Over the past few days, we’ve learned a lot about agape love, so today, I want to talk more about the flip side of that wonderful gift, which is death to self.
No good thing in this life comes without sacrifice, and the most divine and precious gifts of God can only be experienced when we make a choice to deny ourselves. In fact, this theme is echoed over and over again in the New Testament, both in the teachings of Jesus and in the letters of Paul. Perhaps the most famous reference to self-sacrifice is in Luke 9, when Jesus confused His disciples by telling them to take up their cross and follow Him. Considering that His crucifiction hadn’t happened yet, the twelve must have wondered what this meant. After all, this was radical teaching in the midst of Jewish and Roman culture, one which said you could be a religious superstar by adhering to the law, and the other which taught that elevation and enlightenment of self were the highest virtues. Just like the ancient world, not a lot has changed in our society today, and the concept of self-denial is more foreign and unpopular than it’s ever been!
Friend, the irony of having abundant life in the Kingdom of God is that it requires you to crucify your obsession with yourself. Though it is tempting, if you follow the way of the world and remain consumed with you — what you look like, what you accomplish, where you live, where you work, how much money you have — you are going to lose your life. Even though you may not die prematurely, you will forfeit the opportunity to experience the fullness of God’s glory and sufficiency. In other words, you will never be the best version of yourself — the one who exists fully in Him and becomes the person He created you to be! Though it doesn’t feel good and can even be downright hard, I encourage you to deny your flesh and live uncompromisingly in the Kingdom of Heaven. How? By putting others first. Become the servant of all and watch what Jesus will do with your surrendered life!