“The very spring of our actions is the love of Christ. We look at it like this: if one died for all men then, in a sense, they all died, and now His purpose in dying for them is that their lives now should be no longer lived for themselves but for Him who died and rose again for them” (II Corinthians 5:13-14, J.B. Phillips Translation).
In a day and age that deifies the “self” self-fulfillment, self-image, self-actualization, self-esteem, self-confidence, and more hyphenated self-words than you can shake a stick at, the above verse cuts against the grain of our self-centered culture. Here the Apostle Paul exhorts us to no longer live for self but for the One who died and rose again on our behalf. Then he calls us to live for others. When writing to the Philippians, the apostle said, “And do nothing from selfishness…but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourself.” Both are consistent with Christ’s call that we die daily (to self), pick up our crosses and follow Him.
When the Bible uses the hyphenated self, it looks like this, self-denial, self-discipline, self-crucifixion, self-restraint, etc.
If you’re like me, when we contemplate self-denial for the sake of Christ and others, our flesh, our natural man cringes. Though we may not say it out loud, we do, in our spirits, say such things as, “That’s not fair!” or “Who’s going to look out for me if I don’t?” Surprisingly, as we study God’s Word, we find that there is not an ounce of loss programmed in the self-denial mindset.
Picture this, 100 people are in a room, each one is filled with a God-given desire to love one another as they love themselves. If you are one of those people, what is the ratio of that which is going out of you to that which will be coming back towards you? That’s right 99 to 1.
Over the years I have heard the testimony of hundreds who have registered everything from pleasant surprise to out-and-out shock, at what it was they received in return after they died to self and put Jesus then others before themselves. They were not prepared for what they received and were left wondering why they had not surrendered sooner.
One reason that we need to be daily in God’s Word is to battle against a culture that constantly tells us “we deserve________. ” You fill in the blank. The only thing that I have ever deserved was death and hell. “But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up with Him, and seated us with Him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the ages to come He might show the surpassing riches of His grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast” (Ephesians 2:4-9).
With Jesus as our example, the Word of God as our road map, and the Holy Spirit empowering us, we too can walk as Jesus walked and say as He said, “I have not come to be served, but to serve.” And in that stepping forth we find the same well of spiritual vitality that Jesus Himself found when ministering to the woman at the well (John 4:32).
When one adds the spiritual discipline of service to their study of God’s Word, prayer, and fellowship, they will find the very joy that filled the life of Jesus who said, “These things I have spoken to you so that My joy may be in you, and that your joy may be made full” (John 15:11).