I can guarantee this truth: A single grain of wheat doesn’t produce anything unless it is planted in the ground and dies. If it dies, it will produce a lot of grain (much fruit). John 12:24 I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. Galatians 2:20
“Sanka you dead, mon?” It’s my favorite quote from Cool Runnings. Every time the bobsled turns over they ask this poor guy if he’s dead. Well, I feel like this pretty much describes my daily life. I go around asking people if they’re dead yet. Really dead. Let me explain.
In 2016, I went from supermom with a great job, to a blubbering, helpless mess riddled with panic attacks and anxiety, and for very legitimate reasons that I will not expound upon at this time. Suffice it to say, I was a disaster. Jesus healed me by inviting me to be with Him in His presence every day and about a year later I was free…and the freedom keeps coming into greater freedom! I tell that story in more detail here. But what I realized as I sat with Him is that part of the anxiety (meaning “divided mind“) was that I was trying to live like a Christian but I couldn’t fully. Not really. Because I had never completely died. After all, how can someone who has never died be resurrected or even re-born?
Now this may seem obvious to church-raised Christians, but it is not easy for us to actually do. This is the mystery that Yeshua told Nichodemus in John 3. To enter the Kingdom of God, you must be reborn, or “born again,” by water (natural birth and baptism) and Spirit (Jesus gave the Spirit at Pentecost for the first time in Acts 2 and people continue today to be filled by the Spirit in the same way (both with and without tongues)). Nicodemus had a lot to lose. To really follow Yeshua as His Rabbi would have meant giving up his station, platform, reputation, legacy, and money. His career would have been damaged if not destroyed. He would have had to unlearn what he thought was true, and be teachable like a child again, open to rewiring old thought patterns. He would be as good as dead.
And that was Yeshua’s point. Death to self comes before being born again into newness of life. You have to decide to die completely to your old self before you experience coming alive with Jesus (Galatians 2:20). But how much of you have you surrendered to Jesus? Actually.
You know, the heart is deceptively good at compartmentalizing (Jeremiah 17:9). You think you love God? Great! Are you following all of His commandments or just some of them? Because according to Yeshua, this is the test. He said, “If/When you love me, you will obey my commands.” In Hebrew, the word, “Commandments” is better understood as directive, the way a commander commands his troops. They are military orders, they are “the battle plan,” the strategy. In what ways are you holding back from the commands of the Messiah? In what tiny corners of your heart to lust and impurity reside, in what small corners of your mind does pride, judgment, and jealousy lurk. In what ways are you hiding all that behind a religious facade? How have you convinced yourself that it’s not your job to disciple the nations as He commanded in the great commission (Mark 16:15)? Isn’t it time to give up the charade? How much territory of your heart has been yielded? Honestly?
You can pretty much tell how much you love Jesus by how much you choose to obey Him. While it is possible to obey without love, you absolutely cannot love someone without serving them with your whole heart and staying intimately connected. This is the kind of obedience Yeshua wants from you. It’s loyalty as to a commanding officer. It’s duty at its finest. It’s willingly laying down your life for Him and His Kingdom. And He does ask it from you. “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.” Matthew 16:24
Would you give up anything for Jesus, since He has already asked it (Matthew 10:39)? What are you unwilling or maybe feeling unable to part with? And don’t fool yourself thinking He would NEVER ask to have your most precious thing. Come on. Be honest. What are you holding onto besides Him? Be brave and ask Him to show you. What are you most afraid He will ask you to give up? Tell that to Him. Confess what you have been holding back. Can’t you trust Him enough to offer Him access to those places for Him to decide whether they should remain or not? Lay it all down. And die completely. In the words of my friend Don, you only die once. So let’s ask the question: Have you actually died?
#1 TO YOUR REBELLION
You must die to sin, which is rebellion against God. That’s why Jesus said, multiple times, and even in His most merciful moments of forgiveness and healing, “go and sin no more.”
Jesus says you must be holy as God is holy. (Matthew 5:20) And His followers were not confused as to what that meant (1 Peter 1:15-17). We are actually meant to live morally pure lives out of love for God.
