Friday, November 30, 2007

Dying to Self

Lewis, in his own way enlightens us to the necessity of dying to self. This is the great struggle for every believer- total surrender. Our salvation doesn't hinge upon it (thank the Lord!) but our sanctification certainly does. And there are so many spiritual blessings that are rightfully ours (Eph 1.3) that we are unable to access because we come as the living instead of those who are dead to self.

This is from CS Lewis's Counting the Cost

"The terrible thing, the almost impossible thing, is to hand over your whole self--all your wishes and precautions--to Christ.

"Christ says 'Give me All. I don't want so much of your time and so much of your money and so much of your work: I want You. I have not come to torment your natural self, but to kill it. No half measures are any good. I don't want to cut off a branch here and a branch there, I want to have the whole tree down. I don't want to drill the tooth, or crown it, or stop it, but to have it out. Hand over the whole natural self, all the desires which you think innocent as well as the ones you think wicked--the whole outfit. I will give you a new self instead. In fact, I will give you Myself: My own will shall become yours.'...

"When I was a child I often had toothache, and I knew that if I went to my mother she would give me something which would deaden the pain for that night and let me get to sleep. But I did not go to my mother--at least not till the pain became very bad. And the reason I did not go was this. I did not doubt she would give me the aspirin; but I knew she would also do something else. I could not get what I wanted out of her without getting something more, which I did not want. I wanted immediate relief from pain, but I could not get it without having my teeth set permanently right. And I knew those dentists; I knew they started fiddling about with all sorts of other teeth which had not yet begun to ache. They would not let sleeping dogs lie. If you gave them an inch they would take a mile.

"Now, if I may put it that way, our Lord is like the dentists. If you give Him an inch, He will take a mile. Dozens of people go to Him to be cured of some one particular sin which they are ashamed of... or which is obviously spoiling daily life (like bad temper or drunkenness). Well, He will cure it alright: but He will not stop there. That may be all you ask; but if once you call Him in, He will give you the full treatment. That is why He warned people to 'count the cost' before becoming Christians. 'Make no mistake,' He says, 'If you let me, I will make you perfect. The moment you put yourself in My hands, that is what you are in for. Nothing less or other than that.'

"'Whatever suffering it may cost you in your earthly life... whatever it cost Me, I will never rest, nor let you rest, until you are literally perfect--until my Father can say without reservation that He is well pleased with you, as He said He was well pleased with me. This I can do and will do. But I will not do anything less.'

"The goal toward which He is beginning to guide you is absolute perfection; and no power in the whole universe, except you yourself, can prevent Him from taking you to that goal. That is what you are in for. And it is very important to realize that. If we do not, then we are very likely to start pulling back and resisting Him after a certain point. I think that many of us, when Christ has enabled us to overcome one or two sins that were an obvious nuisance, are inclined to feel (though we do not put it into words) that we are now good enough. He has done all we wanted Him to do. And we should be obliged if He would now leave us alone.

"But this is the fatal mistake... The question is not what we intended ourselves to be, but what He intended us to be when He made us....

"Imagine yourself as a living house. God comes in to rebuild that house. At first, perhaps you can understand what He is doing. He is getting the drains right and stopping the leaks in the roof and so on: you know that those jobs needed doing and so you are not surprised. But presently he starts knocking the house about in a way that hurts abominably and does not seem to make sense. What on earth is He up to? The explanation is that He is building quite a different house from the one you thought of--throwing out a new wing here, putting on an extra floor there, running up towers, making courtyards. You thought you were going to be made into a decent little cottage: but He is building a palace. He intends to come and live in it Himself!"

So if we endeavor to be blessed or to have our prayers honored or to live free from sin's tyranny in our lives we must die each day to the self. Gal 5.24; 1 Cor 15.32; Rom 6.12-14


Paul M. Harrison said...

I have learned many lessons in the death to self category that I hope is helpful.

Without getting into the nature of man and how we relate to God, as there are at least a dozen formulas and views on this, death to self for me simply meant, "I want to do this, but God wants me to do that. I call Him 'Lord' so I'm gonna put my will aside and do that."

Many Pentecostal, and specifically Faith Movement authors, are trichotomists, which divides man into body (a mere vehicle to be dominated and never trusted), soul (your mind will and emotions, never to be trusted unless under the authority of the spirit), and spirit, which is the regenerate, recreated, divine part of you that receives union with God and Spirit revelation. They believe mainly in denying your body, your intellect, and your sight in order to follow the inner-light that comes from God - an indescribable inner-knowing.

In order to be in the will of God and receive all of His benefits, your spirit must be in total union with God and dominating every area of your life. Whatever your spirit tells you, you must obey.

I was taught so many times that I was "in the flesh" if I ever made a plan without consulting God first. "Do you want a good thing or a God thing?" The idea is that there is a way in which you can prosper in every area of life because you are in perfect step with a God who never fails.

