And Deliver Us From Ourselves…
By Douglas Laird
In order to become selfless, we must first have a clear understanding of what self is and what motivates it.
The promotion of self has been the root of spiritual conflict before the creation of the human race. Satan expressed the classic example of self-promotion (Isaiah 14:13-14) that led to a prehistoric angelic revolt.
The present world environment does not speak of Satan’s success, but of his inability and failure to establish and maintain a productive kingdom independent of God.
It is worth noting that Satan’s ultimate objective was to "…make myself like the Most High." (Isaiah14:14 NIV) Self always seeks to improve one’s own position or environment, not to destroy it.
In the simplest terms, self can be defined as one of the manifestations of the old sin nature that has been passed down from generation to generation since the Fall of Man (1 Corinthians 15:22).
This sin nature does NOT depart when an individual is saved (Romans 7). The Apostle Paul wrote of the internal conflict between the old sin nature and the new creation that was in him nearly 30 years after his salvation. Not only does this old sin nature remain with us until we depart from our earthly bodies, it intensifies to the degree that we spiritually mature.
This sin nature is "…hostile to God. It does not submit to God’s Law, nor can it do so." (Romans 8:7 NIV)
This sin nature is tempted by our lust(s). Lust simply means to say, "I want it, and I want it now!" While we often think of lust in reference to sins of sexuality, it can refer to an inordinate desire for anything that is contrary to either the timing or will of God.
Identifying the old sin nature in the manifestation of overt sin is a no-brainer and needs no further explanation. We simply cannot claim to be living the post-salvation spiritual life when we are committing an act of willful disobedience or worst yet, a lifestyle of disobedience.
It is somewhat harder to detect the manifestation of the old sin nature when it involves the sins of the mind. With the exception of murder, all of the sins that God hates the most, according to Proverbs 6:16-19, are committed in the mind. They can be, and often are, concealed until the speech or behavior inevitably betrays the individual and reveals the evil that is in the heart.
Remember, when Satan rebelled, his plan was not to go out and get drunk, steal, murder, or commit any sexual sins. His primary sins were the lust of approbation, coveting and the sin of independence. He wanted to be liked. He wanted to possess what God had. He wanted God’s place of authority. He wanted to be recognized and praised. He wanted to call the shots. He was not content to be what God created him to be or to do what God wanted him to do. He wanted to be his own person and do his own thing. All of these sins were committed between his two ears and were concealed until they were manifested in his overt behavior. Does any of this sound familiar?
The most difficult of all is identifying the manifestation of the old sin nature in areas of independence that we have not totally surrendered to the Lord Jesus Christ.
Either God is at the helm of our private, secular, and social life or we are.
Neither God nor self will share the throne of our lives with the other. We must choose one and in doing so, forsake the other (Matthew 6:24).
Be it overt sin, sins of the mind, or the sin of independence, they are all manifestations of the old sin nature and are what make up and promote our "self" life.
So how do we develop a "self"-less life?
We become selfless by forsaking the influence of the sin nature and surrendering every part of our lives to the control and purposes of God on a daily basis. This is what it means to die daily. Unlike salvation, it is not a one-time decision, but rather a process that does not end until the day of our departure. We die to self and live for God each and every time we make a decision to deny self and apply the "mind of Christ (1Cor. 2: 16 NIV) to our daily lives.
Satan is a master at the art of deception. He knows what buttons to press and when to press them for the sin nature to respond and have its greatest influence.
Satan knows when it is time to encourage us (Luke 4:6) and when it is time to frustrate us in order to influence us to pursue the desires of the sin nature and live for ourselves. Truly you can get more and get it sooner in this life by the ways of the world than by the ways of God, but "…what good is it for a man to gain the whole world, yet forfeit his soul?" (Mark 8:36)
Living for self and self-interests can be disguised in such things as the production of human good or an inappropriate placement of legitimate things on our list of daily and lifetime priorities.
Family, friends, career, wealth, and health are all legitimate concerns, but they can be the source of great distraction (Luke 8:14) if not kept in their proper place on our list of priorities (Luke 14:26).
Remember, the ways of the world will always have an appeal to the "hostile" (Romans 8:7 NIV) nature that is within us. They will appear to make sense to our fallen nature and will usually be the thing that we feel like doing.
Even in our service for God, we often try to develop our own plan and then seek God’s approval instead of seeking and executing His plan.
Seeking self-justification, some rationalize that since we are all sinners, it is unreasonable to expect anything different and to do so would be to deny our humanity. After all, doesn’t the Bible itself teach that the sin nature in all of us couldn’t obey God even if we wanted to (Romans 8:7)?
But in that question is found the key that unlocks the door to true spirituality. We are not called to a spiritual rebirth or post-salvation life based on what WE can do for God, but based on what God has done and will do for and through us.
Wherever self remains, God is shunned. Without surrendering our will to Him, selflessness is impossible and so is the life of a disciple (Luke 14:26). Discipleship is not a part-time venture and selflessness is an absolute prerequisite.
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All scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION (R) Copyright (C) 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan Publishing House. All Rights reserved.
Douglas R. Laird is a non-denominational Christian, married with three adult children. He attends Grace Bible Church in Somerset, Ma. You may write to Doug through the Letters page of this magazine.
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