September 16, 2011

Dying to Self as a Way of Life

by Mike Riccardi

I’ve been seizing the opportunity on my morning commute to listen to some old Shepherds’ Conference messages. Right now, I’m in the middle of the seminars from 2003, but just recently finished some of the general sessions. In General Session One, John MacArthur spoke on Luke 9:23ff and how it is “Hard to Believe.”

At about halfway through that message, I discovered a gem that I’d like to share with you all. MacArthur lets us know that he keeps a few things written down close by to remind him that he came to Christ in self-denial, and that he wants to live his life that way. I found the following poem to be extremely insightful. This is what I want for myself. I want my joy to come from the exaltation of Jesus, not me. He must increase, and I must decrease. I hope this is beneficial for you.

When you are not forgiven,

or neglected,

or purposely set at naught,

and you sting and hurt

with the insult and the oversight,

but your heart is happy

because you count it worthy to suffer for Christ:

that is self-denial.

When your good is evil spoken of,

when your wishes are crossed,

your advice is disregarded,

your opinions are ridiculed,

you refuse to let anger rise in your heart

or even defend yourself,

you take it all in patient, loving silence:

that is dying to self.

When you lovingly and patiently bear any disorder,

any irregularity,

or any annoyance,

when you can stand face to face with waste

and folly

and extravagance

and spiritual insensitivity,

and endure it as Jesus endured it:

that is dying to self.

When you’re content with any food,

any offering,

any clothes,

any climate,

any society,

any solitude,

any interruption by the will of God:

that is dying to self.

When you can never care to refer to yourself in conversation,

or to record your own good works,

or itch after commendation,

when you can love to be unknown:

that is dying to self.

When you see your brother prosper

and have his needs met,

and honestly rejoice with him in spirit

and feel no envy,

nor question God,

while your own needs are far greater and unmet:

that is dying to self.

When you can receive correction and reproof

from one of less stature than yourself,

and humbly submit

inwardly as well as outwardly,

finding no rebellion or resentment rising in your heart:

that is dying to self.

If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself,
and take up his cross daily and follow Me.
For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it,
but whoever loses his life for My sake, he is the one who will save it.
For what is a man profited if he gains the whole world,
and loses or forfeits himself?
– Luke 9:23-25 –

Mike Riccardi

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Mike is the Pastor of Local Outreach Ministries at Grace Community Church in Los Angeles. He also teaches Evangelism at The Master's Seminary.
  • Jerryw

    Thanks, Mike! Jammed with sobering exhortations…

  • Rob

    Mike, am I reading this correctly? Are you using your pastor as the unbelieving, suffer for Christ example in this poem? Just wanted to see if I read this correctly. Quite the brave thing to do, eh? Anyway, thanks for posting it, that is an important distinction. Thanks.

    • Anonymous

      Listen to the sermon he referred to. MacArthur reads that poem during his session.

      I think you’re assuming the poem is talking about an unbeliever because of the “not forgiven” in the beginning of it? That’s a reference to a believer who doesn’t find forgiveness by people in the world.

      It would be nice to try and find out exactly what Mike was trying to say (maybe by listening to the session he refers to?) before you draw any conclusion. Quite the brave thing to do, eh?

      here’s the link:

      • Thanks for the link, Elaine! I tried to find it but wasn’t able. I’ll update the post to include a link to the message. Thanks again!

    • Rob, I’m having a hard time understanding your question. Maybe you could re-phrase it for me.

  • Mary Elizabeth Tyler

    Love this! Many years ago, when I posted on the old Dr. Charles Stanley blog, many of the contributors there (self included) came up with their own “dying to self” scenarios. It was really interesting. Many reflected the ones you have posted here.

    I love this one in particular: “When you see your brother prosper

    and have his needs met,
    and honestly rejoice with him in spirit

    and feel no envy,

    nor question God,

    while your own needs are far greater and unmet:”

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  • Annette Dionisio

    Thanks Mike… very timely for me and very much appreciated 🙂