Death to self, the final stage of inner transformation.
Welcome to “Inside The Cup Podcast” with Mike and Holly Walsh
Season 1: “How to Love Your Neighbor as Yourself”
Episode 12: “The Abundant Life Beyond Death”
This is the final episode of Season 1, “How to Love Your Neighbor as Yourself.” Mike and Holly discuss “death to self,” the final step in the process of inner character transformation into Christlikeness, or cleaning the inside of the cup.
Death to self involves resigning all of our desires to God, holding nothing back. This is possible by the power of a living faith.
But this death to self doesn’t mean you cease to be a self. Rather, it is the doorway to the abundant life that awaits us on the other side of this death. A life marked by sufficiency and fruitful character such as love, joy, and peace. This final step makes us an appropriate vessel to now be filled to the brim with God’s agape love. And this is how we love our neighbors as ourselves in an effective and sustainable way.
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The Abundant Life Beyond Death | Episode 12, (07/28/22)
Season 1: How to Love Your Neighbor as Yourself
Holly: Welcome back to Inside The Cup Podcast. And we just gave each other a high five because we are wrapping up our first season.
Mike: Yeah, this is our final episode of season one.
Holly: We’ve covered a lot!
Mike: We have covered a lot.
Holly: This has been fun. It’s been fun to do together. So, last week we talked about living faith, which enables us to accomplish incredible things in the power of God. So, now what are we supposed to use our faith, or all this power for?
Mike: We’re supposed to use this power to die to self.
Holly: Did…did…That just like…it sounds like, “OK let’s grow in humility, spiritual maturity, and emotional maturity, and have this great faith, and then we’re supposed to die to self.
Mike: Die to self. Final episode “You must die to self.”
Holly: Really? It’s like kind of like morbid.
Mike: I mean it sounds kind of anti-climactic, but we’ll get into what that means and that’ll make a whole lot more sense as we do. But when Jesus was teaching his disciples on how powerful faith in God can be, he told them “If you have faith as small as a mustard, seed you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you” (Matthew 17:20). So, we’re interacting with his faith that’s capable of accomplishing anything, I mean, and we’re supposed to use this faith to die to self?
Holly: I mean it sounds way better to like move mountains.
Mike: That’s where your mind goes, right? “OK, which mountains am I going to move around with this faith that I have?”
Holly: That sounds way more fun.
Mike: So, now interesting though, I mean, Paul picks up on this exact same language. So, when he’s teaching on the topic of God’s agape love in his famous passage, 1 Corinthians 13, Paul says, “If I have a faith that can move mountains, but I do not have love, I am nothing” (1 Corinthians 13:2).
Holly: So, faith has the power to accomplish amazing things. But we’re meant to use our faith to change and become a loving person, a good person.
Mike: Yeah, that’s God’s plan for human beings, and it’s what he’s most interested in with human beings, is the type of person that we become. And we talked about this, what makes a person “a really good person,” is being filled to the brim with God’s agape love. So, that’s what we use our faith to accomplish, is character transformation. Becoming a person full of God’s love. That’s the best thing we can use that faith for.
Holly: OK, so this episode is “death to self,” what is death to self? I mean, we’re not used to using that language.
Mike: You don’t hear much about it in our modern Christian culture to be honest. I mean, when’s the last time you heard a sermon on death to self? But through the Christian history, this has been a very familiar topic. It’s been known as different things, I mean, some places it’s called “self-denial.” But basically, you’re resigning everything to God when you’re talking about dying to self. And there’s substantial biblical teaching on this idea of dying, or death to self.
Holly: So, it is the end of self-will, or living for our own self-interest.
Mike: Yeah, we discussed when we talked about spiritual maturity, how our fallen human will now is turned away from God and focused on self-will, what we want. So, now we’re supposed to relinquish or let go of that focus of our life, we’re no longer living for self. So, now spiritual and emotional maturity, you can see this, sets us up perfectly for death to self. So, we’re not just deciding now at this point to stop living in terms of self-will, but we’re actually deciding to be dead to it. To be cut off, this self-will must die.
Holly: In Matthew 16:24-25 Jesus says, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will find it.” So, what does that mean to take up your cross?
Mike: So, the cross is death to our self-will. We can basically imagine taking our self-will, putting it up on the cross, and nailing it there. So, our self-will dies on the cross, that’s taking up our cross to follow Jesus. Dallas Willard defines death to self this way, he says, “It’s the resignation of your desires…of all your desires. It’s nothing else but abandonment to God…abandonment in faith.”
Holly: But that sounds like a downer.
Mike: It does, I mean, just the topic, you know, “death to self,” it sounds like such a drag.
Holly: Or well, it almost sounds like “Don’t be yourself.”
Mike: Yeah, it just sounds so negative. I mean, like, this would ruin my life to do this, to die to self.
Holly: I mean, I’m quite familiar with living for what I want.
Mike: That’s what we know to this point, that’s all we know to this point, right? Is self…the self-life and living for self-will.
Holly: I mean, if we’ve been living this way our whole life, this is a major shift, or adjustment. Why would we do such a thing?
Mike: So, death to self is not the end. It’s actually a pathway, or a doorway to something else. Death to self is going to be the pathway to the abundant life. Jesus said whoever loses their life for him will find it, so there’s something much more fulfilling than the self-life, that lies on the other side of death to self.
Holly: Dying to self is not going to be a long miserable road.
Mike: Yeah, it’s the other way around. So, the the long miserable road is still living in terms of the self, what we want, in bondage or controlled by our desires. That turns out to be the long miserable road, and death to self, although it sounds off-putting, is actually the doorway to something much greater, to the abundant life.
