The Big "S" Problem for Change

Hello all. This blog I'm posting is actually the message I was privileged to share at my church's Life Recovery (12 Step Discipleship) Ministry. 

Let me give a brief backdrop of why and what I was speaking on. My close brother in Christ, the lead teacher of this ministry, asked me to share on what he was teaching on the last couple of weeks including some of my own recovery and transformation in regards to the topic of discussion. He gave me some examples of what to talk on, and I simply used his questions as the springboard for my dialogue.


HOW HAS THE TOPIC OF DYING TO SELF IN JOHN 12 AFFECTED ME?

The topic of dying to self has affected me by helping me to realize numerous things regarding "self":

First, it has helped me to see that "self" (that is when I say "self" I mean selfishness, self-centeredness, selfish desires, selfish pursuits, selfish ambition, selfish tendencies, and so on) doesn't want to die.

Second, this topic has helped me to see that I am addicted to my"self".

Third, this topic has helped me to see that "self" is the biggest obstacle I face in trying to obtain wholeness––i.e. being whole in mind, body, and spirit (cf. 1Thess. 5:23).

Fourth, this topic has helped me to see that "self" deceives me into believing that… "I'm fine"; "I don't need help"; "I'm normal. You know, I'm like everyone else"; "I don't have a problem"; and so on. So basically it's deceiving me into believing I don't need to change.

Fifth, this topic has helped me to see that "self" lives to rebel against God; or in other words, its whole function is to rebel against God.

Sixth, this topic has helped me to see that "self" will never willingly surrender, it will never willingly admit defeat, it will never willingly confess its own deception, nor will it willingly admit its own faults.

Seventh, this topic has helped me to see that "self" will destroy us and whatever we treasure (cf. Numbers 16). 

Eighth, this topic has helped me to see that unless we die to self we remain alone as we are—"self-will run riot".

In a nutshell, the topic of dying to self has helped me to see "self" for what it truly is, HORRIFYING. And then from that I said to myself, "Now that I know what "self" truly is, how do I actually die to it." This led me to do a Bible study on 9/10/08 of how to die to self, and I'll share with you what I discovered.

The first thing I came to understand was that we die to self the same way we put to death any other addiction, we starve it to death. Jesus says in Matt 10:24-25, to deny—not give in, abandon, reject—every form of selfishness. Thus, starving the addiction of self to death. Paul says in Phil. 2:3-4, "Do nothing through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind esteem others better than ourselves." He further says not to only look out for our own interest, but also for the interest of others. Affirming again starving the addiction of self to death, this time by way of regarding others more higher than ourselves. What better way of denying self than by putting others in the place of "self".

Paul says more in Rom. 12:1-2, 9-10, 16. Paul says we starve self by worship (vs. 1). Worship contrast selfishness. You cannot truly worship God from a selfish position. Paul says we starve self by being transformed by the renewing of our mind (vs. 2), which according to Paul in Eph. 4:23-24 is done by putting on the new man. Paul says we starve self by being sincere in our love for our brethren (vs. 9). Being sincere in our love is, according to Apostle John in 1Jn. 3:16, laying down our selfishness for the brethren. Paul affirms this in vs. 10, by reminding us that love is shown by honoring others more than ourselves. And lastly, Paul says in Rom. 13:14 that we starve self by being as close to Christ as the clothes we wear. The closer we get to Jesus the further we get away from self. 

So let's sum it up. How do we die to self? We die by first starving selfishness (i.e. by not feeding it more selfishness and such), second by feeding on worship, third by regarding and honoring others more than ourselves (i.e. putting others before us), fourth by being transformed by the renewing of our mind, and fifth by cultivating (i.e. developing, nurturing, growing) more of the presence of God in our lives.

The next question then is what are the benefits of dying to self or starving the addiction of self? We find the benefits in Gal. 5:16-17. One benefit to dying to self is no longer fulfilling the lust of the flesh. And another benefit, according to the rest of that passage in Galatians, is bearing the fruit of the Spirit in our lives, which ultimately glorifies Jesus, and that's a great benefit. 

This is what I learned from my Bible study on how to die to self and the benefits. 

HOW IS "STEP 1" AND POWERLESSNESS AFFECTING ME? AND SHARE SOME EXPERIENCES GOD BROUGHT TO MIND…

The first step in the 12 Steps is a straight kick in the face to my"self". Admitting that I am powerless over "whatever it may be" and that my life has become unmanageable is a candid acknowledgement of defeat and truth of me being deceived by my own "self". Me understanding the fact that I am addicted to my"self" and are in need of recovery, or in others words I am "sick with self", I can't muster up my own healing, and are in need of the Great Physician Jesus (cf. Matt. 9:12), helps me to clearly see and believe that… "I am powerless"; "My life is unmanageable in ways I wouldn't have thought; "I do have a problem"; "I am normal, but I also need help"; and so on. Essentially, I've come to realize that recovery, or in this case Step 1 and my powerlessness, exposes my constant need of change and need of Jesus.

There is a quote by Harold Wilson that actually spurred what I'm speaking on. He said, "He who rejects change is the architect of decay. The only human institution which rejects progress is the cemetery." This goes right in line with what this book says, "The only alternatives we have, other than surrender [changing our current course of living], [is] to go totally insane or to die." Praise God for Him showing me that I was in need of change/recovery and moving me into it, because I was truly going insane without it.

I am a current recovering rage-a-holic. I have a temper problem. My anger is actually one of my thorns; it constantly shows me my need for Jesus. You take Jesus out the way and I will again be enslaved to my fleshly passions and defects.

One day God showed me I had a temper problem and it was too big for me to handle on my own. What makes it so bad is my temper is only exhibited on my wife and kids. Which sucks because they matter the most to me. They are the last people I want to expend my frustrations, irritations, and lose my temper on. So, I took advice from a friend of mine, who you guys happen to know, and I got some counseling. During my counseling I learned some things about myself but the main thing I learned, which I knew but was still deceived by it, the real reason behind my flares of rage and such is… can you guess… SELFISHNESS.

Rage is the front for the true issue. My real problem is the big "S" issue, SELF. Now, my big "S" issue is not where I want it to be, but thank God it's not where it use to be. I still struggle! But my recovery from my real issue is coming in me walking forwardly one step at a time. Or, like Abraham Lincoln said, "I walk slowly, but I never walk backward." And that's been true in my life.

CONCLUSION

I'll close with this. Pastor Pat said last Sunday he believes the reason we don't utilize more of the power of the Holy Spirit is because we have a greater vision of our limitations than we have a greater vision of God's power. On the Ravi Zacharias radio broadcast, Ravi said, "When we don't go with God we are always restless, for we're constantly moving in the opposite direction." From what has been shared, I hope we all see that "Self" is a formidable foe that seeks to deceive us about our addiction to selfishness, self-centeredness, selfish desires, selfish pursuits, selfish ambition, selfish tendencies, etc, etc. "Self" deceives us about our need for recovery. "Self" obstructs our obtaining wholeness. And ultimately, as we can see from our own lives, "Self" destroys us and what we treasure.

On the other hand we see our recovery is nothing more than coming to the truth that we are moving in the opposite direction of God and need to change our current course of living (surrendering to God's way), and then having a greater vision of God's power than that of our addictions/dependencies/limitations so that we can fully experience the power of the Holy Spirit in our lives as He transforms us more into the likeness of Jesus each step of our recovery.

My challenge to us is that we all seek the most benefiting recovery from the deception and destruction of "Self" and then help others to do the same.

(See the ""Self" Awareness" blog post; it's a mini-sheet I made as a handy reminder for everyone).
 

9/2008