Christian growth - "dying to self"

Hi Priscilla Tang here. I am a sincerely seeking believer, preparing to embark on a mission-biased work of mine. I am quite equipped and am in love with my Lord.

Recently, I came across this anonymous poem in a Bible-teaching platform and I have questions about the contents of the poem titled, “Living Sacrifice - Dying to Self”. I frankly feel quite unsure of the legitimacies of the “requirements” to die to self according to those ways written there.

Here, I have to say I feel quite intimidated having to confess that I would not really respect a believer who puts himself down that way to prove that he is “dying to self”.
Surely the wisdom that comes from the Holy Spirit would be important to inform such Christians which is the best way to handle each situation, right?

Other questions came to my mind and I feel this is the “safest” place to ask, “What is the purpose of Christians having to die to themselves? What does Jesus have to say regarding this necessity? Are those ways depicted in the poem attached below legit?”

Hope to hear from you all!

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Living Sacrifice - Dying to Self

So, how do we truly present ourselves to God as a living sacrifice? In a nutshell, we must die to our prior selves. This concept is wonderfully presented in this anonymous poem…

When you are forgotten, neglected, or purposely set at naught, and you don’t sting or hurt with the oversight, but your heart is happy being counted worthy to suffer for Christ;

That is dying to self.
When your good is evil spoken of, when your wishes are crossed, your advice disregarded, your opinion ridiculed, and you refuse to let anger rise in your heart or even defend yourself, but take it all in patient, loving silence;
That is dying to self.
When you lovingly and patiently bear any disorder, any irregularity, any annoyance; when you can stand face to face with waste, folly, extravagance, spiritual insensibility, and endure it as Jesus did;
That is dying to self.
When you are content with any food, and offering, any raiment, any climate, any society, any solitude, any interruption by the will of God;
That is dying to self.
When you never care to refer to yourself in conversation or record your own good works or itch after commendation, when you can truly love to be unknown;
That is dying to self.
When you can see your brother prosper and have his needs met, and can honestly rejoice with him in spirit and feel no envy, nor question God, while your own needs are far greater and you are in desperate circumstances;
That is dying to self.
When you can receive correction and reproof from one of less stature than yourself and can humbly submit, inwardly as well as outwardly, finding no rebellion or resentment rising up within your heart;
That is dying to self.

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@mutts! Oh my word, this poem (or whatever it is) just killed me. I, for one, strongly side with you and your hesitation. Thank you so much for posting it, because I’d love to have an honest discussion with anyone who believes this is a good thing.

But let me start with some of my reflections…

I think this poem is more Buddhist than Christian. Jesus was not devoid of emotion…even ones we consider negative, like anger. The ideal that their describing sounds much more like the concept of nirvana than Christ-likeness. According to Merriam-Webster dictionary…

Nirvana is a borrowing from Sanskrit that means “the act of extinguishing” and, in Buddhism, it refers to a state in which desire and one’s conscious attachment to things in secular life (or, in particular, the negative emotions these desires/attachments bring about) are extinguished through disciplined meditation. Once these things are vanquished, peace, tranquility, and enlightenment are said to be fully experienced; ignorance dissolves and the truth becomes fully known.

So, to parallel the words of the poem…when you have no emotional responses (except happiness) to circumstances, congratulations, you’re successfully dead! You have succeeded in transcending your human-ness; as a result, you can no longer relate to any human being. :smirk:

I would contend that it’s not the lack of being moved by circumstances that’s the dying to self, it’s what we choose to do in the face of those circumstances and the resulting emotions due to them that is the dying to self.

Or maybe I’m being too narrow? Maybe ‘dying to self’ looks different for different ‘selves’. What does dying to self look like for a person who possesses a more assertive temperament? Would it look the same as a more passive personality? It probably doesn’t.

I think it simply means that we do what God asks us to do…which could be something we actually want to do. It’s not always something we don’t want to do.

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Good day, Sister!

What you’ve written makes me think of something I read by Charles Gore (1853-1932), who was an Anglican theologian, an author and fellow at Trinity College in Oxford. It was from his work titled, The Sermon on the Mount.

