16 Mar 2011

Death to Self

Submitted by theshovel
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Hello my friends!

Last month, I sent the following out as a reply to a question about dying to self. As I considered what I might write for a long-overdue Spoonful, I came across this and decided it would make a good letter.

Jim


Regarding death to self, I do know what you mean. There are many who view Christian living as a matter of constantly battling self in the attempt to keep it or make it dead. This view takes as its premise or starting point the words of Jesus:

Summoning the crowd along with His disciples, He said to them, “If anyone wants to be My follower, he must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow Me.” Mark 8:34, HCSB

What many overlook in this reference is how it connects to the rest of what Jesus said at the same time:

Jesus went out with His disciples to the villages of Caesarea Philippi. And on the road He asked His disciples, “Who do people say that I am? ” They answered Him, “John the Baptist; others, Elijah; still others, one of the prophets.” “But you,” He asked them again, “who do you say that I am? ” Peter answered Him, “You are the Messiah! ” And He strictly warned them to tell no one about Him. Then He began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests, and the scribes, be killed, and rise after three days. He was openly talking about this. So Peter took Him aside and began to rebuke Him. But turning around and looking at His disciples, He rebuked Peter and said, “Get behind Me, Satan, because you’re not thinking about God’s concerns, but man’s! ” Summoning the crowd along with His disciples, He said to them, “If anyone wants to be My follower, he must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow Me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life because of Me and the gospel will save it. For what does it benefit a man to gain the whole world yet lose his life? What can a man give in exchange for his life? For whoever is ashamed of Me and of My words in this adulterous and sinful generation, the Son of Man will also be ashamed of him when He comes in the glory of His Father with the holy angels.” Mark 8:27-38, HCSB

Jesus spoke of a man denying himself and taking up his cross as a reply to Peter’s rebuke, which was his reaction to Jesus’ foretelling of his own impending rejection and death. We have to realize that, as followers, the disciples pinned their hopes upon a Messiah who was going to deliver them into something glorious. Jesus’ matter-of-fact pronouncements of rejection and death by the religious system of Israel dashed any possibility of ruling with him. To them, it stated very clearly that Jesus would be declared as a cursed man, not only by man but also by God. So Jesus lays out that following him entails the loss of life in this world.

A short time later, after more statements regarding his upcoming death and resurrection, a situation arises when James and John ask Jesus for a favor of sitting on his right and left hand in the kingdom:

But Jesus said to them, “You don’t know what you’re asking. Are you able to drink the cup I drink or to be baptized with the baptism I am baptized with? ” “We are able,” they told Him. Jesus said to them, “You will drink the cup I drink, and you will be baptized with the baptism I am baptized with. But to sit at My right or left is not Mine to give; instead, it is for those it has been prepared for.” Mark 10:38-40, HCSB

You see, they thought they were able to do whatever Jesus meant by this, but we know that when the time came, they all forsook him. Notice how after the two disciples answered Jesus in the affirmative, Jesus agreed that they would indeed drink his cup and be baptized with his baptism. It just didn’t happen according to their abilities or understanding, but according to his. He took them down into his death so that he could also raise them up with him to new life. It turns out that the selves they thought able to drink the cup or to sit at either Jesus’ right or left hand did not play into the picture at all. That self would die. Jesus’ words do rightly declare the necessity of death to the old self. It’s just that it took Christ to bring it about for us. We have indeed followed him, we have been crucified with him, our old self has died.

When Paul speaks of putting the old self to death, it is not stated as some kind of program or process to follow. His words are intricately connected to our recognition of Christ in having already accomplished our new life out of the old. We put off the deeds of the old man by shedding the lie that we are still bound by them. We are not under obligation to the flesh, but we often find ourselves giving into the lie of the world around us.

Spoonful: 
New Testament: 

Comments

This is very helpful as always, Jim. Many thanks. I find myself thankful to God as well for your gift of presenting our freedom (that rests on Him alone) so well, in so many ways, and without compromise. It’s been invaluable to me over the past five years or so. Much love, -Mike

-Mikey

theshovel's picture

Mike!

I am thrilled to have been a part of your life in this most living way.

