Monday, March 16, 2015

How to Live Your Best Life

We are always searching for the latest & greatest self-help books and life manuals and the "next best thing" to tell us how to live. It's a common goal to want to reach our full potential. We all want to have a the end of the day, what we all want to know is that our lives actually mean something. So how do we really figure this thing out?

It's the million-dollar question: How do we live our best life?

I think that there's one answer, and it's found throughout the entire New Testament.

We die to self. 

Jesus says, "If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it." (Luke 9:23-24) 

We will never reach our potential when all we have are self-driven motives. When we deny ourselves, we relinquish control. This is both a one-time event (salvation) and lifelong process (sanctification). Psalm 22:28 says that kingship belongs to the Lord. Denying ourselves also means that we also put others first and serve their needs.

Back in January, I heard Christine Caine (one of my favorites) at Passion Conference give probably the most challenging message I have ever sat under...there was so much to take in that I had to go back and listen again. It's pretty lengthy, but you can watch it here. It ultimately is a call to work and be a co-laborer with Jesus instead of trying to be His co-star. She uses the example of Elisha plowing in 1 Kings 19 because nobody wants to do the hands-on dirty work. She observes that people use the excuse that a certain gesture or task needing to be done isn't their love language. Her response? "I love how we write Christian books to excuse Christians from being Christians. It's amazing."

The point is that she then goes on to say: The only love language is to die to self.

And she's right. 

Luke 22:42 says, "Nevertheless, not my will, but yours, be done." 

When Jesus spoke this, He was enduring the cross (see Hebrews 12:2). He suffered hours of pain that was intended to cause shame. He did this on purpose, and He set a great example for us. Even though it wasn't His will, He knew that it was the Father's...and it turned out to be the best thing to ever happen in all of history. It was the greatest danger to the kingdom of darkness. 

That's what happens when we lay down our own desires and submit to the Lord.

They say that the safest place to be is in the center of God's will. That's true. But what so often keeps us from that center is selfishness. When you think about it, that's the bottom line of why we don't do the things we are called to fostering and adopting orphans, feeding the hungry, or going overseas. We don't want to give up our time and money. We don't want to create inconvenience. We don't want interruptions. 

Those examples are pretty heavy commitments, but it includes the little things too. Simple, relational things are holy. The Gospel hinges on relationship. Sometimes all we need to do is forget about ourselves for a minute and go love on a neighbor, send a card to someone who is sick, take care of someone who is hurting, or just remind someone that they are loved. Simple things turn out to be huge things. We can't all do everything...but we can all do something.

We can claim that something isn't our calling, but we are all called to this: Love God and love others. Sometimes that might not look like how we want it to look, and in that case, what we really need is to get over ourselves.

It's so easy for me to make excuses...I'm just being transparent and telling you right now that it really is. But I know that if I want to live my best life, I have to live outside of my little bubble that I like to stay in. My life has to be about more than just me. One day when I stand before the Lord, I want to be able to say I did everything that I was supposed to do. He won't really be interested in the trivial things, like how much Netflix I squeezed in or if I made it to the gym that day. These things aren't wrong. But when they become what drives us, we don't live our best life.

We need a priority change. We need a paradigm shift. We need attitude conditioning. This life was never meant to be about us. Life is not about you and it's not about me. Everything we do is supposed to be about bringing glory to God. I think that we will live our best life when we understand this. When we see our conversations, relationships, responsibilities, and even careers as ways to bring Him glory, things start to change. When we only live comfortable and careful lives, something dangerous happens because we might not ever realize the damage until it's too late (see Matthew 7:21-23). Comfort and security leads to self-destruction if we aren't careful. We don't leave much room for God to do extraordinary things when all we care about is ourselves and being ordinary.

If we want to live our best life, then mediocrity is no option. Revelation 3:16-17 serves as a warning: "So, because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth. For you say, I am rich, I have prospered, and I need nothing, not realizing that you are wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked." The verses are written to the Laodiceans, but they very much apply to Christians today...without going into much detail, you can at least clearly see how Jesus really doesn't tolerate our indifference. We don't get to pick and choose how His Word will apply to us...we like to put Him in a box fitting neatly on a shelf that we only pull out when we feel like it. We must follow His example and teachings completely. We must fully surrender and quit holding back. We must deny ourselves. And most importantly, we must love. All or nothing. Hot or cold. In or out. Life or death. When we live like that, this is what we figure out...

The best life is when we value Eternal Life over the American Dream.

The best life is when we live for something greater than ourselves.

The best life is when we stop climbing ladders and start stepping down to help others.

The best life is when we die to self and love God & others with all that we have.

The way to live your best life is to lay down your life.

I have been crucified with Christ. Is 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. Galatians 2:20

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