Clarity: It's All About the Relationship
I wish I were joking, but I don't know what to title today's post. Initially, I was going to focus on the concept of "dying to self," but then as the conversation kept going, I thought, "alignment equals assignment." God didn't like that title either so guess what here we are with this title, and we're just going to flow with it, right? Right! Amen, let's keep it moving.
So this is how it all happened: I was listening to a sermon by Judah Smith. By now, I'm pretty sure we've all come to the realization that I enjoy listening to Judah! (Go Church Home!) I had finished a two-hour workout, dinner with my best friend, and a lady chat, when I was heading home, and God said, listen to some sermons young lady. You know me, I said, "Aye Captain (cue SpongeBob)."
I had yet finished the sermon when I kept hearing the phrase, "die to self," in my mind repeatedly. (I think a part of it is because I know that showers are holy places and Holy Spirit speaks in the shower — and everywhere else — wait did I mention I was in the shower? Okay, I'm confusing us, let me get back to this post.) I started asking, what does that mean? Where does it come from? Why do we say that as believers so often, and what does God mean by it? How do we do it? Is it something for just our relationship with Christ, or does it integrate into all of our relationships? How do we know we're doing it?
The questions that kept flowing in my mind were bonkers, and I was thought, "God, can you give me some clarity on this? What do you mean by this? May I ask for you to answer some of these questions I have?" So what did I end up doing? Did I get any answers? Well, after praying, I felt God saying, go and ask. I didn't know who at first, but when my fingers glided on my phone after my shower, I instantly thought of a friend from back in my sophomore year at Liberty, Bay.
So here's how it all went down:
AB: Hey, Bay! I have a couple of questions and wanted to ask your perspective on them. Are you available real quick?
Bay: Hey!! Yes, I am! What’s up?
AB: Yeahhhh🙌🏾😆I've been [diving] into the concept of "to die to self" lately, and I've been trying to understand what it really means. I wanted to understand where it comes from (Scripture or culture) and what it really means. I wanted to know what you think it means?
Bay: Real quick can I ask what you mean by if it comes from scripture or culture? Because it does talk about it in scripture, but I’m assuming you know that. I’ve been reading a bit about it too lately, it pops up in my readings every once in a while and get me thinking throughout the week[...]but I think to die to ourselves, to die to our flesh just means to put down the desires of our flesh that are not of the spirit. Because our flesh and spirit are in a constant battle against each other. Satan operates through the flesh, and Christ/God operates through the Holy Spirit, which is in us. So to put away the satisfaction, pride, desires, sins of our flesh, to send them to the grave with Christ, we experience life through the resurrection of Christ. I think it’s a constant battle though.. if sins went away forever at the exact moment you decided “I’m putting to death my sinful ways,” we would be perfect beings... and obviously we’re not which is why it’s a constant, daily battle to put our sinful flesh to death to allow our spirits, lifted by the Holy Spirit to shine through. The problem with our flesh, when we slip, we tend to distance ourselves from God. And when we aren’t aligned under God, then we won’t be bearing the fruit of the Spirit. I don’t know if it says somewhere that “Satan operates through the flesh...” but I feel like I heard that somewhere, but it makes sense to me. He knows that [our] flesh and our minds are weak and vulnerable at times and throws temptations in front of us that our flesh tends to pull towards
AB: So you mean that to die to self ultimately means to allow the Holy Spirit and the Lord to become our guidance? Our priority and to seek the Lord above everything? Similarly to Matthew 6:33, where God says to seek his Kingdom first. Like a sense, relinquish what we want (what our flesh wants) and to choose the ways of the Lord?
Bay: Romans 8:13[,] For if you live according to the flesh you will die, but if by the Spirit [then] you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live.
AB: Oh, I meant [to answer the first part of what you said in the beginning of the conversation] that if it's something we say, but when it comes to applications, we pick and choose what it means.
Bay: I would say yes, to die to self ultimately means to fully commit and allow your life to be guided [by] the Holy Spirit and God.
AB: BAM! That's what I was just about to ask in my text.
Bay: But to respond to your message, “if it’s something we say, but when it comes to applications, we pick and choose what it means.” Can you give me an example of what you mean?
AB: Oh, side note, can I quote you in my blog post? I've been trying to understand in what ways do I die to self within my life and what it means.
Bay: Sure! But God is the one who has been teaching me that, so all credit to God for that response. 😅
AB: So lately, I've seen a lot of believers debate back and forth what it means to be Christian and what it's like to be a Christian. Sometimes it's in what we wear, how we speak, [and can] be how we handle different situations. But I've been wondering, can we dictate what [are Christian things to do if it's not something that Christ either gave in Scripture or spoken to us about?] 🙌🏾 [oh and] thank you[,] Jesus[,] for that! IDK if there is an exact way to be Christian quote on quote, outside of Scripture. IDK if I'm confusing you. Here's an example, some believers see tattoos as a nah bruh thing. But some don't. I tend to believe that it's always up to what you [think] the Holy Spirit is telling you. But sometimes we question that when it comes to people making decisions. Alignment with the Holy Spirit is essential ( I believe so). So if to die to myself, if following what the Spirit of the Lord tells me may not agree with what others would do or say, is that up for question? Am I less of [a] believer because [of it]? Am I not in alignment with the Spirit of God if I do things differently from what has been considered "the Christian thing to do?"
