The Self-Life – The Hindrance to the Spiritual Life
Many Christians feel that their life is not right. They long to have their life put right, and ask the question, “Is it possible to live as God would have us do?” We desire to come and show them exactly what it is that is wrong, and exactly what it is that God is willing and able to do for them, and then to bring them to take the step by which they pass out of the wrong state into the life that is well pleasing to God. This is our work, and I do pray you in great love, every one, to set aside any tendency to come and merely to listen to the exposition of truth.
We have such a terrible habit of going to church to listen and to learn and to think, while the heart often remains untouched,that we get into the habit of listening to the most solemn things without any practical result. Let us try and come into God’s presence tonight, and in His presence to say, “If there is anything wrong about me I pray God to set it right.” Let there be in our hearts a hungering after righteousness.
Let us look at the two sides of the Christian life, the carnal, fleshly side, in which a believer is continually sinning, and then at the spiritual side in which the Holy Spirit helps a man to conquer and makes a man really a spiritual man. Yesterday evening we went on to look at the spiritual side and we found in Romans eight the description of what the Holy Spirit will do for a believer who gives way to Him.
The Holy Spirit will make him a free man, free from the law of sin and death. The Holy Spirit will dwell in him, will lead him and teach him to walk after Him as his guide. The Holy Spirit will come into him as a Divine life power to mortify and make dead the deeds of the body, and the Holy Spirit will come into him to bear a definite, heavenly, living witness that He is in him.
This morning we went further. How will such a life look when a man has to act it out in his daily walk, and we took one word as the standard God gives: “The fruit of the Spirit is love.” We said if the Holy Spirit comes and fills a man, the man will live a life full of love amid all difficulties and trials and temptations.
And now this evening comes the question’ if that be true, if the Holy Spirit will set me free from the law of sin and death; if the Holy Spirit will mortify live that life? If love be the fruit of the Holy Spirit and I have the Holy Spirit given me in conversion, why is it I do not live such a life of perfect love, and that so few live it?’
There must be some terrible hindrance. And so there is. The hindrance is just one word, one little word of four letters, “s-e-l-f.” The life of God and the life of Christ and the life of the Holy Spirit are all waiting to come into you. But on one condition: you must lose your own life. Give it up and God will give you the new life. But if you allow self to live in you and have its way even partially, it hinders the work of the Holy Spirit and though you have the Holy Spirit in you as a child of God He cannot do His work in power.
Now I want to tell you how you can get rid of this hindrance. My text is Matt 16:24. “Then said Jesus unto His disciples, if any man will come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.” What must he do? He must deny himself; he must deny self. If a man wants to be my disciple he must deny himself and he must take up his cross and follow me. We all, by nature, follow self. Every man does it. It is natural.
Christ says we must give up self, must forever give up listening to self, and listen to Him alone. Take Him in the place of self, give up the life of self and take Him to be your life. Let us try and understand the connection in which this wonderful word comes to us. You remember how in Caesarea Philippi, Christ asked His disciples, “Whom do men say that I, the son of man, am?”
They gave Him the different answers that men were giving, and He then said, “But whom say ye that I am?” Peter answered for the rest, “Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God.” And listen to what Christ said, “Blessed art thou, Simon Barjona, because thou knowest this. Thou art blessed because thou knowest that I am the Son of God.” And what more does He say? “Flesh and blood has not revealed this unto you but my Father which is in heaven.”
God, my Father has been teaching you by His Holy Spirit and you have learned that I am the Son of God. The disciples did not learn it in their catechism in those days; their mothers did not teach it to them; Christ, Himself, did not say in so many words, ” Now remember, I am the Son of God.” But He lived as the Son of God, and God taught them to know Him as Christ. Then Christ goes on and says those two wonderful things. “Upon this rock will I build my church,” and “I will give unto thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven. ” Think of those four things spoken to Peter. “Blessed art thou, Simon Barjona,” “The Father Himself hath revealed it to thee,” “On this rock I will build My church,” and “I will give unto thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven.” And now what comes ? Peter is up in the heights. Peter has learned a great heavenly lesson. And what comes now? Christ begins to tell them, You must know what must come.
They are going to take me and kill me. I will have to be crucified but the third day I will rise again.” Peter said, “God forbid. Far be that from Thee.” thyself. Why dost thou speak thus, Lord? Pity thyself. That shall never be.” But Christ says, “Get thee behind me, Satan.” It is such a hellish thing that you have said, it is Satan that has taught you, will you learn a lesson now? The same man who an hour ago had been saying things that God had taught him began to say things that the Devil had taught him. What a wonderful thing is a converted but unsatisfied man; he has the Spirit of God in him but he has a deal of the Devil in him, too. Then Christ says, after having spoken about His own cross and His own death, “If any man will come after me, let him take up his cross.” That means “Peter, it is not only I that have got to die, but you, too.
