Death to self. It’s not exactly my forte. I’m a passionate person, and anger seems to be the emotion that I can most readily express clearly. I can literally be as mean as a snake, and there is honestly a small part of me that relishes in the fact that I know how to shred someone’s heart with my words. I’m not exaggerating when I tell you, I’ve never quite met my equal in being able to do this.
Most of the time I love being passionate; to me it means I’m alive and fiery and untamable and strong. Sometimes, what my “passion” means is that I’ve been hurt, and here is how I’m going to project that pain onto the person who hurt me. I’ve seen this surface as an issue time and time again, most frequently in a very long term, on-again-off-again relationship. When he hurts me, I go full force. I hit him where it hurts. I make him feel as terrible about himself as I possibly can without really damaging my conscience too much, because technically I’m only telling the truth right? And sometimes the truth hurts. How untrue.
What I am showing when I lash out and try to hammer with my words is putting on display the evil state of my own heart. Matthew 15:18-19 tells us “Whatever comes out of the mouth comes from the heart, and this is what makes a man unclean and defiles him. For out of the heart come evil thoughts (reasonings and disputings and designs) such as murder, adultery, sexual vice, theft, false witnessing, slander, and irreverent speech. These are what make a man unclean and defile him”. Oh my gosh, am I a living testament to this. The minute I let those vile and hateful words come out of my mouth, you can bet that every such thought follows. I find myself mulling over exactly how much I want to hurt the object of my anger by concocting a formula of how I can incorporate all of the aforementioned sinful outlets to do so.
In my latest display of wrath (which to give myself a tiny bit of credit since I’m really just letting my ugliness reign free here, happens a lot less frequently nowadays) I found myself thinking and saying a lot of the usual things, and then felt so utterly trapped by all that I had said and thought. “If I don’t express all of this I’m going to explode. If I don’t express all of this, it feels like I’m suffocating myself – so how can it be right for me to JUST HOLD ALL OF THIS IN IF IT’S LITERALLY GOING TO KILL ME!”
And, Thank the Lord, this verse popped in my head. Once again, scripture shed light on the truth for me:
He was oppressed and He was afflicted, Yet He opened not His mouth; He was led as a lamb to the slaughter And as a sheep before it’s shearers is silent, so He opened not His mouth. [Isaiah 53:7]
Here are a few words from that passage that highlight how Jesus felt, while He was being silently lead to His death. He is described as:
Man of sorrows
Acquainted with grief
Bruised for our Iniquities
Wounded for our Transgressions
Just let those words really settle in your heart. Rejected. Despised. Grieving. Cut off from God – something that we truly will never know the feeling and anguish of because of Him and His willingness to die. We all know from reading the bible or watching The Passion of the Christ exactly how ridiculed and despised He was, how completely humiliating His death was.
And He was silent. He just took it.
And the people’s (our) reaction to this spotless, perfect lamb that bore our sins and was wounded for our transgressions?
We hid our faces from Him
Esteemed Him as stricken by God
Esteemed Him as afflicted
We looked upon Him and judged that He was smitten by God
We rejected Him (pointing that out again for good measure)
“He poured out His soul unto death” [v 12]
There isn’t an emotion that I’ve endured that wasn’t endured by the Son of God on that day when He was crucified, and there definitely isn’t an emotion that I’ve endured unto the point of death (obviously).
My suffering, it’s not even comparable. As an imitator and follower of Christ we are called to do the very same. I am called, you are called, to put aside your selves, and follow Him daily. Follow Him to death to self, to find life in Him.
I don’t find life in letting my sin pulse freely through my veins. I’ve never once walked away from a time when I really just let go of all of my inhibitions and said exactly how I felt, and felt empowered and alive. Not once.
Jesus gives us the recipe to overcome that part of self, whether it’s the untamable desire to let your tongue loose like a flaming dart, or whether it’s sex, or drugs, or not eating and obsessing over being perfect; whatever that thing is for you, that thing that rules you that you just can’t quite squish – die to it. It’s not supposed to be easy to die to something. Do you think it was easy for Jesus to go quietly, giving himself up, walking to His imminent death? Matthew 26:36-46 vividly paints the picture of the sorrow and distress that Jesus felt in the Garden of Gethsemane as He was preparing to surrender himself to death.
A verse from Luke 9 says “Pick up your cross daily” as in, this will be something that you have to labor through. You will have to work, and sweat, and cry. You will have to claw your way through. This will be heavy, and this will be hard. It isn’t easy to overcome sin. Thankfully our hope and our faith is in the Overcomer.
Romans 6 tells us, “For if we have been united together in the likeness of His death, certainly we also shall be in the likeness of His resurrection, knowing this, that our self was crucified with Him, that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves of sin. For he who has died has been freed from sin.”
Friends, take heart in the death of whatever sin is enslaving you. When you pick up that cross, and die to that sin, that is where you will find freedom and life.
Rest assured that this verse is what I’ll be clinging to for the next few months.
If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me. For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it [Luke 9:23-24]