3. Choose to deny yourself and surrender to the Lord. Once you have determined where you are living selfishly and you are convicted about it, you now have a choice to make. Will you choose to deny your selfish desires or choose to deny the conviction? It’s one thing to know you shouldn’t do something; it’s quite another to respond to the conviction and stop doing it. It’s really just a choice you make.
Throughout Scripture, man’s choice is identified as what has determined whether he will experience God’s power to change or not. Joshua encouraged the children of Israel, “choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve” (Joshua 24:15). God pleaded with His people through the Prophet Isaiah, “choose what pleases Me, and hold fast My covenant” (Is. 56:4). Moses also warned the Jews, “I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing; therefore choose life” (Deut. 30:19).
Choosing to deny your selfish thoughts and motives is up to you. No one can do this for you; it’s your decision. Everyday you are presented with a multitude of choices to make. Will you choose to serve Christ or not? Will you choose what pleases Him or what pleases you? Will you choose to serve yourself first or your spouse?
Therefore, make the choice today over each issue you listed on your paper. Choose to yield to the conviction of the Spirit and deny yourself. When you do, you’ll finally experience peace. Choose to yield to Christ and ask Him to empower you by His Spirit to live unselfishly.
Surrendering to Christ and His Holy Spirit is where you obtain the power to follow through on your choice to turn from selfish behavior. When you fully give yourself to Christ, He comes to take control and transforms your innermost being. He is the One who will give you the new thoughts and desires that are needed for change. He’s waiting for you to come to Him so that He might show you that He is stronger than your selfish nature. His Holy Spirit will transform you into the image of Jesus Christ if you will just ask (2 Cor. 3:18). If you would only seek His power today, you would surely find His promise is true. Jesus said, “If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him!” (Luke 11:13). Have you been asking? Without His power you will be battling your selfishness in your own strength and this will only guarantee failure.
Paul also emphasized the need of the Holy Spirit who would enable victory over our fleshly nature. He said, “If you live according the flesh you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live” (Rom. 8:13). Notice that Paul acknowledges that you have a choice in this matter of the fleshly deeds of the body. You must decide if you will live according to your flesh or put it to death. You must by the power of the Spirit deny the deeds of the flesh and trust that by His enabling grace you will live. His life in you will always empower you to serve others before yourself.
4. Confess your selfishness. Once you have recognized your selfish behavior and have begun to deal with it before God, now it is time to reconcile these issues with your spouse. My suggestion is to obey the command of the Apostle James. “Confess your trespasses to one another, and pray for one another, that you may be healed” (James 5:16).
If you want your marriage to be healed, this is what you must do. Why is this action important? Because this is what Christians do when there has been an offense. What would actually happen if you were to confess what God has shown you concerning your own selfish behavior and ask your spouse for forgiveness and prayer for change in your life? What would be the response from your spouse to this kind of humility and honesty? Don’t you think that your mate would respond in a loving and gracious way? Wouldn’t this action bring healing to your relationship and a new depth of intimacy and love?
God requires this kind of humility and honesty in our relationships. Without it He will not bless your attempt to change these areas of your life. Solomon declared, “He who covers his sins will not prosper, but whoever confesses and forsakes them will have mercy” (Prov. 28:13). Don’t let the sin of pride keep you from making a complete break with your selfish behavior.
In addition, when you confess your needs to your spouse you will not only attain a deeper intimacy with one another, but you will also receive the added benefit of his or her prayer support. Notice the rest of James 5:16. “The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much.” Prayer together will avail great things that you have not yet seen. Don’t you want this kind of help for your personal struggles with selfishness? What depth of intimacy could result if you could pray together about these issues! Don’t miss this means to oneness.
5. Choose to love. In the proverb that I just quoted, two things are necessary for God (or anyone for that matter) to show mercy to someone: confessing and forsaking. Confession enables you to resolve the issue with your spouse, and the forsaking of selfish behavior ensures your mate that you mean business. Choosing to love in circumstances in which you were formerly living selfishly is the only way you will be able to forsake selfish behavior. Forsaking is the choice to love.
Let me suggest a simple and practical way to begin choosing to love. Go back again to your list of selfish behaviors and simply begin to do the exact opposite of every item listed. As I shared with you previously, selfishness is completely contrary to love. Therefore, if you have demonstrated selfishness when your spouse has asked for your help around the house, you must turn and choose to lovingly give when the next request comes. If you use anger to selfishly intimidate, put this to death by the Holy Spirit and allow His love to begin to control you. If you struggle with demanding your way, turn and begin to compromise. When a decision must be made over issues that really make no difference, allow your mate to make the choice instead of insisting on your way.
Remember, your ultimate example must be Jesus Christ, who “did not please Himself” (Rom. 15:3). He chose to love each one of us to the point of laying down His own life in service to the Father. If you sincerely care for your spouse, you will serve and give of yourself in the same manner. May you have the heart to do as He has done for you!
Click here if you missed Finding the Root of Your Marital Problems, Part II
If you would like more information on the marriage ministry of Pastor Steve Carr or his book Married and How To Stay That Way, please come and visit us on the Internet at www.covenantkeepers.org