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The End of Me

The End of Me

This is a scary topic. Our survival instincts recoil at such a thought. Therefore, when we are encouraged to die to ourselves so that Jesus can live through us, we are scared to yield to Christ and give Him control. What will happen if we risk giving God control? Will we have to become a missionary in some foreign land? Our fear of not being in control causes us to reject Jesus as Lord. We settle for a religion, where we are fans of Jesus, but we remain lord of our lives!

However, our lordship often has disastrous results and we end up broken. Yet, there is hope in brokenness. Whether it is in a prison cell from breaking the law, homeless from a broken home, a broken relationship, a moral break-down, broke-down health, the loss of a job, or the death of a loved one, or brokenness from being our own god—at this point of brokenness, God offers us Himself and real life has an opportunity to begin. It usually doesn’t feel that way, though. In fact, it never feels that way. It’s like saying, “When you come to the end of the trail, then you’re ready to start hiking.” It doesn’t make sense. It seems like your life is over. But in God’s kingdom, it’s the central premise that makes everything else work: When you come to the end of yourself, you are in a position to begin experiencing real life that is found in Jesus Christ.

We see it over and over again in the Gospels. When anyone encounters Jesus, the things they think are most important are challenged. And if they are ready to really begin living, they have to let go of those things.

Mark 8:34-35 And calling the crowd to him with his disciples, he said to them, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and the gospel’s will save it.

Jesus turns what we think about life around. Nowhere is this clearer than in the Sermon on the Mount. Jesus starts His most famous sermon with statements called The Beatitudes. They each start with a blessing that we don’t consider blessings.

Matthew 5:3-12 “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted. Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth. Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied. Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy. Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God. Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God. Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.”

These Beatitudes give us a glimpse into some of the core values of Jesus’ kingdom and they all have to do with coming to the end of me. The first thing Jesus says is, “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”

This statement seems flat out wrong and also foolish. To give the Kingdom of Heaven to those who are poor in spirit doesn’t seem logical to us. The poor in spirit would be those who seem like they don’t have anything to offer, don’t have any major influence, and don’t have anything worth noticing. These are people who are broken and helpless. A paraphrase version of the Bible put it this way: “Blessed are you when you’re at the end of your rope. With less of you, there is more of God and His rule.”

When Jesus calls us to the end of ourselves: He makes up the difference with Himself. Anything we give up in our life, to gain more of Christ and His Kingdom, is something far better than anything we had before. We won’t realize that truth until we do it.

Only those who give up their life and are born again of the Spirit enter His Kingdom. Jesus takes broken people, people at the end of their rope, and gives them a new life. He makes them whole. It is a life-long process as long as we continue to follow Him. To see an example of this process, let’s look at the first disciples of Christ.

John 1:35-39 The next day again John was standing with two of his disciples, and he looked at Jesus as he walked by and said, “Behold, the Lamb of God!” The two disciples heard him say this, and they followed Jesus. Jesus turned and saw them following and said to them, “What are you seeking?” And they said to him, “Rabbi” (which means Teacher), “where are you staying?” He said to them, “Come and you will see.” So they came and saw where he was staying, and they stayed with him that day, for it was about the tenth hour.

Before Jesus called the disciples to follow Him, they had time consider what He was all about, ask their questions, and begin hearing His teaching before following Him. But at some point, Jesus called them to leave their jobs, their families, and their reputations to follow Him. It was their choice. They could follow Jesus or follow their own life plan. In order to follow, the disciples had to come to the end of themselves—to let go of pride, familiarity, relationships, careers, dreams—and learn to trust Jesus.

Then the process of change—being conformed to the image of Jesus—began. As the disciples followed Jesus, they continued to come to the end of themselves. They literally came to the end of one identity and the beginning of another. When Jesus officially changed Simon’s name to Peter and began calling him by that name all the time, it was the outward reflection of the change Jesus was making in Peter all along.

The disciples eventually became the people through whom the Church was founded, because they came to the end of themselves and the power of God came to the forefront. They gave up their lives to gain the Kingdom of Heaven here on earth and for eternity.

