Monday, February 5, 2018
Loving, Hating and Disciplining Ourselves
Question: “Jesus tells us to die to ourselves. Are we not supposed to love ourselves as the Bible commands us to love your neighbour as you love yourself? So how can we do both?”
HOW TO LOVE OURSELVES?
Actually we are NOT ASKED/ COMMANDED to love ourselves in the Word of God. But God expects us to LOVE OURSELVES AS HE LOVES US. And it becomes crystal clear when Jesus replaced the second commandment (You shall love your neighbour as you love yourself –Mark 12: 31; Leviticus 19: 18) with a new commandment after His last supper with His beloved disciples, just before He got arrested to be crucified. We read that new commandment in John 13: 34: “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, EVEN AS I HAVE LOVED YOU, that you also love one another”.
So when we compare Mark 12: 31 with Leviticus 19: 18, we understand that THE WAY WE LOVE OURSELVES SHOULD BE THE WAY IN WHICH CHRIST HAS LOVED US.
If we love ourselves as the Lord loves us, we will seek to come closest to the Lord here on earth as well as there in all eternity! So, when we love others as we love ourselves, we want others also to know the Lord and be closest to Him.
That is, if we love an unbeliever as we love ourselves, we want him to become genuinely born again. Also if we love a believer as we love ourselves, we want him to become a wholehearted disciple of the Lord who passionately loves Him and closely follows Him! Of course, if they (believer or unbeliever) have any physical need also, we would seek to meet that as the Lord leads us (Galatians 6: 10; 1John 3: 17; James 2: 15, 16).
When we love ourselves as the Lord loves us, we would love and take good care of our spirit, soul and body as well (1Thessalonians 5: 23). In other words, we would be good stewards of our spirit, soul and body, which the Lord has entrusted us.
Ephesians 5: 29 says: “for no one ever hated his own flesh, but NOURISHES AND CHERISHES it, just as Christ also does the church”.
1 Corinthians 6: 19, 20 says: “Or do you not know that YOUR BODY IS A TEMPLE OF THE HOLY SPIRIT who is in you, whom you have from God, and that you are not your own? For you have been bought with a price: therefore GLORIFY GOD IN YOUR BODY”.
CHRISTIANITY IS NOT ASCETICISM
Christianity is not asceticism, where you live like a hermit all alone, without mingling with anyone else. John, the Baptist lived like that in the deserts (Luke 1: 80), clothed with camel hair and a leather belt, eating locusts and wild honey (Mark 1: 6).
But our Forerunner and Example, the Lord Jesus Christ came eating and drinking (Matthew 11: 19), and dwelt among us (John 1: 14), earned His living as an ordinary carpenter (Mark 6: 3). When a cushion was available, He did not hesitate to use it to sleep in the boat (Mark 4: 38). At the same time, He did not have any complaining or murmuring against anyone when He had to sleep at the Mount of Olives once (John 7: 53; 8:1).
When He was invited to feasts (Luke 5: 29), He must have definitely enjoyed the good food served (1 Timothy 6: 17). That is why, the critical Pharisees called Him a gluttonous man and a drunkard (Matthew 11: 19), without knowing that though He feasted at times in public, He fasted a lot in secret before His Father (Matthew 4: 2). It is so glorious to see how our Lord had a healthy balance in everything in His life!
As somebody said, it is INSULATION, and not ISOLATION from the world that is needed.
Colossians 2: 18, 23 says that self abasement or severe treatment of the body like those in heathen religions, have only an appearance of wisdom in self-made religion, but have no value against fleshly indulgence. That means, nobody can overcome sin just by harshly treating his body. That means, you can be a strict ascetic in a lone monastery cut off from the world and can still be bitter and impure in your heart!
In order to clean the inside of the cup, what can be done (Matthew 23: 26). Only the BLOOD OF CHRIST can clean the guilt of our heart (1John 1: 7, 9). And only the HOLY SPIRIT and WORD OF GOD can clean up all the garbage of sin progressively from our lives!
So, our love for ourselves should be the way the Lord loves us, and not in a selfish way.
THEN WHAT DOES IT MEAN TO HATE OURSELVES?
Jesus said: “If anyone comes to Me, and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be My disciple” (Luke 14: 26).
“And He was saying to them all, "If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross daily and follow Me” (Luke 9: 23).
When the Lord tells us to hate our life in Luke 14: 26 and deny ourselves in Luke 9: 23, what He says is to HATE AND DENY OUR SELF-LIFE OR SELF-WILL.
