On a day recently when my mind was filled with a lot of random, trivial, mundane thoughts, a Facebook friend sent me a private message containing questions that stopped me in my tracks.
Here are a few of them:
1. From what I know, your life is filled with reasons for someone to expect you to have a close relationship with the Lord. What I am, then, wondering is what is your view of what it means to die to self?
2. Where is dying to self evidenced today in our churches?
3. Are we following Jesus today, or we, instead, following our Christian culture? The more I grow in my own walk with the Lord, the more I see following the Lord and following our Christian culture as two different paths. That is, the more I question that our Christian culture may mislead us to believe we can blend the two lives instead of choosing one or the other.
I shared a few thoughts with my friend, and she responded with more questions.
Ephesians 2: 8 tells us "not in yourselves; it is the gift of God." You said, "We cannot do anything to bring about our salvation or to make God love us more." And, "To me, dying to self means no longer being obsessed with self, and continually trying to move away from being self-centered." What does this mean to you?
Then she said --
You mentioned obedience saying dying to self is believing His will is good for us. I personally think obedience is very possibly misunderstood today - this on several levels. One of my concerns is who we are actually obeying. Are we obeying who man is telling us God is or are we obeying God, himself?
And finally, she asked --
You said Jesus came to give us life abundantly, this in conjunction with dying to self is not a life of deprivation and austerity. I want to reference 1st John 2:15 and what John is saying. How do we make a distinction between the world and the things of the world the Lord, through John, tells us not to love and deprivation?
Have you ever had someone to question you so deeply and persistently? It's humbling, isn't it? I am not a Bible scholar. I don't have a seminary degree. I have, though, been a born again Christian for almost 62 years now. It seems that I would have a fairly good grasp of the foundational truths of Scripture by now. If not, then I'd better get down to business. Time's a-wastin.'
I found this article on CompellingTruth.org to be very helpful, and I agree with the thoughts.
https://www.compellingtruth.org/dying-to-self.html Two sentences, in particular, caught my attention. 1) The exact phrase "dying to self" is not found in the Bible, but there are many verses which refer to self-denial and the death of the flesh. And 2) dying to self is not about what we are not allowed to do, it is about what we are now freed to do in Christ.
What has kept coming to my mind as I've pondered how to further respond to my friend is the hardest spiritual lesson I ever had to learn and that was that God loves me. Not God loves me WHEN or God loves me IF, just God loves me -- deeply, unconditionally. I spent the first 53 years of my life believing that I could earn more of God's love by doing stuff for Him. I was wrong. God desires a relationship with me more than anything else, especially the works that I might try to do. I am His child, and as much as I love it when one of my children goes out of their way to spend one-on-one time with me, God loves that, too. When I take the time to do that, I believe He shows me the paths I'm to take, the words I'm to speak, the actions I'm to do. And that guidance leads me away from legalism and toward an abundant life that pleases Him and comprises His good plan for me, ultimately pointing others toward Him.
How would YOU answer my friend?
1 John 4:9-10 -- "This is how God showed His love among us: He sent His one and only Son into the world that we might live through Him. This is love: not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins."