Henry Blackaby has said that we have been “created to be God’s friends.” Renewal and transformation of our spirits happens in this intimate friendship relationship. What could thwart this from happening? A main enemy of intimate friendship with God is self-obsession. Self-obsession necessarily takes us out of relationship with God and others.
Therefore, in order to be renewed and transformed we must deny negative aspects of the self; namely, the self-obsessive aspects. Jesus gives us this stark, ascetic either-or: “If any man will come after me, let him deny himself daily, and take up his cross, and follow me. For whoever will save his life shall lose it: and whoever shall lose his life for my sake shall find it.” Self-denial is to be a daily discipline. I know from this command of Jesus and from my own experience that every day the self will rise up and try to assert itself against the ways of God. When I have allowed God to search me and know my heart one thing He points out my emphasis on myself, sometimes to the point of idolatry. Obsession with one’s self is the enemy of all spiritual renewal and transformation.
God desires to defeat our self-obsessiveness so we can experience renewal and transformation. One way God does this is by calling us into times of solitude. This is why Henri Nouwen has called solitude “the furnace of spiritual transformation.” If solitude is a “furnace,” what gets burned away? The answer is: the negative aspects of the “self.” Unless we daily practice self-denial, self-centered ideas will rise up against the ideas of God. I have discovered ten such negative aspects of the self. I’ll share them with you soon in separate posts.