Bay: Okay, I can work with that. Haha, so I go back and forth on that topic. I think the question that should be asked are these things distracting someone from experiencing the Love of Christ. Some people say tattoos are bad, it’s marking the body, and it’s devilish in a way. Others would say it’s okay as long as the messages you are putting on your body are reflecting back to Christ. I would say if you feel like the Holy Spirit is pulling on your heart, get into scripture, and find your reassuring answer. Because I’ve come to find out that people in the church are acting out on impulses they get “from the spirit,” but it’s not scripture-based. I just watched an interview of a church, and the pastor was saying to trust what the Holy Spirit is saying to you and what it’s telling you might be found outside of scripture. As in the Holy Spirit is bigger and more vast than scripture... that’s so false. Everything we need is in scripture. If God wanted to add anything extra to the Bible, He would have when it was first being written. God never changes. Society does.
AB: Having the relationship with Christ, spending time in his presence and Scripture, the voice of the Holy Spirit will be clear and give you the confidence in what the Lord is telling you to do. I meant that as a [question] 🤣
Bay: So I’ve been reading through John, and Jesus is talking to His disciples, and He said my command is this: Love each other As I have loved you. That IS His greatest command. That doesn’t mean we have to agree with what everyone else does, what society does, whether someone has a tattoo or not. But the question is, are we loving people? Now, it is important to know what the New Testament has to say. Over and over and over again, it talks about a handful of sins that are displeasing to God. But at the end of the day, we can’t judge people, but we can love on them, pray for them, and hope that the Holy Spirit convicts them, in the same way, that the Holy Spirit convicts us. And I think the conviction you’re feeling will directly correlate to a verse in scripture. You might not audibly hear the Holy Spirit, but I definitely think you’ll have a strong pull in one direction and if it is in line with what Scripture says, then I’d say it is from the Spirit. “Having the relationship with Christ, spending time in his presence and Scripture, the voice of the Holy Spirit will be clear and give you the confidence in what the Lord is telling you to do.” I would say yes!!
AB: To die to ourselves is to allow the Holy Spirit to take over, to live according to what God says and asks of us in his Word[.] To have a relationship with Christ which is to speak to him through prayer and to listen to the Lord through meditation. To die to self is to allow ourselves to accept the love of God because of His unconditional love for us which causes to obey and have a relationship that guides us to a life that leads us closer and closer to his kingdom and him.
Bay: I don’t know if any of those answers help ya out at all. The last few months have really challenged me, as I’m navigating through lots of thoughts about the power of the Holy Spirit, gifts of the Spirit, what is authentic and truly “of the Spirit.” But something I’ve learned, you shouldn’t feel any less of a believer just because you do or don’t do what everyone else is doing. Being a Christian isn’t based on “what you do” it’s based on what Christ did for us, believing that, trusting that, and then living out a reflection of Jesus teachings. But what we do or what we don’t do is not what makes us a Christian. Believing in Christ is what makes you a Christian. The byproduct of that is how we live out our lives, sacrificing ourselves, as a sign of love, for others to experience the Love Christ has shown us.
AB: Someone said this today: you honor someone you love. In a sense, if I were to apply that to everything, then it correlates with Scripture when Jesus told us to love one another. We honor everyone and all. Whether we agree with them or not. Love and honor [are] what we give to all. As a believer, being a sinner, I'm imperfect in more ways than one and ultimately because I'm human I'm flawed. However, Jesus loves me( good and the need to work on parts 🤣). To be his follower, to be a Child of God is to believe that we all are his Children (believers and those who may not believe). Loving everyone and giving them the hope and love God has given us through Christ. I agree, if someone makes a decision, it doesn't sit well with me to judge but to know and trust that the [Holy] Spirit is with them through it all. Side note: yessssss! [to your previous statement]
Bay: Yes, amen to that!! We are all imperfect and flawed and so far from where we should be, thank God for His grace. I don’t think we should judge at all, because we are not at a place to judge, but I do believe we can be a wise counsel to other believer[s] and nonbelievers. For example, if a brother in Christ is falling hard to temptation, I can say[, “]hey man what’s going??[“]What are you dealing with, let him know the way he’s living isn’t right (he probably knows that), but you can say it in a way that isn’t judging, and just remind him that we all struggle and fall, but God is right there to pick us up back on our feet. The way you would go about it with a nonbeliever is different because they won’t understand the temptations and convictions that Christians experience, or at least to the same degree.
