God is coming.
In these you too once walked, when you were living in them.
But now you must put them all away: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and obscene talk from your mouth. Do not lie to one another, seeing that you have put off the old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator. Colossians 3:5-10 ESV, emphasis mine
Notice the powerful language Paul uses: “put to death… what is earthly in you.”
What is earthly within us?
- Sexual immorality
- evil desire
- covetousness (idolatry)
Those are parts of self I don’t want…
When a person is executed, they are finished. There is no coming back from death (the exception being Jesus). Execution is a violent affair.
Getting rid of our bad habits is not a quick and easy change. It takes a strong will and a passionate desire to kick those things to the curb.
Anger. Do you ever fly off the handle, and it isn’t a justified righteous anger?
Wrath. One of the definitions is “vengeance or punishment as a consequence of anger.” Are we supposed to seek vengeance on our enemies? (See this post if you aren’t sure…)
Malice. Evil intent; meanness. As Christians, we are called to help, not hurt…
Slander. A lot of us get caught up in this. Stabbing people in the back, gossiping about them, making them look bad in front of others…
Obscene talk. A lot of Christians struggle with this. A natural human desire is to fit in. A lot of language used in our vernacular these days is truly obscene. There is so much crassness even in the most common phrases. Be careful what you say.
It takes constant vigilance and a lot of prayer to squelch these characteristics. With God’s help it is possible!
I am confident that most people have no desire to have those 5 traits as part of their “self.” I’m good with losing that. Are you?
2) We need to lose our self-importance.
We are of great value to God. We are so precious to Him that He sent His Son to endure the hardships of earth, suffer with foolish people, feel all the discomforts that come with poverty and die a violent and cruel death on a cross. I wouldn’t want my child to go through that for anyone, would you? We must be very important.
Who gave us that much worth? It wasn’t me. It was God.
Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.
Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
~ Philippians 2.3-11, ESV, emphasis mine
Even Jesus, the Son of the living God, emptied and humbled Himself.
If Jesus can give up some of His importance to serve us, how can we do any less for people who are on the same level as we are???
We are of great value to God, but we aren’t above other people. We are supposed to serve other people and put their needs ahead of our own.
“Count others more significant than yourselves.”
3) We need to lose our death-grip on this life.
And [Jesus] said to all, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it. For what does it profit a man if he gains the whole world and loses or forfeits himself? For whoever is ashamed of me and of my words, of him will the Son of Man be ashamed when he comes in his glory and the glory of the Father and of the holy angels. (
~Luke 9:23-26 ESV
I’ve been reading American Sniper by Chris Kyle. If you are unfamiliar with this autobiography, I’ll give you a very brief summary: Chris Kyle was a U.S. Navy Seal and trained sniper who served in Iraq. He currently holds the record for most documented sniper kills in American history. The book details some of his experiences overseas and his views on the war, the military, the muslims and the U.S.)
As I was listening to the book yesterday, there was one thing that really jumped out at me. Kyle said that he had accepted the possibility that he could die. It was a necessary mindset in combat. If you didn’t accept it, you were more likely to get killed (or get someone else killed) and less likely to carry out your mission. In order to save the lives of others, you had to be willing to die. (I am totally paraphrasing, but that was the essence of his statement.)
We need to adopt that same mindset. We have to accept death. At some point we are all going to die. We also have to accept that the things in this life are temporary—our wealth (or poverty), our position, our homes, our status, our jobs etcetera. If we can accept that, then we will be more able to carry out our mission to serve others and to serve God. We will have a difficult time doing that if we can’t let go of our stuff… let alone our life.
Jesus calls us to deny ourselves. He calls us to let go of these perishable things so that we can embrace eternal things.
We have to release our death grip on this world.
Letting go of the perishable and the temporal also gives us the peace of God. When we recognize that what we have is temporary and we give thanks to God, we will be less likely to panic when it is stripped from us. We will carry the attitude of Job: “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return. The LORD gave, and the LORD has taken away; blessed be the name of the LORD.” (Job 1.21)
Are you willing to lose your self? Are you willing to let go of bad behaviors, self-importance and even your very life?