Giving up self

“For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will save it”

From John Woolman’s Journal:

“No man can see God and live.” This was spoken by the Almighty to Moses the prophet and opened by our blessed Redeemer. As death comes on our own wills, and a new life is formed in us, the heart is purified and prepared to understand clearly, “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.”     I then heard a soft melodious voice, more pure and harmonious than any I had heard with my ears before; I believed it was the voice of an angel who spake to the other angels; the words were, “John Woolman is dead.” I greatly wondered what that heavenly voice could mean. I believed beyond doubting that it was the voice of a holy angel, but as yet it was a mystery to me.

I then said, “I am crucified with Christ, and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. And the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” Then the mystery was opened and I perceived there was joy in heaven over a sinner who had repented, and that the language “John Woolman is dead,” meant no more than the death of my own will.

“I knew Jesus, and He was very precious to my soul; but I found something within me that would not keep sweet and patient and kind. I did what I could to keep it down, but it was there. I besought Jesus to do something for me, and when I gave Him my will, He came to my heart and took out all that would not be patient, all that would not be kind, and — then He shut the door.” (George Fox)

One day as I walked to church, followed by a footman I was met by a poor man. I went to give him alms; he thanked me but refused them and then spoke to me in a wonderful manner of God and of divine things. He displayed to me my whole heart, my love to God, my charity, my too great fondness for my beauty and all my faults; he told me it was not enough to avoid hell, but that the Lord required of me the utmost purity and height of perfection. My heart assented to his reproofs. I heard him with silence and respect, his words penetrated my very soul. When I arrived at the church I fainted away. I have never seen the man since. (Jeanne Guyon)

My senses were continually mortified, and under perpetual restraint. To conquer them totally, it is necessary to deny them the smallest relaxation, until the victory is completed. We see those who content themselves practicing great outward austerities, yet by indulging their senses in what is called innocent and necessary, they remain forever unsubdued. Austerities, however severe, will not conquer the senses. To destroy their power, the most effectual means is, in general, to deny them firmly what will please, and to persevere in this, until they are reduced to be without desire or repugnance. If we attempt, during the warfare, to grant them any relaxation, we act like those, who, under pretext of strengthening a man who was condemned to be starved to death, should give him from time to time a little nourishment. It indeed would prolong his torments, and postpone his death. It is just the same with the death of the senses, the powers, the understanding, and self-will. If we do not eradicate every remains of self subsisting in these, we support them in a dying life to the end. It is only by a total death to self can we be lost in God.

When the soul is docile, and leaves itself to be purified, and emptied of all that which it has of its own, opposite to the will of God, it finds itself by little and little, detached from every emotion of its own, and placed in a holy indifference, wishing nothing but what God does and wills. This never can be effected by the activity of our own will, even though it were employed in continual acts of resignation. These though very virtuous, are so far one’s own actions and cause the will to subsist in a multiplicity, in a kind of separate distinction or dissimilitude from God. When the will of the creature entirely submits to that of the Creator, suffering itself to be totally surmounted and destroyed, by the operations of love; this consummates it in that of God, and purifies it from all narrowness, dissimilitude, and selfishness.

Indeed, the manner in which He corrects His chosen, must be felt, or it is impossible to conceive how dreadful it is. In my attempt to explain it, I shall be unintelligible, except to experienced souls. It is an internal burning, a secret fire sent from God to purge away the fault, giving extreme pain, until this purification is complete. It is like a dislocated joint, which is in incessant torment, until the bone is replaced. This pain is so severe, that the soul would do anything to satisfy God for the fault, and would rather be torn in pieces than endure the torment. Sometimes the soul flies to others, and opens her state that she may find consolation. Thereby she frustrates God’s designs toward her. It is of the utmost consequence to know what use to make of the distress. The whole of one’s spiritual advancement depends on it. We should at these seasons of internal anguish, obscurity and mourning, co-operate with God, endure this consuming torture in its utmost extent (while it continues) without attempting to lessen or increase it. Bear it passively, nor seek to satisfy God by anything we can do of ourselves. To continue passive at such a time is extremely difficult, and requires great firmness and courage. I knew some who never advanced farther in the spiritual process because they grew impatient, and sought means of consolation. (Jeanne Guyon)

Any cheapening of the price of Pentecost would be a disaster of untold magnitude. The company in the upper room, upon whom Pentecost fell, had paid for it the highest price. In this they approached as near as possible to Him who had paid the supreme price in order to send it. Do we ever really adequately realize how utterly lost to this world, how completely despised, rejected and outcast was that company? Their master and leader had just passed, so to speak, through the “hangman’s rope,” at the hands of the highest civilization of the day. Their Calvary was complete, and so a complete Pentecost came to match it. The latter will resemble the former in completeness. We may, therefore, each of us say to ourselves: As thy cross, so will thy Pentecost be. God’s way to Pentecost was via Calvary. Individually it must be so today also. The purity and fulness of the individual Pentecost must depend upon the completeness of the individual Calvary. This is an unalterable principle. (Arthur Booth-Clibborn)