As I obeyed all of this spirit revelation that was even confirmed rather specifically by prophetic people, nothing worked out as promised. This I was told was the Dark Night of the Soul which is a Catholic mystical tradition which means total death of self and absorbtion into God. God purposely burns down His promises to you and tests you to see if you will obey with your spirit, without sight, when all else seems opposite. The end result of obedience is a blissful union with God in which you sense and know His presence moment by moment of every day. Well, all I was left with was a bunch of confirmed false promises that cost me everything, followed by extended silence from God.

I read a secular author that explained that Christianity promoted a codependent and sado-masochistic relationship with God in which you are either groveling, worshiping, or are totally dependant on God for everything (without Him I can do nothing, only God is good, He must increase, I must decrease, etc.). Healthy relationships involve mutual repsect in order for them to truly be free.

I re-read certain verses and saw that there was no Biblical concept of self-annihilation in the Eastern sense, or complete absorbtion, and that those in complete obedience to God were often met with trouble and suffering, not a perfect skate to a wonderful prosperous life.

So any idea of death to self can only have integrity if you retain self - the part of you able to respond to God at all. It is a willing choice in a relationship, not a change in your essesnce.

Pastor Dave said...

Sadly, your assessment of Pentecostal doctrine of the self is off. It is my understanding that God wants us to love him with all of our self (heart,mind, soul< etc). So the issue is a denial of the individual will. This is the highest form of respect for ones self - to accurately assess your weaknesses and strengths. And on the basis of that understanding THEN there can be an approach to God.

Occassionally I hear from someone who makes the claim to have "broken promises" from God. But "upon further review from the booth" we sadly recognize that they either didn't diligently search (heart, mind, sould, strength), lived in blatant disobedience to the Word of God, or persevered only a short time.
Scripture says in Heb 11.6 that He is a rewarder of those who seek him.

While there needn't be the implication that there is a prosperous idyllic world that follows there is blessing in obedience

As for the mutual respect in relationships- that assumes two equals. The whole argument breaks down. The idea of a Soveriegn Lord comes from a covenant based on the conquerors dictates, not the conquered. In other words "What did the pile of spit say to the Mighty Warrior... who cares!"

We ARE nothing but a created object.

Paul M. Harrison said...

I agree with you that the trichotomosit view as I described is not biblical, but it accurately reflects Word-of-Faith theology which has its origin in the influence of metaphysical ideas that Kenyon adopted, which were very gnostic and dualistic. Kenyon was not Pentecostal, but Baptist. When Hagin imported Kenyon's ideas in the 1960's they entered Pentecostalism. As a result, many Pentecosatals represent this view without knowing where it came from. How many times do you hear, "I rebuke that" "I don't receive that" or "I speak to and take authority over my body" etc. One woman years back at CLC tried to cast a "spirit of intellectualism" out of me when I disagreed with her faith theology.

Pentecostal theologians have been pointing out for quite a while that this Faith theology is abberant, opting for dichotomism - the inner-man and outer-man - both valid and insperable facets of being conscious in the physical world.

The Dark Night of the Soul comes from Catholic mystics such as St. Theresa, St. John of the Cross, Madame Guyon, and seems to have been influenced by eastern mysticism.

My point was to say that these are invalid ways of relating with God.

Now, covenant relationship and contingent promises from God, it seems to me, are always initiated by God and depend on your obedience. You bring up good things to consider about broken promises, but there is the elephant in the room which is basically that people do prophecy falsely and even confirm these things. The very specific things promised to me were not fulfilled because they simply weren't true. This is not a failing on the part of God or myself, but a realization that He wasn't in on the game all along. If I had any complaint it is more along the lines of why true prophecies were not there to correct the false ones as I prayed for such interjection from God, but it was green lights all the way. I saw a church split recently where each leader had a team of prophets prophesying against the other! My survival mentality simply told me to get out of that kind of circus and find a more valid way of hearing from God.

How God relates with us has always been paradoxical to me. On one hand He is king of the universe, no one can stop Him, nothing is too hard for Him, He is sovereign over history, hardens, softens, blinds, give sight, elects, rejects, and does a lot of behind the scenes work. Then you have this idea that "God respects free will" and theologians and philosophers have argued over each word in that sentence! God respects you, asks of you, reasons with you, woos you, is not compulsory, etc.

What you state is from Romans 9 is it not? "He is the potter, you are the clay. The clay has no right to say to the potter, 'Why did you make me this way?' Who are you to talk back to God, oh man?, etc."

Again, it's all so paradoxical and I haven't come to a comfortable conclusion except that in any dealing with God, there must be an individual there to choose to respond for there to be actual relationship. Even Jesus gives us a name on a white stone in heaven, we are not absorbed into God by losing our identity.

So death to self is chosen obedience to God over your own will in relation to His will, yet still having a seperate identity is it not?