Holly: We actually think we’re getting what we want when we get what we want, but we’re not getting the abundant life that God wants for us.
Mike: That’s precisely what’s keeping us from the abundant life that awaits us. So, I mean, let’s talk about death a little bit biblically. Because the way that we talk about death now is like, something completely ceases to exist. Especially with the influence of our, you know, secular culture now, that death is this final thing. It’s this way to just completely stop existing forever. That’s not death biblically. When we look at what death means in the Bible, it’s being cut off from another realm. I mean, we’re eternal beings, we keep existing. So, when we talk about death to self, we are dying to that realm. We are cutting ourselves off from that realm of the self-life. We still continue to be a self, we still are a self, but we no longer live in terms of self-will, and what we want. We’re cutting ourselves off to that realm, that’s death to self. Death to self turns out to be the culmination of all these previous steps that we’ve been talking about at this point with cleaning the inside the cup.
Holly: So, spiritual and emotional maturity, humility, faith, is making dying to self possible.
Mike: Yeah, they’re all culminating in this final step, death to self. In the power of faith now, we resign all of our desires to God holding nothing back.
Holly: So, what does this actually look like practically Mike?
Mike: Well, we still have desires. Remember, desires are not bad, but we’ve now resigned them to God’s care. So, it’s still good to want that promotion at work. It’s still good to desire for a special occasion to look a certain way or turn out a certain way.
Holly: But it’s almost like, what are we like when we don’t get what we want?
Mike: When I don’t get what I want, I know I’m OK. Because God will see to it that I’m taken care of, that I have what I need.
Holly: And it’s your actions when you don’t get what you want, that display whether you’ve actually really resigned these things to God. I mean, do you act like the two-year-old that doesn’t get what they want? I mean, sometimes that’s the case.
Mike: That’s the evidence of whether death to self is present or not, is our actions when we don’t get what we want. Because really, I mean, if you think about it, if dying to self is resigning our desires to God and to his care, there’s a peace that comes with that, despite when we don’t get what we want. And the converse is true, if we haven’t died to self and we haven’t resigned our desires to God, we’re still living in terms of our desires, that’s where you get the things like getting angry and blowing up, and having a fit, and that. That shows that that desire is still very much in your control, you haven’t given that over to the care of God.
Holly: So, that brings us to contentment. Is that what the abundant life that waits for us on the other side of death to self?
Mike: Yeah, that’ll be a component of what this life looks like. So, there’s life on the other side of death, death isn’t the final point there. It’s a transition, or a doorway into a better life, something more fulfilling. And part of that is going to be contentment. We experience this deep sense of joy and contentment with our life, regardless of our current circumstances.
Holly: Yeah, “The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing (Psalm 23). We’re content in all circumstances.
Mike: Or like Paul says, “I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want” (Philippians 4:12). When we look back at our previous way of life, living in self-will, and governed by the flesh and our desires, we will see it as “rubbish” like Paul says in Philippians 3:8.
Holly: So, the other part on the other side of death to self is holy character.
Mike: So, Jesus said that “unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit” (John 12:24), and this is the New American Standard Version.
Holly: The fruit of the Spirit. And our character and our actions, without thinking about it, will just be marked by love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. As I was thinking about this recently, I planted some seeds in this raised garden bed, and the seeds were actually old. They were just sitting in my closet…
Mike: For how long?
Holly: I think two years. And so I was honestly, I’m not a gardener, and I was like “Well I wonder if these carrots and beans will even grow?” I mean, they’ve been just sitting here in their little packet for two years. But we put them in, and like, to my surprise, super-fun, my kids were all excited too, that we put them in the the dirt, and like a week later there’s all these beautiful sprouts coming. We have beans and carrots!
Mike: That’s the picture Jesus is giving us here. We were not meant to remain seeds on a shelf somewhere, in some kind of jar, with controlled humidity conditions or something. We were meant to die, to be put into the ground and die, and that brings forth what we were truly meant to be. And it’s beautiful, it’s bringing forth and bearing fruit.
Holly: I remember you telling me the story about, this was like before we were even married, about how you got kind of lost in the woods in Colorado, and there had been a wildfire.
Mike: Yeah, the whole side of the mountain was just, had been burned down by this huge wildfire. I don’t know, it was 10-15 years ago. But the state that it was, it was this lush green, with this beautiful flowers, and all of this growth. From that death, came this incredible surge of life.
Holly: Yeah, so after dying to self, we have now become a vessel inwardly, that can be filled with God’s love.
Mike: Yeah, we’re now able to love our neighbor as ourselves, out of the love of God that’s now within us. We’re full of that, it’s who we’ve become on the inside. It’s hard-wired into our bodies, down to the level of our habits. So, we act lovingly to those around us without even having to think about it.
Holly: We will have become a really good, or a loving person.
Mike: It’s at this point that Jesus can turn around and say “By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another” (John 13:35).
Holly: The disciple of Jesus is now in a position to learn how to do everything Jesus has commanded.
Mike: Fulfilling the Great Commission.
Holly: And this is our final episode, of season one.
Mike: Yeah, this wraps up season one, “How to Love Your Neighbor as Yourself.” So, we’re going to be signing out now, as we have a new neighbor that’s going to be arriving this fall in our family.
Holly: We will be having our fifth child here soon, so we are going to practice what we’ve been talking about on loving this new little neighbor that’s coming. So, please pray for us. And thank you so much for joining us, as this has been fun to have you journey along with us in this season, and it’s been fun for us to do together.
Mike: Yeah, we’ll be taking some time in this season to intentionally focus on our family, loving those closest to us.
Music: Vlad Gluschenko — Travelling
License: Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported: https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/deed.en