Most people are familiar with Jesus' words that pertain to picking up a cross and following Him. The cross isn't the end of your personality; it's where it begins. The cross enables you to come into contact with so you can develop your personality as God intended it to be. The problem is that we are so steeped in the self-willed self life that it's almost impossible to let go. This is highlighted by Paul's words in Philippians 2:19-23 when he described his assistant Timothy:
I hope in the Lord Jesus to send Timothy to you soon, that I also may be cheered when I receive news about you. I have no one else like him, who will show genuine concern for your welfare. For everyone looks out for their own interests, not those of Jesus Christ. But you know that Timothy has proved himself, because as a son with his father he has served with me in the work of the gospel. I hope, therefore, to send him as soon as I see how things go with me.
Can you imagine? Of all the great men with whom Paul traveled, he had no one like Timothy. Timothy had reached an end of self to such an extent that he could be genuinely interested in the welfare of others and not his own. If Paul only saw one such man in his life, how many will you and I see? Perhaps the better question is: Can you become the one Timothy that other people encounter? More on that later.
I've been thinking this past week on the examples I can offer of people who haven't come to the end of self and self-will because they haven't truly picked up their cross. Here are some thoughts:
- If you have no experience in an area, but offer your uneducated opinion, and then are offended when people don't follow or listen to you, you haven't come to an end of self.
- If you can't accept advice, and insist on doing things yourself in your own way, even when you don't have the expertise, you haven't come to an end of self.
- If you refuse to change your habits, like how or where you work, or stubbornly resist adopting new technology or work habits, you haven't come to an end of self.
- If you've consistently had no results in an area of life, work, or ministry, but cling to the ways you've always done it (and get upset when someone speaks into your dysfunction), you haven't come to an end of self.
- If you believe you're entitled to your opinion (which you are), but that your opinion is special simply because it's yours, you haven't come to an end of self.
- If you ignore the input of someone who has walked a path before you, especially when that person has no vested interest except to see you succeed, you haven't come to an end of self.
- If you've failed in an area, but still want to be the one to give advice or direction instead of listening and learning, you haven't come to an end of self.
Keep in mind that I'm not suggesting your surrender your life's direction to anyone but the Lord. However, I regularly see these dynamics and tendencies mentioned above at work in my consulting and teaching and it keeps people from bearing fruit and transforming into the people God wants them to be.
What's more, I've seen them all operate in my own life, past and present, and I'm always confronting where I'm more interested in serving my own image of who I want to be (or seem to be) as opposed to who others and God need me to be. To the extent that I've come to an end of self, I have been able to embrace my true self and it has been liberating. I invite you to join me, so that together we can form an army of people like Timothy who can selflessly serve others through our true selves.