The Wonderful World of Self

cup.jpgOkay, maybe the title is a bit sarcastic.  Actually, it is "self" that often causes me great problems.

Years ago, I was the minister to a church that met on the campus of a Bible college. The school and the church were their own separate entities.  Yet, there was some overlap.  After all, I taught part-time at the college (a senior level ministry class each semester).  One Sunday, a man employed by the school was in our assembly.  He approached me afterward and said that he was scheduled to preach in chapel that week and would like to use much of what I had just said in that morning’s sermon.  I said something like "sure" and went on.  As I recall, I felt encouraged that he wanted to use much of that material for his own message.

That week, I was in chapel and heard his message.   It was very familiar — very, very familiar.  Maybe I just wanted him to acknowledge that he heard much of this last Sunday morning in our assembly.  Yet, not one word.

This bothered me.

This bothered me — a lot.

Why was this so important to me?  For some reason it was.  But the problem soon became mine.  My anger.  My resentment.  My ego. 

Sometimes, it appears that I "let things go" outwardly far more quickly than I really do inwardly.  Inwardly, when I am offended, irritated, or aggravated with someone, I can throw this offense into my stew-pot of resentments and allow it to simmer along with the rest of these wrongs.  Doesn’t exactly sound like death to self, does it?  No, I’m working on this one.

Meanwhile, I was reading A. W. Tozer this morning.  He writes concerning the "self":

It is woven of the fine threads of the self-life, the hyphenated sins of the human spirit.  They are not something we do, they are something we are, and therein lies both their subtlety and their power.

To be specific, the self sins are self-righteousness, self-pity, self-confidence, self-sufficiency, self-admiration, self-love and a host of others like them.  They dwell too deep within us and are too much a part of our natures to come to our attention till the light of God is focused upon them.  The grosser manifestations of these sins — egotism, exhibitionism, self-promotion — are strangely tolerated in Christian leaders, even in circles of impeccable orthodoxy….

(Tozer, The Pursuit of God, p. 42) 

Perhaps this is familiar territory.  If not, wonderful.  I do suspect there are many who identify with this. 

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

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10 thoughts on “The Wonderful World of Self

  1. Jim,As long as "you are working on that one" it will never happen. It is by grace through faith. It is already done in the heavenlies, we just have to apprehend it by faith. No works, Praise God! No self-effort, Praise God! It is all the work of God!Thanks for the post, I have been there, too many times.James 

  2. Jim – I don’t disagree with anything you have said here; further, I know that Christians have personal responsibility in the process of sanctification (e.g., not grieving or quenching the Spirit, not presenting myself as a slave to unrighteousness, for fighting the good fight – these are imperatives, not indicatives).  As I am sure you know, however, your reaction was that of a victim of theft (of intellectual property) and I don’t know that such a reaction is sin in itself: we can be angry without sinning: we react with dismay or even outrage to the sinful act but must be careful that our chosen response is not sinful.  As a friend of mine likes to say, if nothing in life causes you to be angry then you’ve lost your moral compass (note that I gave him credit! Am I wonderful or what?!?).  Having said that, let me reiterate that what you say is correct and directly applicable to the response we formulate and act upon.  The Bible makes clear that godly living is a struggle that will not abate as long as we live in these psuchikos bodies.

  3. Gee, thanks, Jim.  You’ve put your finger right on my pet (make that petty) sin!  My wise wife, Dawn, calls this problem, "Somebody didn’t push my ‘I’m important!’ button."  Thanks for sharing Tozer’s insights.  Of course he was right.  Egotism, exhibitionism, self-promotion are strangely tolerated by the most orthodox of us, me included.  May God help us to share the credit when something good happens and relax in God’s grace when we don’t get the appreciation and attention we think we deserve.  I’m glad you wrote about this today.

  4. Hi Mike,Thanks for your comment and for what you said regarding appropriate anger.  You said it well.  (And at times it is even important to become angry).In my situation, I think I had shifted from anger to something else that had a "dark side." 

  5. Scott,Thanks so much for your comment today.  I will come away from this especially remembering what Dawn said regarding the "I’m important button."  Now that is memorable.Thanks.

  6. This is very interesting.  I was sitting in a meeting once when my manager made a wonderful suggestion to the doctors that I had made to her the day before.  Grrr! It does make you mad.  But if I answered, "Wasn’t that what I suggested to you?" it doesn’t make you feel better.  It makes you feel small.  I know.  I tried it.  A dose of the humility of Christ works better. Thanks for the reminder.

  7. Jim, I like Dr. Mike’s assessment. I’m interested that your reading Tozer’s, The Pursuit of  God. I’ve been doing the same lately and some of his quotes, especially from the chapter, The Gaze of the Soul, have come to mind in explaining how faith works. Apart from that, I appreciate Tozer’s ministry to my own soul, drawing me closer to Christ and affirming my own experience in spiritual things.