The most important aspect of a disciple of Jesus is found in the concept of dying to self. This is a concept that is repeated often in the New Testament. For example, Colossians 3: 3 says :For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God”. Galatians 2:20 says: “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me…”. Matthew 16:25 says : “For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will find it”. These are just a few of the many verses that communicate this truth.
But what does it mean to die to self? Does it mean I lose my identity and walk around aimlessly without purpose, not using the talents God has given me? No at all. “Self” is the part of each of us that wants to be in control of our own lives. It is the power behind the pride that desires to be first and drives us to promote ourselves at the expense of others. It is the drive that does everything it can to see that we get what we want, when we want it, and how we want it. In short, “self” is the polar opposite of the humble surrender God wants us to exhibit as His bond slaves.
We live in a culture that screams “it’s all about me”! We are taught from a very young age to promote ourselves and grab for all the pleasure and power we can; our “happiness” is all that matters. So we go through life acting like we are captains of our own ship and masters of our fate. However, as we go through life, we discover that we are neither. All the self centered pursuits we go after are like mirages in the desert – appearing to offer everything but, in the end, delivering nothing.
Sadly, this “cult of self” has infiltrated the church. “Me” focused books,music, and sermons can be found in abundance. The church has become self reliant, self sufficient, self righteous, self centered, and self absorbed instead of being totally dependent on the Holy Spirit. We have become “Me” focused instead of God focused, and in essence, have pushed God out of our lives and out of His church.
Dying to self is the key to life. It involves absolute surrender to Jesus as His bond slave. When we die to self we live for His glory, not our popularity; we hunger and thirst for holiness, not our happiness; we promote Him, not ourselves. Dying to self contains the humility to recognize that, when “self” takes over, nothing good occurs. Dying to self is the main ingredient in brokenness, and it is a broken and humble spirit that really knows the incredible awesomeness of God’s presence (Isaiah 57:15).
Do you see – it’s not about us! It never has been and it never will be! It’s about our awesome God. Jesus laid it on the line when He said, as I quoted above : ” For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will find it”. Ouch! that hurts our ego, but these are the words of life. When we make ourselves large He becomes small. But when we become small, He becomes large, and this is what we so desperately need in our lives.
When we die to self, we finally understand what God meant life to be – a total surrender to Him. We still possess the personality, talents, and make up He created us with, but now we are under His control. He calls the shots, and we live with a hunger to glorify Him. This is the abundant life that has meaning, purpose, and fulfillment. Indeed, by becoming a bond slave of Jesus we discover true freedom.
The story of Job is a classic illustration of dying to self. He was a righteous man, but was self righteous. God needed to break him of this so He allowed Satan to devastate Him. Most of you know the story, and you’ll recall that in Job’s banterings back and forth with his three “friends” this self righteousness comes out clearly. Then in chapter 38-41 God speaks and Job is in awe of Him. Finally, Job sees God for who He is, and sees himself for what he is, and repents in brokenness and utters the immortal words: “My ears had heard of you, but now my eyes have seen you. Therefore I despise myself and repent in dust and ashes” (Job 42:5-6). Job was dying to self on the way to true life.
May we do likewise. My friends, die to “self”…and live!