When I became a follower of Jesus at the age of 20 several sinful behaviors in my life came to a screeching halt. I was grateful for the new life that God had given me and I was seeing evidence of His presence through various changes that were taking place. As some years passed, however, I experienced certain behaviors of my old life “slipping back in”. As some of these behaviors became more commonplace in my life, I began justifying the activities to myself and at times defending these negative behaviors to others.
On one such occasion, having just returned from a soul searching trip through several countries in southern Africa, I was having a conversation with my parents where I was defending an activity in my life that they saw as incongruent for a Christian to engage in, much more a pastor. I became increasingly defensive when my father interjected something that became a turning point, not only in the conversation, but in my life.
You see my father was raised Southern Baptist in Mississippi. In his adolescent years he was so active in the church that he would often teach Bible studies, preach sermons and even make radio appearances speaking of his faith. Not only did people assume that he would become a pastor, but he told me that he felt that God was calling him to full-time ministry. “But I realized” my father stated, “that if I was to be a pastor, that would mean that I would have to live my life, not for myself, but in service to other people. And I decided that I was not willing to do that.” Then he looked me in the eyes and said, “Son, you have to make a choice: are you going to live for yourself or be willing to live your life serving others?”
That question really hit me hard. I realized then and there that ultimately I experience the greatest amount of joy when I’m focused on other people and not on self. But there’s a more universal truth that my father hit on that applies to every true follower of Jesus. If we are truly His disciple, we are choosing to live a life where we die to self so that we can be fully used by God to serve Him and His people.
"Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow Me." - Jesus
“I affirm, brothers and sisters, by the boasting in you which I have in Christ Jesus our Lord, I die daily.” - Paul