Die, Self, Die, For Pete’s Sake!

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 that 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.’
–C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity

I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you will be clean; I will cleanse you from all your filthiness and from all your idols. Moreover, I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; and I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh.I will put My Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statutes, and you will be careful to observe My ordinances…so you will be My people and I will be your God…
I am not doing this for your sake, declares the Lord God…

(Ezekiel 36:25-28,32)

When the actor John Wilkes Booth (the George Clooney of his day) jumped from the Presidential Box to the stage of Ford’s Theater in 1865, two things happened. One, he snapped his leg just above the ankle because of an awkward plant, and two, he looked out onto the stunned crowd and shouted, “Thus always to tyrants!”

Moments earlier, he had aimed a pistol at close range behind President Lincoln’s left ear and fired a round into the great man’s head. The bullet traveled a bit crossways and lodged behind the President’s right eye. By 7:30 the next morning, the sixteenth president of the United States lay dead on a bed too short for his legs.

I have a would-be tyrant aping me, called my “flesh”, the carnal mind, the sinful disposition. I, along with many others, call it “self”. It cannot be trained, tamed or ignored. The only way to deal with it is to execute it. Sadly, it won’t stay dead. And if you commute its sentence, it grows larger and casts monstrous shadows over one’s soul.

Self is the ego. It wants to be stroked and coddled, fed and worshiped. Some are so enamored with the self/flesh/ego, they have written lyrical anthems to honor it. ‘Ol Blue Eyes sang one when he did it “my way” and Walt Whitman opted to “celebrate myself” in his egocentric “Song of Myself”.

Another dared pull up the bootstraps of self and fend off any notion of Another who might deem to take over. You may have seen the movie that takes its appellation from the famous soliloquy; I haven’t, only because the title wards me off.

Invictus.

“Unconquered.”

In 1875 William Ernest Henley lost his leg to tuberculosis at the puerile age of 25. From his hospital bed, out came paper and pen, then the splash of self’s regurgitation soiled the fresh, clean page.

Out of the night that covers me,
Black as the Pit from pole to pole,
I thank whatever gods may be
For my unconquerable soul.

In the fell clutch of circumstance
I have not winced nor cried aloud.
Under the bludgeonings of chance
My head is bloody, but unbowed.

Beyond this place of wrath and tears
Looms but the Horror of the shade,
And yet the menace of the years
Finds, and shall find, me unafraid.

It matters not how strait the gate,
How charged with punishments the scroll.
I am the master of my fate:
I am the captain of my soul.

“Head bloody, but unbowed”

“My unconquerable soul.”

“I am the captain of my soul…”

Sends shivers down my spine, how about you? Some slough it off as self-determination and resolute courage in the face of adversity, but I refuse to hyphenate. These are the damnable heresies of self.

In his book Ministry in the Image of God: The Trinitarian Shape of Christian Service, Stephen Seamands illustrates the danger of putting self in the captain’s chair:

Someone once gave Wilfred Grenfell, the great early-twentieth-century medical missionary to Labrador, a powerful new motorboat so he could better navigate among inlets and islands along the coast and respond quickly to those in need. Soon afterward he received an emergency call in the middle of the night from someone who needed immediate medical attention. So he set out in the new boat toward the island where the person lived.

Grenfell knew its location, but in the blackness of the night he was forced to navigate solely by compass. Soon he realized he had embarked in the wrong direction, for when he expected to be nearing the island, no land was in sight. Instead, he was heading out into the dangerous open sea, so he reversed the boat and fortunately managed to return home safely.

The next day when Grenfell checked the compass on the boat, he discovered the problem. Whoever had fastened the compass to the boat had run out of brass screws and had used a steel screw to finish the job. That steel screw attracted the magnetic tip of the compass needle to itself. The night before, Grenfell hadn’t been charting his course by the magnetic North Pole; instead his compass had been charting its course to itself.

You want some hyphenation? Try ego-centeredness. Or self-reference. Call it what you wish, but please call it nixed. Even our gospel has been defectively charted in the direction of self, insisting that the Plan of Salvation is all about me, that I am in the center; the end-all-be-all of the gospel is myself, my getting my sins forgiven, my getting saved and my getting to heaven. No it’s not. Those things are included, of course, but the full course of salvation is that God gets what He wants.

C.S. Lewis puts it this way:

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.
(Mere Christianity, p167)

When “myself” becomes “Himself” there is salvation. Someone once quipped about marriage: “The Wedding Day is about two people becoming one. The rest of marriage is deciding which one they will become.” Salvation already decides that: to be “conformed to the image of His Son” (Rom 8:29). There ain’t no self plus Jesus in the Kingdom. It’s only Jesus.

What are your selfless thoughts?

13 thoughts on “Die, Self, Die, For Pete’s Sake!

  1. brotherjohnny says:

    Greetings, once again, Big Brother!

    “Death to self” is something that I have wrestled with and cried out for many a season. My apprehension of it and I would go so far as to say that even my experience of it has shifted significantly over the last five or so years.
    For a little contrast to what you have written here check out this article by Norman Grubb:
    http://www.unionlife.org/GrubbTwoNatures.htm

    In the meantime, I hope to write a little something of my own response to this marvelous “metaphysical” Mystery.

