Jesus said we must take up our cross and die to the supremacy of Self every single day, probably many times a day (see Matthew 10:38; 16:24; Mark 8:34; Luke 9:23; 14:27).
We must crucify the exalted, offended Self, that’s clear. But what this looks like in operation has left many dear folks a little confused. The simple thing I do (I’m trying to practice this every day) is to pray, Jesus, I surrender the Self Life to you. I’m not hating the Self; I’m not mocking it. I’m not berating the Self, not heaping accusation and contempt upon it. I am surrendering it, turning it over to Jesus, relinquishing its every right. Here are some practical ways:
“Envy cannot bear to admire or respect. It cannot bear to be grateful,” wrote Sayers. So a wonderful way to thwart the Self is to admire and be grateful. Pray for people who are in a better situation than you are, who are more gifted than you are, or who currently have wonderful circumstances coming their way. Rejoice with those who rejoice. Pray for someone else’s promotion, someone else’s pregnancy, someone else’s healing. That crucifies envy.
Make no room for offense. Given the social air we breathe, this is going to be enormously helpful. Whenever, wherever you see offense cropping up, crucify it—give it no hold. Now, I understand it may be utterly justified. People do offensive things; all those Eustaces out there are offensive. Cutting in on you at the market, taking your place in the theater, getting on social media and saying all kinds of terrible things. But the point is, you don’t want to get caught up in it. Offense has no good ending.
Cultivate admiration. When you’re scrolling through social media (which I hope is less and less these days), and you come across someone’s wonderful life, cheer for them. Praise God for it. Make it personal: “Lord, she’s such a wonderful singer; I pray she gets chosen to lead worship next week instead of me.” “Jesus, he’s such a fabulous athlete; I pray he makes the team.” Goodbye, Self. You cannot have my soul.
O the joy of it—the enormous relief. I would rather have so much more of God than coddle the little tyrant of Self. And as soon as I crucify the Self, God is right there, and now there’s so much more room in me for him to fill.
By the way—this is why the Christian life only works through total abandonment. You have to be all in. If we hold anything back, retain some part of our lives for ourselves, large or small, the Self will rule there and continually set itself against God in us. A house divided cannot stand. Most disappointing Christian experiences can be explained by the honest admission that they weren’t abandoned to God. There’s no other way to follow Christ; with utter, brilliant clarity he said it this way: “Whoever tries to keep their life will lose it, and whoever loses their life will preserve it” (Luke 17:33).