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In What Way is Self to be Denied?

*In What Way is Self to be Denied?
*An adaptation of portions of “A Treatise on Self-Denial” by Richard Baxter


The Soul: The true person inside
The Self: The selfish beliefs, inclinations, and thoughts that enslave us


You must deny Self because Self is opposite to God and a competitor with him. As such it is the greatest idol of the soul.

It likes to imagine itself independent from God. This is a mad illusion, for we are dependent beings.  Yet Self believes it does not have to submit to God nor will it have to answer to him.

Self does not love God, trust God, or Worship Him.

Self must be denied because it stands against the truth of the gospel. It fights the very truth that would save the soul. The Self is the most incompetent judge of God’s word, yet at the same time the most aggressive, arrogant, and audacious critic of it. Self is the fountain of all unbelief.

It is an incompetent judge because God is an enemy of the Self and an enemy cannot be a competent or trustworthy judge. The Self’s aversion to the gospel makes it believe wrong things about it and overlook the beauty and good in it, makes multiple false conclusions, and mixes the meaning to make it say something it doesn’t. Self is utterly opposed to God and the holy life God has destined his people for.

It is the Self that the scriptures primarily speak against. The scriptures aim arrows of death at the Self, it disgraces Self, and stands against it. Just as a murderer on death row will never love the electric chair, so the Self will never love the Scriptures that condemn it—therefore it is an utterly untrustworthy judge of God’s word.

Self must be denied because it stands against Jesus Christ. Though it may admit to some good in Christ, the truth that Christ alone is the remedy for a miserable soul and the only source of life, righteousness, and hope in this world it rejects and ignores. The self seduces the soul to ever undervalue Christ.

O, down with self that Christ may be Christ to you! How shall he come into your life while Self is the watchman at the door? How will Christ forgive you when Self will not allow you to feel your need of God’s pardon? How will Christ bind up your wounded heart, when Self will not let you be broken? How shall he clothe you with his righteousness while Self keeps you in your own defiled, rotten rags? Of friend, put away your self-righteousness, that Christ may be your righteousness!

Self must be denied because it is the great resistor of the Holy Spirit. Apart than Satan himself, the Sanctifying Spirit has no greater enemy. One half of his sanctifying work is to destroy the Self. The Self ever resists holiness, distracts and lures you from your holy duties while at the same time persuading you to indulge in sin.

Self must be denied because it is a traitor to your soul and sides with your enemies. It pleads on sin’s behalf, it speaks as wicked people do, it is in a conspiracy to destroy you, all the while always appearing to be after your ultimate good. It constantly fills your mind with the difficulty and unpleasantness of the duties of holiness complaining, “How weary it is to follow God!” “What do I get by serving God?!”. Self is a vicious traitor against your own soul and therefore it must be denied.

Sustained By Words

Originally Posted to martha_martha by Sarah Fullerton

“As creatures of God we are totally dependent upon him for everything. We are dependent not only on the continual rule or providence of God in nature for the production of food and other goods, but also for every moment of our existence. We draw the next breath, our hearts beat the next beat, we are conscious of the next moment of our existence only because God goes on sustaining the very substance of creation. There are no laws of nature that are self-sustaining. If God were to withdraw for a split second his powerful word, the universe would cease to exist in that same split second. That is why man does not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God (Deut 8:3; see also Ps 104:24-30). So Christ, as the creative Word of God, sustains ‘all things by his powerful word’ (Heb 1:3), and ‘in him all things hold together’ (Col 1:17).”
-Graeme Goldworthy, According to Plan: The Unfolding Revelation of God in the Bible

These thoughts gave me a new insight into Jesus’ quoting of Deuteronomy 8:3 when the Devil tempts him to turn stones into bread after 40 days of fasting (and serious hunger!). I’ve always thought of this response as meaning that man can’t just survive on physical sustenance, but also needs the spiritual food of meditation on God’s written word to grant him life. That is certainly a true biblical idea, but what Jesus is saying here is, in the words of William Hendriksen, “Tempter, you are proceeding upon the false assumption that for a man, in order to appease hunger and keep alive, bread is absolutely necessary. Over against this erroneous idea, I now declare that not bread but the creative, energizing, and sustaining power of my Father is the only indispensable source of my, and of man’s, life and well-being.” (Exposition of the Gospel According to Matthew)

Hendriksen goes on:
“The expression ‘every word that comes out through the mouth of God’ refers to the word of his power. It is God’s omnipotence exercised in creation and preservation. It is his word of effective command; for example, ‘And God said, Let there be light, and there was light’ (Gen. 1:3); ‘By the word of Jehovah were the heavens made’ (Ps. 33:6).”

