I read a wonderful prayer this morning out of A.W Tozer's book "The Pursuit of God". In a culture that whispers sweet little lies in our ear about how "the world is ours", I couldn't help but post it to give us some perspective. In my own life, I recognize that a life following Christ calls for a total abandonment of our "self" and absolute trust in Him (thanks Jesus and translated by Oswald Chambers). At the same time, I continue (wrongly) to see the "dying to self" that Jesus calls me to as an act to do or a law to follow in order to be right with Him/God. I sometimes fall into the trap that creating in my own power a life of charity or a life of poverty is what God needs from me in order to truly know Him. Fortunately to you and me, my own best thinking isn't close to God's eternal perspective.
The "death to self" that Jesus speaks of, or that "harder for a rich man to enter the Kingdom" thing that we aim to keep away from are matters of our heart. They are not matters of God's grace to us and in fact are misread to the point that we see them as something to "check off" of our list of things to do to get right with God. Thankfully, Jesus is speaking of being transformed from seeing gifts on Earth as ours as opposed to on loan from Him. The kind of transformation of the heart that only comes through God and time spent with Him.
So what is it that Jesus wants us to actually die to? It's the things we still hold onto in this world, the things that cause fear and discouragement if we are to lose them. They are the things we call "my" or "mine". Wives, children, jobs, "callings", health, wealth, toys, etc. Those two words, "my" and "mine" always speak of personal possession and when they are used by a person, God's question to them will always be, "What is occupying your heart that keeps me from having full reign over your life?". It's a question that is scary to the carnal(natural) Christian, but to the follower of Christ, the one who is filled with the Spirit, it is a realization that God wants us to experience the freedom in Christ we read about but rarely see in person.
Just last night as I laid in bed with my fourteen month old daughter who has been dealing with a fever between 100 degrees and 105.5 degrees over the past two days my mind began wandering. Sure I had been to the Doctor's office earlier in the day and was assured that this is normal and that it's viral, but as I randomly checked her temperature though the night and watched it vary from 99 degrees to 105.5 degrees I got scared. At the point that I became so tired that I couldn't keep myself up I began praying for her (again). Before I could enter into the prayer, God stopped me, asked me to let Him have her back, reminded me she was His and not mine and told me that I'm a better helper to Him when I get some sleep. My response was a recognition that I still have some "my's" and "mine's" in my life that need to be relinquished to obtain freedom in Christ and while I hate to see my little girl not feeling well, I'm thankful to have a God that can be trusted in all circumstances.
If you are having marital issues remember that your wife or husband is His and not yours. If you are having job/money issues remember you are His and not your own. If you are unwilling to live off of "savings" because you feel like that is your little "security" in case things really get bad, guess what? Your "savings" is His too (guilty of this one). Your life is His, nothing is your own and recognizing that is the beginning of freedom.
By the way, that little thing about making my life one of charity and poverty. I've come to realize that while minimizing and only using what is needed is beneficial, it is NOT mandatory to the heart that is fully occupied by God. As a matter of fact, many men and women of God throughout Scripture have attained wealth. The reason that it was allowed to them (and not me) was because their hearts were not controlled by these "things". It's not a matter of if the "things" that are useful in our life are bad because they're expensive. It's instead a matter of them getting in the way of God as He reigns over our entire heart. When God is reining over your entire heart, the "things" you want and desire seem to change on their own.
Father, I want to know Thee, but my cowardly heart
fears to give up its toys. I cannot part with them
without inward bleeding, and I do not try to hide
from Thee the terror of the parting. I come trembling,
but I come. Please root from my heart all those
things which I have cherished so long and which
have become a very part of my living self, so that
Thou mayest enter and dwell there without a rival.
Then shalt Thou make the place of Thy feet glorious.
Then shall my heart have no need of the sun to
shine in it, for Thyself wilt be the light of it,
and there shall be no night there.
In Jesus' name.