There has been, and continues to be, so many times in this study that God has revealed areas of my life that have been set in their ways for a long time and then confronted me with the truth of His Word to transform those areas. Today, praise God, this happened to me again. And it was not a nice, quiet Kumbaya moment, but more like a ton of bricks hitting you... in a good way.
Dying to myself.
Now I know there are many ways this can impact our lives as Christians, but today I was challenged in how it should dictate the way I interact with others. Here is the quote that really got me:
"...being a believer means we have thrown away the idea that life should be fair, that life is all about 50/50. Being a believer means we have been crucified with Christ. We no longer live. Our circumstances and the behavior of others around us do not have to dictate our response or our behavior. In other words, my behavior as a believer is contingent upon NOTHING else besides the Word of God. There is no place for "If you scratch my back, I'll scratch yours" in a believer's train of thought. That thought process was derailed when we were crucified with Christ. As a believer, we must realize that we are called to keep scratching someone's back even if they NEVER turn around and scratch ours or say thank you. Ouch."
Ouch, is right. My natural response (in my flesh) when things don't go my way or when there is conflict, is to get hurt, angry and/or disappointed. And all the people involved in whatever that thing is, feel the effects of my response. We cling to the fact that "we don't deserve this!", our personal "freedom" (not the freedom we have in Christ), our reputation, or whatever else we use to justify being self centered. As long as we are doing that, we cannot be quick to forgive or love anyone; that is, anyone but ourselves. And there is the problem.
The only way to stop this pattern is to stop looking at me and start fixing our eyes on Him.
So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
Paul says tells us to grow in love and unity as believers, and then he shows us how (through humility) and then he shows us why (because of Christ). God who is completely holy and all powerful, became a servant to sinners and was obedient even to death on a cross. That is almost incomprehensible. That is Real Love. The reason why we can die to ourselves is because of the gospel; because "God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us" (Romans 5:8). In all my wretchedness and wickedness, God moved toward me and made me alive (Colossians 2:11-14). I did not deserve any favor from God, in fact I deserved punishment, and yet He freely gave me grace and life in Christ Jesus.
I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.
How many times am I quick to anger because things didn't go like I planned them to go? How many times do I put conditions on serving people? How many times do I justify sinful behavior/emotions because I have been wronged?
Friends, let's be honest with God and with ourselves about sin in our lives and repent and depend on Him to continue to change us. It is really freeing when you meditate on what Christ has done and who you are because of Him... Let's rejoice in that freedom and let our lives and our relationships with others be a beautiful picture of the gospel.
Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.
Love never ends. As for prophecies, they will pass away; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will pass away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part, but when the perfect comes, the partial will pass away. When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I gave up childish ways. For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known.
So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love.
1 Corinthians 13:4-13