Fleeing Desire, Work, and Self: Denying Humanity

Popular Christianity often misrepresents the fall of man and redemption in Christ. This trend is disturbing. When Jesus saves us from sin here on earth, do we stop desiring or working? No. Both are just converted from their sinful distortion.

Desire

pilgrim's progress christian city of destructionDesiring a person, place, or thing is inherently human. God created our earthly bodies to need air, water, food, and life. He also created us to desire these things so that our needs will be filled, our bodies sustained.

Our soul and spirit were also created to need. We are commanded to desire the presence and glory of God, eternity in heaven, the gifts of the Holy Spirit, the resurrection of our bodies, and the community of the saints – just to name a few. Even in heaven we must desire the water of life if we are to receive it (Revelation 22:17). Desire realized is a “tree of life” (Proverbs 13:12).

Desire is not part of the fall, for “the desire of the righteous is only good” (Proverbs 11:23). Our sinful nature and the devil’s temptations just distorted our desires by making us want what will please ourselves rather than God – money, sex, power, fame, etc. We cannot turn off our desires any more than we can stop breathing. Instead, through conversion our desires must be redirected toward God instead of ourselves. Jesus is the “desire of all nations” (Haggai 2:7).

Suppressing all desire is not Christian but Hindu, part of yogi contemplation. Christians who wants to rid themselves of their earthly and spiritual desires should question their conversion.

Work

Adam in the Garden of Eden Genesis 2:7-8God told Adam and Eve to subdue and have dominion over the earth (Genesis 1:28). He created them to “dress and keep” the garden in Eden – to tend and cultivate it (2:15). God himself worked six days and rested the seventh (2:2-3). This rest was symbolic, a foreshadowing of eternal rest in heaven (Hebrews 4:4-11). Did God stop sustaining the universe on that seventh day? No. God works day and night. How else does everything keep going?

Sweat, not work, is part of the curse and the fall (Genesis 3:17-19). Our sinful nature keeps our physical work from having eternal meaning or reward. Through fruitless work, we try to please ourselves instead of God and end up wasting our energy. We also try to work needlessly for our salvation, when God offers it to us freely by grace through faith (Ephesians 2:8). By contrast, the physical rest we seek other than at the end of a long work day or week becomes laziness.

When we become Christians we do not rest from work, physically or spiritually. Instead, through conversion our earthly work is directed toward God and promised an eternal reward (Psalm 58:11, Proverbs 11:18, Isaiah 40:10, Matthew 5:12, 16:27, 1 Corinthians 3:8-14, Colossians 3:24, Hebrews 10:35, Revelation 22:12). We ourselves are God’s workmanship and we have been re-created to do good works in the name of Christ (Ephesians 2:10). This work must involve our body, soul, and spirit – physical labor, preaching, teaching, and prayer. Christians cannot be lazy!

Even better, through the cross Jesus turns the curse of sweat into a blessing. He sweated in Gethsemane while seeking strength to do the will of God by becoming a sacrifice for sin (Luke 22:44). As a result, like Paul the tent-maker we find the supernatural – the Holy Spirit intervening in conversion and holiness – in the sweat of our brow when we work for God (Acts 19:11-12).

Like desire, an earthly life of rest or contemplation is Hindu, not Christian. It’s also laziness.

The Self

“I become a transparent eye-ball. I am nothing. I see all. The currents of the Universal Being circulate through me; I am part or particle of God.”
– Ralph Waldo Emerson, Nature (1836)

“Humility does not mean you think less of yourself. It means you think of yourself less.” – Ken Blanchard

Is humility really forgetting that we exist or is it something else? I believe self-consciousness is a gift of God and a vital aspect of humanity, just like desire and work. It is not egotism or pride. By contrast, I think forsaking ‘I,’ ‘me,’ ‘myself,’ and ‘my / mine’ – total self-forgetfulness – is not true humility. Instead, it is a desire to be like God in his godhead, which is idolatry. As evidenced from the Emerson quote above, this practice is Hindu rather than Christian.

Humility is not a mental or spiritual disappearance act. It is not refusing to think of self at all. Rather, true humility is thinking of self exactly, and only, according to the Bible. God’s Word contains the only true portrait of mankind, both sinners and saints. This portrait shows that we are deceiving and be deceived (2 Timothy 3:13), that our hearts are deceitful and wicked (Jeremiah 17:9), and that we need total conversion in order both to desire and to do what is good and right.

After conversion, true humility is thinking of self rightly in relation to God. It is all about relationship and the divine order of things. God is divine and sovereign. We are neither and we will never be, in contrast to Satan’s ungodly desires. Instead, we are human. We will become like Christ, but we will not be him. Christ is the head and we are his body (Colossians 1:18). He is our master and we are his servants. In Christ, we are children of God the Father. Only when we think God’s thoughts after him do we find true humility.

Conclusion

humility jesus christ wash disciples feetJesus Christ, the perfection of humanity, was not a yogi. He lived a life of action, not contemplation.

Jesus did not deny his physical or spiritual desires except during fasting. During his thirty-three years on earth, Jesus breathed, ate, slept, drank, and talked. He said his meat (food) was to do the will of God (John 4:34).

Jesus worked day and night when he wasn’t sleeping. In the power of the Holy Spirit, as the Anointed One (Christ), He preached, ministered, healed, and prayed.

Jesus didn’t deny the self either. He knew who he was, the Son of God and the great I AM, and he rejoiced in it. Jesus often told others his true identity. This act didn’t stem from pride or egotism but true humility. Jesus easily and gladly humbled himself by becoming first a human, then a servant, and finally the ultimate sacrifice for sin.

If we want to be like Christ, this is the example we must follow. Only by desiring God and desiring to please him do we become truly human. Only by working for God do we become truly ourselves. And only by thinking of ourselves as we ought, in relation to God, do we become like his son Jesus Christ.

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