The Process of Dying to Self…

I can be a really self-centered person. No, actually I am a really self-centered person. When I’m not looking to Jesus, my eyes naturally refocus on myself. It’s a horrible, ugly “personality flaw” that every human being has. As a Christian, learning to die to myself is not fun or easy. Nor am I very good at it to be quite honest!! What’s particularly difficult about fighting this tendency is that it’s not exactly a behavior or action. It can certainly manifest itself in those forms, but underneath them is an attitude.

So is it a hopeless battle? Do I just say “I’m selfish” & quit fighting against it? Or do I wave the flag of “I’m covered by grace” and arrogantly decide it’s “ok” & that people (& God) will just have to deal with it?

I don’t think either of those options are the correct response. One of my favorite passages is found in Ezekiel 36. I’ll give you a quick summary of what was going on: Israel had once again sinned & turned to worship idols. To discipline them, God “scattered” the people of Israel amongst other nations through captivity. In chapter 36 we see that wherever Israel went, they “profaned” the name of the Lord. They dishonored Him & were a poor representation of His character.

How did God respond? Did He give up on & forsake them? Or did He condone their behavior by saying that “it’s just the way they are?” By no means. Holiness was still the standard but humanity was still completely incapable of meeting it. Chapter 36 is a beautiful chapter about the grace that God poured onto His people- and still lavishes on His people (all followers of Christ) today. Since we cannot meet the standard of holiness, He said, “And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules.” – Ezekiel 36:26-27

Since humanity was clearly unable to keep the commands that God had given them, He decided to act. He did all the work necessary to make us righteous & holy through Christ’s death & resurrection. Not only did God forgive us & make us clean, but in these verses it says that He gave us a new heart & a new spirit. He cleansed us & made us righteous based on Christ’s merit & gave us the ability to walk in His ways. When you & I made Jesus the Lord of our lives He sent the Holy Spirit to dwell in us forever- to guide, comfort & convict us. Specifically in Ezekiel 36, He says that He causes us to walk in His statutes.

There was a time in college that I was struggling with a particular sin & felt completely powerless against it. I was reading through this chapter & it was as if the Lord was sitting right next to me, speaking to me. He clearly (not audibly) reminded me that I have had His Holy Spirit inside of me since I made Jesus my Lord as a child. Therefore, I had no legitimate reason to be enslaved to sin. If the Holy Spirit (who raised Jesus from the dead!) is in me, & if part of His job is to cause me to obey Christ, then surely I don’t “have to” give into sin. Surely He will “cause [me] to walk in [His] statutes” if I only ask & allow Him to do so.

Becoming like Jesus is not an easy “1-2-3” process. It takes a lifetime. “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. If we live by the Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit.” –Galatians 4:22-25. Learning to live by the Spirit & not by our flesh is hard, but definitely more than possible by the grace of God. Titus 2 says, “For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age.” God’s grace not only saves us through Christ, but it goes beyond that to train us to live holy lives. There is real freedom in that- not freedom to sin, but freedom from sin’s captivity & for a real, abundant LIFE.

 

Emily Kelly lives in Athens, GA with her awesome new husband, where she is on staff with the college ministry of Watkinsville First Baptist Church.

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10.12.12

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I totally agree with you. Dying to self results in freedom.

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