Search

Crucify the Self

There is a reason why God uses the imagery of bearing fruit so frequently throughout the Bible. One interpretation of the concept of bearing fruit is a process of multiplication through death. This word requires discernment; I am not advocating suicide in any way, nor am I sponsoring any fruit aside from those of the Spirit. Truly, anyone who wants to enter the Kingdom of God must put themselves to death. When a fruit falls to the ground from a tree, it decays and dies, and goes into the ground. Through the fruit’s death, more fruit can grow from its seeds, and the process can continue and bear even more fruit for the future.

 

If It Dies, It Bears Much Fruit

 

This concept of bearing fruit is what Christ addresses in John 12:24-25 (ESV): “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. Whoever loves his life loses it, and whoever hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life.” When thinking about a single grain of wheat, it can feed a person and provide nourishment for them, to a degree--whether that person is full or not from it is another question. The point is that the grain helped feed someone to some extent. The potential for us to do good is like the single head of grain, which represents the fruit within us as individual persons. The extent to which one bears fruit determines the extent to which one can do good.

If a grain of wheat represents ourselves, as Christ identifies, it remains alone if it does not die. The grain represents our existence--our person, our self. A grain of wheat can feed someone, but there is only so much food available on a single stalk. It is the same with us. The amount of self that obstructs our life limits our capacity to do good. Our flesh--the self-seeking and prideful reality of our nature--is the self within us that inhibits the multiplication of fruit.

 

The Self

 

The self is the enemy of God. Because God is the ultimate selfless and fruit-bearing source of love, when we choose to gratify our flesh, we commit to a path that fails to gratify the things of the Spirit. All the wickedness, evil, and sin in our world are rooted in the gratification of the self. When we feed the self, we are not planting seeds of love. Alas, the outcomes that occur when one serves the self are complex, and we will only see the front side of the tapestry when we die. We are, however, told this: that all things work for good to those who love God.


In contrast, why is satan so evil and called the father of lies by Christ? It is because satan is the perfect picture of what it looks like to serve the self completely. Despite being a mighty angel with the privilege of looking upon the living God, satan’s eyes moved inward. We see this in Isaiah 14, where the text addresses the king of Babylon (the same type of pronouncement as seen in Ezekiel 28: the first message is directed to the prince of Tyre, whereas the lamentation is directed to the king of Tyre--the message to the king of Tyre identifies that he was in Eden (Ezekiel 28:11-19))--it is reasonable to identify this king of Babylon as satan. The text reads: “You said in your heart, ‘I will ascend to heaven; above the stars of God I will set my throne on high; I will sit on the mount of assembly in the far reaches of the north; I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will make myself like the Most High.’” (Isaiah 14:13-14 ESV). The devil makes five claims, and they are all based on serving himself and not God. Immediately after making these claims, satan falls from the glory of the Lord.

Suffice it to say, the devil looked upon the glory of God and wanted to become Him. Satan wants to be God. But, in satan’s selfishness, he fell and became the lowest of the low. Why, exactly? Because satan’s one purpose is to serve himself. Where God is holy and selfless, satan is unholy and self-seeking. Why is satan said to be the god of this world? It is because the natural order of our flesh is self-serving, and when we gratify the flesh, we submit ourselves to its authority, which is lawlessness. Since satan cannot be holy as God is holy--God’s kingdom being one of love and selflessness--he makes himself a false god, ruling over a kingdom opposite to God’s. When people make anything but God their god, they submit to an authority that is God-less, and therefore at the root, self-serving. Yet, the ironic part about satan’s kingdom is that there is no structure of authority whatsoever. When all people serve themselves, no one rules. So, even in his kingdom, satan is just a delusional figurehead.

 

The Self Must Die

 

The reality of the self is why all need a King, and all require a Savior. It is so simple in the Kingdom of God: there is only One King who is worthy of serving, and there is only One Savior who can deliver us. Because the self is the enemy of God and the foundation of the unholy trinity (satan/kingdom of darkness, the flesh, and the world), it must be put to death for us to bear fruit. Jesus went to the cross to do just that. Christ’s skin was pierced and beaten, but it was our flesh He was destroying. God personally took our selfish ways to the grave, along with the justice meant for us, so that we can receive His life--and God’s life is a life that bears fruit.


