4: Dying to Self

The only measurable is discipleship.

There is no getting around it: All of history, every bit of data, the best modern technology and methodology has to offer conclude the exact same thing. There will never be a way to simply “add justice” to your already good life – no seven easy steps to a life of love and justice, no box to check on the modern Christian profile sheet, no simple measure that lets you feel good about making a difference in your “spare time.”  Justice requires radical self sacrifice.

This has always been God’s design: Everything about biblical discipleship requires radical sacrifice – submitting your will and your life to the self-giving love of the cross. True biblical justice manifests itself through discipleship; and discipleship is first about dying to self so that Christ might be glorified through us.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer, in his seminal book, The Cost of Discipleship writes, “When Christ calls a man he bids him come and die.” Following Jesus means a response of obedience, not merely a confession of faith in Christ. Following Jesus means participating in Jesus’ life and ministry, as well as in his death and resurrection.  In Bonhoeffer’s words:

“It is not enough for man simply to recover right ideas about God, or to obey his will in the isolated actions of his life. No, man must be refashioned as a living whole in the image of God. His whole form, body, soul, and spirit, must once more bear that image on earth.”

We are called and set free to give ourselves away for the sake of others. We are called and set free to follow Christ. Answering the call to discipleship is not easy. It is a path paved with sacrifice and suffering. But it is the only path to freedom. It is the way to joy.  Be stirred by Richard Foster’s wisdom about true service from his exceptional book, Celebration of Discipline and reflect on the Scripture list below:

  • In service we must experience the many little deaths of going beyond ourselves. Service banishes us to the mundane,  the ordinary, the trivial…
  • Self-righteous service comes through human effort. It expends immense amounts of energy calculating and scheming how to render service. Sociological charts and surveys are devised so we can, “help these people…”
  • True service comes from a relationship with the Divine Other deep inside…
  • True service is free of the need to calculate results…
  • True service is indiscriminate in its ministry…
  • True service ministers simply and faithfully because there is a need…
  • True service is a lifestyle…
  • True service builds community. It quietly and unpretentiously goes about caring for the needs of others. It draws,  binds, heals, builds…
  • Nothing disciplines the inordinate desires of the flesh like service, and nothing transforms the desires of the flesh like serving in hiddenness…
  • Joyous hidden service to others is an acted prayer of thanksgiving. We seem to be directed by a new control Center, and so we are…

Read the Scripture list on Dying to Self Here.

Reflect on the The Litany of Humility:

O Jesus, meek and humble of heart, hear me.

From the desire of being esteemed,
deliver me, Jesus.
From the desire of being loved,
From the desire of being extolled,
From the desire of being honored,
From the desire of being praised,
From the desire of being preferred to others,
From the desire of being consulted,
From the desire of being approved,

From the fear of being humiliated,
deliver me, Jesus.
From the fear of being despised,
From the fear of suffering rebukes,
From the fear of being defamed,
From the fear of being forgotten,
From the fear of being ridiculed,
From the fear of being wronged,
From the fear of being suspected,

That others may be loved more than I,
Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it.
That others may be esteemed more than I,
That in the opinion of the world,
others may increase, and I may decrease,
That others may be chosen and I set aside,
That others may be praised and I unnoticed,
That others may be preferred to me in everything,
That others may become holier than I,
provided that I may become as holy as I should.

- Rafael Cardinal Merry del Val (1865-1930)

He has shown you what is good. And what does the LORD require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God. ~Micah 6:8