Christianity was supposed to be about becoming like Jesus. We went in the wrong direction.
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Dying to Self


He that loveth father or mother more than me is not worthy of me: and he that loveth son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. And he that taketh not his cross, and followeth after me, is not worthy of me. - Matthew 10:37-38

These words of Jesus often cause consternation. The word for love used here is phileo (brotherly love or affection). This carries more of an emotional component than another word translated elsewhere as love, agape (self-sacrificial love). It is reflective of what one values. This can be seen when Jesus also described who was unfit for the kingdom because they had competing interests (Luke 9:59-62)

While Jesus was offering the physical kingdom to the nation of Israel in fulfillment of prophecy, most people were uninterested because their daily lives had become more important to them than being faithful to the God who created their nation (Luke 19:44, 13:34). The reference Jesus makes to a “cross” is interesting because it is the other side of the “coin” that Jesus told Nicodemus, when he told him that he must be born again (John 3:3). Jesus was referring to the prophecy of Ezekiel (Ezk 36:25-27) where God describes what has to happen for those of Israel to enter the kingdom.

In order for something to be “born again” to something new, something old has to die. For Christians today outside of the promises to Israel, Paul describes it as putting on the “new man” and putting off the “old man” (Eph 4:22-23). For us the difference is that this is something we have to choose to do. For Israel, this is something that God will do to them. For both us and Israel it is a transition from living for self to living for God and others. A picture of this transition can be seen in the biological order God built into nature. When people grow out of childhood into parenthood, they transition from living for self to living for their children. Sadly many still live for themselves at the expense of their children.

Christians however do not automatically have a selfless life. We are told that it is expected (2 Cor 5:15) and we are exhorted to abandon the selfish desires of the flesh (Rom 8:13). We are even told how to accomplish this (Gal 5:16). Paul wrote about the frustration he had trying to keep the law only having the power of his flesh (Romans 7). He ended the chapter by asking who would save him from “this body of death”. The answer is found in the next chapter as Paul describes the life in the Spirit that one can expect when one becomes a true Christian.

Without the power of the Holy Spirit that Paul describes, one will find trying to be free from the desires of the flesh as frustrating as Paul did before he became a Christian. A person today may find his Christian walk similarly frustrating if he assumes he is a Christian because he was raised in a church or if he is a Christian but has never tried to walk by the Spirit. One becomes a Christian by trusting in what Jesus did on the cross to pay for his sins (1 Cor 15:1-4). One walks by the Spirit by prayer, bible study, and seeking truth. As one grows in discernment through practice and matures in faith and understanding, one has access to increasing wisdom and the attraction of the flesh diminishes.

Choosing to actively seek truth leads to Jesus who is truth (John 14:6). Jesus is the ultimate example of selflessness (John 10:15, 13:15). We are called to be like him (Eph 4:13).



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