When I was young, I used to think He said this to make me understand my need for the cross, I didn’t think Jesus actually meant that I have the ability to live righteously. The pull of sin seemed so strong, that I never considered He actually meant that I could consistently live a holy life. At that time, I was living under the condemnation of the law of sin and death and not under grace, yoyo-ing between bouts of indulging sin and bouts of feeling forgiven. But the grace of God means that all my sin and shortcomings were nailed to the cross with Yeshua and I walk free from condemnation. With a worshipful and thankful heart, I enter into a way of holiness, as a wholehearted disciple of Rabbi Yeshua, knowing that I CAN go and sin no more if I choose to.
Don’t you realize that those who do wrong will not inherit the Kingdom of God? Don’t fool yourselves. Those who indulge in sexual sin, or who worship idols, or commit adultery, or are male prostitutes, or practice homosexuality, 10 or are thieves, or greedy people, or drunkards, or are abusive, or cheat people—none of these will inherit the Kingdom of God. 11 Some of you were once like that. But you were cleansed; you were made holy; you were made right with God by calling on the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God. 1 Corinthians 6:9-11
According to Paul, if you are not willing to die to sin, you cannot enter the Kingdom. Have you tried to fool yourself on this matter? If you have not decided to die to sin, stop here and do just that. Ask Yeshua to make you pure by His blood, and then DECIDE to go and sin no more, confident you can, because Jesus told you that you can. Impossible, yes, it seems so. But all things are possible with God (Matthew 19:26). But think of it this way: If it were impossible, Jesus would not have told us to do it. That would have just been cruel. He said, to numerous, habitual sinners, they could “go and sin no more.” Yeshua, the sinless Lamb of God, who loved His Father so much that He would not sin, knew He was about to defeat the power of sin and death forever on the cross on our behalf, and that you would be able to defeat sin and temptation by His Word. It is a decision of the will and living it out practically is a matter of determined love, that you will not hurt the one who died for you. Find scriptures that strengthen your heart and memorize them as your weapons against the enemy, as Jesus did when He fought Satan. (Matthew 4:1-11)
But, you still may say, even if I continue to sin, won’t God forgive me? Let me ask you a questions. Do you think God intended to give you His Son and His Spirit so that you could keep on sinning? Or as Paul writes in Romans 6:
For we know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body ruled by sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin— because anyone who has died has been set free from sin. Romans 6:6-7
Am I saying you will have a moment in he future where you will finally be “holy” having rejected all sin and putting down all desire to sin? No. What I am saying is that, by trusting Yeshua, you are already holy and sanctified, or set apart, by His blood, which covers you like a robe and purifies you in an instant, and you are given, based on His merit, not yours, the signet ring of authority in the Holy Spirit. As pure, holy children of God, now we can walk righteously from a place of being completely loved and accepted, as a matter of identity, moral determination, and habit. We must expect that we will definitely be tempted, but you do not HAVE to sin. You can choose obedience to God even when it’s very difficult. Sometimes putting sin to death feels like grief. But it’s more like detoxing. You are in pain, but it is a healing pain. Your whole coping mechanism and defaults are being rewritten, recalibrated, and realigned with every act of choosing obedience. Your body will be used not as an instrument of sin, but of righteousness (Romans 6:13)
But, you may ask, why doesn’t God just kill the desire for sinful things? I feel that He has failed me by not giving me the strength to fight.
Don’t you know, He has given you everything you need for life and godliness by the power of God, for His glory and don’t you remember that you are not tempted by God but by your own desires allowed to run freely?
God is not trying to trick you, but He is allowing you to be tested expecting your victory!
Why does He not simply abolish temptation?
- He allows us to be tempted to prove our allegiance to the enemy and to ourselves.
- He allows us to experience victory over sin, which we are led into by our own sinful desires, because our desires are meant to align with God’s, but He will not force that to happen. Fighting against sin strengthens our will to follow Yeshua. And who are you to say that temptation will not exist in the Kingdom of God? We must learn and discipline our hearts to righteousness and loyalty to the way of God now…in this lifetime. It will not simply magically appear in us when we enter paradise.