AB: I was recently reading Romans 6:26-27 on how the Spirit gives utterance. For so long, I've always believed that it meant to speak in tongues which I'm not saying it doesn't. Though I have also noticed how when I don't know how to address someone, when I don't know what I need to say to reach someone whether it's in a disagreement, or expressing a feeling, I ask God if he can give me the right words to say. I've noticed how conversations afterward are healing and how much we get each other. The Holy Spirit [does] guide us when it comes to tricky situations (ha, 🤣Jesus called [him] the helper for a reason!).
Bay: I’ll also say this, I’ve learned that before I try to tell someone what I think (if we don’t agree), it’s very very important to listen to them first. Listen to their point of view, not to formulate a response but to genuinely try to understand where they are coming from. Then from there, I’d say we can have a respectful conversation. If I think it contradicts [Scripture], then we should look at scripture together to see what The Good Word has to say about it. And who knows, I may even be wrong in my viewpoint. But having a convo is very important, and being able to walk away from the convo agreeing to disagree (or coming to an agreement) and still loving each other. We both just said very similar things!!! Haha[.]I think we’re on the same page!! But [I] couldn’t agree more. Asking God for the words, asking the Holy Spirit to speak through us, having convos with people but also having that conversation with God is so important. And that’s something I’m working on more and more is to be in constant communication with God.
AB: I was speaking with a mentor today about love and humanity. We ended up talking about how if we allow ourselves to see each the way Christ asked of us, the way God does, we would understand that loving one another is what we're meant for. It's what Christ said. Being in sync with God is loving one another. In doing so, whether we agree initially or not, we are open and free to love and speak on what is going on. Goodness, gracious! I was just listening to [a] sermon about being okay with not being correct! It totally goes with what you are saying! Correct or not correct, Scripture proves everything. God's word is absolute (like how you said God doesn't change). It's not our job to prove all the time but to love firstmost. In doing so, we are able to all walk on the path God has laid out for us. Ahhhhh communication with God! Yooooo! You're talking to [the] lady that's obsessed with communication 🤣 IDK if I go a day without mentioning the word 🤣 so initially I reached out because I wanted to gain perspective on something I've been confused about and for whatever the reason, I was like, I'm going to speak with Bay about this! And literally, this was my lingering thought: communication brings clarity! Clarity is a result of alignment. Alignment is developed in relationship!
Bay: YOOOO SO TRUE. Not our job to be proving all the time. And everything else you said was spot on, but so good. And wow, 🤯 “communication brings clarity. Clarity is a result of alignment. Alignment is developed in relationship.” SIGN SEALED DELIVERED and RECEIVED. That’s a good word right there [.] Well, thanks for asking me about it, brought me some serious clarity as well!! 🙌🏼🙌🏼 Sorry I have to respond kinda short now I’m getting stuff ready for a coaching session in an hour[.] Feelin blessed that out of everyone you decided to chat to me about it 😅thanks for that!!
AB: I'm hysterical right now! Signed, sealed, delivered and received. 🤣🤣🤣🤣 I've got Stevie Wonder playing in my head now [.] Truly, thank you so much for being there! Don't worry about it. I feel blessed to have been able to gain a better understanding [of] what God has been speaking and working through you!
End of Conversation
As I look back at this, initially I wanted to understand what it meant for one to die to oneself. Similar to what Bay shared, I believe that to die to oneself is to relinquish your pursuit of pleasing your flesh; in pride, desire, the satisfaction of any kind that points back to you, and more. To let go and allow the Holy Spirit to encompass you is dying to self. Let God take over in every aspect of your life is to die to self.
While we were speaking, I noticed how accurate the Scriptures we were touching on was in sync with the conversation. When we seek the kingdom of the Lord, we find the Lord. When we seek the Lord, we seek who he is and all that he is. When we are seeking God, we allow ourselves to be loved by him, accept his love for us and when you know, believe, and trust that someone loves you unconditionally (to the cross and back, literally), you want to honor and please them. You obey those who have shown you their love for you. That is what Christ asks us to do when it comes to loving one another.
Judgment isn't for us to partake in. Love is our commandment. When we love one another the way God has through Christ, we choose to love one another for who we are. Yes, we all make decisions that don't please God, and that's the truth about being a sinner. With love, we are all able to heal and guide each other. It's not a matter of what is the "Christian thing to do," just like Bay said. It's a matter of which ways may I love you and show you the love of Christ in my relationship with you. Though, we're only able to know the answer to how we love when we prioritize the relationship we have with our Savior through communication.
Sometimes to die to yourself, to be in alignment with God, you must give yourself and the situation boundaries. In boundaries, we can honor one another. Boundaries are representations of love for one another. You know the truth of what the Holy Spirit is asking of you when you are in alignment with the Lord. Keep watering your relationship with God just as you would with your family, friends, and significant other: through constant communication in Scripture, prayer, and meditation.
My question for myself (hopefully we all ask ourselves this) moving forward is: how am I loving my brother or sister in this? How am I dying to myself, choosing God's ways through what the Holy Spirit is telling me in this situation? Does Scripture match up with what I believe the Holy Spirit is guiding me to do?
Until next time...