Self and Sacrifice
Analog vs. Digital
Most, if not all New Year’s resolutions are aimed at making us better versions of ourselves. Start that diet, work out more, learn a new language or give up smoking. Regardless of the want, without commitment, sustainable change is impossible. What we discuss for this post is one of the hardest biblical principles to be consistently and mindfully aware of. And the only easy way I can think of, is to lay a framework for a comparison using the following electronic signals: analog and digital. Follow along in lesson 17 of our Bible study on overcoming addictions.
An analog signal is best described using the word intensity and a scale of 0 to 10. Analog describes things like how loud the volume is, how fast is the fan spinning. The curious thing about this type of signal is that it is observed best over time. Time affects our perception and interpretation of analog. Over the course of time, analog signals tend to trend one direction or the other, much like our lives and the choices we make.
A digital signal is either a 0 or 1. It is either on or off. These signals are commonly referred to as binary system. Think of digital as a coin has either heads or tails, it is a light switch that is either on or off. Many complex systems can be built from this framework, because of the logic behind it. That logic is based on the argument, “Is this thing on or off?” This sort of argument occurs every single moment of every single day in our lives, just in a different fashion. So, just as an experiment for a moment, try to imagine all the decisions going on inside your mind right now. Now to make it a little more complicated, try to ascertain if those decisions are self-based or spiritual-based. Staggering, isn’t it?
Some sacrifices are the ones that reveal themselves over time in a chronologic analog fashion. When we repeatedly choose something that we are willing to give up for something else, convinced the payment is worth the price. Some of these components: family, friends, employment, health and reputation. Which of these have you had to sacrifice for your drug or alcohol use, had to sacrifice for a promotion at work, sacrificed for your own personal wants?
Jesus was quite clear of this truth when He said “we cannot serve two masters…” Trying to serve the self and Christ at the same time are contrary to each other, their wants are different. This is especially true when it comes to thoughts of who you used to be competing with thoughts of who Jesus wants you to be. Once you accept Christ, your identity changes as well as your investment. In this regard, sacrifice addresses the issues of ownership. This conundrum, as it appears to be, is as simple as a choice, yet as complex as the analyzing of patterns and trends. For us, this subject of sacrifice is merely a question of a 0 or a 1. Are we going to serve ourselves or are we going to serve Jesus?
A most likely premise
Since we live in such a me-centered society, this is no easy topic to broach without stepping on some toes. Understand my intention, I am not here to beat you up as I have said before. My goal is to help you live the Christ-centered life as best as possible and fill in some of the cracks that I have stepped in. In our anchor verse, Peter is writing to God’s chosen people to remind them who they are and encourage them to be what God wants them to be as well as a warning.
Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy. Beloved, I urge you as sojourners and exiles to abstain from the passions of the flesh, which wage war against your soul.1 Peter 2:10-11
He is saying to them, yes, that is who you used to be, but that’s not who you are now, you are worth more that what you have sold yourself for. He is trying to instill in them their true identity; God’s people, not whatever desire the heart of the self may have at the moment.
What may seem like a sacrifice is nothing more than separation anxiety with the articles we have found to be comfortable in this world. When we do this, we submit to the world to give us our identity. Which is flawed logic. The world is primarily responsible for showing us things to be desired. Then we sellout for them. The world changes every minute, how can you expect to have any form of stability when that is your bedrock? I’m not downing the world, I’m saying our Father in heaven does not change, He is steadfast and capable of not only giving but showing us how to live in our new identity. The only way to do this is to ask the question:
Whose are you now?
Bible Study on Overcoming Addictions
Application – a Bloody Mess
This is a digital question and it is constantly being asked all the time, whether we know it or not. How you answer this over time will determine what your analog signal is; do you lean more this way or that way? Do you find that you constantly revert to who you used to be, serving self or do you find your actions falling in line with your heavenly identity? Has drug use stolen your worth? Has anger destroyed your investments in life? This identity goes hand in hand with our investment, which we will discuss next.
Many components are necessary for success. Determination, motivation and hard work. For things that truly matter though, sacrifice is essential. Sacrifice is hard and it is costly, especially if you have a particular attachment to the thing being given away. Because to sacrifice for something means that you believe it the cause, not with words, but with actions and possessions. There better be a reason and it had better be a good one. Refinement is war.
And he said to all, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it.Luke 9:23
To sacrifice things that mean something to us takes receptiveness, willingness and commitment. In many ways it is an investment in something better. It means we not only see value in what it is we are sacrificing, but that what we get in return is worth more than what is being sacrificed. What is standing in your way of better? What is in your life that needs to be given up, that is not producing good fruit in your life? These are the things that need to be offered up. Just be aware, chances are they will not give up easy, especially if you hold on to them too tightly.
The battle for the self will always rage on. Some days will be easy, others will be a slaughter. Some days you’ll make progress in one area only to find you are losing ground in another. Understand the severity of the decision to fight the self. It is a choice we make every moment of the day. And thankfully for us, Jesus made that decision to sacrifice for us. In fact, He sacrificed everything:
And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.Philippians 2:8
This Bible Study on Overcoming Addictions is part of the discipleship program at First Contact Ministries in Hendersonville, NC.
Did you miss the other lessons in this series? Click see the entire Bible Study on Overcoming Addictions series.
We always look forward to meeting new people at our Tuesday night support group meetings at 6:30 pm, located at Mud Creek Church in Hendersonville, NC. Our classes are designed to teach biblical principles for addiction recovery through discipleship. Our goal is to show the love of Jesus by supporting those who need it most.
For more information or to purchase “The Resistance” by Josh Staton to use as a Christian leadership book, or curriculum for an addiction recovery class, please visit: The Resistance: Becoming A Servant Leader Through the Beatitudes Christian Leadership Book