- Because He desires our reliance. One day the desire to sin will be gone (for the most part) or at least greatly diminished as a result of your constant training in obedience and our endurance in yielding to the Holy Spirit. If you endure, the desires of your heart will be rewritten by the Holy Spirit, not on hearts of stone, but of soft flesh. You will be circumcized in your heart and completely His, in the new covenant of Jesus’ blood. And if you stumble, as we all will from time to time (1 John 1:10), you will not continue into habitual sinning (1 John 3:9), but you will recover quickly, and you will be forgiven instantly because of the mercy of God in Messiah. All who follow Yeshua must die to sin. And you can.
If you are a believer and have fallen into habitual sin (Hebrews 10:26-39), the Bible says you can expect God’s judgment. Because of the callousness that habitual sin creates, it will be hard to be restored to an experience of the love and power of God or even believe the power of the cross anymore after you have trampled the gift of grace God gave you. However, God WILL still forgive you if you repent. He is kind and merciful to the brokenhearted and contrite. If you are genuinely ready to repent, find someone who can walk you through returning to God and truly stop sinning. We are addictive creatures, but God breaks all addictions and fills every craving. He not only will forgive you, but He will fill you and satisfy you and give you His Spirit, the power to endure, to do the work of the Father, to fight apathy, and to choose His way at every instance of temptation. You must die to sin.
I also want to encourage you. The earlier you resist temptation, the easier it will be. Do not indulge sinful thoughts thinking you can reject the action later. Jesus said sin starts in the heart (Matthew 5:28). The more you work the spiritual muscle to fight sin, the easier it will be. The more you indulge your yearning for the presence of God, the easier it will be to see the poverty and cheapness of sin. The more you develop your ear for God’s voice, by spending time with Him in His word, the easier you will distinguish the other voices trying to lead you away. It will get much, much easier, almost to the point you feel immune to sin. Of course, you are not. Don’t be fooled. But you will be dead to it as long as you stand firm in your identity in Messiah. You are holy, pure, and righteous before God. Now live that out in love and joy!
#2 YOUR RICHES
Have you surrendered your riches to the Lord? I don’t mean your 10% tithe. I mean all of it. Your money belongs to you to do with as you wish. But did you know that you will be held accountable for how you spend your money? (Luke 12:19-21). Did you know there is a way God wants you to use and invest your money, and none of it has to do with your personal security?
Jesus taught a lot about money, maybe more than any other subject, but I could not see it at first because I lived in a relatively affluent community that valued personal wealth and the sense of stability and safety that can bring. I can recall multiple sermons of the Parable of the Talents (a measure of silver) which never spoke of investing money into the Kingdom, but only of applying our abilities and efforts to the Kingdom of God! What a disservice we are doing to the body by NOT be teaching the Messianic principles of finances!
I always thought it interesting that many Christian finance programs drew a lot from the wisdom literature of Old Testament, but very little on the actual teachings of Yeshua regarding money. Many of them actually teach to “build wealth” before you start to give generously! The New Testament teachings on money teach clearly against hoarding wealth and clearly in favor dispensing your wealth to God (whether in lavish worship (Luke 7:36-50) or in ministry to others (Luke 8:1-3) or in an offering to God at the place of worship (Luke 21:1-4)), even to the last little bit you have and even in your poverty! Not once does Yeshua teach to build wealth so we can give more later. Meanwhile, He teaches in DOZENS of different parables and interactions with people that giving up your money and possessions (even to the point of poverty) is a way to enter the Kingdom, honor God, or avoid judgment on the issue of fiscal stewardship (this is especially a theme in the gospel of Luke).
Why are your finances a matter of importance for your relationship with God?
- The discipline of giving freely kills the “fear of lack” and “fear of poverty” and demonstrates a person’s faith and dependency of God. Money forms the assurance many people have for well-being, emergency plans, satisfaction, comfort, and future security. What if He asked you to give your money away? What excuses would you use to explain that away? Be honest about this hypothetical question and don’t be offended. The purpose is not to judge you, but to help you identify blind spots and ways that we deceive ourselves. Jesus says you cannot serve both God and money. (Matthew 6:24)
- The discipline of giving freely automatically takes us into obedience and into the realm of miraculous provision. Jesus, Moses, Paul, Abraham, David, Gideon, Samuel, Noah modeled a prophetic step-by-step following of God, inquiring of the Father along the way, regarding direction, battle, leadership decisions, finances, and resources, even within a broader vision of the Father’s purposes, HIS goals. In doing so, you are obeying a core command of God not to covet what your neighbor has (Luke 12:15). Whose lifestyle are you trying to emulate…Someone you know or someone you follow on social media? A family member or a co-worker? What quality of life factors are you not willing to lay down? Could this be an issue of coveting? Then simply repent.
