(Part 1 of this article examines the rising profile of SELF in the world and in the church at this end time. And it concludes that only believers that understand the words of Christ, “Deny yourself, carry your cross, follow me” will escape the unfolding bewitchment of the AGE OF SELF. It is available on this link – bit.ly/2adTL99 )
Strange powers, strange spirits, and strange influences will earnestly be at work in the world in these Last Days. Their main objective is to instigate mankind into more and more rebellion against God until mankind’s cup of iniquity becomes full. Until the power of darkness reaches its peak, and the anti-Christ sits atop the government of the world on behalf of Satan.
As this trend of rebellion is growing in the world, so also will it grow exponentially among God’s people in the church. Sound doctrines of the Bible will be sacrificed on the altar of liberalism and modernity. And our relationship with Jesus will become more and more superficial and SELF-oriented. You’ll recall that Jesus made an allusion to this trend while teaching about the end-time in Matthew 24, “And because iniquity shall abound, the love of many shall wax cold”. (verse 12)
The cold love (or lukewarmness) that believers will display towards the Lord will NOT be intentional. It will be induced and sustained by the spirit of the AGE OF SELF. Therefore, believers that will survive the perils of these Last Days are those that would guard diligently against the satanic influence of SELF in their personal lives. We must always remember, as we said in Part 1, that SELF is Satan’s remote control in the human body. Whenever SELF is on display in any man, you can be sure that Satan is the one pulling the strings behind the scene!
The good news is that God did not leave believers at the mercy of SELF (and Satan). At Calvary, God dealt a mortal blow to SELF (our flesh, the old man) on the cross of Calvary (more on this later). So, potentially, TOTAL FREEDOM from the control of SELF is already INCLUDED in the salvation package that we received freely by grace when we became born again. Like Satan, SELF has already been judged, condemned, and defeated in the life of a believer. And all that we need to do to walk in this freedom is to RESIST SELF – just like we resist Satan (James 4:7). Although this freedom has already been fully purchased for us by Christ in the spiritual realm, a lot of believers are still unable to overcome the control of SELF in their daily walk.
This is probably because there is a right way to overcome SELF, and a wrong way to overcome SELF. Let’s look at the wrong way first. A wrong way to overcome SELF is through the agency of SELF-effort. It is a huge spiritual fallacy to attempt to use SELF to overcome SELF. SELF cannot overcome SELF!
Trying to use SELF-effort to defeat SELF is like making a new year resolution – it will be effective only in the short term. The reason that New Year resolutions usually fail is because SELF can NEVER be tamed or transformed to obey God. To please God, SELF MUST BE TERMINATED. And this is exactly what God did for us in Christ Jesus at Calvary. He put us in Christ at the crucifixion so that our SELF (our flesh, our old man) may be terminated. Romans 6:6 makes this clear, “Knowing this, that our old man is CRUCIFIED WITH HIM…”. And this is why a genuine believer can confidently say, “I am CRUCIFIED WITH CHRIST….” (Galatians 2:20). This is the ticket to our freedom from the dominion of SELF. We have this FREE TICKET, but sadly, not every believer uses the ticket.
Let us now look at the right way to use the freedom ticket from the dominion of SELF. This is by shifting our focus in life COMPLETELY AWAY from ourselves to ANOTHER – to Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ is the Strength of the believer. This is why the Galatians 2:20 passage quoted above continues in these words: “…nevertheless I live; yet NOT I, BUT CHRIST….”
‘NOT I, BUT CHRIST….’ is our ticket to freedom. ‘Not I, but Christ’ shifts our focus away from ourselves to Christ. When our focus shifts to Jesus, it means we will begin to walk EXCLUSIVELY in His will, EXCLUSIVELY in His word, EXCLUSIVELY in His way. This is what it means to walk in the Spirit (Galatians 5:16). And it is ONLY by walking in the Spirit that we overcome SELF. When we walk in the Spirit, the decisions of our lives, both big and small, are no more about us – but ABOUT Jesus Christ. And about Him ALONE.
In practical terms, this means if somebody hurts me, I know how I (SELF) will normally react. But now, I cannot react that way any more, because my focus is on ANOTHER – on Jesus Christ. And so, when somebody hurts me, with my focus on Jesus, I would just react in the way that Jesus would react. And that is to forgive the person, pray for him/her, and be a blessing to him/her (Matthew 5:44). If my focus had been on my SELF, I probably would have planned a retaliation, harbour a grudge, issue a curse, etc. But, a focus on Jesus denies our SELF its ‘rights’, and allows Jesus to have His way. This is what it means to live A CRUCIFIED LIFE. A life that has no rights of its own.
Living a crucified life affects every single area of our lives. When I collect my income, do I spend it as SELF wants to spend it, or do I keep my focus on Jesus? In this area, it is very easy to know if our focus is on Jesus. If it is on Jesus, a substantial part of our income will go into taking care of the needy around us (Luke 12:33, Matthew 26:9, John 13:29, Galatians 2:10). That was how Jesus lived on earth at that time, and that is how He will live in us today – if He’s truly there.