No amount of brokenness is too much for God. In fact, He prefers those who are broken—that’s really the only people He chooses. And when we give our broken lives to the God, who makes things whole, amazing things happen in and through us. Again, look at the disciples’ example.

Acts 5:12-42 (read all verses from Bible) Now many signs and wonders were regularly done among the people by the hands of the apostles. And they were all together in Solomon’s Portico… when they had called in the apostles, they beat them and charged them not to speak in the name of Jesus, and let them go. Then they left the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer dishonor for the name. And every day, in the temple and from house to house, they did not cease teaching and preaching that the Christ is Jesus.

After Jesus ascends into heaven and the Holy Spirit comes upon the disciples, life takes another scary, painful turn when persecution begins. Since they are like Jesus, they get treated like Him, but they find it is a blessing, just like Jesus said in the Beatitudes. In those moments when life is hard, painful, unjust, and we follow Jesus Christ, the Holy Spirit empowers us, comforts us, and shows us that true happiness in life comes from trusting and obeying Him.

When Jesus said, “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted”, the disciples didn’t know what He was saying at the time. Mourning is not a blessing. Mourning is suffering, it’s loss, it’s pain, it’s regret, it’s tears. Mourning happens when things don’t go how we planned or when life is more difficult and painful than we thought it would be. We can lose our health, loved ones, or a job. Those things aren’t minor. So how is this true?

It becomes true when we come to the end of ourselves and seek God. God will show up in the midst of those things and give us what we truly need—His presence. That presence becomes more precious to us than anything else in the world, and we are comforted. We learn to rely on Him and not on ourselves or what is happening to us.

When life takes our dreams away from us, our mourning will turn into joy if we trust God’s plan. What we’ll find in time—when we’re willing to trust Him—is that God’s plan for us is far better than the plan we had in mind.

Sometimes what causes us to mourn is our sin. King David mourned over his sin after he committed adultery with Bathsheba. We also see the Prodigal Son, in Jesus’ famous parable, return to his father in a state of mourning and repentance over his sin. Mourning is the appropriate response to sin, and it prepares us to receive God’s grace because pride has been torn down. When we come to the “end of me”, God will forgive and restore us.

Our bodies are to be the temple of the Holy Spirit. But, before we can be filled with the Holy Spirit, we must be emptied of “me”. If we are full of ourselves, we cannot be filled with the Holy Spirit. Being emptied of ourselves happens one of two ways: Either we get emptied, or we choose to empty ourselves. When we are empty, there can be a filling by God. God is waiting fill us up, change our life, and send us out for the purpose He created us.

For example, Saul was a prominent Jew who was systematically destroying Christians. He was doing everything in his power to stop this new faith in Jesus. Little did he know that, one day, while he was on his way to continue his brutal work, he would meet Jesus.

Acts 9:1-9 But Saul, still breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord, went to the high priest and asked him for letters to the synagogues at Damascus, so that if he found any belonging to the Way, men or women, he might bring them bound to Jerusalem. Now as he went on his way, he approached Damascus, and suddenly a light from heaven shone around him. And falling to the ground he heard a voice saying to him, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?” And he said, “Who are you, Lord?” And he said, “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting. But rise and enter the city, and you will be told what you are to do.” The men who were traveling with him stood speechless, hearing the voice but seeing no one. Saul rose from the ground, and although his eyes were opened, he saw nothing. So they led him by the hand and brought him into Damascus. And for three days he was without sight, and neither ate nor drank.

Your encounter with Jesus may not be as dramatic as Saul’s, but at some point, you will come face to face with Jesus—whether you literally see and hear Him or not. However you encounter Him, an encounter with Jesus is the beginning of the “end of me”. Will you die to your life and receive real life, or will you continue to walk in blindness, letting the world lead you around, and end in eternal death? If you believe in Jesus and follow His directions, repent and be baptized, it will be the beginning of a new life—a real abundant life.