The point is this: Man can eat as much bread as he can get a hold of and yet, if God withdraws His sustaining word, such a person will die that very instant. Conversely, man can be without any bread due to circumstances beyond his control–and by God’s mercy, even circumstances WITHIN his control– and yet, by God’s sustaining word that man will go on living.

This doesn’t negate human responsibility (more on that in another post), but places our responsibility squarely UNDER God’s sovereign dominion and care. We live and move and have our being only because God continues to speak His sustaining word that commands us to go on living. And what a relief this is to the anxieties of daily life!

As I drive back and forth from VBS this week, logging 500 kms just in multiple short trips, I am aware that the reason I have yet to drive off the road or hit another car is not merely the good condition of our van or my ability to stay alert and focus on the road (anyone who’s ever had 4 kids in the back of their van knows it couldn’t possibly be that!), though these are agents of God’s care. I have yet to die on the road because God continues to speak His powerful words of existence for me.

If you are fighting illness, or you worry every time your child acts out crazy kid-antics on the jungle gym, or things are so tight that you literally don’t know where tomorrow’s meal is going to come from, trust that God’s word will speak sustenance until the very moment HE has appointed for the end. It is not bread, or health or helicopter parenting that keeps us all going. And “which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life?” (Matt. 6:27) Man lives by every word that comes from the mouth of God, and His powerful word will never cease to command and carry out his good, pleasing and perfect will.

Pushing Pause

This post is originally from joannekerr

“…Immediately (Jesus) made the disciples get into the boat and go before him to the other side, while he dismissed the crowds. And after he had dismissed the crowds, he went up on the mountain by himself to pray. When evening came, he was there alone…

In reading this, this morning, I was reminded that prayer time seldom just falls into our lap. Usually, we have to intentionally carve out time for it.

It was tempting, 20 years ago, when I had a 4 year old, a 2 year old, an almost-1 year old (and another “as yet unknown” to follow a couple of years later) to believe that “later” there would be more time for prayer and study of God’s Word.
While there was some truth to that, the realities of “later” are that when it finally arrives, there are a new set of issues to face:

…Now that you “have more free time” you find that you have less energy (and mental capacity!).
…You may feel more pressure (inwardly, or outwardly) to involve yourself with people or activities that you were not able to before because of other responsibilities and priorities.
…And, 20 years ago, who would have dreamt of the amount of time the average person would be using the Internet; Facebook; cell phones; commuting …! There will no doubt be things 20 years from now that we will be saying, “Who would’ve known!”

In reality, no one – at any season of life – has more legitimate demands on his time than Jesus did. He was surrounded by real people with very real needs. Constantly. Yet He regularly pushed “Pause” and physically removed Himself, in order to spend time in prayer.
How much more should I.

Jesus provides the example. He is sympathetic with our weaknesses. With Him, we find mercy & grace to help us to prioritize prayer, no matter what our season or limitations.

Addicted to Diversion and Afraid of Silence

The compulsive search for diversion is often an attempt to escape the wretchedness of life. We have great difficulty being quiet in our rooms, when the television or computer screen offers a riot of possible stimulation. Postmodern people are perpetually restless; they frequently seek solace in diversion instead of satisfaction in truth. As Pascal said, “Our nature consists in movement; absolute rest is death.” The postmodern condition is one of oversaturation and over-stimulation, and this caters to our propensity to divert ourselves from pursuing higher realities.

…A little taste of what is in this excellent blog post from Justin Taylor.