The Habit of Dying to Self By

By James Smith

Ever have one of those days, weeks, years, or seasons where you find yourself consumed with nothing but yourself? Overwhelmed by selfish desires that have led to fractured relationships, destructive addictions, or exhausted by having to maintain a certain projected image of yourself? At the root of all these bad habits is pride and it haunts us all. Indeed, it’s truly the heart we carry. Jeremiah tells us that the heart in us all is terminal. That it’s far from trustworthy, and in the end, cannot be truly understood (Jer. 17:9). This would be a heartbreaking residence if left to ourselves.

But thank God we’ve not been left alone. The good news for those who would hear and the reality for the Christian is that we’ve been bothered by severe mercy (Titus 3:5), interrupted by abundant grace (Rom. 5:17), and brought back to life by overwhelming generosity (Eph. 2:4–6; Psalms 145:8, 2 Cor 5:17). We’ve been given new lungs so to speak, the flesh has been indicted, and our hearts are in surgery for our good.

We’ve been bothered by severe mercy, interrupted by abundant grace, and brought back to life by overwhelming generosity.

The Spirit of Christ is powerfully and meticulously making us anew—working to dethrone ourselves as the object of our faith and trust. As a sovereign and skillful Surgeon, He works to terminate the remaining stains of indwelling sin and although often painful (as all surgery is), His goal is to make us like Christ (1 Pet. 1:2). His means are by the focused use of the Word of God (1 John 5:6), and His delight is when we call on a good Father for help (Prov. 15:8)—and it’s in this needy state of begging for help that is our greatest weapon in the struggle against pride.

Dying To Self and Living In Christ

As people made in the image of God, tarnished by the stain of sin, and riddled throughout with pride, we must seek help. There is no better place to seek help for this fight than from the One who has promised help and eventual victory. If you’re like me, I need specific, biblically-grounded prayers to help in recognition of my weakness, so I’ve included some below. I pray they help in the fight against self in order for us to become less and Him to become more.

1. Pray for a unified heart.
Naturally, the prideful man is anything but ordered. Our hearts are far from focused on the kingdom of God and His Kingly Son, distracted and fickle. This is what David experienced at times when attempting to pray and why in Psalm 86:11 he pleads, “…unite my heart to fear your name.”

2. Pray for a lack of faith in yourself.
We can take a cue from the father in Mark 9 who in a moment of desperation declared his lack of faith directly to Jesus, crying out “I believe; help my unbelief!” Let this catalyze you to confess the same, or the reverse: Beg the Father for help with stifling the faith you have in yourself. Be honest about your limitations and how you are unable, but turn to the One who is.

3. Pray for downward growth.
Humility is the antithesis of pride. Humility should be a close friend to the Christian (1 Peter 5:6). Humility can be defined as a position of lowliness before God, in recognition of one’s status as a creature before him. Let Charles Simeon, an English pastor in the 17—1800’s, be a reliable guide here. A Simeon biographer noted that over the course of his long time in ministry, one of his sustained practices was to grow “downward in humiliation before God, and upward in his adoration of Christ.” Move from a big, overinflated view of yourself by allowing His greatness and majesty to captivate you.

4. Pray for eyes to see the truth that all your powers and faculties are truly from God (1 Cor. 4:17)
Pride makes us boast in the wrong things as we lose sight of reality. When we boast in ourselves we become puffed up or deflated completely, depending on how we meet our perception of ourself, but true boasting and joy is in God who graciously works through us. Anything we’d be tempted to boast of regarding ourselves has as its ground in the gift and graces of God.

5. Pray for help to get over yourself.
Because pride hinders our vision and perspective, we must not forget all the formal and informal ways others have helped us. Parents, friends, siblings, grandparents, teachers, coaches, bosses, professors, counselors, and countless others have made investments big and small in us. In aggregate, those investments add up to much of what we are now. Therefore, make it a regular prayer to get over yourself, and thank God for the myriad people he’s had help you along the way.

6. Finally, pray for help to glorify rightly.
Fundamentally, pride is about the glory of self, which is opposed to giving glory to God. God is the only being that rightly merits glory, and faith is the gift he bestows that allows us to glorify him, thereby breaking the deadly habit of preoccupation with self (Jer. 13:15–16a). He has decisively promised to do this for the Christian (Ezek. 36:26) and is slowly bringing it to pass, even now.

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