I’ve always struggled with the concept of denying self. It sounds so austere, like I’m supposed to give up all aspects of fun and forego any dreams of happiness.
But isn’t that in complete opposition to the concept that Christ came that we may have abundant life?
Denying self reminds me of a tyrannical task master, demanding I keep strict allegiance to the do’s and don’ts of life, or suffer extreme consequences. Legalism at its best. But I am a rule-follower, so I try to obey.
Recently I read the following scripture that caused me to rethink my position:
“Don’t you realize that you can choose your own master? … The one to whom you offer yourself – he will take you and be your master, and you will be his slave.” (Romans 6:16 TLB)
I paused to ask myself: Whom do I choose as my master? And the answer surprised me.
I choose Fear.
- I fear failure – and I fear success.
- I fear what others think of me.
- I fear making a mistake – I fear not being perfect.
- I fear disappointing others – I fear disappointing God.
- I fear rejection.
- I fear lack of control.
- I fear dependence.
- I fear having too much fun; I fear not being fun enough.
And I realized… I am indeed a slave to fear!
Not only is this a miserable way to live (and contradictory to living the abundant life) but it is not biblical. “For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love and self-discipline” (2 Timothy 1:7 – NIV).
So I prayed and asked the Lord to help me reconcile these disparaging commands. How do I deny self and yet live a bold, joyful life?
His answer surprised me.
“You are indeed too focused on self, Molly. It is time to release its negative control of your life. Let go of Self-doubt, low Self-esteem, Self-consciousness, and Self-deprecation.”
At first I didn’t believe I heard correctly. I mean, denying this kind of self is not austere or punishing. It is a command filled with love and compassion. It promises a life of acceptance and purpose.
For someone who has been entrenched in religious legalism for nearly half-a-century, this is too good to be true.
Or is it?
What if I replace self-doubt with faith? Faith that God has created me for a purpose, and faith that He will equip me to fulfill that purpose in His time.
What if I replace low self-esteem with faith? Faith that God does not create junk. That He has indeed given us gifts and talents. Faith that humility is acceptance of these gifts, not denying them. And faith that God wants us to use these gifts and share them with the world.
What if I replace self-consciousness with faith? Faith that God accepts me, and He has promised to never leave or forsake me. As long as I do my best in obedience to His will, I do not have to fear what others think of me. I only need to concern myself with what the Lord thinks.
What if I replace self-deprecation with faith? Faith that God commands us to love our neighbors AS ourselves.
Faith that I am enough. I shouldn’t compare myself to others, but instead be content with whom God created me to be.
Simple faith is the antidote to legalism. We can’t earn favor with God by keeping the law because we will never succeed.
But we can put our faith in Christ who makes us righteous. This is the Good News. This is the truth.
The truth will liberate us from the shackles of self and allow us to live an abundant life.
©2016 Molly Totoro
Molly Totoro is a writer who has a heart and passion for authentic living. She firmly believes “Everyone has a story to share.” Molly helps others write their stories to impact future generations. Follow Molly’s new blog series, “How to Journal” at Revising Life after 50.