Jim :)

I have been missing my spoonful lately.  :) This is such a blessing. I like these parts esp: [quote]1. “We have to realize that, as followers, the disciples pinned their hopes upon a Messiah who was going to deliver them into something glorious. Jesus’ matter-of-fact pronouncements of rejection and death by the religious system of Israel dashed any possibility of ruling with him.”[/quote] I have been lately expecting the Lord to deliver me into something glorious in this physical realm and having this expectation has blinded me to the reality of the spiritual glory I live in already. [quote]2. “They would indeed drink his cup and be baptized with his baptism. It just didn’t happen according to their abilities or understanding, but according to his. He took them down into his death so that he could also raise them up with him to new life. It turns out that the selves they thought able to drink the cup or to sit at either Jesus’ right or left hand did not play into the picture at all. That self would die.”[/quote] It’s awfully hard to crucify oneself. I can get the nail into my feet and the one into my left hand but it’s that last nail that gets really hard.  :) [quote]3. We are not under obligation to the flesh, but we often find ourselves giving into the lie of the world around us.”[/quote] It’s that giving in that I don’t like. Yet, I find myself in close relationships with so many around me who do not understand grace. I find myself going into their world”the world”to suffer with them so that I can minister to them. I don’t suppose that is really giving in but it’s the participation”the playing of the game that gets hard sometimes. Been thinking now and then over the years about Paul’s shorn head and vow. I had always thought of it a right or a wrong thing. Here he was swearing that Titus would never be circumcised yet, he acquiesced to shave his head and take a vow. I thought, “Paul, why did you give in!?!? But then, lately I have thought maybe I was starting from the wrong premise”maybe it wasn’t legal at all J. Maybe, it was not of necessity. Maybe it was out of love. Whether Paul shaved his head and took a vow or whether he didn’t made no difference to the free man that he was. So, out of love and to minister to the Jew, he became AS a Jew. Do you think it was comfortable for him? Many times, I don’t find it comfortable to play the game I’m playing to minister to the ones I love. Then sometimes, to my detriment, it becomes too comfortable :) Yet, I find myself enduring the hardness for the chance to make a difference for loved ones like my wife and my friends. Oh well, sorry for the random musings. Thanks again for this tasty spoonful. I like the Holman Christian Standard.  :) Yours in Liberty, John
theshovel's picture

This was my reply to John

Hello my dear friend John! :)

It is always good to hear from you, for your words are an encouragement to my heart. Yes, I have surely wished for something glorious in this physical realm in numerous periods of time, and I can tell you that I have come away severely disappointed. I used to seriously wonder at what Paul might have meant when he wrote that the one who believes in him is not disappointed, as I definitely could not relate. I figured there must be some kind of translation error since disappointment followed me around like a cloud over my head.

Hey, I love your comment about in the inability to crucify oneself!! That's great. I may have to use it. :) And I also understand the weariness found in having to participate in the game. Yuck!

Oh, the shorn head incident! I thought the same thing, my brother. What the hell was Paul thinking!!??! But I came to realize that perhaps I was reading something into the story and the meaning for the very same reason you brought up about Paul's insistence regarding Titus and circumcision. What I noticed was that nobody seemed to have been bothered by what I assumed was a big deal. I am certain that both Jew and Greek regarded the situation as a simple matter of a custom that befitted a Jew who served God. I seriously wonder if Paul may have had some misgivings regarding the counsel suggested to him in Jerusalem, though I am sure that he considered it a worthy sacrifice if it caused some of his fellow Israelites to believe. It was definitely love that moved him to take their advice, advice that ended up backfiring on him.

As I have come to understand Paul's heart, especially through his Corinthian letters, I get the feeling that he was disturbed and troubled by many of the situations in which he found himself. Consider the following, especially where I italicized certain words and phrases:

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort; who comforts us in all our affliction so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. For just as the sufferings of Christ are ours in abundance, so also our comfort is abundant through Christ. But if we are afflicted, it is for your comfort and salvation; or if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which is effective in the patient enduring of the same sufferings which we also suffer; and our hope for you is firmly grounded, knowing that as you are sharers of our sufferings, so also you are sharers of our comfort. For we do not want you to be unaware, brethren, of our affliction which came to us in Asia, that we were burdened excessively, beyond our strength, so that we despaired even of life; indeed, we had the sentence of death within ourselves in order that we should not trust in ourselves, but in God who raises the dead; who delivered us from so great a peril of death, and will deliver us, He on whom we have set our hope. And He will yet deliver us, 2 Corinthians 1:3-10 (NASB77)

But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the surpassing greatness of the power may be of God and not from ourselves; we are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not despairing; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying about in the body the dying of Jesus, that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our body. For we who live are constantly being delivered over to death for Jesus' sake, that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh. So death works in us, but life in you. But having the same spirit of faith, according to what is written, "I BELIEVED, THEREFORE I SPOKE," we also believe, therefore also we speak; knowing that He who raised the Lord Jesus will raise us also with Jesus and will present us with you. For all things are for your sakes, that the grace which is spreading to more and more people may cause the giving of thanks to abound to the glory of God. Therefore we do not lose heart, but though our outer man is decaying, yet our inner man is being renewed day by day. For momentary, light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison, while we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen; for the things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal. 2 Corinthians 4:7-18 (NASB77)

