Oh, what a miserable person I am! Who will free me from sin and death? Thank God! The answer is in Jesus Christ our Lord...” The Apostle Paul, Romans 7:24-25b
Sometimes I become introspective, more reflective on the past and more anxious about the future than I should. Self-oriented thinking is not healthy for my soul. Being self-focused or even more accurately, self-centered, moves me away from Christ. “The Self” or what the Bible calls “the old nature,” “the old man” or “the flesh” really IS an outright tyrant!
I have recently re-read for the umpteenth time a helpful 30-year-old book written by Don Matzat titled “Christ-Esteem: Where The Search For Self-esteem Ends.” Matzat, is a midwestern Lutheran pastor, wrote a book that was a breath of fresh air for me to read in a Christian sub-culture that is filled with books strongly influenced by humanistic psychology all about feeling good about yourself, in other words building up self-esteem.
To emphasize self-esteem promotes self-centeredness, the exact opposite of a Christ-centered person. Self-centeredness doesn’t need to be “cultivated.” It is as predictable as my two-year-old grandson who believes he is the center or the universe. (all toddlers have this tendency. I’m not picking on him!) My niece when she was about that same age at a Christian conference, she sat in the front row with her mom listening to a man sing a somber ballad. In the middle of it she loudly blurted out for all to hear, “That man’s making me sad!” In other words, the man’s whole performance was all about HER! This self-centered orientation of course is not just about toddlers. My late father would half-seriously joke, “I’m not irritable. I’m just around a lot of irritating people!”
Matzat describes this tyrannical rule of this self-centered orientation in his book very well. “Even though we seek to live moral, responsible lives and do a fairly good job of it, our hearts are wrong. Our attitudes do not reflect the love, joy and peace which God desires for us. Our intentions and motives are primarily self-centered. Because of our pride, we are quick to break relationships and lack forgiveness for others. Because our lives are wrapped up in ourselves, we worry about our future and fear sickness, tragedy and death. We feel sorry for ourselves. In order to make ourselves look good in the eyes of others, we readily judge those who do not live up to our standards. If we do not get our way, we become angry and resentful. Putting it very simply, our lives are a mess.” (Christ Esteem, pg. 63)
So, what can be done about this tyrant? Spoiler alert: there is a Bible verse hint at the very beginning of this blog!
There is only one Person who can deliver us from this slavery. If I turn from him and look to the One Deliverer I CAN be freed. I can’t free myself. The tyranny is just too strong and too pervasive. The way to freedom is what Matzat calls “turning away from self.” This is getting back to the basics, turning away not just from not just my sins (the individual attitudes and actions that I have that displease God) but from my SIN, the very corrupted person that produces those sins. He (the old me) was put on the cross with Jesus (Galatians 2:20) buried and raised with Him (Romans 6:4-6) and I am now seated with Him in heaven (Colossians 3:1-4). Now my whole focus must be upon HIM and HIM ALONE.
This truth is what started my on the path of following Jesus some 50 years ago. This is what Christian baptism symbolizes. BUT this is a truth I must remind myself of DAILY or else my default will return to obey the old tyrant of self-centeredness. I need to consciously turn away from the self and onto Christ, who is my very life. This MUST be done if I am to finish strong and leave a godly legacy behind. Otherwise, left to myself, I’m going to become just another grumpy old man. And this world sure doesn’t need another one of them!
What are some ways that make YOU aware that the “Self” is asserting himself again over you again AND what have you found helpful to put Christ back in control? Share on “Comments” or back on the “Legacy Leavers” page.
Thank you, Father, for providing the way of freedom from the tyrant of the Self, the old nature that is hopelessly self-centered. Thank you that you put this tyrant to death and yet you give us the choice each day and each moment of being controlled by him OR by You. By the Holy Spirit empowering me, and Christ living now in and through me, I choose YOU!
Written by Jamie Bohnett. Contact the Author: firstname.lastname@example.org