Self

Tuesday Devotional: Philippians 2

bibleRead Philippians 2:1-11

This is not about you.  Unity with Christ means that the spirit of extreme selflessness has taken up residence in your life and in your spirit.  This is the frontline in the battle between your sinful nature and the spirit of the living God.  We would rather talk about the things we want to talk about.  We would rather engage in the activities that we are most interested in.  We would rather eat the food that most pleases our palate.  We would rather put our self first–all the time, every time.

But this is not about you.  Counting the cost of becoming a disciple of Jesus Christ means that you have signed your name on the spiritual dotted line of the New Covenant that agrees and declares this is no longer about you.

The blessings of Jesus follow after complete submission to the name of Jesus.  How can we think that we can receive the blessings of Jesus while living completely in contradiction of the spirit of the very same Jesus?  Delusional.  Deceived.  This is not about you.

Jesus did not come as a conquering King to rescue you.  He came low and disgraced so that he could pay the debt of your sin to forgive you.  Jesus is the living embodiment of selflessness and submission.  This is Jesus and this is his Gospel.  This is not about you.

HE forgave you. HE dwells in you. It is all about him.  He is the Christ.  He is the Lamb.  He is Jesus.  Jesus is now your meaning of life.  Jesus is now your passion.  Jesus is now your prize.  Jesus is now the center of your everything.  This is not about you.

Beware of the spirit in you that attempts to credit, glorify or promote the self.  This is not of God and this is not worthy of Jesus.  There is nothing about the Christian life that elevates the self.  He must become greater and we must become less.  Anything different is not the Gospel and must be revealed and rebuked for what it is.  A lie.  Your life is now hidden in Christ, the light of the world.  Hidden.  Unseen.  Unnoticed.  This is not about you.

 

Hell: A Place of Delusion

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This reflection series deals with the topic of Hell. Using Jesus’ illustration of the Rich Man and Lazarus as recorded in Luke’s gospel, this week we’re reflecting on hell as a place of delusion.

Read Luke 16: 19-31

Most people can relate to chasing the elusive, longing for more and settling for less. We desire fellowship, love, and presence, and often drive it away or can’t hold on to it when we have it. The tragedy is that for all our awareness of our problems, most of us do little to change the state we find ourselves in. We go year after year chasing things that repeatedly leave us dissatisfied. We go year after year making choices that do more to isolate us from others than unite us with them. If we know this to be true, why don’t we do anything to change and stop the cycle?

The answer lies at the center of the story of the Rich Man and Lazarus. While the Rich Man is open to his suffering and loneliness, what he isn’t open to is his desire to leave the place he is in, or to admit to where he is. Not once does he ask Abraham to take him out of hell. He instead requests satisfaction be brought to him in hell. He even believes that he remains the master to Lazarus even after Lazarus is in the Kingdom of God and the Rich Man in hell. The Rich Man is hopelessly delusional about his problems and his fate.

The terror of hell does not end suffering and loneliness. The scariest aspect of hell is that the Rich Man is hopelessly delusional about himself and his condition. In the same way an addict will deny the damage they have caused to themselves and others, an occupant of hell is forever in denial. The nature of sin is such that a person bound in it is so obsessed with, so fixated on themselves that although they suffer and although they are unhappy, they are addicted to the very suffering and loneliness they want to escape.

Sin tempts us with things that God knows will not satisfy us. But under the influence of sin we are willing to damage anything, anyone, even ourselves to have them. Sin creates delusion, and hell is the end result of sin in a human life, cementing eternal delusion on what is good for them and what they actually need.

Only Lazarus is named in Jesus’ story. This detail is not subtle at all, if one sees that the choice to only name Lazarus was made in the context of a lesson regarding hell. The named man Lazarus has an identity. He is real. He is accepted. He is loved. He is forever at peace with the Father, as Lazarus. The unnamed “Rich Man” is eternally anonymous. He does not know who he is. He does not know what he needs. He does not know how to fix what he knows is wrong. He is eternally separated from the God who gave him life, left to live out eternity in isolation, forever searching for what he will never find. His life was consumed by wealth that replaced God as the focus of his worship. Thus, his eternal state in hell echoes the priorities of his worldly life. In eternity as in life, he was simply “the Rich Man.”

Tuesday Devotional: 1 Chronicles 11

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Read 1 Chronicles 11:1-9

…because the Lord Almighty was with him.”

What do you put your hope in?  What do you have faith in?  What do you believe in?  What thing, if you have it, puts your life in order?  What thing, if you were to lose it, would cause your life to unravel and deconstruct?  The Israelites thought they had a King.  They thought they had a savior who would protect and bless them.  Then, abruptly, that King was taken from them.  The absence of this King left a void that the Israelites were forced to look into.

The loss of something we love causes us to ask questions.  We ask ourselves, “Why is this loss so painful?”  “Why do I miss it so much?”  “Why do I feel incapable of moving on?”  “What will I do without it?”

When we face loss, our most honest and sincere feelings are revealed.  When seeking answers to our reaction we often find uncomfortable truths:  that our love for what we lost was unnaturally great and what we loved was naturally finite.

To know God as HE is and to love Him for who He is we must lose something.  We must take the thing we treasure the most and let it go.  We must begin to see the things in our lives in their natural order.  Our love for people is naturally beautiful, but our faith in them is destructively irrational.  We love things, but a love for a mere thing that cannot love us in return is illogically unreasonable.

But ultimately, what we must lose is neither a person nor a thing.  We must understand that the love of self is the greatest opponent to the love of God in our lives.  The truth is that without Jesus Christ we are lost, sheep without a shepherd.  We will find temporary success, but only a success that is fleeting and painful to lose.  In Jesus Christ there is no loss, except for the loss of the one thing that could never truly give you anything in the first place.  In Jesus Christ we are fearfully and wonderfully made, and in Jesus Christ we are no longer investing in a losing battle.  With Jesus Christ, the loss of our self is the painful first step to a life where our treasure is Christ, and to know Him is gain.  With Jesus Christ we have a King that has already won the victory. Through faith in His life, death and resurrection, that same victory is ours and we can and will overcome.