The Death of Self
A. W. Tozer wrote these striking words about our innate selfishness in his small book, ‘The Knowledge of the Holy’: ‘So subtle is self that scarcely anyone is conscious of its presence. Because man is born a rebel, he is unaware that he is one. His constant assertion of self, as far as he thinks of it at all, appears to him a perfectly normal thing. He is willing to share himself, sometimes even to sacrifice himself for a desired end, but never to dethrone himself. No matter how far down the scale of social acceptance he may slide, he is still in his own eyes a king on a throne, and no one, not even God, can take that throne from him.’
Isn’t that an accurate description of fallen human nature? It’s so easy, even for us who have been brought to submit to Christ’s Lordship, to do the best and most self-denying of things for self-centred reasons. We all too often want to be praised and noticed for our ‘good deeds’. And so we cry out, ‘Who will deliver me from this body of death’ – this sinful selfishness which pursues me at every step of my life? How can I overcome it?
Thanks be to God that there is an answer to our cry; that we don’t put sin to death in our own strength, but through Christ Jesus our Lord. Tozer writes: ‘To save us completely Christ must reverse the bent of our nature; He must plant a new principle within us so that our subsequent conduct will spring out of a desire to promote the honour of God and the good of our fellow men. The old self-sins must die, and the only instrument by which they can be slain is the cross.’ The power by which God works in us is the same power ‘which he worked in Christ when he raised him from the dead’ (Ephesians 1 v 19-20). So ‘[We] can do all things’ – even overcoming our self-obsessed tendencies – ‘through Christ who strengthens [us]’ (Philippians 4 v 13).
By Naomi Wells
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