I like me and I’m quite sure you like you! The natural human way is to “Watch out for #1.” Somebody gave me a paper that bears the heading “Dying to Self.” A magnet holds it in place on the front of my refrigerator where the words on it challenge me. Among other things it says:
- “When your advice is disregarded, your opinions ridiculed, and you refuse to let anger rise in your heart, and take it all in loving silence – that is dying to Self.”
- “When you never itch for praise after an accomplishment, when you can truly love to be unknown … that is dying to Self.”
Tough words, aren’t they?
Here is one way that Jesus expresses a selfless life. “You have heard that it was said, ‘Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.’ But I tell you, Do not resist an evil person. If someone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. And if someone wants to sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well. If someone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles. Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you.” (Matthew 5:38-43, NIV) As I read those words there is a part of me that responds by saying, “How sweetly impractical. Nobody can live that way.” And, in saying that I sin because I am rejecting the wisdom of God!
So, how can we become selfless?
The key is to know Christ, not just as Teacher or Guide, but as Life!
Inspired by the Spirit, Paul reminds us (Christians!) that we cannot allow ourselves to keep living as those who do not know God “in the futility of their thinking.” (Ephesians 4:17-18, NIV) So much of ‘conventional wisdom’ is formed by minds that leave God out of the picture. Attempting to understand life and meaning without knowing that we are made to know, love, and serve God will lead us into chaos and confusion, spending our time and resources on trying to build a life that has no lasting foundation, feeling ever more hopeless. The cry of the person without hope in Christ is an echo of Solomon’s moan – “Vanity of vanities, all is vanity!” If we believe we are alone in the universe, left to care for ourselves, we will find Jesus’ words naïve, a path to misery.
When we are converted and the Holy Spirit takes up residence in us, we begin to understand that we are invited to be a part of God’s plan for the world. He creates a desire in us to be used by God. When we pray “Your Kingdom come, Your will be done,” we mean it. Our daily choices, our use of our money, our career, the way we interact with family and friend, grows out of the knowledge that we are “created in Christ Jesus for good works.” (Eph 2:10). The person who knows his purpose understands selflessness.
When a young person goes to see the recruiter for the military, he may have many reasons. Perhaps he’s looking for a job, or likes the idea of wearing the uniform, or thinks that he will find admiration of others. In boot camp he finds out that soldiering means being part of a unit, developing skills, and learning to take orders. The more elite the unit he joins the less of himself is allowed to exist. He learns to ‘die to self’ to that he can function effectively in the unit – learning to march, wearing a uniform!
The life of Selflessness that Jesus described allows His Light to shine through us. “I” no longer hides “Him.”
We cannot live as He asks purely by discipline or will. We must be changed from the inside out, loving Him so much that our devotion eclipses the impulse to protect self-interest. Jesus described the “dying to self” in another place this way – “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me.” (Matthew 16:24) It not all pain, certainly not all loss. Selflessness lets us find a whole new kind of joy – “For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it; but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it!” (Matthew 16:25) Selflessness makes us fruitful, but with a cost. Again, Jesus’ words – “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)
What is your vision, the reason you live? Is it to carve out a niche of comfort for yourself? Is it to gain security, to achieve admiration?
Or, do you live to love God?
Jesus’ words that ask us to lower our self-defenses and to let Him shine are costly, but the reward is rich.
Here is a word from the Word. Spend a few moments prayerfully thinking about this passage, with the prayer that the Spirit will make this ‘living truth.’
“I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live,
but Christ lives in me.
The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God,
who loved me and gave himself for me.” (Galatians 2:20, NIV)
(Chris Tomlin redoes the hymn and makes a beautiful prayer)
Take my life and let it be consecrated
Lord to Thee
Take my moments and my days
Let them flow in ceaseless praise
Take my hands and let them move
At the impulse of Thy love
Take my feet and let them be
Swift and beautiful for Thee
Take my voice and let me sing
Always only for my King
Take my lips and let them be
Filled with messages from Thee
Take my silver and my gold
Not a mite would I withhold
Take my intellect and use
Ev’ry power as You choose
Here am I all of me
Take my life it’s all for Thee
Take my will and make it Thine
It shall be no longer mine
Take my heart it is Thine own
It shall be Thy royal throne
Take my love my Lord I pour
At Your feet its treasure store
Take myself and I will be
Ever only all for Thee
Chris Tomlin | Frances Ridley Havergal | Henri Abraham Cesar Malan | Louie Giglio
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