O Lord, who teachest by sorrow, and woundest us, to heal; and killest us, lest we die from Thee. (St. Augustine)

Self is the opaque veil that hides the face of God from us. It can be removed only in spiritual experience, never by mere instruction. We may as well try to instruct leprosy out of our system. There must be a work of God in destruction before we are free. We must invite the cross to do its deadly work within us. We must bring our self-sins to the cross for judgment. (A.W. Tozer)

Back of the story of achievement and success there is an altar fire where a heart has been consumed. (A.B. Simpson)

Trust Him to be the power to slay self. Hand self over to Christ and say, “Here is the culprit, Lord. I want you to still these throbbing pulses of passion, and let peace come instead. I cannot do it. But I give You the right to slay me in Your own way.”    The world says, “Look out for yourself”; but Jesus says, “Not I, but Christ.” Not only must the old self be crucified, but the new man with all his strength and self-confidence, too, must die. Not only Ishmael must go out and be an outcast, but Isaac must be yielded and not hold up his head again. (A.B. Simpson)

It is so easy to talk about this. The longer I live, the longer I know myself and friends, the more thoroughly I am satisfied that this is the secret of failure among Christians. Too many come a little way with Jesus but stop at Gethemane and Calvary. They follow him in His ministry in Galilee. They loved the feeding of the thousands, and said, “What a blessed king he would make!” But when He stood and talked about Calvary and the cross for them as well as for Himself, and how they must go with Him and go with Him all the way, they say, “This is a hard saying, who can bear it?”

This is where multitudes have stopped short. They have said yes to self and no to God, instead of saying no to self and yes to God. It is so much easier to talk of this truth than to live it. It is no use to talk about it unless the Holy Spirit shall bring it home to us. (A.B. Simpson)

“The self is given to us that we may sacrifice it: it is ours, that we, like Christ, may have somewhat to offer–not that we should torment it, but that we should deny it; not that we should thwart it, but that we should abandon it utterly: then it can no more be vexed. ‘What can this mean? we are not to thwart, but to abandon?’ It means this: we must refuse, abandon, deny self altogether as a ruling, or determining, or originating element in us. We are no more to think ‘what should I like to do?’ but ‘what would the Living One have me do?’ ” (George MacDonald)

“I cannot imagine how religious persons can live satisfied without the practice of the presence of God. For my part I keep myself retired with Him in the depth of the center of my soul as much as I can; and while I am so with Him I fear nothing; but the least turning from Him is insupportable. This exercise does not much fatigue the body: it is, however, proper to deprive it sometimes, nay often, of many little pleasures which are innocent and lawful: for God will not permit that a soul which desires to be devoted entirely to Him should take other pleasures than with Him; that is more than reasonable.”

“It is necessary to put our whole trust in God, laying aside all other cares; so when by this exercise of the presence of God we may continue with Him our commerce of love, persevering in His holy presence: one while by an act of praise, of adoration, or of desire; one while by an act of resignation, or thanksgiving; and in all the manner which our spirit can invent. Be not discouraged by the repugnance which you may find in it from nature; you must do yourself violence. At the first, one often thinks it lost time; but you must go on, and resolve to persevere in it to death, notwithstanding all the difficulties that may occur.”

“I do not say that therefore we must put any violent constraint upon ourselves. No, we must serve God in a holy freedom, we must do our business faithfully, without trouble or disquiet; recalling our mind to God mildly and with tranquility, as often as we find it wandering from Him.” (Brother Lawrence)

As he grew older, he came to realize that he had to face up to temptation and defeat in his Christian walk. Perhaps his greatest weakness was his temper. He said to himself, “This won’t do in a child of God,” and he determined to meet God at every opportunity. Setting aside ten days, he presented his body a living sacrifice. He prayed, wept, soaked in the Word, and pleaded the promises. He faced up to the cross until he began to understand what Paul meant in Galatians 2:20: “I have been crucified with Christ, and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me”. This is how he described the experience to me: “God worked the old Wigglesworth-nature out and worked the new Jesus-nature in.” (Smith Wigglesworth)

To John Carter, Smith said: “Before God could bring me to this place, He has broken me a thousand times. I have wept. I have travailed many a night till God broke me. It seems that until God has mowed you down, you never can have this longsuffering for others.” Wigglesworth’s frequent prayer was to be emptied of self and filled with God: “The trouble with many people is that they never have gotten out so that He could get in.” (Smith Wigglesworth)

