We love to beat ourselves up. Self-flagellation comes naturally, even in the Church. Maybe especially in the Church. A type of masochist Christianity that somehow makes us feel better about ourselves (more on that in future posts).
But what should we do? Scripture clearly calls us to die to self, a concept I’ve really been wrestling with lately. Jesus said crazy things like:
“If you cling to your life, you will lose it, and if you let your life go, you will save it.”
-Luke 17:33 NLT
That seems pretty intense to me. So I once again find my life crashing against the demands of a holy God and crumbling into a pile of failure on the floor.
How do I die to self? By beating myself up? By trying harder? More discipline? More effort?
Unfortunately, this narcissistic approach to following Christ is both ineffective an incredibly ironic. We look to ourselves to die to ourselves? Anyone else see an issue here?
Last week, I stumbled onto a beautiful description of “death to self” from South African author and pastor Andrew Murray. This passage is well over 100 years old (which makes it that much more awesome, especially if you imagine it being read with a South African accent).
“This gives us the answer to the question so often asked, and of which the meaning is so seldom clearly apprehended: How can I die to self? The death to self is not your work, it is God’s work. In Christ you are dead to sin; the life there is in you has gone through the process of death and resurrection; you may be sure you are indeed dead to sin.
But the full manifestation of the power of this death in your disposition and conduct, depends upon the measure in which the Holy Spirit imparts the power of the death of Christ. And here it is that the teaching is needed: if you would enter into full fellowship with Christ in His death, and know the full deliverance from self, humble yourself. This is your one duty.
Place yourself before God in your utter helplessness; consent heartily to the fact of your impotence to slay or make alive yourself; sink down into your own nothingness, in the spirit of meek and patient and trustful surrender to God.”
-Andrew Murray (1828-1917)
So what’s our job? To destroy the self? To punish the self? To hate the self? To beat the self?
How about we just humble the self?
And look beyond our self for the only hope we have for real, authentic, death-to-self transformation–Jesus Christ. Change doesn’t come when you try harder, it comes when you surrender. The work is His. You can’t, so God did.
What do you think? Start the conversation below.