We are told by Christ that we are to deny ourselves. But what does that mean? Is it just an exercise in changing our behavior, like picking the bad fruit off our tree in order to deny its existence? What of the teaching that bad fruit indicates a bad tree?
Shedding the light of Christ on our lives is more than just an exercise in getting my behaviors to match his. As if He is the jello mold that I must stuff the ugly mess of my life into. That belittles Christ, creating an example to be followed – the proverbial good teacher that we are more comfortable dealing with.
Christ is Savior. He is Redeemer. He is into restoration.
What creates bad fruit is a bad tree. That is the miracle of Christ – He changes trees. If we let him, submit ourselves and open ourselves to Him. Examining our hearts, taking a journey inward, is not about narcissism, but about understanding, denial and the light of the King.
Maggie Scarf has an amazing book on family systems that is related to this discussion. In Intimate Worlds she examines the Beavers System Model, which is an assessment of family functioning. The Beavers System measures behavior on a scale of 1 (being optimal) to 5 (being the family dictated by their pain).
What is so interested about the discussion of family systems is that Scarf makes clear that each system is created by adults that come into the system with, and also creates in its offspring, rules which they live by. A life ‘truth’ if you will.
Whether the members of the system are aware of the rules at a conscious level or not, they are propagated throughout the system. For most of us, this becomes the feeding ground of the false self. It is the lie that we believe; the very lie that helps to produce the bad fruit we are spending so much effort trying to control.
We are born into a broken world. They system that we are in continues to break us. Instead of putting Humpty Dumpty back together again, he is stepped on a further cracked. Mind you, in our families, this is usually not intentional. Most parents do not try to hurt their kids, they were raised in a system too. This is not a blame game, it is an awareness issue.
I’ll use myself as a case in point. My lie was “I have to earn my needs being met, but ultimately someone else will deserve it more.” So, I was a people pleaser. Earning my affirmation. I did the ‘right’ things and looked the ‘right’ way so that I could earn God’s favor (and hence, I guess, my salvation). In my marriage, since someone else always deserves it more, I became passive. This lie that I was not aware of and had not formulated was holding me captive. Combating the fruit was futile, I had to address the tree.
Once you know the lie, you can substitute the truth. Moreover, you can experience the freedom of the truth because you know what to deny. You know how the enemy will attack. Struggles will remain as the two natures or our new self and false self battle, but we will improve at fighting the battle.
Then, in our followship, we can move beyond infantile obedience of doing something because we are supposed (where we all start), and proceed into the freedom to obey because we have exchanged the lie for the truth of God in Christ.