Now comes the third point. What are we to do to get rid of it (self)? Jesus answers us in the words of our text: “If any man will come after me, let him take up his cross and follow me.” Note it well.–I must deny myself and take Jesus himself as my life,–I must choose. There are two lives, the self life and the Christ life; I must choose one of the two. “Follow me,” says our Lord, “make me the law of your existence, the rule of your conduct; give me your whole heart; follow me, and I will care for all.” Oh, friends, it is a solemn exchange to have set before us; to come and–seeing the danger of this self, with its pride and its wickedness–to cast ourselves before the Son of God, and to say, “I deny my own life, I take Thy life to be mine.”
The reason why Christians pray and pray for the Christ life to come in to them, without result, is that the self life is not denied. You ask, “How can I get rid of this self life?” You know the parable: the strong man kept his house until one stronger than he came in and cast him out. Then the place was garnished and swept, but empty, and he came back with seven other spirits worse than himself (Matt. 12:44). It is only Christ Himself coming in that can cast out self, and keep out self. This self will abide with us to the very end. Remember the Apostle Paul; he had seen the Heavenly vision, and lest he should exalt himself, the thorn in the flesh was sent to humble him (2 Cor. 12:7-9). There was a tendency to exalt himself, which was natural, and it would have conquered, but Christ delivered him from it by His faithful care for His loving servant. Jesus Christ is able, by His divine grace, to prevent the power of self from ever asserting itself or gaining the upper hand; Jesus Christ is willing to become the life of the soul; Jesus Christ is willing to teach us so to follow Him, and to have heart and life set upon Him alone, that He shall ever and always be the light of our souls. Then we come to what the apostle Paul says; “Not I, but Christ liveth in me.” The two truths go together. First “Not I,” then, “but Christ liveth in me” (Gal. 2:20).
Look at Peter again. Christ said to him, “Deny yourself, and follow me.” Whither had he to follow? Jesus led him, even though he failed; and where did he lead him? He led him on to Gethsemane, and there Peter failed, for he slept when he ought to have been awake, watching and praying; He led him on towards Calvary, to the place where Peter denied Him. Was that Christ’s leading? Praise God, it was. The Holy Spirit had not yet come in His power; Peter was yet a carnal man; the Spirit willing, but not able to conquer; the flesh weak. What did Christ do? He led Peter on until he was broken down in utter self-abasement, and humbled in the depths of sorrow. Jesus led him on, past the grave, through the Resurrection, up to Pentecost, and the Holy Spirit came, and in the Holy Spirit Christ with His divine life came, and then it was, “Christ liveth in me.”
There is but one way of being delivered from this life of self. We must follow Christ, set our hearts upon Him, listen to His teachings, give ourselves up every day, that He may be all to us, and by the power of Christ the denial of self will be a blessed, unceasing reality. Never for one hour do I expect the Christian to reach a stage at which he can say, “I have no self to deny;” never for one moment in which he can say, “I do not need to deny self.” No, this fellowship with the cross of Christ will be an unceasing denial of self every hour and every moment by the grace of God…
And now, what is the use that we are to make of this lesson of the Master? The first lesson will be that we should take time, and that we should humble ourselves before God, at the thought of what this self is in us; put down to the account of the self every sin, every shortcoming, all failure, and all that has been dishonoring to God, and then say, “Lord, this is what I am;” and then let us allow the blessed Jesus Christ to take entire control of our life, in the faith that His life can be ours.
Do not think it is an easy thing to get rid of self. At a consecration meeting, it is easy to make a vow, and to offer a prayer, and to perform an act of surrender, but as solemn as the death of Christ was on Calvary–His giving up of His unsinning self life to God,–just as solemn must it be between us and our God–the giving up of self to death. The power of the death of Christ must come to work in us every day. Oh, think what a contrast between that self-willed Peter, and Jesus giving up His will to God! What a contrast between that self-exaltation of Peter, and the deep humility of the Lamb of God, meek and lowly in heart before God and man! What a contrast between that self-confidence of Peter, and that deep dependence of Jesus upon the Father, when He said: “I can do nothing of myself” (John 5:19). We are called upon to live the life of Christ, and Christ comes to live His life in us; but one thing must first take place; we must learn to hate this self, and to deny it. As Peter said, when he denied Christ, “I have nothing to do with him,” so we must say, “I have nothing to do with self,” that Christ Jesus may be all in all.
Let us humble ourselves at the thought of what this self has done to us and how it has dishonored Jesus; and let us pray very fervently:
“Lord, by Thy light discover this self; we beseech Thee to discover it to us. Open our eyes, that we may see what it has done, and that it is the only hindrance that has been keeping us back.”
Let us pray that fervently, and then let us wait upon God until we get away from all our religious exercises, and from all our religious experience, and from all our blessings, until we get close to God, with this one prayer:
“Lord God, self changed an archangel into a devil, and self ruined my first parents, and brought them out of Paradise into darkness and misery, and self has been the ruin of my life and the cause of every failure; oh, discover it to me.”
And then comes the blessed exchange, that a man is made willing and able to say: “Another will live the life for me, another will live with me, another will do all for me,” Nothing else will do. Deny self; take up the cross, to die with Jesus; follow Him only. May He give us the grace to understand, and to receive, and to live the Christ life.
Part 2 of 2
An excerpt from The Master’s Indwelling, by Andrew Murray (1953), chapter 2. (Cross references, italics and title added)
In this context the author is using self-life as a dynamic equivalent translation of the Greek word sarx, literally “flesh” as in Romans 7:18,25; 8:4,12,13. For a study on the four uses of “self” in the New Testament, see Grace Note “Sorting Your Self Out.”
“These chapters were in substance delivered by the author in a series of addresses at the Northfield Conference of 1895, but later rewritten and revised by him for this permanent and authorized publication.” Full book online: www.ccel.org/ccel/murray/indwelling.txt