Dying To Self To Live Unto God
From Freedom From A Self-Centered Life
Selections from the writings of William Law, edited by Andrew Murray.
There are two thoughts on which William Law dwells repeatedly at length in his writings. The one is that self can hide himself under all forms of goodness, and gets a more unmovable abode in these forms of virtue than he has in publicans and sinners. This thought ought to alarm us all. Self can watch and fast, pray much and preach long; self can become religious, take pleasure in its duties, and be exceedingly diligent in its services.
William Law wants to lead us to dying to self, but this cannot be until we know what self is. If we do not know to seek him where he hides in his cloak of religion, all teaching and effort will be vain. We may be ready to die to his pride and sin, and not know that his stronghold is in the temple. Self will even offer to lead and to help us in dying to self. It is only when we begin so to fear his terrible subtlety as to give up all hope of discovering him and bringing him to execution that we shall come to that real dying to self to which William Law would eagerly bring us a sense of our utter inability to deal with self, a giving up all hope of conquering him, the entire casting of ourselves, in utter despair, on God alone to do the work.
This is what, as a second thought, is more distinctly expressed in a following sentence: to die to self, to come from under its power, cannot be done by any active resistance we can make to it by the powers of nature. How much mortification of self there has been, both in what was external and what appeared more inward; how much of penance and penitence, of scourging and self-loathing, which was nothing but the work of self!
It is only when the soul is brought to believe in its own entire and utter impotence to deal directly with this monster that it will begin to get an insight into the absoluteness of the surrender to God and the trust in Him, which is needed if He alone is to do the work for us and in us. Christ conquered sin by dying to it. We died in Him, and are, even as He, dead to it. As we live "always bearing about
the dying of the Lord Jesus" (2 Cor. 4:10), bearing His dying in us, the dying to self will be real and true. Nothing that we do ourselves can have any good in it, because it is self working in us. The good in us is the work of Gods Spirit, and it is all preparatory to that full death to self to which He seeks to bring us, and in which we are entirely yielded up to God to work all in us.
All failures of the Christian life are due to this one thing that we seek to do in our own strength what God Himself by His Spirit alone can work in us. Let us weigh well William Laws words: to die to self, to come from under its power, cannot be done by any active resistance we can make to it by the power of nature. To exchange the life of self for the life of God, to come out of the darkness of self into the light of God, is a work we cannot do. It is the man who ceases from self, who sees and accepts in the death of Christ his death to self, and his entrance into the life of God as a gift from heaven on whom the light of God will rise
The True Way of Dying to Self
What is the true way of dying to self? How can a man be led to understand and desire and find what the death to sin and self in Christ gives him? It is the way of patience, meekness, humility, resignation to God. Dying to self, turning away and ceasing from it, refusing to be led by it, can be effected in no other way but just bowing low before God in the confession of sin and impotence and the patient waiting for His work in us
Let us learn, whatever our experience be of the power of self, in its sin or its impotence to conquer sin, in its open outbreaks or its hidden power, to see that here is the only cure at once gently to sink down before God in a humility that confesses its nothingness; in the meekness that bows under and quietly bears the shame we feel; in a patience that waits Gods sure deliverance; and a resignation that gives itself entirely to His will, and power and mercy. As easily and immediately as sinners, by turning to Christ, were saved by Him, you will, by the turning of your heart to them, receive the blessed rest they bring.
Our Heart the Way to God
"Nothing is the way to God but our heart." This is a hard saying. You thought your heart was your great hindrance on the way to God. The state of your heart is your continual sorrow, and almost leads you to despair. How can it be that the heart is the way to God? And yet it is so. Your heart is your life; and your life can be altered only by that which is the real working of your heart. You can know nothing of God, can receive no grace, can experience no working of the divine presence or power, but in the heart.
The heart cannot find God but by its own faith in Him and expectation of all from Him. All our salvation is in the heart. Scripture speaks awful things of the natural, evil heart, and it says wonderful and blessed things of the regenerate heart. It is when the penitent sinner listens to Scripture that he learns to know what he never thought or saw, how evil his heart is. If the believer would listen to and believe what Scripture says of the new heart His Father has given him, with the Holy Spirit sent into it to dwell in it and to keep it and fit it for everything it has to do, he would understand and rejoice in this word: our heart is the way to God, because there and there alone, but there most surely, the effectual operation of the Holy Trinity is carried on.
You say you feel or observe so little of this operation within you. I can well believe it. The reason is that it is a divine, hidden working to be accepted in faith before it is felt. And because most Christians do not take time and stillness and trouble in Gods presence to give themselves wholly to this working and to get the spiritual assurance of its being carried on effectually, they cannot know it. We have more or less of the divine operation within us, just and strictly in that degree as our faith, and trust, and dependence upon God is more or less in us. No wonder, when we take so little trouble to live by the faith of this operation of God, that we know so little of it.
And how is this to be remedied? By ceasing to look at what we can see in our hearts, and concentrating our whole strength upon believing what God is doing there, and waiting to do
.The Spirit hides Himself from sight. He refuses to discover Himself to anything but a childlike, trustful faith. Oh, begin and honor the Holy Spirit and Triune God, as they dwell and work in you, by never thinking of your heart without believing and rejoicing that God is there. God has given you the new heart, cleansed by faith, with the love of God shed abroad by the indwelling Spirit, amid the surrounding sin that dwells in your flesh.
That sin is ever seeking to enter; it does enter and get the upper hand the moment you cease believing and yielding to the divine operation. As often as the motions of sin arise, lose no time in seeking either to condemn or to conquer them, but retire at once into your fortress, the secret place of the Most High, by believing that God through His Spirit is in you. He will mortify the deeds of the body and of the heart, which have been such a weariness to you. You will say "My heart rejoiceth." I beseech you, as earnestly as you believe in the mighty power of God working in you, believe that your heart is its scene, is His abode and working place. Let your heart be very sacred, as the palace and temple of the King! You will then say with joy: "Our heart is the way to God!"
A meek, humble, patient resignation to God, as a state of heart, is the one condition of really, truly finding and appropriating Christ, is the one only way of dying to self, is the one only way to God Himself, and the experience of His presence and power in the soul.