Notice what Saul, who changed his name to Paul, said later, Philippians 3:8-9 Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith

After he encountered Jesus, Paul had a change of perspective which meant that all the things that used to fill him up were rubbish compared to Jesus.

What are the things that define you? What are the things you’re the most proud of? What are the things that compete with God for your attention, time, energy, and affection? Taking out that rubbish is crucial if you want God to fill you with His presence and power, the Holy Spirit, who will give you a new perspective and purpose.

Jesus is offering to fill us with living water that will refresh, restore, revive, and redeem us. Don’t settle for a cheap substitute. The statement we often hear, “Make a decision for Jesus,” places the emphasis on something our Lord never requested. He never asks us to decide for Him, to become a fan of His, but to follow Him—something very different. To follow Jesus requires an end to me, my way, my rights, and my kingdom.

I cannot enter His kingdom by virtue of my righteousness—I can only enter it as an absolute pauper, broken, and poor in spirit. Until that moment comes, I will never know what being filled with the Holy Spirit means. When I, indeed, am at the end and I cannot do anything more, Jesus begins right there and He makes me into what I can never become myself—a righteous new creation, born again of the Holy Spirit.

However, Jesus cannot come and do His work in me as long as there is anything blocking the way, whether it is something good or bad. The end of me requires repentance. Repentance does not cause a sense of sin—that is conviction. Repentance causes a sense of unworthiness. When I repent, I realize that I am absolutely helpless, that I am really poor in spirit, and I know that I am totally unworthy even to carry His sandals. I have nothing to offer Jesus. I need His life and His lordship.

Have you repented like that, or do you defend your actions? Do you compare yourself to others and consider yourself to be pretty good? Do you think you have something to offer Jesus—some talent or money? Do you feel you have a right to some things in life? The reason God, the Holy Spirit, cannot come into your life is that you are still full of me.

The baptism of the Holy Spirit—that is God coming into our life—is not an experience, but a continual filling performed by Jesus Christ as we continually come to the end of me and follow Him obediently—seeking Him with our whole heart, will, mind, and strength (that is spirit, soul, and body).

John the Baptist came to the “end of me”. He had a popular ministry and a big following. But he did not tell people to follow him, but to follow the One who would come after him, Jesus the Christ. John the Baptist said, John 3:30 “He must increase, but I must decrease.”

That is true for each of us. Jesus must increase in us and we must decrease until we can say as Paul said, Gal. 2:20 I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.

Again, at the “end of me”, John the Baptist said, Matthew 3:11 “I baptize you with water for repentance, but he who is coming after me is mightier than I, whose sandals I am not worthy to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.”

Some of you are more aware of the work of the Holy Spirit in your life. Things are changing in your life and it is kind of scary. You are more aware of your sinfulness and you repent more often. You are more aware of the sin around you and it brings tears to your eyes as you pray for others. You wonder if you are losing your mind, but you are just coming to the end of me and experiencing more of Jesus through His presence, His Spirit, His Word, and His love.

Some of you are battling demons of addiction, anger, lust, pride, and fear that have had their way with you until now. You ask God to take it away, and He gives you His grace. You are finding that grace is sufficient for the battle, because when you are weak and calling on His Name, the demons are defeated. You are coming to the “end of me” and gaining victory by consistently focusing on Jesus instead of yourself. You are learning that Jesus is all you need to resist the devil and make him leave.

Some of you are not sure what is going on, but you sense there must be more than what you have experienced. You are weary of being your own lord. Jesus is saying to you, “Come unto me, you who are weary and heavily laden, and I will give you rest. Come, seek me with all your heart, and follow me. Have an intimate relationship with me instead of a lukewarm religion.”

When we get to the end of ourselves, we get closer to Jesus and become more like Him. Then He is lifted up in our lives so that others are drawn to Him. Those who hate Jesus will also hate us, but when persecution happens, we will be blessed.

When we get to the “end of me”, where we can do nothing, Jesus does everything and fills us with Himself. Therefore, die daily and ask Jesus to take control and live through you. Then you will experience the fruit of the Holy Spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. That is real life.