For even when we came into Macedonia our flesh had no rest, but we were afflicted on every side: conflicts without, fears within. 2 Corinthians 7:5 (NASB77)

You are already filled, you have already become rich, you have become kings without us; and I would indeed that you had become kings so that we also might reign with you. For, I think, God has exhibited us apostles last of all, as men condemned to death; because we have become a spectacle to the world, both to angels and to men. We are fools for Christ's sake, but you are prudent in Christ; we are weak, but you are strong; you are distinguished, but we are without honor. To this present hour we are both hungry and thirsty, and are poorly clothed, and are roughly treated, and are homeless; and we toil, working with our own hands; when we are reviled, we bless; when we are persecuted, we endure; when we are slandered, we try to conciliate; we have become as the scum of the world, the dregs of all things, even until now. I do not write these things to shame you, but to admonish you as my beloved children. 1 Corinthians 4:8-14 (NASB77)

I think Paul's heart was so totally transparent to those who did not ignore the obvious it testified to the freedom that drove him to do many things for the express purpose of those to whom he ministered life. All he had to do was to remind them and it seemed to shake them out of their stupors. "Remember how when I was with you ..." We may not get it, but they surely did. Gentiles could watch that Jew perform a ritualistic vow and be more assured in their own freedom without any need to do the Jewish thing along with him. They just understood by the way he handled himself while doing those things that there was absolutely no need whatsoever that they follow along. He didn't even take the Greek believers into the temple with him when he shaved his head and performed his vows along with the other Jews involved with him. Something tells me that he most likely explained the situation well enough for them to understand why he was doing what he was doing and how it was all for the purpose of bringing those Jews to see Christ and believe in him.

Till next time!
Jim :)

This was John's reply to me

Wow! You expanded what I was beginning to see. I started a "devotional" last night with the wife and kids on that psg from 2 Cor 1 because that was where I was going when I thought about the shorn head incident. So many times when I hear from you or read the shovel, it seems to confirm in words what the Lord has been showing me by experience. This is especially true with this.

Amazing, isn't it?"that the very thing that satan uses as his great weapon against us"bondage"God has turned around and allowed us to appear to be under and yet, not. Now that's pure ironic glory"spiritual sarcasm at it's best. I don't know how to say it.

Reminds me of how Samson allowed himself to be shackled willingly because he knew that he could break the shackles with ease whenever he pleased. He was shackled but not J and it was all to help his people. Oh well, this is lots of food for lots of wonderful thought and much love to you my Brother! What a blessing you are to me!

Jim, I forgot to mention to you that I really enjoyed reading this. I too can see Paul doing some of the things you described. I mean it just makes sense when you piece it all together. I really appreciated the time and effort you put into this. Adam

Hi John, Wow, as I quickly read this post of yours I thought you had somehow found a quote from me. Then I realized I had not posted it! lol I say quote from ‘ME’ only because I had written the very SAME thing[even about Paul shaving his head] on a note/napkin 2 weeks ago! I too believe Paul was free from any kind of bondage to the worlds system but, from time to time found himself doing things like this out of love! Never because he had to. I too had been wrestling with things like that. In fact, it was when I had realized the stuff about us submitting to governing authorities and stuff like that that this came up for me. Here is what I was thinking[wrote]: “..for the law is for the unriteous NOT the riteous. We are the Lord’s FREE MEN. Just like the law was given to and for the unriteous so is it with the giving of the ‘governing authorities’[for the lawless are the ones who need stop signs to STOP when someone crosses in front of us ]. Even Paul himself could submit to rules such as shaving his head and yet be totally FREE from the rules in Christ Jesus.” This revelation caused me great relief and joy. Adam
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Adam, this is great! :)

Jim

I too believe Paul was free from any kind of bondage to the worlds system but, from time to time found himself doing things like this out of love!..Paul himself could submit to rules such as shaving his head and yet be totally FREE from the rules in Christ Jesus.”

I like this. I think the appearance is just an instrument to be used for good purposes. We are free to alter words, intonation, behavior, and the appearance as a whole as we see fit. 

Boy, has this angered some people! For some would say this is hypocrisy, but for me hypocrisy is the fleshly mind that seeks to gain things through pretense, not the motions of Christ that make use of the appearance for the sake of life. 

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Random Shovelquote: Christ, not the Bible is the life (view all shovelquotes)

I discovered that the Bible was not the life, but that it declared the life. I used to be in bondage to a book, but the book tells me that I am not in bondage to anything! I also discovered that Jesus is The Word of God.   source