- The disciple of giving freely releases us from a contractual religious thinking. If you think God’s plans and hopes for your future include insuring your own wealth and optimal health, you need to confront your fears because they could be causing you to live financially in a way that limits your investment in the kingdom and purposes of God. What God is asking you to give over to Him is your security, your self-sufficiency, and your safety. If you were raised in church, you’ve might have been told that God has plans to prosper and not harm you your whole life (Jeremiah 29:11). But those of us who have lived long enough know that scripture also says the route to your “good” future may include pain, poverty, suffering, rejection, and even physical death. Elijah was chased and starving. Jesus suffered rejection from his own hometown and family. Paul suffered a thorn in his flesh. He was thirsty, beaten, hungry, homeless, imprisoned, and finally killed. All of these are actually indicative of a blessed life according to Jesus. And we will prosper and make it safely to our heavenly home, where we will experience God’s glorious pleasure as our portion and be rewarded for all we have entrusted to Him. (2 Timothy 4:18)
You may be thinking, ‘But I DO trust God with my safety and security–what do these things have to do with money?’
Great! But allow me to simply and gently offer the reminder that the heart is deceptive. Ask God to search you. In what ways is your sense of security based in an inheritance, property holdings, a retirement account, a savings account, or a lucrative job salary? Maybe it helps to imagine if all that disappeared out of your life, how you would feel? Exposed? Vulnerable? Would you be able to buy a house in the area with the good schools and “safe neighborhood” or would you have to live among poor people? How would you feel about that? Do you believe self-sufficiency is a moral virtue? (I am speaking mainly to the American church here.) It’s not. Align with the word of God. All of these culturally and historically rooted false beliefs about money, and security are grounded in human wisdom not Godly wisdom, and if you don’t question them and align with the truth of Gods’ word, it will absolutely affect what you feel is important enough to spend your money on.
By and large, we spend money on our family’s own self-indulgences, self-protection, security, and safety. And we rationalize our expenditures based not on what the poor have, but on what the wealthy have. After all, when compared to what the wealthy do with their money, our expenditures seem quite modest. Beloved, not only will God hold us accountable for how we spend our money, but HE will also bless us if we die to the false sense of supposed “security, safety, and self-satisfaction” hoarding and wasting money can give and put our money to work in the kingdom.
God invites you to rely on Him for your satisfaction and provision, to see every gift, every salary check, every bonus, every meal made for you as from His hand. And when you loose a job or an investment fails, Your Father is not punishing you or withholding blessing or long-term security from you. Remember His purposes. He is FOR you. He wants you to find your long-term security in Him. He wants you to be able to rely on others when you need it and give freely when they need it (Hebrews 13:16, Romans 12:13). He wants children to take care of their parents and parents to take care of children (1 Timothy 5:4-8). He wants intimacy with you and for you to have close inter-dependent, mutually beneficial friendships in your life (Acts 4:32). He wants you to need Him and others, and contribute to Him and others because that’s how Shalom community is formed. We were made to be a family.
