In the past you have heard me speak of Kabbalah and the most important perquisite to studying this discipline is self-nullification. To put it another way self-nullification is “to die to self.”
This principle of dying to “self” is prominently found in the Sermon on the Mount. This is the subject of my message today.
“Dying to self” is the underlying principle behind the details that our L-rd spoke to us in chapter 5:verses 38 through 42. Let me read these passages:
Mat 5:38 Ye have heard that it hath been said, An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth:
Mat 5:39 But I say unto you, That ye resist not evil: but whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also.
Mat 5:40 And if any man will sue thee at the law, and take away thy coat, let him have thy cloak also.
Mat 5:41 And whosoever shall compel thee to go a mile, go with him twain.
Mat 5:42 Give to him that asketh thee, and from him that would borrow of thee turn not thou away.
When we consider the statements one by one we see that Yahshua’s concern was that we be set free from all desire for personal revenge. Regrettably, when people come to these passages they are so concerned about the details of the right and wrong of the matter that they completely lose sight of the great principle that the Messiah here is teaching us. These illustrations found in these scriptures are simply to bring out the great principle He here expressed for our edification. The messiah’s concern is principally with what we are more than what we do for if we have the right attitude then what we do will be in keeping with His principle of self-nullification.
In so many words He is saying, “If you are what you claim to be this is how you will act,” and we then need to parallel this statement with ‘ “no man can act in this manner unless he is finished with “self.” ‘ This concept so beautifully shown here is that it is not so much a matter that I “turn the other cheek,” but that I should be is a state in which I am ready to do so.
The whole trouble in life and society is ultimately this concern about self. This doctrine plainly shows us that no man can practice what Yahshua has commanded us to do unless we are completely finished with “self.” Yahshua is saying that we must rid ourselves of this constant concern of looking out for self-interests, always on the lookout for insults, attacks, injuries, always being in the defensive mood. This morbid sensitiveness, the whole condition in which self is on the edge, and so delicately poised and balanced that the slightest disturbance can upset one’s equilibrium, must be mastered.
Sha’ul in 1 Corinthians 4:3 puts it this way: With me it is a very small thing that I should be judged of you, or of man’s judgment; yea, I judge not my own self,” Sha’ul as he should has committed the whole question of his judgment to G-d, and give us an example of following the principle of Yahshua found in these passages. We see Sha’ul has entered into the state in which he just cannot be hurt, and by not being burdened with emotional turmoil he is free to continue to follow G-d’s will unabated. This is the ideal we should all be aiming at-this indifference to self and self- interest.
To become an effective instrument of G-d’s will we must die to self, our own interests, the world, its approval or disapproval; even to the approval or blame of other believers, and study to show ourselves approved only unto G-d Almighty. This is the great principle behind the teaching and doctrine found in these passages we are examining.
Unfortunately, it is the most difficult thing for a man, to die to himself. I’ve found in the lives of great artists who achieved their fame after death, this principle worked out, even if they might not have been believers. There have been many great artists whose work the world did not approve of, and many died penniless and destitute, but they never stopped painting. They treated this disapproval with disdain. Their attitude was, “so what, the world does not approve of their work, so much the worse for the world.” Or says the artist, “men are ignorant and they do not understand.”
We can become immune to the opinion of the world, but what about those that are near and dear to us, those we are intimately associated with. You value their opinion, and you are sensitive to it. But for the believer we must reach the stage in which we surmount even that, and realize we must not be controlled by it. Then there is the last stage, which concerns what a man thinks about himself. Your own assessment, you own evaluation, your own judgment of self. It is nearly impossible not to be concerned about one self, but Yahshua reminds us that the key to it all is simply to “die to oneself” and we can only do that if we are totally consumed by the Father and the Son seeking only their approval and judgment.
I say to you now that no man can truly attain to the state of self-nullification unless he is a believer, for it is an antithesis of what is true for the natural man. In the world a man fights for his honor and his name. This applies not only to mankind, but to countries as well. It applies even to the respective properties of each. Unlike this principle that Yahshua teaches us here, the world admires a man or country that is always ready to defend their honor while it just as readily despises a man or country that does not do so. However, none of this prevents any of us who are believers from self-defense in the protection of life and limb of our loved ones, or ourselves, nor in the defense of the Truth of G-d. Yahshua was our model for both.
In this principle we also clearly see the doctrine of rebirth for no man can say, “I live; yet not I, but Yahshua liveth in me,” except he be born from above. Yahshua is saying we have to live a life of self-nullification, but cannot unless you have received the Ruach HaKodesh (Holy Spirit). You have to become utterly different, you have to become entirely changed, you have to become a new being. You have to become obedient to G-d. To put it another way obedient to His Torah (His teaching and instructions for us.)
