What To Do With Myself?

We can be thankful our choir is full of great musicians who are willing to sacrifice their musical self for the benefit of the ministry of music in our church.  That is not true in every congregation.  I served a church whose choir sang a beautiful version of Silent Night each Christmas eve.  Their rendition left most in awe, but no one else could sing their favorite carol with them.  When members of the church asked for something different, choir leaders refused; feeling it compromised the musical integrity of the choral program.  I am not for spoon-feeding a congregation with easy music.  Yet, all music offered in worship should subjugate ego for the sake of praising God.  This requires church musicians to sacrifice self for the sake others every time they play or sing in any ensemble.

Paul speaks of sacrifice and anchors his understanding at the feet of Jesus’ cross, which through his self-sacrifice we are provided the gift of salvation.  From that divine act played out on the human stage, we see the divine model of self sacrifice, which we’re called to emulate; offering self-not from self interest, but in the interest of others.  Paul calls our offering living sacrifices; placing ourselves on an altar as an animal for ritual worship.  The image involves the whole animal.  Paul plead is not for us to offer some part called our souls that needs attention before marching to heaven.  God wants our whole life offered as a sacrifice; jobs, money, love, ambition, politics, and hobbies.  It is a call to give to God all that makes us who we are.

We are whole persons; we can’t divide up body, soul, and mind.  When we lose a spouse, we don’t just lose a warm body next to us; we lose a soul mate.  When someone insults us, we don’t console ourselves thinking they really value us; we are really injured.  People who suffer from anorexia or bulimia are not dealing only with body chemistry; it is a problem of understanding their whole self.

This idea of offering our whole self in sacrifice to another is captured when we tell a spouse, “I love you!”  We don’t say “I love you!” then explain the terms to be met to worthy of our love.  In fact, if are unable to let go and love the other person sacrificially with our whole self, we prevent ourselves from experiencing a whole person offering back to us sacrificial love.  Love isn’t about our right to be treated in a certain way; it is about our privilege of offering self in certain way.  Love given away ignites a creative, redemptive, and sustaining catalyst.  When Jesus offered himself for us; love was born in us, our lives were made right, and we knew the energy of love.  Answering the call of the sacrificial life initiates all of the same possibilities in our lives.

It takes a mind transformation to offer our whole self sacrificially for the sake of others. My paraphrase: “We are not be conformed to this age; instead our minds undergo a transformation that reflects God’s priorities.”  Our natural mind conforms to the ways of our age, which is preoccupied with self protection.  Our tendency for self protection is driven by ego, which can’t trust change that could interrupt the comfort of status quo.  We struggle with the choice of: “Will I offer love and lose control?” or “Will I stay in control and love less?”  Fear of misunderstanding or rejection orbits nearby as sacrificial love and self control contend.  We cognitively know a life given away is the way to receive life back at its fullest.  It is hard to go there emotionally when we’re not fluent in the language of self sacrifice, nor acquainted with the people of this culture.  New and unfamiliar ways frighten us.  This is why Paul tells us transformation happens when our minds are renewed.

Church Father, Tertuilian said, Christians are made not born.  All our natural instincts confirm we need a real renewal, mind transformation to live the gospel culture, which leads to true life.  The change to offer our whole self for the sake of others is no easier than trying to tell a Baptist turned Methodist you don’t put babies head first in the baptismal font.  The change to invest in giving self away is no easier than trying to tell sport crazed American it’s a game, not a religion.  The change to possess confidence you can experience more joy offering self rather than saving self, is no easier than trying to tell a Canadian you eat French fries with ketchup, not soaked in vinegar.

Phil Jackson’s, retired coach of the Lakers wrote his philosophy of coaching in “Sacred Hoops: Spiritual Lessons of a Hardwood Warrior“. He describes the challenge of coaching the Chicago Bulls, and the greatest player to ever play the game.  People might think he simply put those guys on the floor, blew the whistle, let them loose, and then go get fitted for another ring.  He had to manage egos, which were larger than their talent and bank accounts.

Jordan’s first years in the league, he was a one-man show.  His teammates enjoyed watching him take over games, as much as the fans.  Yet, they never won a championship.  Frustration mounted and Jordan’s competitive drive would not allow his team to fail while he succeeded.  He asked Jackson what could be done.  Jackson told him he had to sacrifice himself; his points, and records in order for the team to win.  He had to feel their need to play significant roles, too.  By becoming selfless and involving them in the game, the synergy of that team made them unbeatable.  Michael Jordan underwent a renewal of his mind that transformed him and the game.

There’s a stubborn myth that says once we give ourselves to Christ we get a software package downloaded with all the data forever needed.  What we receive at the moment of justifying grace is a clean hard drive, anti-virus program, and unlimited network access to the mind of Christ.  We have to boot up and log on to Christ’s mind to be spiritually transformed.

What mind renewing programs have you opened up lately for the purpose of being changed?  Have you double clicked on the spiritual discipline icon and added a new dimension to your devotion life.  Have you explored new theological and ethical files regarding matters of faith that are unfamiliar or unresolved in your mind?  Have you considered how social media might position you to experience relationships with persons different than you; expanding your service to others?  The primary way to achieve spiritual transformation is mind renewal.  The primary indicator of a renewed mind is we have been transformed enough to be willing to sacrifice self for the sake of others.  This means taking responsibility staying connected to the mind of Christ, so our minds might be renewed and our lives changed.

Renewed minds that transform our ability to offer self sacrificially for others is better able to discern what is “good, acceptable, and perfect in our lives”.  Any variation of thinking too highly of self threatens community, and prevents us from knowing God’s will.  This is why changed people with renewed minds place them in a community of faith engaged in mutual service for the sake of others; offering their gifts as Paul speaks of in v. 4-8.

Let me quote a person whose mind was perhaps more like the mind of Christ than any other.  St. Francis of Assisi lived a life of self sacrifice. In “Letters to Rulers of People” he wrote: “Keep a clear eye toward life’s end.  Do not forget your purpose and destiny as God’s creature.  What you are in his sight is what you are and nothing more.  Remember that when you leave this earth, you can take nothing that you have received, but only what you have given: a full heart enriched by honest service, love, sacrifice and courage.”  Be courageous my friends, for God’s own Son says to us God knows what to do with a life offer sacrificially for the sake of others.  

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