Recognizing Your Enemies
Man has two great enemies by whom the devil tempts him and with whom he has to be concerned. The one is the world without, and the other is the self-life within. This last, the selfish ego, is much more dangerous and stronger than the first. It is quite possible for a man to have made much progress in forsaking the world while the self-life retains full dominion within him.
You see this fact illustrated in the case of the disciples. Peter could say with truth: "Lo! we have left all and followed Thee." Yet how manifestly did the selfish ego, with its self-pleasing and its self-confidence, still retain its full sway over him.
The Lord led them up to the point of forsaking their outward possessions and following Him. He also began to teach them that a disciple must deny himself and lose his own life if he would be worthy of receiving His life. It was love for this self-life that hindered the Lord Jesus from doing His work in man's heart. It cost them more to be redeemed from the selfish ego within them than to withdraw from the world around them. The self-life is the natural life of sinful man. He can be liberated from it by nothing except death - that is, by first dying to it and then living in the strength of the new life that comes from God.
The forsaking of the world began at the outset of the three years' discipleship. At the end of that period, at the Cross of Jesus, dying to the self-life first took place. When they saw Him die, they learned to despair of themselves and of everything they had previously based their hope. Whether they had thought of their Lord and the expected redemption or of themselves and their shameful unfaithfulness toward Him, they tended to be filled with despair over everything. Little did they know this despair would break up of their hard hearts, mortifying their self-life and confidence in themselves. This enabled them to receive something entirely new - namely, a divine life through the Spirit of the glorified Jesus in the innermost depths of their souls.
Oh, that we understood better that nothing hampers us as much as secret reliance on ourselves. On the other hand, nothing brings as much blessing as entire despair of ourselves and all that is on the earth, teaching us to turn our hearts wholly to heaven and partake of the heavenly gift.
(continued with # 14 - "The Unheard of Wonder")