Pogo was a famous comic strip years ago. Pogo was a possum in Okefenokee Swamp. Surrounded by a motley array of friends, he philosophized about life, politics, or the latest news. You frequently saw Pogo sitting in a pirogue (flat-bottom boat), talking with his alligator friend Albert. One of Pogo’s most famous quotes is, “We have met the enemy and he is us.”
No doubt about it, self is your toughest opponent. Satan opposes you, but his efforts with you are necessarily limited. After all, he’s got billions of other people to harass, and there’s only so much time in a day.
The world is enticing, but if you’ve crucified your sinful nature, the world becomes less attractive over time. Experience teaches us that what appears exciting now can quickly lose its luster.
Not so with self. Self is always with you. You’ll never cease being yourself, and you certainly can’t get away from self. And self untiringly opposes your effort to build intimacy with God.
The self I’m talking about is always self-focused, self-centered, self-absorbed. Self is, by definition, selfish. Self is the part of you that is inwardly focused, thinking only of itself. Self can be immature, ignorant, defiant, and lazy.
How do you deal with self, then? The answer is denial. No, not denying that self is a problem. Denying yourself. Jesus made that clear when giving the foundational requirements for those who would be His devoted disciples:
Then he called the crowd to him along with his disciples and said: “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. (Mark 8:34 NIV)
So, you must deny yourself. But how, exactly, do you do that? There are four areas that come to mind:
Don’t love self.
Love is where it always starts. Love is the most powerful force in the universe. Love can motivate you to do great things. The Bible commands you to love God, love your neighbor, and love your enemy.
Despite Whitney Houston’s popular song, loving yourself is not the greatest love of all. Don’t sit at the top of your totem pole. Don’t put your welfare and interests ahead of the needs of others. Deny self-love.
Don’t listen to self.
Listen to God, then obey. He’s the one who knows what’s best for you and everyone else. Follow His direction.
But don’t take your own advice. That was the rich fool’s mistake (see Luke 12:16-21). He engaged himself in conversation but ignored God’s word, to his eternal detriment.
As a friend once told me, it’s okay to talk to yourself, as long as you aren’t listening. Deny your own advice.
Don’t take self’s perspective.
See people and things through God’s eyes. He has perfect sight and insight. He sees things clearly, the way they really are. So it’s very important to take on His perspective.
The human perspective is frequently skewed. None of us really sees the whole picture, and we easily misinterpret what we do see. Ask God for His view of the situation and then accept it. Deny your own viewpoint.
Don’t seek self’s desires.
This is really what self is after. Self has wants and desires and tries to motivate you to indulge them. But you must deny those self-serving desires.
Instead, want what God wants. That would be His will and kingdom, which have nothing to do with what self wants. Deny self’s desires.
You can defeat your opponents—self, sin, Satan, and the world. Don’t try to do it in your own power. Ask God to lead, motivate, and energize you to grow closer to Him daily. Then you will truly live in victory.
What’s one difficult part of denying yourself?
Image by anyjazz65
Tags: Defeating Opponents