By dying to riches, we come alive to hospitality, family, and community in the Body of Messiah! This is not a sort of religious socialism, it is a spirit-filled, joyful generosity that is not forced upon you, but that flows from the Holy spirit inside you. Let Him discipline and draw and allure your heart by asking Him for only next steps and putting your financial security in His hands. Give to those who ask you (Luke 6:30) Be bravely generous to God by giving to the poor, even in hard times. Provide for people who God tells you to with reliant generosity, like Elijah’s widow (1 Kings 17:7-16) and the widow Yeshua saw putting her small coin in the offering collection (Luke 21:1-4). Give and it shall be given to you, good measure pressed down and shaken together and running over! With the measure you use, it will be measured back to you! (Luke 6:38)
#3 YOUR RELATIONAL SUPPORT SYSTEM
Have you been under the impression that all of your relationships should be in good condition all the time if you are following Jesus? It might surprise you to know that Yeshua said this might not be the case if your family and friends are opposed to the teachings of Messiah. Yes, your relationships will thrive if each person involved follows what Yeshua taught, but most people do not. Your response? Hold fast to the teachings of Jesus. Forgive all insults so you live at peace with everyone as far as it depends on you (Romans 12:18), honor your parents (Ephesians 6:1-3), obey the authorities set above you (as long as what is being asked is not at odds with God’s Word), give to Caesar what is Caesar’s (be a compliant, law abiding, contributing community member–Romans 13:1-7), but remember, we must obey God rather than man (Acts 5:29). You cannot win the approval of both God and man (Galatians 1:10). Eventually, you will have to choose your allegiance (Joshua 24:15). And even in this, Messiah has walked before you preparing the way.
When Jesus was growing up, learning in the temple, the Rabbis were impressed with Him, even astonished, because of His wisdom and understanding at such a young age (Luke 2:42). We gather that He must have even become a Rabbi under their leadership, sitting at the feet of some of them. But when Jesus was revealing Himself as the Messiah, things quickly changed. Now this man was claiming to even be the Son of God with authority to forgive sins and to heal on Sabbath! This was problematic for them. What He taught and said to them went against every religious bone in their bodies. He went from being thought of as the the darling of the Jewish community to the demon of Judea. And eventually He was killed for what He said, just like the prophets before Him. (Acts 7:52, Matthew 5:12) It was the truth of His teachings that cut to their hearts. They were offended (Matthew 15:12). And His teachings still offend today, especially among the religious (Matthew 11:6).
Yeshua came to bring a sword (Matthew 10:34-36). He warned us that His teachings would offend, create tension, and, in some cases, even separate people, even families. He knew this first-hand. He was called a madman by His brothers and mothers. Are you ready to follow this kind of king? Some of your most treasured relationships will not be able to stand your choice to start obeying Yeshua’s clear directives to go make disciples of all nations, but you should still go, even if you are mocked, insulted, ignored, threatened, or cancelled. Do not doubt your interpretation of scripture if you are clearly following something Jesus said to do when you get push-back from your family and friends. Obeying Jesus in going out to the nations is hard but it’s not complicated. And unfortunately, not all your relationships will not survive this kind of available, radical obedience. In fact, you may offend them by your obedience. Will you die that death?
In Mark 10, we see a rich young ruler rejecting the offer to follow Yeshua because he had much wealth. After the rich young ruler walked away, Peter said, “Lord, we have given up everything for you.” And Yeshua said, “Truly I tell you…no one who has left home or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or fields for me and the gospel 30 will fail to receive a hundred times as much in this present age: homes, brothers, sisters, mothers, children and fields—along with persecutions—and in the age to come eternal life. 31 But many who are first will be last, and the last first.”
But, you may ask, doesn’t God care about relationships between my family and friends? Of course! And if you look at the life of Jesus you can see that His relationship with at least some of His family members (including His own mother) were eventually restored as they locked into the reality of the gospel (as demonstrated by Mary’s presence at the foot of the cross as He died). God does not desire for there to be a sword between you and your family and friends, but He allows the truth of Yeshua to “cut” for several reasons:
- Because He asks us to not deny Him. He wants intimacy with you and knows that your allegiance will demand your insistence on the truth of Jesus despite arguments that come against what Jesus taught. You will be presenting unpopular points of view. But remember when people want you to tolerate false teachers and teachings and prophecies that you are not being “divisive.” When put to the test, you must choose His truth and His Kingdom over friends, familial comfort, and your relational support systems, because you love Yeshua. You cannot deny Him. And because you love your family and friends. You must tell them the truth, in boldness, as led by the Holy Spirit.
- Because He values the free will and choice of you and your family members. He will not force them to come alongside and support you, but you can pray for them and ask God to reveal His heart to them and invite them into full surrender.