Not only I must be crucified, but you must take up your cross. Peter, you are frightened at the thought that I am going to be crucified, but you have to be crucified, too.” Poor Peter. “If a man wants to be my disciple he must deny himself and must take up his cross and he must follow me.” What a come down for Peter. Peter was up in the heavens. Peter was living in the higher life, rejoicing in that wonderful word, that Christ calls him a blessed man because he knew that He was the Son of God. And why this come down? Just because Peter has not given up all his thoughts to the teaching of God and the Holy Spirit. Peter knows a great deal about Christ and his kingdom of glory but he does not believe in His crucifixion.
There are so many Christians who believe in a thousand wonderful and beautiful things about Christ but they do not believe the chief thing of all, that of taking their cross and being crucified with Jesus. Listen, this word of Jesus teaches us, as well as Peter, what it is that hinders us from understanding Him and enjoying Him, and He teaches us how to get rid of this trouble.
Let me ask these questions.
1. Where does it come from, this self that has got to be denied and crucified?
2. What are its works?
3. How can it be conquered?
4. What have I got to do?
1. But where did I get that self from?
Did not God create that self in me? Of course He did. Every man and angel has got a self that comes from God’s hands. God gave me a self-determining power by which I can say what I want to do with myself, and what for? That every day I may come to God and bring my But what a ruin sin has wrought.
Listen for a moment while I speak to you of something that was before ever man came on this world. The throne of God was surrounded by bright spirits, all pure and perfect. One of the brightest of these pure spirits began to look at himself and wonder at all the beauty and glory God had given him. He admired himself and pride came into his heart and he began to say, “I am as God.”
He turned his desire from God to self; he thought, “It is not right that I should be subject to this God.” And he lifted up himself and said, “I, the morning star, the prince of light, am I not the chief among the powers of heaven?” He turned away from God to self and pride entered his heart, and he fell out of light into darkness, and was changed from an angel into a devil, from the brightness of heaven into the blackness and outer darkness of everlasting hell.
That is what pride, that is what self did for that angel. Instead of turning to God he turned to himself and he fell. Then God, to restore all this glory, created man that in man His own Son might show forth His glory. He said to man, “I have given you a self, but let that self always turn to me and you shall always stand in the light. Do my will and I will fill you with life and blessing everlasting.
But alas, the Devil came to man because he hated him as he thought of what man might become as the king of the world. He came to Eve and said, “If you eat of that fruit you will be like God.” He not only spoke these words, but in and with these words he breathed into her ear and heart the very poison of hell, his own hellish pride. He said to her, “You can be like God, go and eat of that tree.” Alas, she and Adam harkened and the very poison of hell entered into their blood and that self that lifted itself against God, and turned away from Him, became their nature.
And so you and I, who are born of that Adam and Eve, we have in us a self that exalts itself against God.
We know too little what an evil nature we have within. We have an evil nature that exalts itself against God and over our fellowmen. The whole history of the human race is nothing but one great struggle, man against man, each trying to exalt himself higher than the other. One wants more power, another more learning, another more culture, another more pleasure than anyone else around.
Alas! Self is the God that rules the world. There is not one exception. Oh, if we were but conscious that we have this evil self within us how we would cry, “Deliver me from this monster, O, my God.” If there were to come creeping along here a poisonous snake and making straight for some one, how we would jump away and say, “Kill that beast, deliver me from its poison.” But alas, we are blind and run into our danger.
We have within us a self that has its poison from Satan, that has its poison from hell and yet we cherish and nourish it. What do we not do to please self and nourish self, and we make the devil within us strong. This is the reason why Christ calls us entirely to deny self. To deny self means that you must have nothing to do with him.
You ask why. Christ says you must take a cross and nail self to the cross. You ask why. Ah, you will never do what Christ says until you see the satanic origin of self, as a horrible rebellion against God. That is its origin, it comes out of hell and drags us back to hell.
2. Now look at its works. Look in your own life. What are the works of self?
They are chiefly these three. self-will, self-trust and self- exaltation.
First let us look at self-will.
