Tuesday, January 3

Sacrificing Self

Therefore I urge you brothers, in view of God's mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God--this is your spiritual act of worship. Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is--his good, pleasing and perfect will. --Romans 12:1-2

I am sorry to say that I am not a very good example of what it means to be selfless. The idea of self-sacrifice isn't very appealing to someone who occasionally still has to be told by her mother, "it's not all about you." Even in what I believe are my most genuine efforts to be a good Christian witness, I find myself subtly edging God out of the picture in order to satisfy my self-indulgent nature. There are times when I desire, no, demand a great deal of attention, and when I don’t get it, or fail to receive the appropriate measure thereof, I become a brooding, mewling wretch. That's not exactly the correct picture of a living sacrifice as described in Romans 12:1.

Giving in to a crabby, selfish attitude is exactly how the enemy wants me to behave. Satan would like for me to forgo any acts of worshiping the one true God. Rather than turn my focus outside myself and reflect on the goodness of what God is doing, I get hung up on myself. Shakespeare wrote “to thine own self be true” but that phrase seems to contradict God’s first commandments which say that He is the one true God and that we are to have no other gods before Him. That includes seating ourselves on God’s throne.

The danger to our Christian walk occurs when we let our over-inflated sense of self override our desire to follow Christ. When we are unwilling to sacrifice our own pride, we gain nothing no matter how well we think we are doing spiritually. Selfishness keeps us from seeing anything beyond the tip of our own noses. Moreover, we put up a wall around us that keeps our Christian brothers and sisters from being able to get through to us to tell us that we are behaving in a manner that is despicable.

Within our closed off ego-bubbles, we start to believe that everything good that happens is a result of our own doing. So too do we begin to think that the bad things are brought about by our own hands. Foolishly and futilely we attempt to make good things happen in order to bolster our pride and self esteem. Before long we are utterly deflated, frustrated, and stuck in a rut, all because of our selfishness. This is the pattern of the world.

Freedom is found in focusing our hearts and minds on Christ. He has already delivered us from our most selfish actions. He has delivered us from our sinful nature—the natural sin into which we were born. When we place Jesus in a central position in our lives, we are able to see Him no matter where we are standing. A life centered on Christ is balanced much like a wheel’s spokes and the way they attach to the rotation point. As the axle turns, so does the wheel—always perfectly aligned, each spoke bearing the same amount of weight as the other.

When selfishness threatens to make the wheels of life unbalanced, it is important for us to step back and examine whether Christ remains central in our day to day activities. If not, we need to realign our hearts and minds with His, and ask Him to forgive us for disobeying His greatest command. We need to unseat ourselves from where we don't belong (God's throne) and climb atop the altar of self-sacrifice.

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1 Comments:

At 11:08 AM, Anonymous Megan said...

Dear Lauren
I like what you say. It's so true that a focus on Christ leads us to actions different from a focus on self. But I think it's possible to become so set on sacrificing self that it in itself becomes a selfish act. Does that make sense? We are so focused on sacrificing that we are always looking to what we can sacrifice and often feel a little bit proud that we have accomplished some form of sacrifice.
We should try to focus more on God's perfect grace and love than on our own attempts and needs to self-sacrifice, but even then we fall short as we always will. You mention freedom in your blog which is a much used "Christianese" word, but I don't think we were ever promised freedom this side of heaven. Christ tells us the truth will set us free (John 8), truth being himself and the freedom coming only fully in heaven. Sometimes we desire the free-feeling now, here, on earth, and become frustrated when a good dose of something like self-sacrifice, prayer, or scripture doesn't get us there. We feel inadequate and that maybe we have done something wrong or maybe aren't true Christians. Then we remember the truth- we are imperfect, Christ is perfect, we are inadequate and do everything wrong in some way, but we are Christians because our faith is in Him and His promise and not our own efforts. Freedom comes from Him. Self-sacrifice is really orchestrated by God when he designs that something should be less in our lives. All frustrating facts for those who like control, but excellent comfort for those who know their own sin.
Anyways, just a few thoughts.
Also- what we talked about with being "genuine". It depends on your definition of the word, but I don't believe your motives have to be correctly in line before you do an action, or that you should cease certain actions because you aren't doing them "fully for Christ". As if we ever could! What power do we have to glorify God except how HE glorifies himself through us? It's right in the Westminster Confession- none. We are called to act in love, do loving acts, and many specifications are given in Scripture. Give to the poor, take care of orphans and widows in distress, pray for one another. If our motivation isn't 100% to glorify God, that's okay! It NEVER will be! God will work within our sinful hearts, sanctifying us day by day, and allows us to take part in "good deeds" even when (maybe because) we do them if they make us feel good about ourselves.
Beware of Christianese- it can sound good but define fuzzy.

 

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