Overcoming sin can be difficult but overcoming self can be more difficult. Sometimes sin and self are intertwined. Jesus tells us it is a sin to look at another person with "lust" and many times the motive is one of selfishness or desire for selfish entertainment by lusting or selfish gratification. Many people do not think of it as sinning or wanting to commit "adultery" when they "lust", rather they simply want to satisfy their selfish desires. Jesus makes it very clear that if we want to follow Him we must "deny" ourselves. In a list of sins from Jesus teachings, one translation lists "selfishness" as a sin and another lists "greed" in the same verse. Sometimes being greedy or selfish can lead to other sins God mentions in the Ten Commandments such as stealing or coveting what others have. 1
When Jesus tells us if we want to follow Him we must "deny" ourselves, He may be encouraging us to "love each other" or to "forgive" others but the primary focus when we deny ourselves is "Love Yahveh your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength". As we deny ourselves our primary focus is to put God first and do what God wants. When we do what God wants we will love others; we will forgive others; we will help others; etc. 2
How do we overcome self? A first step may be to include in our daily prayers a request for God's help in denying ourselves and putting what God wants first in our lives. Sometimes we may need God's help in identifying selfishness as many area of selfishness like pride or worldly success or material gain are held in esteem in our society. If there are undesirable or sinful selfish habits that seem hard to overcome, it can do no harm to take authority over the habit in the "name" of Jesus and command it to leave. Remember; "if in doubt cast it out". As God helps us to identify self-focus we may detect frequent use of the word "I" or responding to people's concerns with our own personal stories. Praise God as we detect self-focus then we can work on denying or eliminating them and focusing on God and those people He brings for us to help or interact with. Jesus gave us an awesome example of denying self when Jesus said to God "not what I want, but what you want". 3
1. Mt 5:28; 16:24; Mk 7:22 (IC)(NI); Ex 20:15-17
2. Jn 15:12; Mt 6:14 (NI) Mk 12:30 (ET)
3. Mk 16:17; Mt 29:39 (GN)
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A Psalm for reflection "Help me want to obey Your rules instead of selfishly wanting riches" Ps 119:36 (IC)
Understanding the Teaching: What I share in the teaching is what I believe God wants me to share. All the direct quotes from God are highlighted in royal purple. Of course the words of Jesus are in red. Rather than follow some made up doctrine, remember that Jesus said that every thing He said (Jn 12:49) and everything He did (Jn 14:31) comes from God. All teachings and all opinions should be supported by what we learn from God or Jesus (see the scripture referred to in the footnote).
MARRIAGE WORKSHOP MOMENT
One of the first things that is overlooked in marriages is having fun. Too busy, children, work etc. can crowd out fun time together. In marriage you will have conflicts but that is not what attracted you to each other in the beginning. Fun is important to martial happiness. Have a weekly date night. So you enjoy date, be sure and have your weekly couples meeting before, using the Speaker Listener Technique. This should help you get issues and problems out of the way so your time together on your date can be more enjoyable. Your date can be as simple as a walk in the park or walking in the mall window-shopping. Do something different. Go skiing, water or snow depending on the weather.
One suggestion Allen age 10 had for a good marriage: "you got to find someone who likes the same stuff. Like if you like sports, she should like that you like sports and she should keep the chips and dip coming."
I do Marathons and my wife walks on treadmills. We have done treadmills side by side at the gym. We have shared by her going with me to out of town Marathons and she helps by driving me home, like from Memphis and Kansas City. After 26.2 miles, it is wonderful to have driving help. Our Marathon trips are like having a two-day date. There are many ways to share and have fun together
The Better Half "When your partner won't support your efforts to make your marriage better" Without your spouse's support to improve your marriage, you can still pray daily for God's will to be done in each of your lives and your marriage ("all things are possible with God", Mk 10:27 NI). You can encourage having fun together on your own. Suggest and encourage things you both like to do or to get things started suggest things your spouse likes to do. Remember the things you did to have fun when you first got together. In marriage you will have conflicts but that is not what attracted you to each other in the beginning. Fun is important to martial happiness. Work at it!
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