Self Denial in the Christian Life
“I am crucified with Christ; nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ lives in me.”
The life of Christ and the life of self cannot coexist in the same heart. If the one lives, the other dies. The sentence of death is written upon a man’s self, when the Spirit of Christ enters his heart, and quickens his soul with the life of God. “I live,” he exclaims, “yet not I.” What a striking and beautiful example of this have we in the life and labours of the apostle Paul! Does he speak of his ministry?–what a renunciation of self appears! Lost in the greatness and grandeur of his theme, he exclaims–”We preach not ourselves, but Christ Jesus the Lord.” Again–”Unto me who am less than the least of all saints, is this grace given, that I should preach among the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ.” Does he refer to his office?–what self-crucifixion! “I magnify my office.” In what way? Was it by vaunting proclamations of its grandeur and legitimacy, its Divine institution, or its solemn functions? Never! but he magnified his office by diminishing himself, and exalting his Master. He was nothing–aye, and even his office itself was comparatively nothing–that “Christ might be all in all.” Does he speak of his gifts and labours? what absence of self! “I am the least of the apostles, that am not fit to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the Church of God. But by the grace of God I am what I am; and His grace, which was bestowed upon me, was not in vain, but I laboured more abundantly than they all: yet not I, but the grace of God which was with me.” Such was the religion of Paul. His Christianity was a self-denying, self-crucifying, self-renouncing Christianity. “I live, yet not I. I laboured more abundantly than they all, yet not I.” Oh what a self-denying spirit was his!
But every truly spiritual man is a self-renouncing man. In the discipline of his own heart, beneath the cross of Jesus, and in the school of trial and temptation, he has been taught in some degree, that if he lives, it is not he that lives, but that it is Christ that lives in him. Upon all his own righteousness, his duties, and doings, he tramples as to the great matter of justification; while, as fruits of the Spirit, as evidences of faith, as pulsations of the inner spiritual life, as, in a word, tending to authenticate and advance his sanctification, he desires to be “careful to maintain good works,” that God in all things might be glorified. – Octavius Winslow