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Forget About Yourself

Then Jesus said to all the people:

If any of you want to be my followers, you must forget about yourself. You must take up your cross each day and follow me.
-Luke 9:23 (Contemporary English Version)

I was in a situation where someone else made or stated that they had already made a decision for me. Then, I had a passing thought that said, "hey, wasn't that my decision to make?".  But, in that moment, I submitted myself to the other person, and the way I would describe how it felt was, 'strangely peaceful'.

I realized that Jesus had been with me, beside me, between us and in me; at that very moment.

In this state of 'strange peace', I reflected on what was going on in me, and I said, these words, in my mind: "I'm dead".

This is what it feels like to be dead to self.  I sort of captured the moment and wanted to learn from it.

And it felt good, but in an unusual way.  I was not in control and I was not getting my way, calling the shots, or dictating to others; and I felt peace.  I realized or came to believe that this is an example of denying my self and allowing Christ to live within me.

Jesus made this statement a number of times, that if you want to be his follower, that you must deny yourself, take up your cross and follow him.  We call it self denial.  We are supposed to truly deny our own selves to follow Jesus.  I like this translation, the CEV, that says, "you must forget yourself".  

Do you know the song, "Let's Forget About Ourselves", by Bruce Ballinger (1945-2004)?
Let’s forget about ourselves
And magnify the Lord and worship Him
Let’s forget about ourselves
And magnify the Lord and worship Him
Let’s forget about ourselves
And magnify the Lord and worship Him
Oh worship Him, Jesus Christ our Lord
I think that forgetting about ourselves is a good way to put what denial of self means.  It is the norm for some of us to be consumed with thinking about our selves.  Jesus calls each one of us to lay down our all consuming thinking of and living for our selves.

Forgetting yourself means denying yourself.  It also means disowning yourself, giving up your way, or saying "no" to yourself.  Disowning yourself is blunt, and strait up what Jesus means.

Walking with Jesus, following him and taking on a life of learning how to live his way, is not something we dabble in or take the course of or go through the program of.  But it is a life where I die and he lives.  It really is about death, my death, and life, his life.

My life or rather my self, as in selfishness or self-centeredness, has to die, for me to have him.  He may be very attractive to me and I want to follow him.  I believed that he saved me and I believe who he is, so I want to follow him.

Before I get to the next step or what happens next, I have to cover this category of people who say they believe and many of them also would say that they are Jesus' followers, but they have not heard him call them to self denial, or to forgetting about themselves.

When we read the gospels, there are crowds that followed Jesus and who received from his ministry.  I imagine that the people in the crowds ran the gamut from just curious people who did not believe, to full throttle, lock-stock-and-barrel believers.  In Jesus day and also today, people can choose to be in the 'Jesus crowd', or to be an authentic disciple.

To all who were in ear shot, Jesus said these words: "if you want to follow me, you must forget about yourself, take up your cross daily, and follow me."  The people is the crowds as well as people who were close up to Jesus, had a self awareness or a self identification as followers already.  

They might say something like, "what do you think I am doing here listening to and watching you?", and, "don't you know that I am missing work or took leave from my family to be here?", and, "do you not realize the risk I am taking by being around you?", or, "excuse me, but I have actually been giving money to you to help you with what I think is a great work of God".

To these people, and to all the people around him, who at any level, deem themselves to be his followers, he says, "forget yourselves, take up your cross daily, and follow me".  Do you get it, how this could be taken as an insult to some of the people?  They might see themselves as followers, but he says that if that is what you really want, here is how you have to do it.

In other words, Jesus is saying, and he says this exact thing, later in Luke 14, that this is the only way and if you do not deny yourself and take up your cross and then follow him, you actually are not a disciple.  And a disciple simply means a learner.  Jesus says that you are not his learner, pupil or student if you refuse to deny your self and take up your cross.

And discipleship is not an event, but a life long process.  The living Christ disciples us each, but we also disciple one another.  

Another way Jesus would say this, is that there is no other way to follow him, to be a Christian.  If we do not let go of our selfishness and continue in self-absorption, but claim to follow Christ; we are what?  We are fans, we like Jesus, and we say we believe; but...

When I am driving my life, when I am doing all the talking, when I need to be in control, when I have to be in charge or when I am selfish; I am not following Jesus, because following him means to forget about me and say no to myself and give up the "my way" thing.  Where this plays out in my life and where he is taking me is that he is calling me to let go of my (selfish) need to have things my way or be bossy with people and be absorbed with him instead.

The rub is, that we control because we are afraid of not being in control.  I learned that statement from John Jolliffe.  Jesus wants to teach me that he has a life for me where I do not have to fear losing control, because he is there, in-between me and all the other people I interact with.

The fear is that if I don't take care of me, even think about getting my needs met, and look out for my self; then I will suffer.  But Jesus says, stop doing that and let that (your self) go. and follow me.  And we know that being a Christian means Christ is in me, not just in ethereal theory, but in actual practical living here on earth.

The good news is that I get to give up my life and my self for Jesus and walk with him and let him lead me into and onto his life, here and now, today.  When I let others go first, as an example, I get to see them as someone to whom Jesus comes, and I get the opportunity to serve them and let Jesus shine or be to them through me.  The great reward of that life is intimacy with God, which is beyond imagining in satisfaction and peaceful, love filled, enjoyment.


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