Putting your ‘Self’ to Sleep…
Today many Western Christian churches distinguish as ‘Ash Wednesday,’ the start of Lent*, a time of penitence and preparation leading up to Easter. During this time many individuals practice a form of self-denial on the 40-days (excluding Sunday’s) which compose the Lenten period.
Philosophically, self-denial is an interesting concept. It is like humility, or falling asleep, or seeking happiness. You cannot ‘accomplish’ any of these by trying. C. S. Lewis notes, “Many things—such as loving, going to sleep, or behaving unaffectedly–are done worst when we try hardest to do them.”
“You understand sleep when you are awake, not while you are sleeping. You can see mistakes in arithmetic when your mind is working properly; while you are making them you cannot see them. Good people know about both bad and evil; bad people do not know about either.” – C.S. Lewis
“A moderately bad man knows he is not very good: a thoroughly bad man thinks he is alright. This is common sense really. You understand sleep when you are awake, not while you are sleeping.” – C.S. Lewis
To deny self by thinking about denying self is impossible, yet the Christian must die to self. L.E. Maxwell in Born Crucified explains, once again using a tree analogy.**
“Unless we die to self, we shall die of self.”
“…denial of self is no mere severing of this or that indulgence, but putting the axe of the Cross to the very root of the tree of self….To trim it back only means that the very life of self is thrown back into other more rugged roots to develop the Pharisee into a more vigorous tree.”
So, what are we to do? Just as we have been exhorted last Sunday, “Abide in Christ,” be ‘grafted’ into Him… allow His productive, transformative sap and nourishment to push through you, surrender your reach to blossoms and thereby bear much fruit.
Self-denial happens when you awake one day to this realization,
“I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” (Gal. 2:20).
Self-denial best accomplished not merely by saying ‘no‘ to self, but by saying an all the more emphatic ‘yes‘ to Christ.
To hear Don Longworth’s complete message, go to the Lincoln Baptist Church website and look under ‘Sermons Online’ for the Feb. 23 message.