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August 25, 2017

I hate having allergies but growing up with allergies taught me some valuable lessons about how my body handled certain ‘irritants’. I grew up unnaturally sensitive to certain foods and it made life difficult. Trying to find out which foods I reacted to was a long process. Although I went for tests the doctors did not test for everything. Sometimes I just had to find out through trial and error, giving up or trying things to see if there was a reaction. In many way trying to find out if ‘self’ is still in you is the same way because ‘self’ always reacts to giving up all. It is an ‘all’ergy.

The process of 'self' sacrifice and bringing 'self' to death is often misunderstood. A lot of people think that it only means that you give up all your physical goods but it does not mean just that. Although that may be included in some people's walk with Jesus it is by no means the norm. What Jesus is looking for, more than anything else, is anything that keeps your whole heart, mind and will from being completely His. Anything, and I do mean anything, that is greater than Him in our life will find it’s root in ‘self’. For some it is an emotional attachment to another human, to others it is wealth or fame, for others still it is a hurt or wound suffered years ago. All these things lodge deep in our hearts and keep us from giving our ALL to Him. These are the ‘all’ergies ‘self’ carries and reacts to. This is why the season in the wilderness is so necessary. It strips us down to our barest essentials so we can see deeply and clearly into our own souls then surrender absolutely everything to Him.

Wanda likes to use the analogy of allergy testing to help us understand if we still have ‘self’ in us. When you are allergic to a certain food you strip out all foods and only add one food at a time until you find out what is causing you to react. She calls it 'getting to the bottom of the oatmeal barrel'. It is her way of saying, ‘get down to the simplest item and then you will know what you are allergic to.’ 'Self' is similar as we often 'react' to things in the same way we do when we eat food we are allergic to. The only way we may realize we are 'reacting' is if we are introduced to the offending object. If a reaction starts you know it was a 'self' ‘all’ergy. Jesus will often do this with us so we can see into our own souls. He will deliberately introduce us to something that will cause our ‘self’ to be offended and react. He is coaxing the ‘all’ergy out into the open. As a homeless family in a wealthy country we often saw this reaction by others who were offended by our mere presence and poverty. The reason Jesus has to lead us into this is for the simple reason that 'self' is so tricky and deceptive. ‘Self’ does not want to be seen. Many people can go years without knowing they have ‘self’ in them by merely avoiding that which causes offense. ‘Self’ hides when light is shone directly on it so when looking for it we have to look for its reactions instead. If you are offended at something, then it is likely ‘self’ is having an ‘all’ergic reaction.

For instance, think of one thing you cannot let go of, anything at all. Now ask yourself, is this more important to me than Jesus? Is this an idol in my life? If it is it must go. Are you offended by that idea? Now if you said 'grandkids' or a precious family member I would be mindful of Abraham, who was asked by God to give up his son of promise, Isaac. In God’s command Abraham was asked to give up two of the most precious items he had, 1) the offspring of himself and the once barren Sarah, and 2) the very promise of posterity from God. God was telling Abraham to give up both. Abraham was obedient to bring Isaac to the altar because he wanted nothing but God. It was very difficult and painful but in the end Abraham, Isaac and God knew that there were no idols of ‘self’ in Abraham’s heart. Abraham did not have an ‘all’ergic reaction. He was willing, able and went through with giving up ALL but God stopped him before he actually harmed Isaac. Others will have different idols in their lives. To see an idol all you have to do is look at the reaction when it is touched or threatened. ‘Self’ will always give off a terrible ‘all’ergic reaction to rid itself of the threat.

I do wish to make a clear warning that in order to give up your ALL to God you must be led into it by God through obedience to His will. ‘Self’ cannot cast out ‘self’. It has no capacity for suicide and only has a desire to live. ‘Self’ can only be brought to death through following God’s will, as Abraham did. We have met people who thought they would do God a favor and rid themselves of their ‘self’ nature. It did not turn out well for them. Trust in God as your Great Physician. He knows what ails you and knows exactly what must be done to help you get rid of the ‘self’ nature. If you are faithful in obedience to Him He will methodically and comprehensively lead you in such a way that your ‘self’ will have no other choice but to die. Our family will readily and wholeheartedly testify to His competence and care in this matter. Our experience has been that there is no other like Him that is capable of completely removing the root of ‘self’ with each of us.

Now no act of obedience to God is going to give you warm fuzzies inside because most of the things God wants us to do lead to the death of ‘self’. Acting in obedience to His will can oftentimes be painful as ‘self’ is brought to death. This should not dissuade the believer but encourage them because it means that their temporary pain will lead to great reward. Paul understood this and wrote in 1 Corinthians 4:17 “For our light, momentary affliction (this slight distress of the passing hour) is ever more and more abundantly preparing and producing and achieving for us an everlasting weight of glory [beyond all measure, excessively surpassing all comparisons and all calculations, a vast and transcendent glory and blessedness never to cease!]” We recited this verse many times in our wilderness to remind ourselves that the pain of the crucifixion of ‘self’ does not last forever. It also reminded us of the great reward that awaited us at the end, Jesus.

God is jealous for our ALL with good reason. 'Self', if left unchecked, will destroy us and lead us to hell no matter how 'honorable' and 'esteemed' the items we idolize are. God's cure, in killing 'self' and the idols it holds, allows us to grow up into who we were meant to be, fulfilled and loved, as the intimate partner of Jesus. It also gives Him His greatest desire which is to be with someone like Himself for eternity. ‘Self’, on the other hand, will isolate us as we defend in our own strength the idols inside of us. We will drive off all those who would threaten what we call precious and hold dearer than Jesus. In the end we will be left alone, solitary and miserable. We will end up being offended at everything and yet, will have nothing. Even God will be driven off as He respects your free will and your choice for ‘self’.

So remember that ‘self’ doesn’t want to die and will oppose all efforts to kill it. It will get offended and react to anything that would remove it from its place of prominence in your life. It is the ‘all’ergy of ‘self’ for it cannot give ALL to Jesus. The only path to life however means that ‘self’ must go. So the choice is stark and simple, temporary pain now and eternal joy later or temporary pleasure now and eternal pain later. You decide.