August 18, 2010 by Stacy McDonald

Doing What Comes Unnaturally

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“Be kindly affectionate to one another with brotherly love, in honor giving preference to one another.” (Romans 12:10)

God’s ways are not our ways (Is. 55:8). That is why we often have a hard time grasping biblical truths. Christ’s love is a pure, endless, and sacrificial kind of love; while ours tends to be self serving and limited—at least when lived out in the flesh. Godly love is foreign to our carnal minds. That’s why it’s so important for us to walk in the Spirit. (Galatians 5:16-17)

Denying the flesh. Preferring others. Dying to self. Sounds dour and grim, doesn’t it? But we have it so backwards! “What’s in it for me?” “What will I get out of it?” “I deserve more.” These are common attitudes of the world—but Christians are supposed to walk in truth. And the truth is, without Christ, all any of us “deserve” is hell (John 3:18). We would do well to remember that. If the King of kings suffered a humiliating death on a cross for the likes of me, how can I dare live like I “deserve better?

Putting someone else’s needs or wants before our own may feel foreign and unnatural; but, that’s because, in a very real way it is unnatural. Jesus said, we’re to live for others. He said that “whoever loses his life for [Christ’s] sake would find it.” (Matthew 16:25). Jesus wants us to follow the model He provided for us. To lay down our lives—not just in a dramatic scene of martyrdom, but in the day to day sacrifices of love and humility.

Whoever desires to become great among you, let him be your servant. And whoever desires to be first among you, let him be your slave— just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many. (Matthew 20:27-28)

Jesus is our model for love, sacrifice, and service. He said the greatest commandment was for us to love the Lord our God with all our heart, soul, and mind. And the second He said was to love our neighbor as ourselves. Now, we obviously don’t have to be taught how to love ourselves, do we? We’re very, very good at that.

“Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself.” (Philippians 2:3)

Nobody teaches a baby to be selfish—he comes by it naturally. When he sees something he wants, he takes it. If he sees a toy in Sister’s hand, he simply grabs it. If a candy bar is left within his reach, into the mouth it goes. He has to be taught and trained to deny his natural desire to satisfy his flesh without restraint. Self love comes naturally; but, we are to live supernaturally!

Pain is another example of our natural inclination to love ourselves. When I’m in pain, nobody is more aware of it than me. If I have a migraine, I may search out a dark room, or take medication. And I certainly don’t forget to pray! I am totally focused on trying to avoid that pain.

And if I’m hungry, my thoughts are on satisfying my hunger. I don’t forget to eat for a few days because I’m busy. But I might forget to bring a meal to someone who could use it.

I am naturally inclined to love myself – to take care of my own needs. And, while there is nothing wrong with taking care of myself, Jesus wants me to go beyond self love, and be supernaturally inclined to the needs of others. To go against what comes natural to my flesh—to die to self and prefer others.

Jesus wants us to love others supernaturally – the way we love ourselves naturally. We live in a world that wants to turn the Gospel upside down.

Then said Jesus unto his disciples, “If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me. For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: and whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it.” (Matthew 16:24-25)

We have been programmed to believe that love is something to be pursued for our own benefit. We’re always “lookin’ for love.” But real love—biblical love—is sacrifice. It’s the denial of self for the good of another.

“The world takes us to a silver screen on which flickering images of passion and romance play, and as we watch, the world says, ‘This is love. God takes us to the foot of a tree on which a naked and bloodied man hangs and says, ‘This is love.'” -Joshua Harris

His name is above all other names. He alone is worthy to be praised; yet, often His name is slandered in the streets because of our failure to do things His way. Though we are to walk in the Spirit (Gal. 5:16), we choose instead to do what comes easy—to do what comes natural. The natural man lives a “me first” life (1 Corinthians 2:14) and thinks others-focused living is crazy. But we have a higher calling. In all we do, we are to glorify God—reflecting His love and holiness; so that His name is hallowed in us before the eyes of those who do not know Him (Ezekiel 36:23).

You’ll be surprised. The more you pour yourself out for others, the more Jesus fills you up. The more joy you cause, the more joy you receive.

So, my challenge to you today is this. Spend the day focusing on the needs of others—purposely. Even in the simple things. When you feel the urge to have a cup of tea, offer it to those around you first. Live as a deliberate servant— look to see what others may need and earnestly seek to meet those needs. Ask someone how you might pray for them, how you might help them with a physical need, or how you might encourage them—just out of the blue. Don’t wait for a phone call—ask. Don’t do what comes natural. Step out of your comfort zone and look for ways to serve. Live the supernatural life.



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3 Responses to “Doing What Comes Unnaturally”

  1. Ginger says:

    What a great admonition to start my day! :)
    Every so often I get tired of always being the invitor and want some other families to invite us more often. How selfish. In our culture of busyness, I need to be willing to always be the hospitable one, whether it is returned or not. Hospitality is always a blessing and makes people feel loved whether my house is tidy or not, whether the dinner is homemade or out of a box. I gotta quit being so selfish in wanting to be invited and just enjoy the fellowship, regardless of who initiates it.

  2. Georgia says:

    We are human and Jesus also wants us to be happy as well as giving. Your article is implies that we are only to be in pursuit of holiness and not happiness. I question the picture you painted of Jesus. Maybe your migranes headaches will disappear if you lighten up just a little. I am not saying this out of disrespect. I love Jesus and want a relationship with Him. Religious and legalistic behavor take away the joy of the Lord. I am not implying that we should sin or disobey God. I am just saying allow the joy Jesus wants for us.

  3. Stacy McDonald says:

    Georgia –

    It is in the pursuit of holiness that we find “happiness.” The chief end of man is to glorify God and ENJOY Him forever. I agree that legalism destroys joy. No one is advocating legalism. :-)

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