By Cindi McMenamin, Crosswalk.com
Today I came to the end of myself.
You know that place? The place where you’re convinced that the more you insist on your own rights, the more frustrated you will be. The place where you realize that the more you pursue life for yourself, the further from Christ you will be. The place where you ultimately realize there must be more of Jesus and less of you.
For so long my life has consisted of wanting more of everything else…more time, more money, more energy, more creativity, more discipline, more willpower, more motivation. Yet the only thing I really need more of is Jesus. And I definitely need less of me.
For a long time, it’s been about equal in my life. Half Jesus. Half me. But Jesus wants me to be all Him. He demands and deserves to be the sole deity in my life. He isn’t interested in a dual reign or a joint partnership.
Jesus said it Himself. “No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and wealth” (Matthew 6:24, NIV).
You cannot serve God and self, either.
Jesus also said in Matthew 16:24 “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me.” But what does it mean to deny myself? How can you and I deny ourselves in a society that shouts “Love your body” “Love Yourself” and ”Love Your Selfie!”? How can you and I, like John the Baptist, live by the motto “He must increase, but I must decrease” (John 3:30,NASB)?
It means reversing the way we naturally think and act. It means putting Christ in the place where we would normally put ourselves. It means having:
- Less concern for how others see you and more concern for how others see Jesus.
- Less focus on what you deserve from others and more focus on what you owe Christ.
- Less preoccupation with your perceived rights and more focus on what it means to be a servant of God.
So what does that look like in a practical way? As I began to flesh it out I found there was less focus on my flesh and more focus on Him. I couldn’t help but want more of Jesus and less of me. You can train your heart to do the same as you practice these five steps:
1. Find your identity – and worth – in Him.
It’s easy to find our self worth in our education, accomplishments, titles and positions. We can even find our self worth in our possessions – the higher the salary, the nicer the car, and the bigger the home, the more successful you must be. But the Apostle Paul said “I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord…” (Philippians 3:8, ESV). Our identity and worth must be rooted in the fact that we are sinners saved by the grace of Jesus Christ alone, adopted into His family, and called His children. You and I are redeemed slaves, orphans who have been adopted and called heirs, beggars who have been given a seat at His table. That reminder alone keeps us from exalting ourselves over God and others, and makes us aware that everything we have has been given to us.
2. Forfeit your will to His.
Your marching order as a follower of Christ is spelled out in Galatians 2:20: “I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me.“ This life is not your own. So if you’ve died to self, there’s no more of you – only Him living through you. With each choice that comes your way, you exercise more of Him and less of you when you ask “God, how would you decide this? What would You want? I’m Yours, so the choice is Yours, too.”
3. Fill up on His thoughts, not yours.
You and I must be fully saturated in the Word of God or we will let the godless philosophies of this world govern our hearts and minds. And that’s another way to have more of us and less of Him. Romans 12:2 instructs us not to be conformed to this world but to be transformed by the renewing of our minds so that we can prove what the perfect will of God is. What fills your thoughts each day? God’s Word or the words of people? Praises for Him or the proud, lustful, me-first lyrics of music that dominates the airwaves? What you focus your mind on will determine if there’s more of Jesus or more of you.
4. Filter your behavior.
Here’s where we need the Holy Spirit’s help. Throughout God’s Word we are told to control our speech, our thought life, and our actions. As we let no unwholesome talk come out of our mouths (Ephesians 4:29), we are acting more like Jesus than ourselves. As we focus on whatever is true, noble, right, pure, lovely, and admirable (Philippians 4:8), we’ll be focusing on God, not ourselves. As we are quick to hear, slow to speak, and slow to anger (James 1:19), we will take in more information and think more carefully before responding. That is exercising more of the wisdom of Jesus and less of the foolishness of ourselves.
5. Focus on the new you, not the old one.
How many times have you heard a follower of Christ excuse their outburst of anger, their rudeness, or their foolish or dysfunctional behavior by saying “I’m sorry. I’m just that way.” To have more of Jesus and less of you is to realize that Jesus died to make the you that is just that way, become just like Him. If you’ve surrendered your life to Christ and possess His divine nature, you have more of a potential within you to be like Jesus than to be like your own earthly parents. So live as the new creation (2 Corinthians 5:17). The old you is gone. The new you – consumed by Christ – has come.
Cindi McMenamin is a national women’s conference and retreat speaker and author of more than a dozen books including When Women Walk Alone, When a Woman Overcomes Life’s Hurts and When God Sees Your Tears. For more on her ministry or free resources to strengthen your soul, marriage, parenting, or individual walk with God, see her website: www.StrengthForTheSoul.com.
Photo Credit: ©Thinkstock
Cindi McMenamin is a pastor’s wife, award-winning writer, national speaker, and the author of several books to help women and couples strengthen their relationship with God and one another. She and her husband, Hugh, co-authored the book When Couples Walk Together: 31 Days to a Closer Connection. Some of her books to help you combat fear and strengthen your trust in God include When Women Walk Alone (more than 145,000 copies sold), Women on the Edge, Drama Free: Finding Peace When Emotions Overwhelm You and When Women Long for Rest. You can find out more about her ministry, books, and free resources at www.StrengthForTheSoul.com .