- He wants to challenge your loved ones to come with you on this journey–emotionally, financially, maybe even physically! He wants you to be united with your family in the long run, so you can run together. In some cases, the relational “cut” will only be temporary. Some of the issues may actually arise out of a grieving how much they will miss you or how afraid they are for your well-being “out there.” Some will genuinely tell you that you are crazy and unbalanced and actually begin to persecute you. Don’t worry, and be as patient as you can in this kind of suffering. You may lose or experience damage in some relationships as you go out. But, for those who truly desire to follow Yeshua, your obedience is inviting others into obedience too! He wants to train your heart to rely on His comfort and love, and He will give you people who also rely on Him in this way too so you won’t be alone in your obedience. Every step of the way, you will find relationships and brothers and sisters to walk alongside.
There will come a time in every person’s life, where they have to be willing to die to their closest relationships to follow Yeshua, even if it means suffering, loss, and persecution. Not only this, but some friends, you will need to actually separate from because they tempt you and the rest of your brothers and sisters into disobeying the Lord (1 Corinthians 5:9-13). Have you surrendered your relational ties to your family and friends? Ask the Lord which relationships you are not willing to offend and may He bring you through the mourning and (hopefully temporary) loss of those people as you obey Him in the truth.
Caveat: I want to be clear that the Bible gives no record of God calling people to permanently leave their spouses and children in the name of ministry. God has made you and your wife “one” and your job is to figure out how to follow Yeshua as a family, united in purpose. Even if you are a believer and your spouse is not, you should not ask them to leave, and you should not leave them (permanently), but if they leave you, you should let them go and remain unmarried, patiently asking God to bring you both into unity in Yeshua. (1 Corinthians 7:10-15, Corinthians 7:39)
Have you ever considered that God wants you to surrender everything, including the core of what makes you “you,” making “all of you” available for “all of Him” in a divine transformation by the Holy Spirit? If you think about it, it is your sense of value, image, self-worth, and public-image at risk. At the core, it is your very identity and your reputation we are talking about.
Who are you at your core? What do you like for other people to know or think about you? Are you a funny person, a serious person, an excellent artist, a smart person, a capable person, a sweet person, a sharp person, a responsible and reliable person? What did your parents emphasize as they raised you? What did they like about you and foster within you? What did they discourage? What did you find beneficial to pick up as part of your reputation along the way? Are you a rebel? A clown? A supporter? A cheerleader? A hugger? A crybaby? A tough guy? A fighter? A graduate? An artist? A leader? A follower? An independent person?
And this touches the very fragile core of identity for most of us. Can you trust Him with that part of you? Do you trust Him to define who you are as He made you to be or have you depended on yourself and people to do that for you?
What is the kind of person who will be blessed in life? Watch out because this is counterintuitive. Yeshua calls people blessed who are in poverty, mourning, meekness, hungering and thirsting for righteousness, merciful living, purity of heart, peacemakers, persecuted, rejoicing in the face of false accusation. (Matthew 5:3-12) Does this describe your life? And here we must be careful, because if we are all these things without love, or thinking ourselves wiser than others, than we have gained nothing. The way of Yeshua is a way of genuine love and humility, of going lower in service to the Kingdom, even to the point of giving our lives and shedding our blood.
Jesus proposes, that you have to die to your “self” before you find out who you are actually meant to be simply as a person made in the image of God. If you hang on to the things about your life that you find precious (which are the things most of us ground our identity in), you will never find life. This is not self-hate, but it’s an invitation to come into the fullest understanding of how much you are known and loved. Unless you honestly open up this most intimate part of “who you are” and offer it freely to God as a whole-life offering (Romans 12:1), you will never understand your true value. He loved you before you knew how to do or make anything. He knew you before you had a conscious thought, before you even spoke a single word or did anything good to make Him proud of you. He loves you simply because you are His child.
