The transformed life

Self-promotion is so much a part of our culture that it’s virtually invisible. Social media has exacerbated this age-old problem and raised ‘self’ to new heights. From film stars to  ordinary people – from sporting heroes to teenagers – from politicians to pensioners – social media is awash with self-promotion.

Needing to be noticed

Needing to be noticed, approval addiction, fear of what other people think, wanting to be the centre of attention. These things are so widespread and so much a part of our culture that they have become ‘the norm’ – hardly even noticed by the majority.

Yet they can subtly, insidiously undermine our relationships – with family, with friends – and with God Himself. ‘Self’ is an addiction. The more it is ‘fed’ , the more it demands –  and the more it blinds us to the damaging effects of the very words and actions that ‘self’ fuels

Humility is rather out of fashion these days. Few hide their good deeds – instead they post about them on social media.

Social Media Logotype Background

Over-simplistic

Jesus said:  “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.” (Luke 9:23). The lady on the market stall, who refused to take my leaflets all those years ago, clearly understood the dangers of an over-simplistic Gospel message that doesn’t fully explain what it means to die to self!

The consequence of such a dangerous Gospel message is explained by Oswald Chambers : “There are a lot of Christian cripples about! They cannot get on their own feet, nor can other people put them there. You try to pick them up! They may take a step or two, and then down they go again. There are many like that, and you can spend your life trying to get them up on their feet.

What is it that is eating the very life out of them? What is it that is making them such helpless cripples that they cannot walk? It is self-centredness. Make no mistake about it, it is self in some form. It is self that wants to be taken notice of. It is self in the form of pride.

oswald_chambersOswald Chambers 1847-1917

Oswald Chambers continues: “This sin of pride is a master-thief, as it robs God of that honour which would be given Him by His people if they are humble, and of that joy which He takes in their humility. Pride also robs believers of their present joy and comfort.

Nothing like the sin of pride unfits us for divine service,” Chambers insists. “It renders us incapable, so far as it prevails, of any acceptable service either to God or man. Pride is that vile abomination which the Lord hates, and which He will not allow in those whom He loves.”

Chambers urges his readers to “turn from our miserable selves and cease to be occupied with them, saying once and for all: “I am done with you, wretched self. I throw myself on to Jesus Christ. I take the one great step of committal.” Jesus never lets such a person down.

Jesus never lets such a person down!

Freedom from self is true humility – which is the gateway to a transformed life! A life raised up above the experience of the nominal Christian. A mind renewed! Perceptions and emotions transformed!

A transformed life is what we are meant to experience – if only we could be free from the prison of  ‘self’.

Yet we cannot set ourselves free from ‘self’ – it’s far too ingrained in us. God doesn’t expect us to do it – and we shouldn’t expect ourselves to be able to do it.

It’s humanly impossible!

How can we resist the temptation to talk over-much about ourselves and our situations – when it is self that blinds us to our self-focus?

How can we resist the temptation to attention-seeking, and approval addiction – however subtly we might indulge in it? We’ve done it before we even realise we’re doing it!

Why shouldn’t we do what we want to do – in the seemingly ‘innocent’ things of life? Selfishness and self-indulgence can be so subtle that we don’t even realise we’re being selfish.

How can we not feel hurt when we feel that we are being treated badly? How can we not feel frustrated when we know we are right but can’t get through to the one who opposes us?

Humility is not thinking less of yourself,
but thinking of yourself less!

Our unrecognised self-focus and self-indulgence prevents us from experiencing the transformed life – the joy of which  we can barely imagine. It robs us of the tangible presence, peace and power of God. It keeps us deceived about ourselves, our perceptions, our attitudes and our motivations. It creates a circle of self-deception so that we cannot see ourselves as others see us. It can damage relationships.

Humility

So if we can’t free ourselves from the prison of ‘self’ – how can we ever be free to live the transformed life? How can we enter into that perfect peace and calm – even as dark clouds are gathering, and “all around and above is trouble‘?

End of self

First must come the end of self – an end to our own “fix its” and striving to change ourselves. Only then will the power of the Holy Spirit of God begin to do for us what we cannot do for ourselves. Damaged relationships, failed ventures, inability to grow spiritually, always going round in circles – never really achieving much. Many beginnings – few endings: these are just some of the things that can begin to pierce our blindness about our self-focus and make us realise we need help outside of ourselves .

These are just some of the things that can cause us to realise that we’ve been missing out on the true power of the Holy Spirit in our lives – the power to turn us from our self-focus and to cause us to be totally absorbed by God in Jesus!

die to self

Spurgeon pointed out that if the test of true Christianity is an all-consuming, heart-felt passion for Jesus, then it follows that there are many who profess to be Christians who would not pass that test. “If Christ be anything He must be everything,” Spurgeon wrote. “Oh rest not till love and faith in Jesus be the master passions of your soul!”

To be passionate about Jesus – this is the result of the transformed life! A mind renewed! Perceptions and emotions transformed! Perfect peace and calm – even as dark clouds are gathering, and “all around and above is trouble‘?

  • We can’t make ourselves die to self  – but we can pray for it!
  • We can’t manufacture passion for Jesus – but we can pray for it!
  • We can’t live the transformed life by our own efforts – but we can pray for it!

And these are prayers that our Heavenly Father loves to answer because they are prayers that are according to His heart!

A prayer

I pray for the transformed life that I cannot live in my own strength. I pray that I may die to self and be filled with an all-consuming, heart-felt passion for Jesus. “I pray that I may be rooted and established in God’s love for me and have power to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ for me. I pray that I might know this love that that is beyond human comprehension so that I may be filled with the fullness of God. Now unto Him who is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that I ask or imagine, according to the power that is at work in me, unto him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus throughout all ages, world without end. Amen
(based on Ephesians chapter 3:17-21)

While you are praying you can do your part – you can try to obey Jesus.  Obedience is not perfection, but simply trying. It is in your trying and failing that He will  help you –  until eventually you will succeed. Jesus takes your willingness and turns it into the ability to obey.

Delight

The transformed life is a life of delighting in God. “Delight yourself in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart.” (Psalm 37:4)

Reflex

Humility vanishes when we spend our time trying to work out whether or not we’ve died to self  – whether or not we are humble enough – whether or not our humility is authentic or not.

Humility flourishes when we turn our eyes off self, to look upon, and delight in, Jesus. This focus on God, rather than on ourselves, will result in a kind of reflex displeasure toward the remnants of our old self-focus, with all its insidious manifestations.

When we begin to experience this reflex displeasure, we know that our prayers are being answered and the power of the Holy Spirit is at work deep within –  doing in us what we could never do for ourselves.

Blessed riddance

While we are looking at God we do not see ourselves – blessed riddance. The man who has struggled to purify himself and has had nothing but repeated failures will experience real relief when he stops tinkering with his soul and looks away to the perfect One. While he looks at Christ, the very things he has so long been trying to do will be getting done within him. It will be God working in him to will and to do” (A.W. Tozer)

Humility is not thinking less of ourselves, but thinking of ourselves less – because we’re too busy thinking about Jesus!

The transformed life is a life of delighting in God. “Delight yourself in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart.” (Psalm 37:4)

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