A focus on Jesus will affect how you talk. It will affect how you dress. Where you go. Who you associate with. Etc. In all these matters, we of course have our personal preferences. But, with a focus on Jesus, our preferences will NOT count. Our personal opinion will NOT count. Our focus will just be on Jesus Christ, and on HIM ALONE – His will, His word, His way. This is what it means to be a true follower of Jesus Christ.
The reason we have very few of such crucified believers in our days is simply because SELF wants to have a say in how we follow Jesus. SELF wants to express its opinion, its preference, etc. And to have its way, SELF will stop at nothing – even if it means twisting the word of God until it blends with our personal opinion or preference. This accounts for why false doctrines are multiplying rapidly in our days. One of the most popular of these false doctrines is spreading like wild fire in this AGE OF SELF. The doctrine extols God’s sovereignty in the salvation of man, and ignores or minimises the role of human responsibility in the salvation package. This is a ploy by SELF to trick a believer into dodging responsibility and accountability – a typical trait of SELF.
For a true believer, overcoming SELF is very, very critical. And overcoming SELF is the first lesson that Jesus teaches us in the Beatitudes. “Blessed are the POOR IN SPIRIT, for theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven” (Matthew 5:3). To be poor in spirit is to think NOTHING OF ONE’S SELF. It is when we think something of ourselves that our opinion will matter. That is when our preference will matter. And that is when we will always insist on our rights. But when we think nothing of ourselves, we will know that, in the grand scheme of things, it is NOT our opinion that matters, it is the opinion of Christ. It is NOT our preference that matters, it is the preference of Christ. Being POOR IN SPIRIT is a great blessedness in the walk of a believer with the Lord.
It is only those who are truly POOR IN THE SPIRIT that will turn the other cheek when slapped. They are the only ones that will walk two miles when compelled to walk one. They are the ones that can truly and genuinely pray for their enemies from the depth of their hearts. And they are the only ones that can consistently follow the radical and challenging teachings that Jesus Christ brought to mankind.
Jesus Christ Himself is at the centre of the teaching, and it is only by keeping our focus FIRMLY on Him that we can become the person He created us to be. When we keep our focus on Him in this manner, there is an inner transformation that supernaturally takes place to make us conformed to the image of Jesus Christ. It is an inexplicable spiritual process that takes place – not by power, nor by might, but by the Spirit of the Lord. This is the meaning of 2 Corinthians 3:18, “But we all, with open face beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are CHANGED INTO THE SAME IMAGE from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord.”
Brothers and sisters, one thing we must never forget is that SELF does not want to die, and it will try all tricks in the book to deceive a believer into a sense of false relationship with Jesus. According to Matthew 7:21-23, it is ONLY IN ETERNITY that many, many ministers and believers will realise that they were never truly in Christ as they thought.
Yet, such ministers and believers would have been active in church. They would have been paying tithes and offerings faithfully. They would have been manifesting the power of God in healing, in deliverance, and in many jaw-dropping signs and wonders. They would have been having quiet time daily. They would have been basking in the joy of answered prayers. Yet, alas, they missed the mark woefully because they gave SELF room to manoeuvre in their lives. Because their focus was not fully fixed on Jesus. It was fixed on THEMSELVES – doing their own thing IN THE NAME OF JESUS.
As we round up, please bear this truth in mind. Our generation has largely lost sight of the genuine Jesus Christ of the Bible. The churches of today, manipulated by the AGE OF SELF, has given us another JESUS (2 Corinthians 11:4). And this is the Jesus that most of the believers follow today! Please remember that Jesus and His Apostles warned us about a huge wave of deception in the Last Days. Well, the deception is rampant today, and it is leading an untold number of believers in the way of silent perdition. And they are NOT even aware.
Believers that want to secure their eternal destiny in Christ will have to go back, and UNLEARN a lot of what the church of today has taught us. Then they will earnestly seek the genuine Jesus of the Bible, and when they see Him, they will firmly keep their eyes on Him, day and night. Seeking to take every single step in His will. They will deny themselves. They will embrace the shame and pain of the cross. And they will quietly follow the Master in the narrow way, as the watching world will boo and jeer them to instigate discouragement. Of course, these believers may trip occasionally. Thankfully, the Bible makes ample provision for this in 1 John 2:1, and similar passages. Following Jesus is a race, not a sprint, and endurance is required.
As many as keep their gaze on Him TILL THE END shall be saved. These are the ones that Jesus describes as overcomers in Revelation 2 & 3. These are the ones that have overcome SELF, overcome the world, and overcome Satan. They are the ones that will reign with Him in glory – for all of eternity.
Friend, where is your focus? On Jesus Christ, or on your SELF? Praying that on the Last Day, you will hear “Well done, thou good and faithful servant: thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things: enter thou into the joy of thy lord”. (Matthew 5:21). Only believe. And only trust Him to perfect the good work that He has started in you. Great grace is available to follow Christ in these perilous times. Please use this grace faithfully.
Thanks for reading, God bless you.
Source: Church Watch in Nigeria