Do you know why I love the apostle Paul? Because in some small way I can relate to him. Paul was a man who was high up in the Roman Command – whose family was influential. He was favored for his acts of “justice” – which were also acts of murdering Christians. God changed him. How? By drastically and literally helping Paul to lose himself! He was blinded and made to rely on the help of those he persecuted. He was literally hit in the face with the truth of his sin and blatant disregard for God and His people. What did Paul have to lose in order to gain God? Everything! Who he was, his family, his position in society, his money – Everything. But what did he gain? Even more! An undying and unrelenting love from and for God. He gained life everlasting and an eternity with the one who made him and purposed him. There is nothing more than any of us should want.
Now you may be asking, how in the world can I relate to this…well the truth is we all can and should. I was lost – not just in myself and my wants but in this world and what it could provide for me. Taken away by the people and things of this world and what I thought it (or truly Satan) was offering me or even what I thought I deserved. I was so taken away by my own selfish desires and needs, I didn’t see anything outside of myself. Then, one day, like a bolt of lightning I was hit – blinded! I had to come to my knees in humility and desperation, not just to others for help, but to God for repentance. I spent months dealing with the “demons” that haunted me about the things I had done or been a part of. I still do. But like Paul, I found through that the love and purpose my life had always meant to have.
So what does it mean to lose yourself? Let’s look at the gospels first: Matt. 16:24; Luke 9:23 & Mark 8:34 all say that “if anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow me.” When we look at the world today – what is it that gets in the way of people finding and truly knowing God (even those who claim to “know” him) – SELF! We try to tamper with God’s word to make it our own, to suit our needs so that we don’t have to give up or “deny” ourselves! We want our cake and eat too, as the old expression says. But this isn’t talking about giving all your money away and living a monk like lifestyle. This is talking spiritually! You must deny your flesh – daily – every hour. Why do you think we are told to run our “race” with endurance or as 1 Cor. 9:26 says, “to fight: not as one who beats the air…” lest, “I should become disqualified.” Now look to Roman’s – Paul’s ministry was filled with talks of fighting on with endurance and “faith”. It’s not easy to lose yourself, that is why in Matt. 7:14 it says, “For the gate is small and the way is narrow that leads to life, and there are few who find it.” Even when you think you have found it – have you really? Do you wake up every morning and put on your armor to fight your battle today to deny yourself?! Or do you manipulate God and His Word like the Devil does in order to gain the world and what you want from it? Or are you like Judas, who pretended to serve Christ only to betray Him to serve himself. Will you get to the day of judgement and hear God say to you, “Depart from me, you who practice lawlessness, for I never knew you.” To know God is to know Christ. And when I say “know” I am speaking in an intimate and personal way that you would lay down your life, your belongings, your thoughts and your ways for Him. You would deny yourself in every way to submit to the one who gives you everything.
Does this scare you? I know it is difficult but it shouldn’t scare you! It should give you hope and encouragement. The only reason it would scare you is if you have not fully denied yourself yet. You are living for self gratification and what this world has to offer you today. But what will it offer you tomorrow? Yet, what God offers is eternal and everlasting – on the other side of denial is irreplaceable peace, love and fulfillment. Paul felt it, I feel it. It is a remarkable and unending relationship with the only One who truly knows you and loves you for who He made you to be. He is the only way you can truly accomplish anything in this world. For apart from Him there is nothing – all else is vanity (Eccl. 3 – if you haven’t read Ecclesiastes lately you really should!). But you wont know this until you deny yourself.
So what do we have in common with Paul? We are sinners who deny God and live for ourselves. But my commonality is in the fact that I too was blinded to be able to see. I was cut down in order to stand tall. I was burned in order to be made new. What about you?