Matthew 16:24 Then Jesus said to his disciples,
This week, instead of writing what this passage is about, I want to write what I believe is a misdirected interpretation of this passage. I am convinced that Satan often twists God’s Word in order to discourage us (me) from living an abundant life in the Kingdom.
In a past article Love your neighbor…I touched on loving self in order to love others. The article was based mainly out of Galatians 5:14. That passage is based on Jesus teachings quoting Leviticus 19:18. In a nutshell, I have trouble at times loving my neighbor because I have trouble loving myself. Much of the time, I do not see me as Jesus sees me. When I look in the mirror, both figuratively and literally, I am not impressed. I see the flaws, the past sin, the shame, etc.
I realize that we must deny ourselves so that Jesus and the Holy Spirit can reside and guide our hearts, souls, and minds to follow Jesus’ teachings and direction. However, the way I deny myself, much of the time, is contrary to “loving my neighbor as myself.” There has to be a balance between loving myself as Jesus does and denying myself in order to follow him.
In the book Age of Opportunity, Paul David Tripp talks about how raising teenagers is usually dreadful and difficult. One of the things that will happen when a child moves into the teen years is a beginning of withdrawal and isolation for the teen. Usually, the parent has already dreaded the upcoming teen years and as he/she moves into the moodiness of hormone change, the teen tends to want to isolate from the family more. Because the change in attitude is so unpredictable, parents oblige this exile into the dungeon of the teen’s room. Now neither party seems to understand the other and then the gap widens. If everybody survives this period, then things seem to move toward normalcy as the teen comes out of the teen years…but not always. Tripp’s advice is to keep the teen engaged with the family, no matter how painful that may be. The results are much better in the long run.
I use this analogy not as advice for raising teens (however, it is good advice and I personally have seen results to the positive), but as a recognition of the teenager that is bottled up in all of us. There is a little boy or little girl in all of us that needs our attention. This little person or teen has been beaten up by the messages of this cruel world. It is from this place that I have a hard time believing in my goodness. I need to hear what Jesus says about me and bring that love, mercy, and grace to my little boy inside. I find that when I take care of that little boy like Jesus takes care of me, I am more able to love my neighbor.
So, what is the difference between denying yourself and loving yourself? Denying my self means that God’s agenda will override my own. God’s purposes and plans will prevail and I am to join Him. I must deny myself and my agenda. Notice that this part of self to be denied is the agenda part, the selfish motivation part. This is my plan. This is done out of my selfish nature. On the other hand, loving my self is not self-esteem. Loving my self is self-worth. I am to love the part of me that God created for His purposes. I am to love the drive, desire, knowledge, goodness, etc. that God placed within me. If I am to deny, repress, ignore, hide those good things that God created in me, then I am essentially telling God, “I could have created a better me than you did.”
Recently working with Dmitri Bilgere during his first Gateways to God workshop; he said something that has stuck with me. During a process, and I’m paraphrasing, he talked about how God created us with these desires, longings, hopes, and dreams. Then God set us up to fail at these or be blocked from reaching them. Then we feel fated by God to be stuck or just out of reach of these dreams…so, why try? He then points out that we have actually set up an idol in the place of a true merciful, loving, gracious God when we feel fated to this existence. We may have misused those wants and desires in sinful ways and therefore feel blocked by God. That is not how god sees us.
I take from this that I have been denying God’s gift of my core goodness instead of my agenda. I am to love myself, my core, my little boy inside and deny my agenda and selfish motives. In fact, the selfish motives are misdirected ways in which I try to get my core noticed because I will not accept my goodness. If I notice my core goodness first, I am free to deny my agendas and love my neighbor as I should.
Moving forward, I must take care of my little boy and his core goodness gifted from God. I must then deny my agendas and follow where God has me going. I am to follow Jesus who loves me unconditionally.
1. Where you able to see the difference between denying self and loving self? How? If not, what distinctions do you see?
2. Where does the teenager analogy apply in your life?
3. What judgmental, merciless, idol have you set up that denies you of loving yourself as Jesus loves you?
4. Ask God this week to point out where He loves you. Have a conversation with Jesus asking for Him to point out your goodness and then listen.
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