    I don’t understand it all, but I am thankful for the Light that the Lord has given.

    I pray abundant favor upon you and yours this day in the Name of The Lord Jesus Christ– as it is already to and for you!

    Like

    • pasturescott says:

      And to you, one-I-call-my-friend! Your response gave me cause–not pause–to go back and check a phrase or a preposition here and there to make sure I was not touting the ‘two nature’ IN me perspective. Thank you for your challenge. I am not sure it alone will change minds but it was beneficial to the discussion to do a little tweaking. I love you for your walk and words!

      Two phrases come to mind:

      “Reckon yourselves as DEAD” and “No longer I”

      I love your phrasing of “mystery”–as it does not mean it cannot be or never will be known, but the Lord is indeed (as you stated) good to give more light in due time. I, too, am a learner just as you, which is why we love each other so!

      I am reckoning, brother. It can be “violent work” (Matt 11:12) but I do live in the freedom of the ‘no longer I’ ( I have much to glean from Norman Grubb’s article…I hope all will read and meditate therein, so thank you for sending it to us).

      Am grateful for the good path you are choosing. I enjoy walking it with you, even when it can turn into separate but intersecting and closely paralleled paths. Catch my drift?

      Like

      • brotherjohnny says:

        Amen, and yes I do!
        The narrow way leads straight to Jesus,to the cross,the tomb,then up, out and back to Father, brand new– alive and kickin’!!

        “…separate but intersecting and closely paralleled paths”.
        Sounds kinda like a dance.
        David just may have been onto something!🙂

        Like

  2. Marie says:

    My selfless thoughts would be All for Jesus, all in Jesus, all about Jesus, replaced by Jesus, inhabited by Jesus, abiding in Jesus…………..

    But,my selfish thoughts sometimes, too many times, take precedence.

    I almost got depressed last night because Casey was voted off AI. Then I was horrified that it even mattered so much! Ugh! After this year, I will never watch AI again!!!!! Too addictive.

    Lord, help me.

    And, Pastor, thank you for this message.

    Praising God for your good news!

    Like

    • pasturescott says:

      Hi, my Soul Sistah Marie!

      AI? Isn’t that one of the corps that got bailed out by the gummint a while back?

      *wink*

      Yeah, I stopped watching it a couple seasons ago for similar reasons. It’s like I won’t watch America’s Funniest Videos because the $10,000 winner is always the lamest video of all.

      love you so! Hey, I hear “Bones” is pretty good…check that: it’s addictive too.

      Like

      • Marie says:

        That title is repulsive to me and I’m embarrassed that I am addicted to this year’s show. I quit watching it several years ago myself, but then this year, I was bored and let myself get hooked. If Bones is addictive, I won’t go anywhere near it. Thanks for the heads up. Mostly I just watch HGTV and TCM. I need to read more.

        I love you so too! How are Sandy and Graham?

        Like

        • Marie says:

          Too many I’s. God help me.

          Like

        • pasturescott says:

          You are too funny! “Need to read more.” I love that! (I miss my TCM…had to downsize way down)

          I also hear blogs can be addictive…

          Just saying.

          The family is truly well, blasting through obstacles by God’s grace and coming through the other side which gives us sweet breathing room for awhile. Until the next wall. You’ve been there too…

          Like

          • Marie says:

            Your blog is certainly addictive! That’s why the withdrawals were so intense when you were unable or not led to post your thoughts here.
            So glad you all are doing well. I pray no walls in your future for a LONG while!

            Like

  3. brotherjohnny says:

    Hey Sister!
    I was really bummed to see Casey go as well. Even though I already knew that he wouldn’t win the competition, he was still my favorite (he’s not really mainstream enough to be truly apprectiated by the masses, IMHO).

    “My selfless thoughts would be All for Jesus, all in Jesus, all about Jesus, replaced by Jesus, inhabited by Jesus, abiding in Jesus…………..”

    But those would be *your* selfless thoughts…, wouldn’t they?😉

    Like

    • Marie says:

      Yeah, I really like Casey. Very unique and entertaining. James is not my favorite, but looks like he will win it.

      Those thoughts above would be my selfless thoughts, generated by the Spirit of God within me.🙂

      As in, NOT generated by my self. My self has no intention of being less. That’s why I’m so thankful the Vinedresser does the pruning.

      Y’all doing OK?

      Like

      • brotherjohnny says:

        I like James…. gosh, I like them all, really. Since Casey left, I would be just fine with whoever wins at this point.

        I love the Vinedresser! AND the VINE!
        (And the Branches aren’t too shabby either, with their nation healing leaves.)

        We are doing well. As I’m sure you well know, life has all kinds of crazy twists and turns, ups and downs, etc…, but it’s ultimitely proving to be great exercise!
        How are things with y’all?

        I’m (at least temporarily) back on facehoo…, oh, faceBOOK, so let me know if you would like to be friends again.🙂

        Please give Jerald a warm ‘Hello’ for me!

        Like

        • Marie says:

          Facehook! hahahahah! You are SO right.
          We are doing great. The Lord is good to keep us moving along on His path, with those same ups and downs, etc. He shines through it all!
          I will greet Jerald with a kiss for you.😀
          You can kiss Missy for me.

          Like

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