God created me with a will, and there is nothing in man more noble than a will. Sometimes people speak about having a broken will or too strong a will. If my will was ten times as strong as it is, it would not be too strong if it is given up to God. It is the great power with which a man can serve God. If it is not given up to God then the Devil has power to move it and self leads that will continually to sin against God.
Self-will rules in the life of every natural man. He says, “I do what I like and I have a right to do what I like.” But I find among Christians that there are hundreds, who, if you ask, “Did ever you understand that when you became a Christian it was on the condition that you promise never to seek your own will?”
They will all tell you they never understood that. But that is just what Christ demands. You are to do nothing but what God wills. You are to give up your will; self is to have no say in your life.
That is the whole secret of salvation, to give up your will, your self, to God. His will is the manifestation of what is in His heart, and if I take my will like an empty cup and say, “Fill my will with Thy will,” then I live a blessed life. Many say, “I think I am a Christian and I must of course do the will of God in important things, Many say, “I think I am a Christian and I must of course do the will of God in important things, No. Self is the cause of all our sin against God, and all our wretchedness.
Self-pleasing is another of the works of self. The whole life of man and nature has the pleasing of self as its moving principle. And even Christians seek far more to please themselves than to please God. No wonder that self becomes strong and that for its sake we sin unceasingly against the law of love to God and man.
self-trust, is there a more remarkable example than Peter. Christ said to Peter, ” Before the cock shall crow, thou shalt deny me thrice.” Peter said, “They may all forsake Thee but I will never leave Thee,” and yet he denied Christ with an oath. How did that come? Simply from self-confidence. Peter could not believe of himself that he would deny his Lord. He said, ” Thou knowest Lord that I love Thee.
I have stood so much persecution for Thy sake. I will never deny Thee. I will go to the death with Thee. ” What was that but self-confidence? He trusted in himself and he fell. A young person often says, ” Six months ago I gave myself to the Lord and I had such a bright and happy time serving Jesus, but some way or other I got cold and went back and what is the reason?” My answer always is, “Only one thing, you trusted yourself.” He says, “No, I certainly did not. I felt that I was a poor feeble creature and could do nothing. I did not trust myself.” Ah, but my friend you did. If you had trusted Christ, He never could have let you fall.
You trusted in yourself. You trusted in your earnestness, in your integrity or something in yourself, and then came all the trouble. Just so with many of you who tell me, “I cannot live the life I want to live.” Here is the simple reason. You have been trusting self, trusting to be able by mere effort and mere watchfulness to gain the victory. If you trusted Christ you would not fall. You have not given up self to the death, to trust in God alone. Does not your heart begin to say, ” God have mercy upon me and deliver me from self. If it has been self that has been tempting me to look away from Jesus, that has been coming between Jesus and myself, oh God deliver me.”
The third form of self is self-exaltation, pride. Jesus said, “How can ye believe, who take honor one from another.” I am not speaking now of the people of the world. All the wretched history of the world is owing to pride. But I am speaking about Christians. How much of touchiness there is about our position. If a man does not give me the honor I think I ought to have; if he puts me down to a lower place than I expect, how sensitive I am.
How much envy and jealousy there is. Where does this come from? Self-exaltation. I ask you believers, do not you know what it is to have a heart in which there is constantly coming in the thought, “There I was clever. I knew how to manage those folks. There I made a beautiful prayer. “
How often those things are entertained and allowed free passage for a time. How often in the presence of God we exalt our selves. A man can be proud about a very small matter. He can be proud of a fine head of hair, a fine suit of clothes, his learning or money. There is nothing on earth that a man cannot be proud about. A man may ride on a very fine horse and be proud about that. The beast does not make the man a bit better and yet he is proud about it. That is just the way the Devil befools a man.
This accursed self from hell is at the root of all this. A seeking of our own honor. God’s word says, God resisteth the proud. Self as seen has corrupted it,and is in its very nature proud and can be nothing else, therefore Christ says, deny self. Does not your heart begin to cry, “How can I get free from self and sin?”
3. How can it be conquered?
Christ tells us: “Let a man deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.”
He puts the three words together, but they all amount to the same thing. The first is, let him deny himself. Let him say, “I have nothing to do with self. I will not listen to it. I will ignore it.” That is what Peter said when he denied Christ, ” I do not want to be connected with Christ or have anything to do with Him.” So we must say to self, “I have nothing to do with it.” Then Christ says, “Take up the cross.” The cross always means death. Christ could not explain that to them further.