He wrote:

We may have to assert ourselves for the sake of the moral order of the church and of the world. But no one gets true peace, or has really got to the Foundation of things, until, as far as his own dignity is concerned, he is in a position to say, “You can wrong God and you can wrong society; and it may be my duty to stand up for God and for society; but me, as far as I am concerned, you cannot provoke.” That is the ideal to which we have to attain. That is the meekness which is appropriate to sinners like ourselves who know what we deserve, who on a general review of life can seldom feel that we are suffering unmerited wrong; but it is the meekness also of the sinless and righteous one.
And the result of this entire absence of self-assertion is that we can make no claim on the world which God will not at the last substantiate. “Blessed are the meek” - our Lord is here quoting the psalm - “for they shall inherit the earth.” What is an heir? An heir is a person who enters into rightful possession. He is in no fear that any other can ever come and turn him out. He moves at ease among his possessions, because the things that he inherits are really his. No one with a better claim can come to oust him. Now, if we go about the world making claims on society which God does not authorize, refusing to bear what God will have us bear, the day will come when the true Master appears, and we will be exposed to shame. We have made claims which He did not authorize; we have asserted ourselves where He gave us no right or title to assert ourselves; we shall be ousted. But the meek, who ever committed themselves to Him that judges righteously, have nothing to fear.

Saint Francis of Assisi wrote in Little Flowers of St. Francis:

But if we endure not tribulation well, we shall never attain to consolation eternal. It is a meritorious thing and far more blessed to endure injuries and reproaches patiently, without murmuring, for the love of God than to feed a hundred poor men, or to keep a perpetual fast. But what profits it a man, or how does it benefit him, to afflict his body with many fasts, vigils and disciplines, if he cannot endure a little injury from his neighbor? And yet from this might he derive greater reward and higher merit than from all sufferings he might inflict upon himself of his own will; for to endure reproaches and injuries from our neighbor with humble and uncomplaining patience, will purge away our sins more speedily than they could be by a fountain of many tears.
Blessed is the man who has ever before the eyes of his mind the remembrance of his sins and of the favors of God; for he will endure with patience all tribulations and adversities for which he expects so great a consolation. The man who is truly humble looks for no reward from God, but endeavors only to satisfy him in all things, knowing himself to be his debtor; every good thing which he has he acknowledges to come from the free bounty of God, while every evil that befalls him proceeds from his sin alone.

And, William Lawwrote in A Serious Call to a Devout and Holy Life:

Humility does not mean having a lower opinion of ourselves than we deserve, but having a just sense of our weakness and sin. We are too weak of ourselves to do anything, even exist. It is solely the power of God which allows us to do anything, including moving toward him. Thus pride is like theft; the proud take God’s glory to themselves.
To develop personal humility during your meditations, simply examine your life. Suppose that all of your thoughts would suddenly be transparent to the world. If everyone knew what secret motivations corrupt even your most noble actions, you would no longer expect to be respected for your goodness.
Think how shameful the nature of sin is, how great the atonement necessary to cleanse us of its guilt. Nothing less was required than the suffering and death of the Son of God. Is there room for pride while we partake in such a manner as this?
All of us love humility and hate pride - in other people.
Turn your eyes toward heaven and consider how different you are from the angels. They do not contemplate their perfections, but they all have the same joy. Consider how unreasonable it is for human sinners to bask in their positions of respect while the magnificent seraphim give honor to God alone. Let a person who is pleased with himself contemplate our blessed Lord nailed and stretched out upon a cross, comparing himself to that meek and crucified Savior.

In the poem, I think there are nuggets of similar thoughts throughout the excerpts from these writers. It seems to me that there is much truth embedded in the poem, even though it is hard to swallow. The last one can be a particularly hard choice in dying to self - we all want our honors. And, in particular, I can remember the inward struggle of submitting to the true insight and wisdom of a younger, less knowledgeable brother that properly corrected me. But, in the organism of the church, it is not position and knowledge that should rule but truth and agape love - so position and knowledge must submit, if found to be in opposition to truth and love.

Anyway, some initial thoughts. Hope it is helpful!.

What do others think or have to add?

Kevin

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Priscilla,

Something I didn’t add to my earlier post that came to mind is, “No lie is of the truth”. When we consider ourselves, dying-to-self is not, I believe, falsely demeaning ourselves. We are all created uniquely and there is ability given to each of us - some greater and some lesser. Accepting what God has given with thankfulness and meekness and using what he has given us for His work and His glory is a proper application of our service calling. But, in our reasonable service (the form of our service - latreo) of worship (proskuneo - English word prostrate holds the idea), presenting our bodies as a living sacrifice is called for. The idea of willingly sacrificing the parts of me and my desires that don’t align with God’s nature and His plan is in keeping with dying to self. And, many of the items in the poem would fit the bill. But, demeaning ourselves by stating lies about ourselves is not of God. If a great soccer player says he isn’t a great soccer player, that’s a lie and not of the truth, for instance.

Thoughts?

Kevin

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I understand.

…If you actually are able to put your finger on the problem you have with it, your objection may not be well received by those above (who might be possessed by the ideology). Poems like this get written to try to portray one’s concept of Christian life using biblical truths to formulate a straightforward, clear path to walk down. That isn’t necessarily always a bad thing. It’s just an imperfect thing.