The world dislikes this teaching, and would have us believe we can find another way that doesn’t compromise “self” or “self-interest.” They believe that through books, education, and programs offering self-help, self-improvement advice, or through a myriad of other man induced inventions, and we find this mental attitude even in the churches that we can achieve success and contentment aside from G-d’s Torah (His Standards). But it cannot be done, and even if this worldly crowd appears successful, contented and happy they live with doubts, fears, and uncertainty.
Yahshua having stated this doctrine, you should ask yourself, “How am I to live like that? Denying self.” The first thing we must do is face “self” in an honest and forthright manner. Quit making excuses, evading and circumventing an honest appraisal of who, and what you are. Are you narrow minded, intolerant and bigoted? Is your opinion the only one that matters or are you open to others and their opinions? Next, we must hold all this teaching of Yahshua before us and examine ourselves in light of His message. But it is not enough to do it in a general way only, but we must do it in the particular also. Whenever I notice in myself a reaction of self-defense for some emotional hurt, or sense a grievance or annoyance or feel that I am suffering an injustice; the moment I feel this defensive mechanism coming into play, I must then immediately face myself and ask the following questions: Why exactly does this thing upset me? Why am I grieved about it? What is my real concern at this point? Am I reacting simply because I feel it is a personal attack on myself, belittling me, causing me to suffer humiliation at the hands of another? Am I really concerned for some general principle of justice and righteousness or is it all about me? Am I really moved and disturbed because I have some true cause at heart or, let me face it honestly, is it just about myself? Is it just some selfish foul self-centeredness and self-concern? Is it nothing but morbid, unhealthy and unpleasant pride?
Such self-examination is essential if we are to overcome self-promotion and practice self-nullification. Believers must listen to the still quiet voice within, and if it says, “You know perfectly well that it is just your pride, your concern for your reputation, your self-esteem that causes you to react this way; then you must admit it and confess it. It may be painful, but if we are to rise to the L-rd’s teaching, His Torah we must do it. For it is a denial of self. It is removing yourself from the throne and surrendering it to Him whose rightful seat it is.
Another thing we must contemplate is how much and to what extent “self” controls your life. For a moment examine yourself and your life, your work, the things you do, the contacts you have with people and discover how much “self” and self-interest comes into play in your everyday life. It may be a horrible discovery, but one that you must make. If you analyze the whole of your life you will be amazed at how much all your actions and conduct is influenced by this concern for self and self-interest instead of for the Glory of G-d.
There is something else that “self” and self-interests promotes: misery, unhappiness, and failure in marriages, families, jobs, and social contacts. All the trouble in our lives are due to one thing, namely self. Just go back one week in your lives and think of all the things that caused unhappiness, uneasiness, the things you have done that caused you shame, the things that disturbed you and put you off your balance and you will see that all these things can be attributed to “self.”
“Ah, you say! It is not something I did but what someone else did to me. It is not my fault.” All right, then analyze the other person and you will find that this person did what he did because of “self.” If only you had the right attitude towards the other person, as Yahshua goes on to teach in the next passages, you would be sorry for him and would be praying for him. So, ultimately it is you the mature believer who is to blame, when interacting with an unbeliever or an immature believer.
Now, let us look at this doctrinally. According to Scripture “self” was responsible for the fall into sin. But for it sin would never have entered into the world. HaSatan knows the power of “self,” and he puts our self-interest into practice at every turn when tempting us. Doctrinally all comes down to “self.” But for “self” there would never have been the fall and this world would be paradise instead of what it is today. Know this, that “Self” always means defiance of G-d; it always means that I put myself on the throne instead of G-d and therefore “self” separates me from Him.
A person who is in harmony with G-d, and His son is always happy and contented whether he is in a dungeon, in the stocks or is being persecuted by others. Whenever we are unhappy it means that in some way we are looking to ourselves and thinking about ourselves instead of communing with G-d. The Torah tells us we are to love G-d with all our heart, mind, soul and strength. We can’t do this if “self” stands between us. Self is of necessity a sin because I am looking at myself and not G-d. When we look at self we seek to glorify ourselves or safeguard the interests of self and the only way we can be in complete communion with G-d is to conquer “self” with the help of the Ruach HaKodesh. This is the elementary principle for being at-one-ment with Him. Holiness demands action and we are only to look at Yahshua to understand what that means. He said, “I have come to do your will,” and He was wholly dependant upon G-d for everything He did. He did not live for Himself or by Himself in any measure and we are told “let this mind be in you, which was also in Messiah Yahshua.” If that is the ideal then we must consult Torah, G-d’s instructions to us in order to learn what was in the mind of our savior for His life was immersed in it
Everything resident is Yahshua is found in the Torah for He was the manifested Word of G-d. His life revolved around the Torah. It was His guide, His source of all that was G-dly and good. It was His involvement and the source of G-d’s will and approval for Him. If you and I are to forsake “self” we need to get back to G-d’s instructions and standards the Torah, and live the life that He has willed for each of us. Truly, there you will find Yahshua and lose “self” for He is the manifested Torah.