They would not have understood Him. But Christ meant, “Just as I have got to give up my life and be crucified, you will have to be crucified spiritually. ” And that is what Paul says, ‘ ‘ I am crucified with Christ. No longer I but Christ liveth in me.” “And follow me.” Oh, that blessed word. It must be instead of myself, Jesus, Himself. Follow me. Here is a choice you have to make between these two. Shall I follow self or follow Jesus? Please self or please Jesus? Deny self or deny Jesus?
Remember that solemn lesson of Peter. He would not deny self and what did he come to? He denied Jesus. If you do not deny self utterly you will be denying Jesus every day. You will tell the world, I have nothing to do with Jesus just now, I am pleasing myself.” Now Christian, come tonight and make the wonderful exchange. Come and begin to understand what a blessed thing it would be instead of self to follow Jesus.
Peter did follow Jesus, though with many failures, and where did Christ take him? He took him to that place where he denied his Lord that he might learn to know himself thoroughly. He took him to Gethsemane to show him how little he could watch for one hour; then to the cross to show him how little he could suffer with him. Then He took him to the resurrection and showed Himself as the living Christ, who breathed His Spirit into him; then He took him to the ascension mount and said, “I am going to heaven and the Spirit and the fire will come. “
He led him to the place where he received the fullness of the Holy Spirit and then and not until then was self dethroned. How is the reign of self to be cast out? How am I to be delivered from this secret power that I cannot see or root out? Christ says, “Deny self, take up your cross and follow me. ” Deny self. Take up the cross and say, “I desire to be crucified with Christ; I desire to be made conformable to His death,” then follow Christ with your whole heart. Christ will come in and rule.
You know the story of the strong man who kept his house until a stronger came and cast him out. But the stronger one did not stay to dwell. The house was cleansed and garnished but empty. After a time the evil spirit with seven others came in and dwelt there. It is not enough to cast out self; it will not help you unless He comes in; Christ the stronger must come in and dwell there, and then He keeps the house in safety. Let us all deny that cursed self; take up the cross and follow Him. He will take us to the place of safety and victory.
4. And now comes a few words as to what we must do.
Can a man in one moment deny self and be freed from it, or is it the work of a lifetime. Both. You can tonight, if God gives you a sight of the accursedness of self and what self has really been doing all the years of your Christian life, in one step take your place in the position of a man who utterly denies self, and give yourself to be possessed by Jesus. You can do that in one minute. Many do not do this because they are not ready.
They are not willing to confess they have no true insight; that self is the only cause of their sin. But I ask you what else can be the cause of all these sins that have made you unhappy? temper, pride, wilfulness, worldliness, self-pleasing. It is nothing but self. Are you going to confess that tonight? My life might have been full of the Holy Ghost and full of Jesus, full of humility and full of God. But, alas, what has my life been, and all through that cursed evil root of self. I did not know how bad it was and how it was running my whole Christian life.
If I could tear it out of my life and kill it, I would do it if it cost me blood. You cannot do that. But you can do something that is better. You can come and quietly condemn it at the feet of Jesus as an accursed thing. You can cast it down there and say, “Son of God, I follow Thee with my whole heart to the very utter most. I desire to follow Thee to the very depths of death.
I desire to take Thee and let Thee fill my whole being.” Believer, Christ can do it. I know I am speaking in vain if there is any one here who is pretty well contented with himself. Any one who says, ” I am an earnest Christian, I am doing my best. I am not what I ought to be; but I do fairly.” If there is any one here who thinks thus, I have not much hope of his taking this step. But if there is one who says, “I feel sinful, I feel wretched, I cannot live this life any longer. I have denied my Lord Jesus too often al ready by many things I have done; but now no longer.
I have tried hard but have failed. I now see the root of it all. Self has been seeking to conquer its own evil works, and has only been strengthened all the time. Come, my beloved, and bring self and lay it at the feet of Jesus. Cast it into His very bosom and believe tonight that the Son of God is coming into you to be a new self, to be your very life, because He will live in you by His Holy Spirit. Paul says, “It is no longer I but Christ that liveth in me.” You may not be able to explain it, but just take the words of Paul, “I live no longer but Christ liveth in me.” It is no longer the old I, the old self, it is Christ.
Oh that God might give us a sight of what that means. And may God give us grace to take the step. Nothing else can give us peace or make us holy. ‘ ‘ Lord Jesus ! come in.” Shall we say this? Are you willing that your heads and begin by telling God so. And then let God shine into your hearts and let Him show you what a cursed thing this self has been in your life. Let us bow before God.
Read Andrey Murrray’s book – The spiritual Life
Author: Pastor Pat Buckley
Published on: April 24th, 2019 @ 21:24