… what do I have left?
I know that the “Christian” response is to say that I must die and He (Jesus) must live. He is what I have left when I lose my self.
But that doesn’t make sense, does it? No, that’s not the message of the gospel. The call to the person is all through the message. God loves you and He loves me. He loves us—our selves. He does not call us as a group; He calls us as individuals. He wants a relationship with each of us.
Where do you see in Scripture this “dying to self” that so many talk about? When did Abraham die to his self, so that there was nothing of Abraham left? When did David release his hold on his self and lose his identity in his Lord? Or John? Or Peter?
No, this is not part of the Christian message. Perhaps it fits better with some kind of Eastern religion where the goal is to become part of the great overmind or something. But Jesus wants you! He knows you as your self and He loves you as your self.
Actually, I think I know where some of the confusion comes from. Many people mistake the old man of Ephesians with their self. They think their identity, even as believers, is tied to the past and the sin the old man represents. But the old man is dead! The old nature/heart is gone. It died with Jesus.
And, I think, some people point to the continuing sinful actions and attitudes in their lives and claim that there is some kind of sinful self that remains. But believers have no sinful self, no sin nature. There is only the flesh, the old way of doing things. Yes, we are to die to the flesh, to live according to the Spirit, rather than the flesh. But that is just a way of saying that we are to live the life we now have in Christ, not the life we used to have apart from Him. You are still your self.
Now, I understand that someone might point to Abraham and show me how he died to his ambitions for Isaac when he was willing to sacrifice his son on the altar. Wasn’t that dying to self? No! That was Abraham giving his goals, his hopes, to the Lord. That was Abraham believing and trusting God with his future. He still expected a future. He still expected that the future would be full of the blessings God had promised. Abraham didn’t lose his self when he yielded his life to God.
And someone will point out that Paul talks about dying daily (1 Cor 15:31). But didn’t Paul expect to still be Paul the next day? Of course he did! He means that he dies to his own plans and comforts and expectations as he submits himself to the Lord. That isn’t dying to self.
You see, we are not called to be worthless doormats, even in our relationship with the Lord. He made us as individuals and He loves the differences among us. We look at the same event and interpret it differently. We handle challenges using different tools and see life from different perspectives. That fact is good. That’s how He made us. You and I, our selves, are the expression of His creativity.
So, set aside the flesh, with its fears and habits, because that no longer defines you. And let the old man be dead and gone, like the Word says. Then come as your self, redeemed and holy and good, to the Lord who loves you.