Col. 3:3 says, “For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God.”
In Part 1, we started looking at what it means to die to self, to live a life of sacrifice, as we try to become more like Christ. There is no question that this is one of the hardest spiritual mountains to climb, because there is no shortage of people who will take advantage of your willingness to give. So, we asked the question, “How do we die to self without becoming a doormat?” We said that there are a Four Biblical Principles we can follow that will help you on your journey to spiritual maturity. In Part 1, we stated the first two of those principals.
First…Accept Biblical Reality
Jeremiah 17:9 reminds us, “The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it?” We have to admit that we live in a fallen world, filled with selfish people, including us some of the time. So, this road will be rough.
Second…Draw on God’s Power, Not Your Own
Self-sacrifice is draining to the body and spirit. It’s challenging to the ego, and often makes you feel like death. You can only pour out so much, and it often feels like it’s all in vain. While our own effort and self-discipline are vitally important, they’re empty without the power of the Holy Spirit.
Now, we come to our third principle.
Third…Establish Healthy Boundaries
There are times when some relationships become unhealthy. I’ve found that some people love to give, while others enjoy taking. But the Bible clearly tells us that when it comes to believers, self-sacrifice is a two-way street. If you’re a believer, you can’t always be on the receiving end. Phil. 2:1-3 reminds all of us, “Therefore if you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any fellowship in his Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and purpose. Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. But in humility consider others better than yourselves…”
My point is that we are ALL responsible to consider others better than ourselves.
When a Christian relationship consistently lacks the humility of Christ, it could be time to reassess that relationship. The Bible is clear on this point. There are times when you may need to back away from certain people. Romans 16:17-18 says, “I urge you, brothers and sisters, to watch out for those who cause divisions and put obstacles in your way that are contrary to the teaching you have learned. Keep away from them. For such people are not serving our Lord Christ, but their own appetites. By smooth talk and flattery they deceive the minds of naive people.”
Sometimes we are called to remove ourselves from unhealthy relationships, but not always. In some cases, if you realize that the other person just lacks maturity, set boundaries but be patient. Leave the door open for reconciliation. If we handle the issue well it doesn’t have to mean the end of the relationship. Just proceed with wisdom and caution.
As you may recall, Paul was frustrated with the lack of maturity in John Mark and refused to let him go on one of his missionary journeys. Acts 15:37-40 says, “Barnabas wanted to take John, also called Mark, with them, but Paul did not think it wise to take him, because he had deserted them in Pamphylia and had not continued with them in the work. They had such a sharp disagreement that they parted company. Barnabas took Mark and sailed for Cyprus, but Paul chose Silas and left, commended by the believers to the grace of the Lord.” Yet later Paul counted Mark as a valuable asset to his ministry. 2 Tim. 4:11 says, “Only Luke is with me. Get Mark and bring him with you, because he is helpful to me in my ministry.”
When we set boundaries with believers, we need to leave room for the Spirit’s work in their lives. When it comes to non-believers, setting boundaries becomes even more challenging. We are called to go the extra ten miles — to sacrifice above what anyone would expect. Matthew 5:38-42 says, “You have heard that it was said, ‘Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.’ But I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also. And if anyone wants to sue you and take your shirt, hand over your coat as well. If anyone forces you to go one mile, go for two miles. Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you.”
There is something supernatural that happens in our lives when we can sacrifice for others beyond what seems humanly possible. We reflect Jesus’ love, mercy and grace in an immeasurably beautiful way. Showing that kind of love to our family and friends is challenging but showing it to those outside of our circle reflects the attitude of Christ. That said, there is a line that can be crossed and when it is, we need to be wise enough to set boundaries.
2 Tim. 3:1-5 says, “But mark this: There will be terrible times in the last days. People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God— having a form of godliness but denying its power. Have nothing to do with such people.”
The key principle is…does this relationship cause you to stumble in your quest to become more like Christ? I touched on this concept in Part 1 of these messages. If the relationship hinders your sanctification process and bringing glory to God, then it’s time to reevaluate. That said, once again, don’t be so quick to set boundaries. You can be easily hurt, scared, and offended. Think hard before making an emotionally rash decision to end the relationship. It should be bathed in prayer and backed by scripture and godly counsel.
Side note: If the relationship is abusive, the boundary needs to be quick and decisive. God never expects us to stay in an abusive relationship.
Fourth…Find Your Value in God
Sometimes people mistake “dying to self” for “death of self.”
But self-sacrifice is not self-rejection. You need to understand that God treasures you. If you don’t see your value in God’s big picture, then you miss out on being a part of it, and you leave a hole that no one else can fill. God designed the whole picture with you in mind…your piece of the puzzle matters. You were not just born; you are a divine creation. God doesn’t expect you to lose your uniqueness. God’s desire is to work in you and reshape you into the person He designed you to be. He wants you to be confidently sacrificial. If you’re going to achieve that, you need to be spiritually and emotionally confident in your value. Now I need you to track with me in this line of thinking. When it comes to being sacrificial, dying to self, you need to be mature enough to judge your own motives. People can sometimes be sacrificial in order to feel valuable; either internally, to themselves, or externally, to the world and even to God. I need you to hear this. You can never “DO” or “SERVE” enough to fill the hole in your life that the craving for value or self-worth creates. If you sacrifice for others to prove your worth or find your value, it won’t last and it’s not truly dying to self. That includes serving at a homeless shelter or orphanage. You will inevitably find yourself feeling angry, hurt, empty, disillusioned, and sadly disappointed. On the other hand, if you allow God to define your value, you are free to pour yourselves out, without the fear of losing who you are. My value comes not from what I bring to the table, but from the One who brought me to the table. I find my value in Him alone. And this is who He says I am. I am a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a person belonging to God. (paraphrased from 1 Peter 2:9)
Gen. 1:26-28 says that you are uniquely created in the image of God. Not only did he create you, but He loves you, knowing everything about you. Psalm 139:1-6 says, “You have searched me, Lord, and you know me. You know when I sit and when I rise; you perceive my thoughts from afar. You discern my going out and my lying down; you are familiar with all my ways. Before a word is on my tongue you, Lord, know it completely. You hem me in behind and before, and you lay your hand upon me. Such knowledge is too wonderful for me, too lofty for me to attain.” Romans 8:16-17 says, “The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children. Now if we are children, then we are heirs—heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory.”
You have value and worth because Jesus sacrificed everything for you. The Bible says while we were yet still sinners, Jesus died for us! Ask yourself the question, “When did anyone else earn the right to define me…and who gave them that right?” NOT GOD!! When did your own insecurities and fears earn the right to define your identity? Stop giving anyone or anything that right!!! The one who died on the cross for me is the only one who’s EARNED the right!!! Ask yourself, “Who have I let steal my piece of the puzzle?” God knows me more than I know in myself, more than anyone knows me. And when I know who I am, I have the confidence to deny myself, and to sacrifice for others.
In Matthew 16:24 Jesus described the dying-to-self process as part of following Him: “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me”. Dying to self is the only way to truly find yourself. Jesus continued in verse 25, “For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it; but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it”. The real you, the ultimate you, can only be found as you deny yourself, and become more like Him. So, the only question is, when it comes to your value, your worth, what voices do you believe?