Who wants to read a book on “denying self”!? Everything in our culture urges us to esteem self. The “world” (as the Apostle John would call it) encourages us to please self, to satisfy self, live for self. When people in our self-bloated culture begin to have that uncomfortable disturbance, discontent with the reality of self… that disquiet in their spirit because they are so saturated with self-this, self-that, self-centeredness, selfishness, what do they do? Do they seek God? Ha! No, they venture on a quest to “find themselves“, as if somehow they lost this crucial aspect of their identity. How completely antithetical to everything the “world” teaches are the words of our Lord:
Then Jesus told his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what shall a man give in return for his soul? For the Son of Man is going to come with his angels in the glory of his Father, and then he will repay each person according to what he has done. Truly, I say to you, there are some standing here who will not taste death until they see the Son of Man coming in his kingdom.” (Matthew 16:24-28)
“Self” is the most common source of the infection that sickens our soul, and our constant consumption of it, the cause of our condemnation. But the example of Christ, and the teaching of Christ and His apostles is clear. That which has true and lasting value is found not in the self-serving, self-loving nature of our flesh, but in loving and serving to others, submitting to one another in Christ; this is a gift of grace that is only available through the Spirit. But as Chantry writes:
“Often the Bible describes sin as selfishness. Isaiah 53:6: ‘All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way’. 2 Timothy 3:1-2 states the obvious in shocking terms: ‘This know also that in the last days perilous times shall come. For men shall be lovers of their own selves…’ That is the disgusting reality of our generation. Men are making decisions with only one consideration, ‘their own selves’.” (page 11)
Chantry rightly defines the problem, then discusses the ONLY true solution to it, even as the Apostle Paul said to the foolish Galatians, “I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” (Galatians 2:20). It is only through the cross of Christ that we may die to self and live for others. Chantry elaborates on the meaning of the cross of Christ, as well as what it means to take up our own cross.
He goes on to discuss the Christian theme of self-denial as with reflections on how it should be practiced in Christian liberty, in marriage, in ministry, and in prayer. Each of these chapters is thoughtful and thought-provoking. The book is not very long and can be read in just one or two sittings. But I would encourage you to read it more than once, and to chew on what Chantry puts forth here. It is no substitute for the direct teachings of Scripture on this important matter, but as a reflection and an aid to meditation, it is extremely helpful and I might say even necessary to combat the over-indulgence of “self” that our society forces on us daily.
Peace & Blessings,