If I may indulge in a moment of biography here, this was the hardest aspect of surrender for me to understand. I was ok dying to sin because I could obviously see that as a “bad thing.” But I was trained in middle school in the self-esteem trend of the 90’s. Then I was an ENFP in college. Then I was an enneagram 4 (found out later the enneagram is demonic–click here for more info). I gained a PhD in a field I was “gifted in.” And finally I realized how entrenched our self-love and self-interest become through pursuing my dreams, “harmless” curriculum, and personality tests. By the time I was 30, I had just finally muddled through the agonizing internal insecurity of my youth, even though I had a very confident exterior, and grown to genuinely love and accept my “weird-yet-wonderful” personality. My talents/gifts of music, worship-leading, songwriting and teaching, the way I could seem to intuitively understand people, my confidence in my view of the world, which people told me was so “biblically-sound,” my intelligence (PhD in hand), my “6th-grade goofy switch”, my sarcastic sense of humor, my silly child-like side, my quick wit, my artistic brooding, my mysteriousness, my cool demeanor, my boldness, my perseverance and endurance. Wow. God was really going to be able to use all that. But pride is the enemy’s answer for insecurity…and we all have to deal with pride or insecurity or, more than likely, both). When God asked me to lay down my accomplishments, natural gifts, and personality, I was floored!
“But Father,” I said, still young in my newfound self-confidence, “Why do you want me to surrender the parts of me that I like, the parts that are good and things I’m good at, and the things that make me unique?”
Then I heard His voice speak to my heart in a very Job-like talking-to (see Job 38:1-11)
“Who are you to decide what is good. Only I am good. I am offering to replace your natural gifts and nature with mine. Are you saying that your personality is better than mine?” (Mark 10:18, Colossians 3:12, James 3:17)
Well, yes. Actually, I guess in a way I did genuinely think my personality was better than Jesus (meekness rarely seems attractive at first). So that day I laid my giftings, intellect, and personality down and asked Him to let His person come alive in me, through the intimacy that comes from Jesus and the power of the Holy Spirit, and the training of obedience. Every day he would turn over a new stone in my heart and I would see the gross, creepy, crawly things under it. Every day he would peel off another layer in the mask I had created for myself. He showed me that my pride in my biblical worldview was the religion of the Pharisees, my sarcasm and quick wit were actually jaded self-protection, and my “artistic brooding” was a decision to stay in dark places, when I needed to live in light. That was just the start of a long journey of repentance for this good girl, because I had never really done anything “that bad,” or so I thought. As God shone a light on my heart, in listening prayer, explaining things to me with such mercy, I began to see my reputation as something I built like a wall around my heart for self-protection. And I realized…it all could fall and I would still be accepted. That is the truth that set me free from fear of man. What He had to give me in His presence as a child born again with nothing to give was better than the crowns I had gained for myself. All I wanted now was Christ in me, the hope of glory. So I told Him I wanted to exchange my whole life, my plans, my accomplishments, my skills, my dreams, my ambitions, my whole reputation, for His. This was full surrender. I remember the day I died as the day I finally felt free of all the pressure that had built up over years and years of self-centered living. He was my portion now.
What about you? What do you value about yourself? Are you willing to surrender what you think of as the good parts of yourself as well as the bad? Are you willing to surrender your gifts and talents to serve in whatever way He actually needs you to serve? What if He has better gifts and placements awaiting you than in your area of interest? Gifts that may actually showcase His glory in your weakness? (1 Corinthians 2) How low would you be willing to go? What if he needs to fill a placement and no one else is willing or He is specifically asking YOU? Will you go for Him? Will you make yourself 100% completely available for His purposes even if they make you look like an flake, a failure, or a fool?
But whatever were gains to me I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. 8 What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them garbage, that I may gain Christ 9 and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ—the righteousness that comes from God on the basis of faith. 10 I want to know Christ—yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, 11 and so, somehow, attaining to the resurrection from the dead. 12 Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. 13 Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, 14 I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus. Philippians 3:7-14
Questions to ask the Lord in prayer:
- How do you see me?
- Are there things that I consider “part of who I am” that you want to separate from my identity? I want to be made into your image again.
- Are there personality traits you have that I do not?
- Are there things I have become that you never wanted me to be?
- How has my fear of being labelled a flake, a failure, or a fool limited my availability to you? I give you my fear now. Take it.