Ideologies might be straight and clean and clear but they’re somewhat incomplete, oversimplified and sterile. Life is messier… And God is bigger.

Keep following Him and his word. :yum:

"Consider what God has done: Who can straighten what he has made crooked? " (Ecclesiastes 7:13)

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Thank you for deliberations on this ‘poem’ ( I dont know how else to call it!) I decided not to go into every intricasies to argue for or against it. I believe this can present quite a load of debates. I’d like to ask a simple question : “What are the purposes for a believer to die to self?” Biblical references would help. And I agree very much with KMac, Aren’t there to be expected differences between the “dying to self” of an assertive (very possibly, thoughtful) man and one who is more passive?

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timotto, hi.
Thanks for your very reasoning and rational (in a positive way!) to say that life is much messier than we would like it to be. Furthermore if Christianity was that simple as portrayed, I really would feel much more anxiety and deep angst not knowing what actually pleases my Beloved.
A blessed day to you.

Thank you KMac for your candid thoughts! I also feel that writing smacks heavily of Zen’ism and Buddhism. Every argument below supporting this poem doesnt rid me of my uneasiness with it and its particular ideology no matter how other believers have walked that path. I also agree strongly with @timotto who stands on the cautious side and exhorted us to keep leaning on our (awesome loving, intimately knowing and mightily encompassing - my words!) God who allows this life to be messy like it is! Goodness from the Lord, KMac

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This has been a great question for me to reflect on this morning. :slight_smile: There are so many angles we could take at answering it!

I suppose at the very base of it, dying to self needs to happen so that we can be transformed into the image Christ.

For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that [Christ] might be the firstborn among many brothers. [Romans 8:29 ESV]

I won’t get into those tricky words (foreknew and predestined), but however one understands them, the purpose of those actions by God towards us is so that we can be re-fashioned into the THE image of God…that is, Jesus Christ. In a way, we die to self so that we can be set free to be truly human.

So what would it look like for me, who has a more passive temperament, to be set free from the bondage of my ‘old self’? What would be the most apparent transformations?

In this season of my life, I am witnessing God challenge me to take a more active role in my life…to engage with those around me and to not be afraid to assert my ‘self’…to know and name the desires of my heart – good and evil. While I find this makes me uneasy in a way, some of my more assertive friends chuckle and tell me that they have no problem doing those things. If anything, God is teaching them to wait, which I like to think that I am a champion wait-er. :laughing: When all I want to do sometimes is withdrawal into a hole, God calls me to die to self and meet whatever I want to avoid head-on.

And that’s just one example. There are many other ways that I am learning to put off the old self and put on Christ!

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Good honest answer there! Thanks KMac. My make up is different from you, I simply dont wait well. I can be impulsive and emotionally driven, more like by fear of the unknown. Got a lot to work on, eh. Recently the Lord has been very kind. I happen to be a bad sleeper n I need to sleep longer hours than “normal” ones. Often times I feel quite bad that I dont jz die to self and spring out from the bed covers as soon as my alarm goes and brightly chirp, “Hallelujah!” Recently I made a trip to America and on coming back had very bad jetlag. I would have to sleep at 8, 9pm and get to wake up at 4, 5am. Then as I got acclimatized to my biological clock I now go to bed 11pm and could wake up at 7pm, cheerily, grateful to Him that made me with all my brokenness. So far I have been keeping that streak, finding it not totally impossible to die to meself! Grateful to Him who knows us through n through. Big “Hallelujah!”

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So many questions need to be asked before answering appropriately. Why was the poem offensive? How did it make you feel and why? What particularly?
the poem does not communicate how or even if the author of it is getting their emotions and identity validated through fellowshiping with Christ as a child of God. Even Jesus got validated “This is my beloved Son…” Jesus knows I am human, what I am capable of, and how other people hurt me. Also God uses other humans as vessels of His grace towards me. When people bless me I consider it as God’s grace through them. When people hurt me, I give that hurt to Christ and try not to react poorly back at the person hurting me because my heart is set on Jesus Christ meeting all of my needs and not other people.
What does dying to self mean? thy kingdom come thy will be done. Every single second, every thought every desire is to be prayerfully done with the Holy Spirit to do, think, speak God’s will instead of mine. what is my will? human beings will which needs to die refers to the sinful nature which longs for immediate gratification. our hearts are naturally bent towards finding ways to satisfy the desires of the body, image, reputation apart from trusting in God. three forms of deception: the world offers many ways, our body tells us how it wants to be gratified or comforted and the third is demonic lies which accuse and tempt us towards things that are legitimate, ‘so called good and permissible’, but nevertheless apart from Christ.
the true mark of a mature Christian is measured by how much they are yielding each thought and moment to follow the Holy Spirit wisely and not reacting instinctively with human nature.
The wisest mature Christian leaders often say things like this ‘God sees every possibility, i don’t. how could i possible know what is best? therefore i do not lust after, or hold tightly any preference, desire, agenda or want.’
that poem in my opinion is incredibly mature if it is reflecting a spirit that is set on looking to Christ alone to meet their needs. Each line they give about dying to self is yet another example of how we are tempted to set our hearts on other people and things to meet our needs instead of Christ. They that follow after false gods multiply their sorrows. idolatry is trusting in anyone or anything other than Jesus Christ to meet one’s needs. That is holiness.

