Writer CJ Mahaney explains in his book on dealing with criticism that when someone speaks a jarring word toward us, the main reason the word is jarring or painful is that it has attacked an area that is trying to thrive.
Though Christians are to be dead to themselves and alive to Jesus Christ (Galatians 2:20), there are often parts of my soul that want to live apart from Jesus. I still want to look good. I still want to be thought smart, winsome, and talented. But the Gospel of Jesus Christ is meant to cut the legs out of all human posturing. The Gospel tells me that I am an undeserving sinner, far worse than I ever could admit, but the one person who did not deserve to die (Jesus) died for me (and unimaginable act of love on the Cross). So, why am I still trying to live the old life? Answer: there's still more of me that needs to die (see Romans 6). Upon reflection, here are some of the areas where Christ still needs to kill me:
1) Finding satisfaction in my work. I grew up in a home where everyone works. I started to help mow the lawn when I was 6 and got my first job at 13 (and have had a few weeks off here and there now for 17 years). I can remember that 3 of the hardest times in my life were when I was seeking employment and no one seemed like they wanted me (just married, looking for part-time work in grad school, and pursuing my first senior pastor position). And if I couldn't work, then I wasn't valuable. It's as if Jesus isn't enough. I need a job and Jesus.
2) Seeking joy in the praise of others. When I work on something (a sermon, cleaning the house, doing a good deed, etc.), I want the world to lift up my name in praise. I want them to love me and slap me on the back. But why am I not serving to find my joy in Christ? And as important, why would I want people to find their joy in me when I know full-well that others will be broken and empty unless they find their joy in Jesus as well (Jeremiah 2:12-13)?
God disciplines those he loves (Hebrews 12). I expect, hope (with fear and trembling), and desire the Lord to root these thriving parts of me out.