It’s one of the most beautiful words in the English language.
It reflects emotion, choice, action. It’s simply intriguing.
Love is foundational to one’s heart condition. IF
“I have not love, I am nothing.” (1 Corinthians 13:2)
Tears rolled down our faces as we sat across from one another in the diner. The beautiful engagement ring that I wore for months, I now delicately held in my hand. We whispered the words, “I love you” many times. We meant it. Yet, now, it seemed God had another plan. We were moving in two different directions rather than joining on one seamless path. I sat across from a good man. We honored God in our relationship. Why were WE in this difficult place?
I needed to know God’s will. I asked for time to pray and fast. The answer came in a still small voice.
We talked; we cried. I gently placed the beautiful ring into his hand. God was calling us in two different directions. It wasn’t the easiest task …to let another’s heart break... but it was the right decision. Sometimes, God’s will displayed in our lives comes at a great cost – a sacrifice of our own thoughts and plans to embrace His.
I prayed he would fulfill his life calling. I prayed he would find the woman God created for him sooner than I would find the man God created for me.
In a year, God answered that prayer for him. It was somewhat miraculous. He serves our military as a chaplain while fulfilling the call on his life with his beautiful family.
Eight years later, God brought the man into my life that He created for me. Together, we are seeking to live out God’s calling with our beautiful family.
True love is sacrificial. Disney’s Frozen captured this powerfully as “an act of true love” saved the day. Anna’s sacrifice to save her sister’s life proved strong enough to heal the broken-hearted.
Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers a multitude of sins. (1 Peter 4:8)
Sacrificial love touches our deepest parts.
Jim Elliot (and the missionaries that gave their lives to bring the good news of the gospel to the Waodoni) all reflect sacrificial love.These Godly men embraced the call to die to oneself for the sake of blessing others. Their sacrifice was not in vain. If you are unfamiliar with the story, I encourage you to watch the movie End of the Spear.
“Greater love has no no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” (John 15:13)
God, as our Creator, knew that the sacrificial loved displayed on the cross would melt (and heal) many hardened hearts.
The cross exemplifies dying to oneself – the foundation for the Christian heart.
What does “die to oneself” mean, exactly?
It refers to salvation as one learns to put sins and worldly desires to rest. It represents repentance – a “turning away” and changing from an old, sinful nature into a nature that values Godly character and truth found in God’s word – the Bible.
Jesus cried out in the Garden of Gethsemane for the cup to pass from Him. Still, Jesus surrendered to the the will of God, the Father.
Jesus could’ve demanded His rights, spoke of His entitlement, and refused the mission of the cross. He didn’t. He embraced sacrifice and death so that we might be reconciled to God. Jesus’ work on the cross is truly the most powerful love story!
Dying to self is an act of love. It is a foundational expression of love for the Christian.
Why is it difficult for some to embrace? Perhaps they really don’t want to give up worldliness and sins. OR, perhaps they misunderstand.
I recall a Christian woman slamming kitchen cabinet doors when I brought up the topic of dying to self. For some reason, the idea infuriated her. I stood in shock, clueless to what possibly could be misunderstood about a foundational Biblical concept.
Jesus gave His life sacrificially. Salvation requires “death to self” – and we must seek to overcome the gratifications of our inherited sin-nature. In this sense, “death to self” is a requirement for the Christian.
Often, we are called to love others sacrificially. As Christians, shouldn’t we give of ourselves to others without expectation in return?
If so, why might there be a misunderstanding of our calling when it comes to loving others?
Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone: but if it dies, it bears much fruit. (John 12:24)
Truly, love and sacrifice is foundational for the Christian heart.
What dying to self is NOT:
I often thought I must follow in Jesus’ footsteps in my relationships with others. I’ve been the type to help, support, encourage, pursue, and “drop everything” when someone needed me. If there was a “friend” who needed to talk for an hour on the phone, I would buy my husband and kids fast food so that I could meet the need of the beloved friend.
Sometimes, we do need to do such things for those that are most loyal and faithful in our lives.
It can become painfully evident; however, that the other person may not be willing to do so in exchange.
I honestly thought I needed to give, and give, and give of myself to others. I thought this was God’s will in learning to “die to oneself.” I thought this was admirable, but I later learned that it’s not always appropriate. I needed to be healed and freed from unhealthy patterns.
In relationships, God never said that we need to enable and become a doormat. When Jesus walked on the earth, He was not close with everyone. He did not heal everyone.
I’ve been a die-hard, loyal friend. In some ways, I can say that people would “use” me. Sadly, through the years, I realized that some were attracted to what I (and my family) could offer rather than taking sincere interest in me, as a person – or my family. It can be difficult to serve in ministry with those you also call “friends” as boundaries between ministry and friendship can blur. Dying to self does not mean you ignore unhealthy patterns and allow others to treat you unfairly.
Sometimes, love withdraws.
Sometimes, love dis-enables.
Sometimes, love is silent.
Sometimes, love is tough.
Sometimes, love reminds you to re-focus and …
“Treasure those who treasure you.”
What dying to self IS:
In relationship to Christ, dying to self is learning to submit to God’s will. It’s about being interested in God’s glory as your primary goal in life. It’s learning to put to death worldly sins, desires, thoughts, and patterns that are contrary to Godly character and God’s word.
In ministry (in bringing the gospel to others) it’s about living sacrificially. It’s about embracing the call to live for Jesus and/or sharing the good news of Jesus with others – even when it comes with a great cost or consequence.
For some around the world, Christianity can mean life or death. Ministry can mean life or death. God bless the persecuted church and the martyrs. God bless the missionaries.
For those of us who do not face such trials and tribulations, we must learn to constantly surrender to God in the everyday aspects of life. Dying to self is primarily learning to say:
“It’s not about ME!”
It’s about surrendering aspirations, dreams, desires, hopes for life (career, success, material possessions, ministry: yes, even ministry, and relationships: yes, even relationships) into the hands of the Father.
IF, He so graciously chooses to bless – then so be it. Yet, we must not demand and claim that my way be His way. We live in an entitlement culture that makes many claims to our “rights.” As Christians, we must know that God has given us many riches in Christ. We also must be willing to lay down our entitlement attitudes and embrace His will.
God is Sovereign.
Jesus was NOT about HIMSELF. He was ALL about you and I!
Jesus is Love & Sacrifice.
Instead of catering to SELF …are we willing to be ALL about Him?
If He asks us to sacrificially love others or embrace difficult ministry… are we willing?
Do we treasure Him enough? Is it all about Jesus in your life?
God treasures you. Treasure Him greatly.
Planting God’s seeds of hope…
*Brook Joy writes articles on Faith, Life, Culture, and her personal journey with Health (IBD). Brook is a chocolate-loving wife & homeschooling mama (and a Christian for 20+ years)… planting and growing God’s seeds of hope at missionzera.com