"Then he said to them: 'Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will save it." Luke 9:23-24
You may not like reading this. I am convinced that most, if not all, of the conflicts and struggles we go through in life are because of SELF. SELF is problem that we face each and every day. I have been married now for almost twenty-two years. I have four children. I have worked in retail. I have worked in the school system. I am now a pastor. I have been through many struggles, and ashamedly I must say, I have been in many conflicts. It would be easy (AND NOT TRUE) for me to say that most of my struggles and conflicts in life have been because of other people. It would even make me feel better about mySELF if I did say it that way. But the truth is what sets us free, and the truth is that I am a SELFish person. If you don't want to hear this or don't agree with this, then you can stop reading now. If you want to hear my heart, and more importantly, if you want to hear God's Word, then keep reading and digesting.
SELF says: Take care of me! Feed me! Clothe me! Do for me! SELF doesn't have anyone else in mind but SELF. SELF is about gratifying SELF'S own desires and passions at the cost of everyone else around. When we get right down to it, SELF is the problem we face. If your marriage is on the rocks, quit blaming your spouse and look at SELF. If you children are driving you up the wall, quit blaming them and look at SELF. If you workplace is driving you crazy, quit blaming your boss or your co-workers and look at SELF. If your church isn't pleasing you, quit blaming the staff or the ministry teams and look at SELF. In Colossians 3:5-6, Paul says, "Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry. Because of these, the wrath of God is coming." Now you may look at that list and say, "I am not into sexual immorality. I don't have evil desires. I am not greedy." But look at the whole list. Lust isn't just a sexual term. Idolatry is a problem that we all have. We all have placed something on a pedestal and given it/them our full devotion: spouse, children, job, hobby, etc. We need to face reality today: WE ARE SELFISH PEOPLE AND OUR SELFISHNESS IS THE REAL PROBLEM WE FACE EACH AND EVERY DAY!!!
So what can we do about it? We must deny SELF! We must put SELF to death! And we have to do it daily! Paul said it this way in Ephesians 4:22-24, "You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old SELF, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in attitude of your minds; and to put on the new SELF, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness." Paul told the Galatians how to put off the old SELF. In Galatians 5:16-18, Paul says, "So I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. For the flesh desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the flesh. They are in conflict with each other, so that you are not to do whatever you want. But if you are lead by the Spirit, you are not under the law." In verses 19-21, Paul lists the fruits of the flesh (SELF). But he goes on to list the fruits of the Spirit in verses 22-23. He also reminds us in verses 24-26, "Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh (SELF) with its passions and desires. Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit. Let us not become conceited, provoking and envying each other." What can we do about our SELFish passions and desires? What can we do about our SELFish lives? We need to die to SELF. Luke 17:33 says, "Whoever tries to keep their life will lose it, and whoever loses their life will preserve it." How many husbands and wives are struggling today? They feel defeated and deflated and empty because they have been living SELFishly. How many parents are struggling to raise their children in a fast-paced and crazy world? They, too, feel defeated and deflated and empty. How many men and women go to work each and every day with no passion or energy, living defeated and deflated lives? It is because of SELF. We have to lose life (SELF) in order to truly have life. Jesus said it this way in John 12:24-25, "Very truly I tell you, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and died, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds. Anyone who loves their life will lose it, while anyone who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life."
True life is SELFless life. True life is in Christ. True life is in crucifying SELF and embracing servanthood. Jesus said in Mark 10:42-45, "You know that those who are regarded as ruler of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be slave of all. For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many." Just as Christ gave His life, we must give our lives. The Bible tells us it starts with repentance. 1 John 1:9 says, "If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness." All we have to do is turn from SELF (sin) and turn to God for healing, cleansing, and new life. If you are reading this, it is not too late for you or for me. We have not gone too far for God. He can reach us. He hears us. He knows us. He will save us. Romans 10:13 says, "Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved."
Now the ball is in your court. You may not like the truth, but you eventually will have to face the truth: SELF is the problem we face each and every day. Are you ready to "die to SELF"? Are you ready to "deny SELF"? Are you ready to truly live???