Pastor Jeff Knott of Grace Church in Port Hope, Ontario continues the sermon series on Psalm 23 “Life Without Lack” with “Death to Self”:
Bonhoeffer, “When Christ calls a man, He bids him come and die.”
Death to self does not mean death of self. Each human being is valuable in God’s eyes.
Self-denial is not self-hatred. The Bible tells us to love our neighbour as ourselves – there’s some self-love there.
None of this teaching about death to self and denying self is about belittling who we are or making ourselves less than what God has called us to be.
You are loved today and He has done everything possible so that you would flourish as your best possible self.
We need to understand the paradoxical nature of the Christian faith. The Bible teaches many paradoxes: that we as Christian people see unseen things; we conquer by yielding; we find rest under a yoke; we reign by serving; we become great by becoming small; we are exalted when we are humbled; we are wise when we are being fools for Christ; we are made free when we become servants of all; we gain strength when we are weak; we triumph through defeat; we find victory by glorying in our infirmities; and, last, but not least, we live by dying.
It’s a paradox because Jesus brings an upside-down reign which is so different from the world.
Death is not the end, it’s actually the beginning and I dare say the prerequisite for following Him. To follow Jesus in death ultimately means we live. We find our lives by losing it.
No one likes difficult seasons, but God allows them to show us the illusion of control we are living under.
When all the props are kicked out from underneath us, all that’s left is for us to surrender. And that’s the death to self – the constant surrender.
Jesus is saying when you do surrender, when you lose yourself, when you give up that agenda that you have for your life, when you forsake it and chose His – it’s for Him, you lose your life for Him. When you lose it, then you’ll find it, then you’ll become the real you and all the illusion and all the props will be taken away.
Life is found in relationship with Jesus Christ only. Only Jesus is the Good Shepherd. Only He is worthy of our faith.
You can gain everything in this world, Jesus says. Fame and fortune and accomplishments, notoriety, wealth, prestige, accolades – you could have it all and yet you would forfeit your soul, you would forfeit your life, you would still miss the life that God offers us through Christ.
Death to self is that constant choosing of God’s will over our own will and only when we learn that does life open up for us.
Death leads to life – it’s a paradox.
It’s the way of the upside-down Kingdom that Jesus calls us to receive.
If our Lord had to say in the garden before His crucifixion, “Not my will but Thine,” what makes us think that we don’t have to make that exact same commitment?
C.K. Chesterton says, “That Christianity has not been tried and found wanting, it has been found difficult and left untried.”
As long as we are trying to wrestle control out of the Shepherd’s hand, we will never know the promises laid out for us in Psalm 23.