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or even stoicism. which teaches to not validate emotions but only intellectual high pursuits. The poem is incomplete because we do not know if the author is actually getting their emotions validated by Christ. we only read about them dying to self. not balanced. perhaps assumed.

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Thank you all for your thoughts. I have been wondering about this ever since I studied the chapter on pantheism in the RZIM Core Module this summer. How does one reconcile dying to self/humility and the fact that we all have that “essential worth” and value because we are loved by God? If you listen to people, sometimes they speak badly about themselves like Kevin illustrated with the soccer player who does not acknowledge his gift of athleticism. Sometimes people can make you feel guilty because of shortcomings.

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To my knowledge “Dying to self” is not a biblical term.

If it is, I would ask for the biblical reference that uses those 3 words together to view it in its context.

That being said it’s not necessarily a disagreeable term to biblical thinking and teaching… Then again, since it’s more of an ideological expression than a biblical term it’s meaning can end up in the neighborhood of ambiguity… leaving room for imaginations to go off track if they are capable of doing so (as we all are). From what I see, the tendency is to try to take the term and try to conceptualize how it fits into other scriptures. And if that’s what we’re doing it’d be good to honestly consider if doing it the other way around might be more fruitful.

I think if there’s a best biblical definition of “dying to self” it might be found in the first part of Romans 12 (copied below). In the biblical text, the reasoning behind why this kind of service is reasonable, points back to Romans 11, which is why the text starts off by saying "I beseech you therefore… "

I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service.And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God. For I say, through the grace given unto me, to every man that is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think; but to think soberly, according as God hath dealt to every man the measure of faith Romans 12 1-…

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Thank you for sharing that. I often am one who tends to hide. Life can be scary sometimes. I have to remind myself every day that God is always here with me and He is bigger than all my fears. Being free to be who we were meant to be is a very comforting and encouraging thought. The RZIM team members speak of this often. That is what I like about RZIM. I find much encouragement here.

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Thy kingdom come thy will be done. Quote from the King Himself.
The way I see life is I have free will. 100% all of me and my effort and 100% God making up for what i lack. God doesn’t want robots. My will is wrong only when it goes against godliness and morality. The closer saints get to God the more aware of their sinful nature they become and that excludes condemnation. Only conviction and greater love for Christ through me. I have experienced visions and God visiting me with His presence and in those moments I’m keenly aware of how profane everything human is just like Isiaiah felt woe is me I’m undone unclean amongst unclean people. Today American Canadian philosophy is ultra sensitive about putting down anyone and that needs to be clearly explained in the context of getting out identity as a loved child of God with intrinsic worth. Are people afraid to preach repentance and holiness out of fear of offending peoples sensibilities? How does the gospel make any sense or be good news if people dont understand the bad news? IE our condition?

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Hi Everyone,

Great chats going on. I wonder if I can throw a couple of thoughts in.

@timotto… I agree that the words “dying to self” aren’t found in the Bible (at least Google didn’t show that up for me), but I think the concept itself is completely biblical. The first link that showed up for me show the following verses that include references or allusions to it, all of which I think have something to say to the idea:

Gal 2:20 I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.

Col 3:5 Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry.

And there were a number of others… the one you mentioned is one (although I think you meant Romans 12), also earlier in Romans

Rom 8:13 For if you live according to the flesh, you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the misdeeds of the body, you will live

But for me the one that really gets the concept as a whole is some words from our Lord Jesus:

Matt 16:24-26 “Then Jesus said to his disciples, ‘Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will find it. What good will it be for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul? Or what can anyone give in exchange for their soul?’”

@mutts… A beautiful question from you for us all to figure out for ourselves in what it means to die to oneself. And thanks for @KMac for being so honest with what that might mean for her. I agree that it would look different for different people. I think you can take any of the above verses and get a picture of what it is to do this, but I will stick with the words of Jesus for where I get my answer to the question.

