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Dying to Live (Short Stack), Living Dead

Dying to Live (Day 5): Dying to Your Reputation


Whoever does not take up their cross and follow me is not worthy of me. Whoever finds their life will lose it, and whoever loses their life for my sake will find it. Matthew 10:38-39, also found in Luke 17:33, John 12:25, Matthew 16:24-25, Mark 8:35-37, Luke 9:24-25

For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted. Luke 14:11

Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. Matthew 11:29

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. 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 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).

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