Dying to Self

Dan Lenington on September 10, 2013

As I’ve been challenged to pray for revival and specific needs in our church, I’ve know all the while that the effectiveness of my prayer life depends on the level of my intimacy with God. Not only do I need to know His will in specific areas, but I also need to be as pure as possible so that sin will not hinder my prayers. Well after reading the book How to Develop a Powerful Prayer Life by Dr. Gregory Frizzell, I realized the importance of daily confession in order to maintain a close walk with God in the Spirit. However, even after going through the areas of sin he outlines for confession, I still felt like there was something I was missing. I have known times over the last few months when I’ve known I was in fellowship with God, but other times I couldn’t think of anything I knew was sin but still felt distant from God. Knowing that God wants us to be close to Him at all times and that the problem can only be with me and not with Him, I began to pray that God would show me my sin. He began to answer this prayer when I read a few pages of the book Rees Howells: Intercessor by Norman Grubb. This biography of Rees Howells life describes on pages 33-40 how he came to the realization of what it truly meant to die to self. In fact, he describes it in terms of a funeral. He wept for days as the Spirit of God showed him each area of his life that he must surrender to the control of the Spirit. In essence, his will would cease to exist and God’s will would be all that was left. He spoke of God’s Spirit coming to possess him and live the life God intended to be lived in him. As I read these pages, I was stunned. I had never realized how full our surrender to God’s will should be. When Christ told His disciples to deny self, take up their cross daily and follow him, these words took on new clarity. Practically speaking, though, I still wasn’t sure what this dying to self would look like.  A few nights ago, I was asking God to reveal my sin to me so I could be pure enough to ask and receive according to His will. Suddenly, the thought entered my mind, “Anything done for self is sin.” This really struck me. However, then I began to rationalize, “We all need to eat; we all need to rest. What’s wrong with that?” Gradually, God showed me that just as Christ would not exercise His divine power to make rocks into bread while on earth due to his voluntary limiting of His own will in submission to the Father's, so I cannot exercise my own will even in areas of physical need. In other words, when I come home from work and feel tired, do I tell myself that now its “my time” to relax and do what I want. In reality, none of “my time” is my time. When I’m hungry, do I just go eat, or do I first ask God if it is His will for me to eat at this time. This may sound ridiculous! But seriously, isn’t this what Christ was sensitive to when Satan tempted Him to make bread to satisfy His own hunger? We may rationalize, “Hey a man’s got to eat,” or “Hey I need to relax sometimes.” But wait, is it God’s will for me to eat now, or eat this? Is it God’s will for me to relax now or in this way? This is why, Paul says in 1 Cor. 10:31, “Whether therefore ye eat or drink or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God.” So even if something is not inherently wrong, it is often wrong if we do it for self or in the flesh rather than in the Spirit to the glory of God. Proactively, this means that I need to be in tune with the Spirit constantly, praying without ceasing, to ask and know if any action, thought, or word is God’s will at any particular time. I believe that gradually this will become more natural and come more easy. In the mean time it will take real focus and concentration, not to mention much prayer for help! In general, I know the larger themes of God’s will for my life, but it will be a growing process to listen, learn, and do His will in every daily choice. The point of course is to know what to pray for instantly in every situation by knowing God’s will, and then see Him work in ways that only He can.