We need to love our spirit, soul and body. Our soul contains will power (decision making capacity) in addition to our mind and emotions. With this will power, we have the free will to choose our own self-will (which the Bible calls ‘flesh’ in many places – ‘sarcos’ in Greek) or the will of our Creator God. So THE ONLY THING WE NEED TO HATE IN OURSELVES IS THIS SELF-WILL OR FLESH, because Romans 7: 18 says that nothing good dwells in this flesh! Also Galatians 5: 17 says that this flesh is always in opposition to the Holy Spirit of God.
JESUS IS OUR EXAMPLE IN EVERYTHING
When Almighty God incarnated as a Man in Jesus Christ, He also came in the likeness of sinful flesh (Romans 8: 3), (NOT in a sinful flesh, because in Him there was no sin (1John 3: 5), but in the LIKENESS of sinful flesh), in order to be an Example and Forerunner for us (Hebrews 6: 20). So Lord Jesus also had a flesh or a self will which He had to deny every time to do the will of His Father in heaven. That is why, He says in John 6: 38 that “For I have come down from heaven, NOT TO DO MY OWN WILL, BUT THE WILL OF HIM who sent Me”. That is why Romans 15: 3 says that “even Christ did not please Himself”.
Acts 1:1 teaches us that Jesus did first, and then only He taught (see the order ‘do and teach’ in the verse). So when Jesus tells us to hate and deny our self-life or self-will, He did that first as a Man and learned obedience (Hebrews 5: 8).
So let us follow our Beloved Master’s blood stained footsteps in hating and denying our self-life or self-will, by surrendering it to Him everyday (Mark 14: 36b). Then He will flood us with the power of the Holy Spirit and empower us to put this flesh to death (Romans 8: 13). The Holy Spirit not only causes DEATH in the flesh, but also gives the power of RESURRECTION in our spirit (2Corinthians 4: 10, 11). And that power of resurrection will bring us closer to Christ and transform us more into His image! (2 Cor. 3: 18).
SO WHAT IS THE ROLE OF DISCIPLINE IN CHRISTIAN LIFE?
It is by the power of the Holy Spirit, and not by the power of our self-will by gritting our teeth, that we need to buffet our body and make it our slave (1 Corinthians 9: 27). When asceticism is suppression of our flesh, true Christianity is mortification of our flesh (self-will) by the power of the Holy Spirit (Romans 8: 13).
And the Holy Spirit is a Spirit of power, love and DISCIPLINE (2Timothy 1: 7). One aspect of the fruit of the Holy Spirit is SELF-CONTROL (Galatians 5: 22, 23).
So, as we yield ourselves more and more to the Holy Spirit, He fills and floods our hearts all the more and helps us to discipline ourselves by changing our ATTITUDES (Phil. 2: 5; Col. 3: 23, 24), MOTIVES (1 Cor. 10: 31) and THOUGHTS (2 Cor. 10: 5).
The Holy Spirit also empowers us to control our TONGUE (James 1: 26) and EYES (Matthew 5: 28 29), and use them as Christ would have used them. He helps us to discipline our APPETITE (Phil. 3: 19) and prompts us to fast secretly (Matthew 6: 16- 18; Luke 5: 35).
The Holy Spirit encourages and reminds us to wisely redeem the TIME (Ephesians 5: 16) and use MONEY to buy only the needful, to give to the poor (John 13: 29) and for the Lord’s work (2 Cor. 9: 7), and save the rest for the future (Proverbs 6: 6-8) and for the children (2 Cor. 12: 14). He would not allow us to waste even fragments of time, money and other resources. He will remind us how the left over fragments of bread after feeding the five thousand was twelve full baskets (Matthew 14: 20), enough for the families of the twelve disciples!
The Holy Spirit also helps us to use our NATURAL TALENTS (like singing, writing, good memory etc) and SPIRITUAL GIFTS (1Cor. 12: 8- 10; Romans 12: 6- 8; 1Peter 4: 10, 11; Ephesians 4: 11) for the edification of others.
Now it is clear that those who attempt suicide or other forms of self harm, hate themselves in a way that they love and hold on to their self-will (which is to harm themselves) in contrast to the Lord’s will (which is to protect and preserve themselves).
So let us hate our self will and love ourselves as Christ has loved us… May the Lord continuously flood our hearts with such divine Agape love through the Holy Spirit (Romans 5: 5)…