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Dying to Self, Part 1

• Greg Boyd

This morning Greg continued his series on discipleship by preaching about the necessity of dying to self. Expounding on Luke 14:25-28, Greg stated that God’s call “to hate” family and self does not literally mean hate, but instead is a figure of speech used in ancient times to emphasize meaning.

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This morning Greg continued his series on discipleship by preaching about the necessity of dying to self. Expounding on Luke 14:25-28, Greg stated that God’s call “to hate” family and self does not literally mean hate, but instead is a figure of speech used in ancient times to emphasize meaning. In other words, Luke 14:25-26 means that there should be no competition to a person’s allegiance to Christ. A believer’s love for God should be so passionate and vibrant that it pales in comparison to a person’s expression of love for family and self. For the people of Jesus’ day to hear the call to “take up your cross” would have conjured up images of a tortuous and barbaric death. However, Jesus’ call is rooted in love for us. When we consider the cost of being Christ’s disciple, the joy of living in and for God’s kingdom makes it worth sacrificing all (Matthew 13:44-46). Moreover, Matthew 10:39 states that only when a person loses his or her life will they find it. Thus, “dying to self” involves killing the false self that believes that the world revolves around itself. The abundant life that God intends for us occurs when we submit our lives to God.

However, we can easily misunderstand what it means to die to self. Greg spent time detailing two things that dying to self is not. First, it is not loathing one’s existence. Greg calls this thinking “maggot theology,” because individuals believe they are as despicable as maggots. While it is true that all humanity sins, walking through life as though you are worthless denies the fact that all humanity is created for greatness in God’s image. Second, it does not mean that fun and enjoyable things must stop. People can tend to construct their lists of dos and don’ts that they believe need to be followed in order to walk faithfully with God. Greg encouraged people to hold strong convictions, but not as a strategy for judging people. Greg stated that this tactic, instead of illustrating a life submitted to God, actually demonstrates an idolatrous way of securing life (i.e. from a list of dos and don’ts).

However, the Good News is that if we are willing to die (i.e. submit our whole life to God) we will live. Just as the person found the treasure in the field and then sold everything to buy the field (Matthew 13:44), so also in dying to self we will experience the abundant life that God through Christ offers to us. In living such a life, we are free from condemnation, fear, guilt, and shame. Furthermore, we participate in the divine life of love that marks God’s being. The Apostle Paul’s mantra can be ours, “I no longer live, but Christ lives in me” (Galatians 2:20).

Greg closed the first part of this sermon by reminding us of two points. First, we are not “buying” the treasure through dying. The treasure of life in Christ is a gift that involves no merit on our part. Second, dying to self is not a once and for all experience, but must happen consistently. Luke 9:23 speaks about disciples of Christ needing to take up their cross daily, and in 1 Corinthians 15:31, Paul writes that he dies daily.

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