Dying to Self and Following Yahshua.
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 Lord spoke to us in Chapter 5: 38 – 42:
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 a constant concern of looking out for self-interests; always on the lookout for insults, attacks, injuries; always being in the defensive mode. 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.
In 1 Corinthians 4:3 Sh’aul 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 my 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 with whom we are intimately associated? We value their opinions and you are sensitive to them. But for the believer we must reach the stage in which we surmount this need and realize we need not allow it to control us. Then comes the last stage which concerns what a man thinks about himself. Our own assessments, our own evaluations, our own judgments of self. It is nearly impossible not to be concerned about oneself, but Yahshua reminds us that the key to it all is simply to “die to oneself.” We can only do that if we are totally consumed with YHVH/Yahshua, seeking only His approval.
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, the world admires a man or country that is always ready to defend its 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, ourselves, or in the defense of the Truth of G-d. Yahshua was our model for the entire spectrum.
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 must live a life of self-nullification that may only be accomplished if we receive the Ruach HaKodesh (Holy Spirit). We must repent and turn from our old ways; become a new being. We must seek to become obedient to G-d in all things; His teachings 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.” Or society that embraces the philosophy that there is no fundamental truth, no “wrong”; a values clarification mentality, believes and teaches that through books, education, and programs offering self-help, self-improvement advice, or through a myriad of other man-induced inventions, man and society can achieve success and contentment aside from G-d’s Torah (His Standards). But it cannot be done. Even if this worldly crowd appears successful, contented and happy they live with doubts, fears, and uncertainty and are destined for spiritual failure.
Yahshua having stated this doctrine, we should ask ourselves, “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 we are. Are we narrow minded, intolerant and bigoted? Is our opinion the only one that matters or are we open to others and their opinions? This does not mean we accept them, but we should certainly entertain exploring what others say against G-d’s Torah for validity. Next we must examine ourselves in the light of Yahshua’s teachings. But it is not enough to do it in a general way only. We must look at the particulars of His message as He is a G-d of detail. We must do things His way, not ours with embellishment or other modifications because we think our way is better. Whenever I notice in myself a reaction of self-defense for some emotional hurt, sense a grievance, annoyance, feel that I am suffering an injustice; the moment I feel this defensive mechanism coming into play, I must 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 that is Torah centered at heart or 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 small 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 Lord’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 our lives. For a moment examine yourself, 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, failure in marriages, families, jobs, and social contacts. All the troubles 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 balance and you will see that all these things can be attributed to “self.” For when we feel “off balance, it is the disproportionate dominance of the “Esau” part of our spirit over the “Jacob” part of our spirit. In other words, allowing dominance of self, or the evil inclination (yetzer hara) over the good inclination (yetzer tov). When we are successful in subduing the animal self, we feel a renewed sense of balance and well-being.
“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 pray for him. Ultimately it is you as the maturing mature believer who is to blame when interacting with an unbeliever or an immature believer.
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 and is 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” as you become absorbed into His Light, the Torah; the Living and the Written.
- Tamah Davis as taught by Milchamah ben David, blessed be his memory.