“Deny yourself …”
“Love your neighbor as yourself.”
So, which is it? Are we to deny self, put to death that which of the flesh, or care for and love ourselves?
What, for that matter, is “self?”
There is a false self and there is a true self.
Deny the former; love the latter.
All of us have a false self.
God has given all His children a true self.
The false self is who we are defined as being by our families of origin, the culture in which we grew up, the zeitgeist of society, the messages about our worth that we hear from bosses, pulpits, friends, and spouses, and our own inner self-talk. From varying sources, we conclude things about ourselves, all of which are either untrue or only partially true.
A little girl is told in a thousand nonverbal ways by her parents, teachers, society, and community that she is “different,” or “slow,” “lazy,” useless,” or “no count.” She grows up “knowing” she is worthless.
A little boy, born with a proverbial silver spoon in his mouth, grows up being told by his wealthy relatives and prep-school teachers that he is “special,” “gifted,” “better,” “superior,” “the greatest.” He grows up “knowing” that he is of higher value than others.
Both have developed false selves that need to be extinguished. It will be harder for the little boy.
The false self has either too low or too high self-esteem. The false self is offendable, easily aroused, often provoked, feels persecuted and accused, becomes depressed, or angry, or hopeless, or afraid. The false self seeks self-preservation. It finds it must be in control. It is attached to disordered loves.
For the false self, confidence can easily become arrogance, and piety will often degenerate into self-righteousness.
The false self utilizes political manipulation and military coercion to get its way. It demands and punishes.
The true self sits at the feet of the King of kings.
The true self is who God says you are.
Your true identity is Beloved.
Christ in you the hope of glory.
New creations in Christ Jesus.
Nothing can separate us from the love of Christ.
The true self is filled with unselfish joy, shalom. It is actualized, whole, healthy. Though the body ages, the true self remains youthful, hopeful, energetic, clear-eyed, creative, curious, and filled with laughter and wonder. The true self radiates with the fruit of the Holy Spirit. It is unoffendable. It is teachable. It has a servant’s heart.
But, how, exactly, do I learn to cease listening to the voices I’ve heard my entire life and tune in to the gentle whisper of the Spirit?
Some sit in the labyrinth of despair. They will not listen to God. God’s message is too good to be true. Can God be that loving? That forgiving? Can grace be that universal so as to embrace the likes of me? Do not sit and do nothing. Stop listening to satanic lies. “Satan” means “accuser.” Don’t do the devil’s work for him.
Others, of a more narcissist bent, seek, Icarus-like, to soar into the realm of virtues and thrones, and wind up plunging into the mouth of Leviathan. Pride goes before destruction and a haughty spirit before a fall.
Do not take matters into your own hands.
(As if you could manipulate God)
The holy fire cannot be found by soaring upward on the waxwings of popular culture, philosophy, political movements, or religion.
God’s holy refining fire must come upon you from on high as you wait in contemplative stillness.
Consider deeply how the Triune God of perfect love is continuously at work creating, redeeming, sustaining, forging justice, loving the unlovely, forgiving the unforgiveable, comforting the enervated, healing the broken, liberating captives, and bringing wholeness/shalom to every aspect of creation.
Become more open, more pliant. Loose the attachments to the material. Look for the divine spark, the design, in all creation – trees, rivers, birds, turtles, the migrant worker, yourself. Find God at work in God’s world.
Normally, the Holy Spirit acts in harmony with the material world God created by acting as a catalyst, making all things new from the inside, not by forcing change from outside the system. God makes us lovely and holy from within, not by external coercion or force. God brings societal justice, not via legislative fiat, nor by military force, but by changing hearts as His followers love their enemies and do good. Hard violent hearts melt under self-sacrificing love. Nature with all its plants and animals, marine and terrestrial, reflects God’s effulgence when we, the appointed stewards, protect, and nurture her. God is always an active presence. Not by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit says the Lord of hosts.
Deny, yes, crucify, the false self. Nurture the true self. Allow God to take all your energy, intellect, and desires and redirect, them for the purposes for which you were made. Refuse to be who your parents said you were. Refuse to be who society says you are. No longer believe what the inner voices tell you when what they say is contrary to what God says. Sublimate your gaze, your viewpoint, and your energy.
God is a consuming fire.
Holy fire lights up my path, shows me the way, is a lamp to my feet.
Holy fire protects me in the presence of my enemies who now dare not approach the flock.
Holy fire cooks my food and warms my body.
Holy fire consumes the dross, burns away the impurity, refines that which is precious, leaving that which is imperishable. Wood, hay, stubble up in smoke. Silver, gold, precious stones, radiate beauty.
Oh, God, burn me beautiful; burn my lovely; burn me holy; burn me righteous; burn me pure, until, by your grace, I am like Jesus.
“Lord, lock me up in the deepest depths of your heart; and then, holding me there, burn me, purify me, set me on fire, sublimate me, till I become utterly what you would have me to be, through the utter annihilation of my ego.” (Pierre Teilhard de Chardin)
Jesus’ cruciform love draws me to Himself like iron shavings to a magnetic field; but unlike the iron that remains essentially the same albeit molecularly rearranged, as the Divine heart draws me, it transforms me in the process, and I become (miracle of miracles) a new creation in Christ Jesus.
Oh Jesus, Master, King, Lord, Savior, Redeemer, God of Perfect Love, penetrate the deepest marrow of my innermost being and draw me ever deeper into your sacred heart. Amen.
Posted on January 24, 2020, in anabaptist, apologetics, Bible, Bible Teaching, bodily resurrection, Christianity, creation, Jesus, Kingdom Life, kingdom of God, parables, Peace Shalom Hesed, Spirituality, The Cross, Worship. Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.
So many good points in this article. Find God at work in God’s world. I really love that and also believe it to be true. Though there is a piece I am currently writing which has more questions than answers, I believe, in the end, that God is here with us in spirit.
Thank you thank you for this post.