“Then Jesus said to His disciples, ‘If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me. For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it.'” (Matthew 16:24-25 NKJV)
As Christians walking with the Lord, are we dying to “self” and fulfilling the desire of God to become more Christ-like?
Or, are we those who are being dragged by the current of the world, and have lost our desire to please our Heavenly Father?
It’s important to recognize that there are only two paths in which we can direct our lives as believers.
One is the path that makes us more like Jesus. The other is the one that make us less like Him.
There is no option to be in the middle. There is no such thing as passive Christianity.
Either we are winning the battle against “self”, or we are being defeated by it. It’s that simple.
How to Find out Where You Are in Your Christian Walk?
One of the best ways to find out where we are in our Christian walk is to take some of the things that the apostle Paul said about himself, and apply them to our lives.
For instance, Paul said, “But none of these things move me; nor do I count my life dear to myself, so that I may finish my race with joy, and the ministry which I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God.”(Acts 20:24 NKJV)
We can ask ourselves, is our own life increasingly becoming of less value to ourselves for the cause of the gospel? Are we living less to please ourselves, so we can please God?
If the answer is no, then that means we’re not going in the right direction.
The good news is that if we find ourselves going in the wrong direction, all we have to do is repent, turn around, and go the opposite direction.
We have at least three tools that help us succeed:
1. We have the mercy of God that grants us forgiveness.
2. We have God walking along with us on our journey, helping us every step of the way.
3. Last but not least, we have the Holy Spirit, who empowers us to to live for God.
Understanding Self through the Eyes of God
Self represents who we are as human beings. It’s our ego, our old nature, and our flesh.
According to the Scriptures, all humans are born in corruption.
We’re born with a sinful nature that dwells in our bodies, which was passed to us through the first man on earth, Adam.
Romans 5:12 says, “Therefore, just as through one man sin entered the world, and death through sin, and thus death spread to all men, because all sinned.” (NKJV)
The Bible describes our human nature as evil, and hopeless to be restored to order, apart from the divine intervention of God through Jesus Christ.
Romans 3:10-18 says,
There is none righteous, no, not one; There is none who understands; There is none who seeks after God.
They have all turned aside; They have together become unprofitable; There is none who does good, no, not one.
Their throat is an open tomb; With their tongues they have practiced deceit;
The poison of asps is under their lips;
Their feet are swift to shed blood;
Destruction and misery are in their ways;
And the way of peace they have not known.
There is no fear of God before their eyes.
The Christian Worldview vs. the World’s
It’s important to be aware that as Christians, we have a different worldview than the rest of the world.
The world perceives human nature as something that is evolving with time.
Psychology, for example, developed what is called the humanistic perspective, in which human nature is viewed as basically good.
Humanism, which is the philosophy that rules over the western society, is described as a system of thought that stresses the potential value and goodness of human beings.
As a consequence of this distorted view of humanity, we see how the world has made of “self” a god, and has placed it in the highest of the pedestals.
This is clear everywhere we go. We’re bombarded with this philosophy everyday. It’s in our media, in our literature, and in our magazines.
The most popular phone is called I-phone.
Nowadays, the most popular thing in the social media is to take a selfie (a picture of yourself).
Among the most popular magazines are names like “People,” “Us”, “All You,” and “Self.”
This goes on and on in our modern narcissistic society.
Everything around us is targeting to build up “self,” to feed the flesh, and to make us cling to the things on earth.
The modern message of the world is, “You are your own god. You rule over yourself. There is no sovereign God.”
Don’t Fall For Self-Centered Christianity
It’s clear through the opening verse of this post, that the desire of God for us Christians is to die to self.
He wants us to live lives where our dreams, our goals, our thoughts, our desires, and everything that comes through our own devising is fully surrendered to Him, and Him only.
That is why God says, “Pick up your cross and follow Me.”
The term cross in this verse signifies death. In the times of Jesus, if someone was seeing carrying his own cross, it was an indicator that the person was going to be executed by the Roman Empire.
Therefore, Jesus requires for those who want to follow Him to deny their flesh, to die to the old life, and to obey His Word.
However, in the current times we live, and more than ever in history, there is a great part of Christianity that is living self-centered lives.
The main reason is most of the doctrines that have infiltrated the Church are designed to appeal to the flesh.
Two of these false fleshly doctrines are:
1. The Doctrine of Prosperity
This doctrine says that God desires primarily to look after our financial needs.
If we have financial problems, according to this doctrine, then it’s because our faith is not strong enough.
Of course, this teaching is wrong.
The Bible says in 1 Timothy 6:6-9:
Now godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out. And having food and clothing, with these we shall be content.
But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and harmful lusts which drown men in destruction and perdition.
2. The Doctrine of Miracles and Divine Healing
Another doctrine bases faith only in miracles and divine healing.
If you’re sick, then according to this doctrine, it’s because you sinned, or you don’t have enough faith to get better.
Paul prayed 3 times to be healed and God said, “My grace is sufficient.”
Paul then realized that the sickness he had was allowed by God, so he would not boast in the visions and revelations he received from Him.
Many Christians today see churches as businesses that are designed to accommodate their desires.
They say things like, “Well, I don’t like the type of music they play for worship.” Or, “They don’t give me enough attention, I feel ignored there.” Or, “The seats they have are uncomfortable.”
This type of Christianity is not about pleasing God, and becoming a servant in the body of Christ. Instead, it’s centered on how can God please the believer, and what can the church do for them.
Live in the Spirit and Die to Self
A life filled with the Spirit is the key to living a selfless, and Christ-centered life.
We must choose each day to do so.
The Bible says in Galatians 5:16-17, “Walk in the Spirit, and you shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh. For the flesh lusts against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; and these are contrary to one another, so that you do not do the things that you wish.”
Let’s close with these words of Pastor Chuck Smith, referring to this topic:
We are all striving for one or the other. You are either striving to bring God glory, or you are striving for your own glory.
You are seeking to bring praise to God, or you are seeking to bring praise to yourself.
For man is driven to worship and if I don’t worship God, I will worship myself. And my god will become a projection of myself.
-Pastor Chuck Smith