We have found the enemy, and it is us.
Few remember the cartoons of yesteryear. Pogo was as commonly read in the 1940’s and 1950’s as the Dagwood cartoon is today. It depicted characters commenting on themselves and their situations in life. The comment above which is attributed to Pogo, one of the cartoon characters, struck a chord with me then and has had numerous applications in my life since!
As disciples of Jesus Christ, we have been given a commission to make disciples. (Matthew 28:19-20) This involves going (literally, as you go), bringing others into identification with Christ and teaching them to observe his commands. Some have used the three words; evangelizing, establishing, and equipping to describe this process. Our success in doing this is contingent, however, on what the Lord asks of us in Matthew 4:19. “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.” Our responsibility is to follow Him. It is His responsibility to make us fishers of men. If we are a fisher of men, it is because we are following Him. If we are not a fisher of men, it is because we are, in some way, not following Him. Before we follow Him, however, there are two critical steps we must take. He describes these in Luke 9:23. “And he said to them all, if any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me.” There is a progression of three items in this verse. Before we can follow Him, we must take up our cross daily. Before we take up our cross, we must deny self. We have, finally, found our enemy and it is us (self)! (We have, in fact, three enemies in our Christian lives. These are the devil, whom we are to resist (James 4:7), the world, which we are told not to love (I John 2:15-16), and the flesh, or self. These three always act in concert, not alone. It is about this last enemy, self, for which these comments are addressed.)
G. Campbell Morgan’s words in the Westminster Pulpit regarding denial of self are as follows. “Denial of self is the hidden and internal process, the taking up of the cross is the outward and external manifestation. If I may adapt and use in this connection old and familiar words, I would say that the taking up of the cross is the outward and visible sign of the inward and spiritual grace of self-denial. What is self-denial? Jesus says everything when he speaks, and there is nothing more to be said; our danger is that we minimize when we explain. To deny self is to say no to every wish that comes out of the personal life. To deny self is radical; it goes down to the root of things. A man may practice self-denial all his life and never deny himself. A man may practice self-denial in this and that respect and all the while his self- centeredness is strengthened. Jesus did not say, Exercise self-denial in externalities. He said, Deny self. Have done with choosing, wishing, planning, arranging for self Choose no more; will no more, except to will that God shall will. I deny self when I hand over the keys of the citadel to the King and say, Enter and reign in every chamber of the being, in all the possibilities of the soul.”
The following words are written anonymously and serve as a reminder to us of what dying to self looks like in our lives. I never read them without coming away with a conviction that I have yet a long journey ahead in the path of self-denial. May they, as well, guide your steps in the paths of dying to our enemy, which is self.
DYING TO SELF
When you are forgotten, or neglected, or purposely set at naught, and you don’t sting and hurt with the insult or 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 opinions 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 impunctuality, any annoyance; when you stand face-to-race with waste, folly, extravagance, spiritual insensibility-and endure it as Jesus endured- THAT IS DYING TO SELF.
When you are content with any food, any offering, any climate, any society, any solitude, any raiment, any interruption by the Will of God, THAT IS DYING TO SELF.
When you never care to refer to yourself in conversation, or to record your own good words, or itch after commendations, 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 in desperate circumstances, THAT IS DYING TO SELF.
When you can receive correction and reproof from one of less stature that 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.
Are you dead yet? In these last days, the Spirit would bring us to the cross. “That I may know him….being made conformable unto His death.” Phil. 3:10
In Christ, Richard Spann