When Smith Wigglesworth stayed in our home once, he came down early one morning and told me, “God spoke to me on your bed.”  “What did he say?” I asked. “He said, ‘Wigglesworth, I am going to burn you all up, until there is no more Wigglesworth, only Jesus.’ ” Standing at the foot of our stairs, he raised his hands to heaven, and with tears running down his cheeks, he cried, “O God, come and do it! I don’t want them to see me anymore–only Jesus!” (Smith Wigglesworth)

Spiritual “Agags” have to be hewed to pieces, not changed into Israelites (I Sam. 15:32). Regeneration renews my soul, imparts power to resist and conquer sin; but does not rid me of the presence of depravity in the heart. This is done by a work of removal or destruction. It is called a circumcision, that is, a cutting out and off of something within our natures. And again, it is called a baptism of fire. We all know what fire does-that it consumes. (B. Carradine)

Paul exhorts us to put off “the old man,” which is corrupt. Very probably there will be a disagreement about the name, while there is perfect recognition of the existence of the thing itself. It gives every converted man certain measures of inward disturbance and trouble. Mind you, I do not say that it compels him to sin, for this “something” can be kept in subjection by the regenerated man. But it always brings disturbance, and often leads to sin. At times there is a momentary response to certain temptations that brings not merely a sense of discomfort, but a tinge and twinge of condemnation. All these may be, in turn, conquered by the regenerated man; but there is battle, and wounds; and often after the battle a certain uncomfortable feeling within that it was not a perfect victory. It is a something that prevents a constant, abiding, and unbroken rest within the soul. Rest there is; but it is not continuous, unchanging, and permanent. It is a something that makes religious assemblies sing “Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it.” It is an echo that is felt to be left in the heart, in which linger sounds that ought to die away forever. It is a thread or cord-like connection between the soul and the world, although the two have drifted far apart. It is a middle ground, a strange medium upon which Satan can and does operate, to the inward distress of the child of God, whose heart at the same time is loyal to his Savior, and who feels that if he died even then he would be saved.

Now that something I wanted out of me. What I desired was not the power of self-restraint, but a spirit naturally and unconsciously meek. Not so much a power to keep from all sin, but a deadness to sin. I wanted to be able to turn upon sin and the world the eye and ear and heart of a dead man. I wanted perfect love to God and man, and a perfect rest in my soul all the time. This “something” that prevented this life I laid on the altar, and asked God to consume it as by fire. (B. Carradine)

“He leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.”

The Christian delights to be obedient, but it is the obedience of love, to which he is constrained by the example of his Master.  “He leadeth me.” The Christian is not obedient to some commandments and neglectful of others; he does not pick and choose, but yields to all.  Observe, that the plural is used- “the paths of righteousness.” Whatever God may give us to do we would do it, led by his love.  Some Christians overlook the blessing of sanctification, and yet to a thoroughly renewed heart this is one of the sweetest gifts of the covenant.  If we could be saved from wrath, and yet remain unregenerate, impenitent sinners, we should not be saved as we desire, for we mainly and chiefly pant to be saved from sin and led in the way of holiness.  All this is done out of pure free grace; “for his name’s sake.”  It is to the honour of our great Shepherd that we should be a holy people, walking in the narrow way of righteousness.  If we be so led and guided we must not fail to adore our heavenly Shepherd’s care. (C.H. Spurgeon)

Outward iniquities are in most cases soon conquered, but inward constitutional sins are hard to overcome. One man is proud, and oh, what prayers and tears it costs him to bring the neck of old pride to the block! Another man is naturally grasping, his tendency is to covetousness, and how he has to humble himself before God, and to cry out and lament because his gold will stick to his fingers, and will rust and corrode within his soul! Some are of a murmuring spirit, and so rebel against God, and to conquer a spirit of contention and murmuring is no easy task. Envy too, that horrible monster, so obnoxious in a Christian, why, I think I have known God’s ministers indulge in it, and it has not always been easy to kill it. To let another star eclipse you in the firmament, or suffer another servant of God to do more for him and to have greater success than yourself, is too often a bitter trial when it should be a theme for joy. Yet, brethren, cost us what it may, these sins must die. Violent may be the death and stern the struggle, but we must nail that right hand, aye, and drive home the nail; we must pierce the left hand too, and fasten the foot, yes, and nail that other foot, and hammer fast the nail; and while the struggling victim seeks to live, we must take care that no nail starts, but run to the Master, if it must be so, and pray him to drive the nails yet closer home, that the monster of the old man may not in any one of its members regain its liberty. It will be a violent death, indeed, if my inward experience be a real sample of what we are to expect. (C.H. Spurgeon)

