This is the point I want to bring across. You bring a wonderful word but for me it is lacking in one area. If there is no I am apart from Jesus then why would I want to be saved if salvation is at the cost of self? If a person needs salvation but must sacrifice that unique self that is his alone in order to be saved, what is the point? All we will have is little cloned Jesus’s running around and you and I will be absent, a spiritual type of “attack of the body snatchers”.
I would like to challenge you in one area and it is this; We have an idea of who and what we are that we think/confuse with who we are. In simpler language, there is the idea of self, also called the ego, and then there is that unique, God created, spiritual self that cannot be described, it simply is. Jesus calls/saves us from the ego, that believes it is separate from God and others, to our true self where we are deeply connected to God and others.
This is what allows Paul to tell us in Rom. 7 that it is no longer he, Paul, that sins but the flesh. Paul realised that his true self is, like Jesus, incapable of sinning as his “I am” is as God breathed as Jesus’s is and is “very good” according to Genesis one. When he sins it is the flesh/ego trying to reassert control. In fact, that is the very definition of sin, living out of a false sense of self that sees itself as separate from. Paul therefore calls us to be renewed by the renewing of the mind because the ego is a construct of neural pathways rooted in the brain/mind and we have to bring the mind back into submission to the true self.
Paul then goes on in Rom. 8 to say that those whom God had saved He will sanctify and then glorify. Why? So that Jesus may be the first born among many brethren. He is our older brother who calls us not to be Him but to become like Him in that we choose to live out of our own unique, God created I am deeply connected to God and others. So when we live and move and have our being (I am) in Him it means we embrace Him as the example, full revelation of who we are when we live out of a deeply connected true self.
So for me, you are absolutely correct, before we can start doing we need to be anchored/centred in our true, God created self just like our big brother. We need to be willing to embrace the pain, despair, rejection, hopelessness that is so often the cross God sends us to free us from the ego, the false self that is separate, alone and vulnerable.