When we die to the self, we bear fruit. When the grain falls to the ground, it multiplies. When we hate our life, we find it. When we love our life, we will lose it. If we are so self-centered that we immediately believe God is evil because of the previous statement, then, truly, the eyes have been blinded by sin. Do we think God wants us to hate the life He breathed into us? Is that what He is trying to say? Are our lives so centered upon ourselves that we can’t even consider what God is proclaiming? Here is the message of the Gospel: IT ISN’T ABOUT YOU. Does that offend? Is that too hard of a saying? Believe in Christ, and a slave to love you will become; believe in anything else, and your reign of flies has already begun.

What do we think Christ means when He tells us to bear our cross? Are we carrying our cross for someone else to be crucified? No, I have my cross to bear, and it’s my cross. Your cross is your own, and Christ says to carry it. “Then Jesus told His disciples, ‘If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow Me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it. For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what shall a man give in return for his soul?” (Matthew 16:24-26 ESV).

 

They Shall Fear His Goodness

 

Jesus is the One who had the nails hammered into His hands and feet, but in reality, He was putting to death His enemies. God poured out His wrath the day that Christ was crucified, and His vengeance has slain the hearts of those who are willing to look at Him. In doing so, we see God’s words ring true: “They shall fear the Lord and His goodness in the latter days.” (Hosea 3:5 NKJV). To truly believe in Jesus means to lose your life. The old is gone and dead; that person is no more. God has given the gift of grace freely, but He wants all of you and me. Even so, there is no malice in the mouth of the Lord when He tells us this.

There is no pushiness with God or forcefulness to have His way; “Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful…” (1 Corinthians 13:4-5 ESV). Does a God who weeps and bleeds for His enemies sound like a dictator to you? Against evil, the Lord is indomitable and fierce, and it is truly a terrible thing to fall into the hands of the living God. At the same time, however, God is merciful beyond comprehension, “For His anger lasts only a moment, but His favor lasts a lifetime; weeping may stay for the night, but rejoicing comes in the morning.” (Psalm 30:5 NIV).

All that God has done and ever will do is in our best interest; He is drawing us to Himself in everything. When we serve the flesh instead of walking in faith, we will suffer the consequences of our actions--but even the consequences of sin serve God’s purposes. “Do not be deceived: God is not mocked, for whatever one sows, that will he also reap.” (Galatians 6:7 ESV). God tells us, purely out of love, to die to ourselves because sin only reaps death. To walk the path of the self is to make yourself an enemy of God; doing so turns you away from the light of life. How can fruit multiply when we hold it so closely and not send it into the ground? And how else can the fruit die and rise again, if not for the only One who bears fruit?

The call of the Gospel is this: believe in God, and put your selfish ambitions, lusts, and insecurities to death in Christ Jesus. Do we want a world without evil? Then let us crucify the self within us. To bear our cross for Christ means constantly putting to death our selfish nature. Like a caterpillar in its chrysalis, there is no escaping this present darkness until the appointed time--an appointment we have no control over in Christ.

 

A New Creation

 

To continue in the analogy, the transformation stage of a caterpillar into a butterfly can provide a picture of the sanctification process in Christ. The caterpillar’s chrysalis is its skin, and once the outer layer has formed, the process of change inside the chrysalis begins. The caterpillar starts breaking itself down and building a new body. Once the caterpillar’s body finishes its transformation process, it emerges from the chrysalis--no longer a caterpillar, but a beautiful butterfly capable of flight. The parallels God gives us through this intriguing insect are quite astounding.

Link to a good video explaining the full process a caterpillar undergoes to become a butterfly:


Just as the chrysalis is necessary for the caterpillar’s transformation, so too is perseverance in our walk with Christ. And, though we are a new creation in Jesus, God doesn’t want to discard His creative work in us as individuals. To become more of the person we were always meant to be, we need Jesus. Though we die to ourselves when we believe in and follow Christ, we are never more our true identity than with Him. Like Paul writes, “For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.” (Philippians 1:21 ESV). The current life we live in Christ is His life, and the more our flesh dies, the more Christ’s life is made manifest through us. Thus, living is Christ, and dying to the self is gain in God. The burden of the cross is to die daily. Through the dying of the self, we will see that Christ’s yoke is truly easy and that His burden is truly light. Likewise, just as Christ rose from death to life, so too shall we who believe overcome death as well; God’s fruit grows in us now and will be made perfect in the life to come.