Our old self is crucified: Is put to death, as if on a cross. In this expression there is a personification of the corrupt propensities of our nature represented as ‘our old self,’ our native disposition, etc. The picture is here carried out; and this old self, this corrupt nature, is represented as having been put to death in an agonizing and torturing manner. The pains of crucifixion were perhaps the most torturing of any that the human frame could bear. Death in this manner was most lingering and distressing. And the apostle here, by the expression ‘is crucified,’ doubtless refers to the painful and protracted struggle which everyone goes through when his evil propensities are subdued; when his corrupt nature is slain; and when, a converted sinner, he gives himself up to God. Sin dies within him, and he becomes dead to the world, and to sin; ‘for as by the cross, death is most lingering and severe, so that corrupt nature is not subdued but by anguish’ (Grotius). All who have been born again can enter into this description. They remember ‘the wormwood and the gall.’ They remember the anguish of conviction; the struggle of corrupt passion for ascendancy; the dying convulsions of sin in the heart; the long and lingering conflict before it was subdued, and the soul became submissive to God. Nothing will better express this than the lingering agony of crucifixion; and the argument of the apostle is, that as sin has produced such an effect, and as the Christian is now free from its embrace and its power, he will live to God. (Barnes)

The old nature dies as He died. That which we were by nature dies as the corn of wheat dies, in order that it may reappear in a glorious resurrection form. If by God’s help we hold fast in humble submission and childlike trust to our Lord while the dying is being accomplished, then our prayers for others have a tremendous power in His name, and either here or hereafter we find that we, like our Lord, have lifted up those for whom we prayed by His own resurrection force. (Bishop Wilkinson)

“The death of the cross was not natural, but violent. Such is the death of sin: it dies not of its own accord, as nature dieth in the aged; for if the Spirit of God did not kill it, it would live to eternity. Sin can live to eternity in the fire of God’s wrath; so that either it must die a violent death by the hand of the Spirit, or it never dies at all.”

“Believers have communion with Christ in his death; they die with him: ‘I am crucified with Christ’ (Gal. 2:20); that is, the death of Christ has a real killing and mortifying influence upon the lusts and corruptions of my heart and nature. True it is, he died for sin one way, and we die to sin another way: he died to expiate it, we die to it when we mortify it. The death of Christ is the death of sin in believers; and this is a very glorious privilege; for the death of sin is the life of your souls; if sin do not die in you by mortification, you must die for sin by eternal damnation. If Christ had not died, the Spirit of God, by which you now mortify the deeds of the body, could not have been given unto you: then you must have lived vassals to your sins, and died at last in your sins: but the fruit, efficacy, and benefit of Christ’s death is yours for killing those sins in you which else had been your ruin.” (John Flavel)

“Behold, the bush burned with fire, and the bush was not consumed.”

The only thing which is not consumed by burning is my soul. Fire is the death of my body, but fire is the life of my soul.    When my goods are burned they perish, but when my soul takes fire, for the first time it begins to live. The worm of worldly care gnaws at my heart just because there is no fire in my heart to destroy it. My force is wasted by its expenditure on myself. I want something to lift me out of myself in order that I may be strong. Nothing can lift me out of myself but fire, the fire of the heart–love.

If I could only be kindled into love, the last enemy would be conquered–death. Love would consume all my cares, but it would give new strength to me. There might be a wilderness around me, but my bush would be glorious–luminous. It would be seen afar off by all the travelers in the desert. It would be a light to lighten the ages, untouched by passing clouds, undimmed by flying years.

My heart would never be consumed if only it could burn. (George Matheson)

For the soul is only so far cleansed from its corruption, so far delivered from the power of sin, and so far purified, as it has renounced all its own will, and own desire, to have nothing, receive nothing, and be nothing, but what the one will of God chooses for it, and does to it. (William Law)

“Hereby perceive we the love of God, because he laid down his life for us: and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren” (1 John 3:16, KJV). How often I think of that “ought.” No sugary sentiment there. Just the stern, glorious trumpet call, “ought.” But can words tell the joy buried deep within? Mine cannot. It laughs at words. (Amy Carmichael)

“The joy of loving.” (Mother Teresa)

“But worse than all my foes I find 

The enemy within,

The evil heart, the carnal mind,

My own insidious sin:

My nature every moment waits

To render me secure,

And all my paths with ease besets,

To make my ruin sure.” (Charles Wesley)

O keep up life and peace within,

If I must feel thy chastening rod!

Yet kill not me, but kill my sin,

And let me know thou art my God.

O give my soul some sweet foretaste

Of that which I shall shortly see!

Let faith and love cry to the last,

“Come, Lord, I trust myself with thee!” (Unknown)

Draw Thou my soul to Thee . . . . . .

Yea – Thou hast broken the enchanter’s spells,

And I am free.

Now in the haven of untroubled rest I land at last,

The hunger, and the thirst, and weary quest

For ever past.

There, Lord, to lose, in bliss of Thine embrace

The recreant will;

There, in the radiance of Thy blessed Face,

Be hushed and still;

There, speechless at Thy pierced Feet

See none and nought beside,

And know but this – that Thou art sweet,

That I am satisfied. (Gerhardt TerSteegen)