It’s obviously not a command to literally pick up a cross and follow Jesus… we’re chronologically a little late to do that anyway. But the concept is there in the cross, which is a symbol of death. I don’t think, either, that it is a command that we have to die in a certain way but that we are to (in the words of Romans 12) offer our bodies as a living sacrifice. What does this look like? I think we get clue from the rest of what Jesus says… he says to “deny ourselves” and “follow Jesus”. Jesus himself gives us the ultimate example of what this means further on in the garden of Gethsemane:

Matt 26:39 “My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will.”

Even our Lord struggled with what it was he knew he had to do… but what did he do instead? He followed the will of his Father… and we are to follow Jesus in exactly the same way. It is not about squashing our desires or quelling our emotions, because (as @KMac) has already said, even Jesus had emotions both positive and negative. He also had desires that he had to reign in and refocus. If you remember in Marks gospel especially, Jesus is drawn into healing the sick and ministering physically which is a totally good and holy thing to do, but it was not his purpose laid out by his Father. His purpose was to teach and after praying at various times and in various places he redirected himself to do exactly that.

Denying yourself, I think, comes from putting the Lords will before our own… and the good of others before our own also. But where this gets taken too far is when we say that we must never enjoy ourselves, or take rest, or do anything for ourselves in any way shape or form. All of those things are good and great gifts of God. He gave us things on this earth for us to enjoy, he gave us the example and even commands us to rest, he promises a land flowing with milk and honey, which is not a land in which we only get the bare minimum, but a land where he graciously gives abundance. God WANTS good for us in all things.

The problem comes when we start to think we know what is good and think we know better than God. This is the sinful side of us, the part of us which feels the pull of worldly desires and tries to justify actions to ourselves and others. This will be different for different people… but the common denominator will always be putting the Lords will before our own. Denying ourselves (dying to self) doesn’t mean actively going out of our way to make ourselves miserable; it means putting to death the idea in ourselves that we should be the sole benefactor or final arbiter in our lives… that goes to God.

I think I could write for a very long time on this subject as it is so rich in its depths of application, but hopefully the above puts across what I’m trying to say. Dying to self is to deny in ourselves the concept that we are in charge. It is to cede to God the position of Lord. This will certainly mean sacrifice in our lives as we will definitely have to put to death some of the desires that are in us that are contrary to the Lords will… but hopefully now and definitely in heaven this will mean living joyfully the way that God intended for us to live, according to His will as our creator and sustainer. To HIM be all glory and honour forever and ever.

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I think dying to self is the process of sanctification—becoming conformed to the image of Christ for the sake of others. The process will be different for each of us because we are all self-centered about different things.

For example, I’ve always struggled with the need to be right, or maybe it’s more accurate to say “not wrong.” God has been working on this with me for awhile now (I’m not too quick).

I’ve spent a lot of time with my elderly parents who often remember thing inaccurately due to declining memories. For awhile I tried to correct them as a means of being helpful. But it frustrated them. God taught me it was more important to be loving than right. Then He helped me apply this in all areas of my life. I’m a work in progress.

I think whoever crafted the poem was not trying to communicate Eastern thinking but extreme thinking comparable to the Sermon on the Mount (as mentioned in one of the posts). Jesus said even thinking lustful thoughts is adulterous. It’s taking the standard to the level only Jesus could attain. The writer of the poem is taking the standard to the level we can only attain when we are fully conformed to the image of Christ. When we are emptied of ourself. It’s been awhile since I read it but I think Watchman Née gets into this in The Importance of Brokenness.

At least that’s the context I’m getting when I read the poem.

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:+1::+1:

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Michele,

A couple of years ago, I believe God revealed to me during my devotion on truth that His grace lives in the gap where truth has revealed imperfection. It’s so obvious and simple on its face but the cascading implications are immense to consider. We are to live in truth but not to fear it. We all have our unique imperfections relative to God’s purpose. BUT, the truth of the fact that we don’t measure up is for our good to drive us to a relationship with Jesus by which we can enter into family and through which a spiritual DNA transfer can take place. Over time, as that spiritual DNA transfer, by which we are a new creation, takes hold and infuses our being, our instincts become attuned to God’s nature - we react on impulse in accordance with His nature. That level of being is the hope of our future - that we will be like Him in the same way that we breath, without forebrain focus or scripture research or counsel of brethren, but because we have been completely transformed to the image of Christ, which is our predestined state.

The efficacy of that spiritual DNA transfer taking effect in our lives is exhibited through the trials and offenses we experience and endure as we submit to “thy will be done”.

Thoughts?

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