- Are there traits, mottos, or labels I have taken on that you are not asking of me? (These may be cultural values, rather than spiritual values. An example may be “Finishing what you Start” (Many times God will move us on before a project is finished.), or “Financially Independent” (God does not say that we need to develop financial independence from other people or Him, that is a cultural value.), or “Being a High Achiever” (God does not say that you need to pursue promotion, say yes to every assignment, or achieve a level of excellency in achievements, but rather, to excel in virtue or moral excellence).
#5 YOUR RENOWN
Some of you want to leave a legacy “for God” by doing great things “for Him.” Some want God to help you leave a legacy for yourself. But Yeshua never taught to focus on leaving a legacy at all. This is because He is interested in your love, not your legacy. He made you with such love and affection that you are an expression of His glory, simply by being alive. You must realize how much you are loved. This is the purpose of your life. You are meant to be a child of God, fully receiving His love and therefore, fully reflecting the light of His countenance, His peace and joy that shines on you. Not so that others will see, although they will. Not so that others will come to Him, although they will, but simply because He loves YOU!
When David wanted to build the temple, God refused his offer. God then proceeded to say to David (in effect), “Why don’t you let ME build your house!”
Why do we have such a desire to leave a legacy for God in our own name? It’s simply pride that has not bent to the truth that God will make a name for Himself and build our house if we just enter His rest.
I always thought that God made me unique and beautiful to use me for His glory. I always thought God would USE my natural gifts and my personality, so my job was to figure out how to serve Him in those giftings and natural proclivities. I genuinely desired God’s glory because I knew I was supposed to! Plus, I loved Him genuinely. But there was something under the surface that scared me. A LOT. At the same time I wanted His glory, I also desired my recognition, success, security, safety, fame, and legacy. BECAUSE, I told myself, if I get a platform then I will honor God from that position of visibility. But God does not need your initiative, your platform, your dreams, or your legacy. He is zealous for His own name. He needs your attention, your ears, your obedience. He wants you to partake in HIS legacy and HIS glory. Be brave and reassess your projects! Are they God’s projects? Or are they your projects? Or worse and even more deceitful, are they human projects labeled “for God”?
Really what I wanted was for people to be proud of me. I craved the honor of man. I craved to finally be “good enough.” And that was the lie that Eve was tempted to from the beginning. She traded God’s very image because Satan said she could be like God. SHE ALREADY WAS! In the same way, how many of us are striving to be more like Jesus when we were made in the image of God from the beginning?! We have to enter His rest and make our lives about His legacy, not ours.
Here’s the offer. Take up His project–the Kingdom taking over the hearts of man. Not by having an influential job or ministry, but because you have yielded to the way of Jesus and prioritized what He told you to. Make disciples. Take up a towel to serve the poor, the lost, and the sick. The call has gone out and He is simply looking for the available and obedient. Take up your cross. Follow Him. Make disciples. By this you will be participating in the legacy of Messiah. This means you leave your legacy behind.
REALLY, WHAT’S THE WORST THAT COULD HAPPEN?
Maybe you sell out to your God and He will honor you with great position in this life. Or maybe you will end this life crucified to a tree or torn apart by wild animals. Maybe you, fully surrendered will be given great position in government like Joseph or Daniel, or be counted worthy to die for the name of Yeshua like Paul and Peter and many others. Are you ok with either outcome? If everyone forgets you, but remembers God changing their lives, are you ok with that? Can you die that death of legacy in order to make His name known in the nations?
So then what do I do? If all that is dead, then who am I? What do I do with myself? The answer is simple but you might not like it.
You become, just simply, “Christ in me the hope of glory” (Colossians 1:27-28) And isn’t that what you thought you were? Maybe, but you weren’t dead yet.
How do you get there?
Know what He wants. Here it is: He wants to know and love you and be known and loved by you. That’s your purpose. That’s who you were made to be. He wants to be united with you in intimate love. Repent of your sins and do the one thing necessary–sit at His feet. and listen to Him. That’s where the GLORY happens, in the mutual enjoyment of you and God being together! You die to your self, your legacy, and He comes and fills you and, in doing so, He utterly fulfills you and you find out who you were always meant to be, naturally and without any striving.
Sanka, you dead mon?