Overcoming The Enemy Called "Self"
By Pastor Michael Olawore
New Wine Church, London
Foundation Scripture: John 10:10, Philippians 3:7-10, Matthew 16:24-25
Sunday 2nd April 2017
We began a series called ‘The Pursuit of Christ’ a fortnight ago (last week, we were celebrating all the mothers on Mothers’ Day). Today, I would like to speak to you on the subject, titled: ‘Overcoming the Enemy Called “Self”’.
Our foundation scripture for this year is from John 10:10, which reads: ‘The thief comes only in order to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have and enjoy life, and have it in abundance (to the full, till it overflows)’ (AMPC). Let’s read today’s main text in Matthew 16:24-25: ‘Then Jesus said to His disciples, “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me. For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it’ (Also see Luke 9:23-26, Mark 8:34-38).
Jesus introduced a new paradigm for following Him. In order to follow Him, we must deny self and take us our cross daily. Jesus highlighted two major truths: we must be ready for self-denial, and cross bearing in order to follow Him. In these texts, He was addressing both the multitude and the disciples – addressing the congregation. So far, over the course of the various messages we have examined this year, we have agreed that Christ is our pasture and overflowing abundance. We’ve agreed that Christ called us to follow Him, and thus into discipleship. Discipleship is the highest calling from God. Discipleship is important to Christ – everything significant He did was done through His disciples. The great commission and the destiny of people were committed to disciples. Kingdom agenda are never committed to the multitude.
Self is a force that has the tendency to deprive the Kingdom of disciples, creating barriers and limitations to the fulfilment of God’s agenda. The call for self-denial teaches the pursuit of satisfaction in Christ and not in self. Self-denial teaches us to appreciate and receive the finished work of Christ, embracing the grace of God in faith. Self-denial requires each of us to deny our will-power, self-will, strength and ability and depend totally on Christ.
Self is the major challenge confronting the Church today. It is the main reason why believers struggle to follow Christ, carry out the Great Commission and live out the life of Christ. A survey was conducted in the United States, to find out why the Church exists. Out of the 100 people that took part in the survey – 89 people responded that the Church exists to take care of their needs, while 11 people correctly responded that the Church exists to win the world for Christ. God desires that the Church remains ‘Christ-centred’ and not ‘self-centred’, hence the reason why the disciples were admonished to deny self. Self and Christ are opposing.
Genesis 11:1-8 gives us a clear account of self-promotion: ‘Now the whole earth had one language and one speech. And it came to pass, as they journeyed from the east, that they found a plain in the land of Shinar, and they dwelt there. Then they said to one another, “Come, let us make bricks and bake them thoroughly.” They had brick for stone, and they had asphalt for mortar. And they said, “Come, let us build ourselves a city, and a tower whose top is in the heavens; let us make a name for ourselves, lest we be scattered abroad over the face of the whole earth.” But the Lord came down to see the city and the tower which the sons of men had built. And the Lord said, “Indeed the people are one and they all have one language, and this is what they begin to do; now nothing that they propose to do will be withheld from them. Come, let Us go down and there confuse their language, that they may not understand one another’s speech.” So the Lord scattered them abroad from there over the face of all the earth, and they ceased building the city’. From this text, it is clear that the motive was to glorify self instead of God – they were building to make a name for themselves. Sadly, this is a reflection of what is going on in many churches today. The Godhead arose to scatter them and the work ceased. In the same manner, I believe that every promotion of self will be wiped away by God, so that Christ alone will be glorified.
There is another account of self-promotion from a parable in Luke 12:16-21: ‘Then He spoke a parable to them, saying: “The ground of a certain rich man yielded plentifully. And he thought within himself, saying, ‘What shall I do, since I have no room to store my crops?’ So he said, ‘I will do this: I will pull down my barns and build greater, and there I will store all my crops and my goods. And I will say to my soul, “Soul, you have many goods laid up for many years; take your ease; eat, drink, and be merry.”’ But God said to him, ‘Fool! This night your soul will be required of you; then whose will those things be which you have provided?’ “So is he who lays up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God.” This parable illustrates the emptiness of living for self. We were created to be a channel for God’s blessings, not a reservoir. We were designed to reach further, beyond ourselves. We’ve been called to transform other lives and empower others. Living to satisfy self, inhibits our service towards those God has called us to reach out to. Within those resources that God has provided for us is the provision for others around us.
Here is an exemplification of humility and self-denial by Jesus. Luke 22:41-42 reads: “And He was withdrawn from them about a stone’s throw, and He knelt down and prayed, saying, “Father, if it is Your will, take this cup away from Me; nevertheless not My will, but Yours, be done.” Jesus’ display of humility was reflected in His prayer – He surrendered Himself to God and His purpose. He died to self and was alive to His Father’s will. As a result, angels were dispatched to strengthen him. St Paul also displayed self-denial in Acts 20:22-24 which reads: ‘And see, now I go bound in the spirit to Jerusalem, not knowing the things that will happen to me there, except that the Holy Spirit testifies in every city, saying that chains and tribulations await me. But none of these things move me; nor do I count my life dear to myself, so that I may finish my race with joy, and the ministry which I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God’. St. Paul recognised his singular purpose and he lived to fulfil it.
St Paul reveals to us the process of overcoming self in Galatians 2:20. We have to die to self: ‘I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me’. It is in the process of dying to self that we become useful to God and the work of the Kingdom.
Let’s round up with some benefits of dying to self (a) You become a mighty vessel in God’s hands: This is how Jesus put it John 12:24-25: ‘Most assuredly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the ground and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it produces much grain. He who loves his life will lose it, and he who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life.’ (b) You enjoy a Christ-Centred Life: Your life will be led by God’s Spirit, as you enjoy the grace of God through faith in Christ Jesus. You will also live life, enjoying the strength, peace, love, joy of God. (c) You live as an Ambassador of Christ: As you proclaim the good news of Christ to the world, God’s presence surrounds you as His ambassador. Here is Mark 16: 15-18; ‘And He said to them, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature. He who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned. And these signs will follow those who believe: In My name they will cast out demons; they will speak with new tongues; they will take up serpents; and if they drink anything deadly, it will by no means hurt them; they will lay hands on the sick, and they will recover.”’ (Also see 2 Corinthians 2:14-15). (d) A Channel for God’s glory: Here is 1 Peter 2:9-10; ‘But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvellous light; who once were not a people but are now the people of God, who had not obtained mercy but now have obtained mercy’.
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