SELF is on a world tour and playing to sell-out crowds. The headlining show – Self-Promotion – is garnering rave reviews and standing ovations.
The tour showcases acclaimed opening-act performances by Self-Love, Self-Worth, Self-Care, and Self-Affirmation. Repeat performances are booking on a global scale, and social media is driving the sales. It seems fans cannot get enough of self.
WE ARE A SELF-ABSORBED PEOPLE
Self has always known immense popularity; however, by all appearances, it is enjoying an unprecedented revival. The proliferation of self-promotion is no doubt fueled by some very unflattering coverage that self has suffered in this era of social media. Paralleling extraordinary growth in opportunities, self-expression has seen an unexpected (and ironic) increase in the self-maladies of loneliness, isolation, and depression. For many, social media has magnified feelings of self-doubt, self-condemnation, and even self-loathing.
The cure, we are told, is more of self: We simply need to exchange our negative self-thoughts for positive self-thoughts. If applied faithfully, words of self-affirmation will eventually shore up our insecurities and improve our self-esteem.
The “more self” message assures us that it is only reasonable to look to our own well being. “Me time” is vital to our survival as women. It would be irresponsible not to care for self. We can’t possibly love others well if we don’t love ourselves first.
The message is everywhere and incredibly enticing. The tune draws us in because it perfectly resonates with our sin nature. It’s only when we overlay the “love yourself” message with God’s Word that we are able to hear the dissonance.
Christ and His kingdom are antithetical to the culture of this world. When our thoughts become too closely aligned with the world’s message, we are very likely out of sync with the heart of the Father.
WE NEED LESS SELF AND MORE JESUS
God’s Word tells us that self is the real enemy – and not to be trifled with. It must be denied and controlled. Self will never be content to merely headline in your life. Its sights are set much higher. It is human nature to desire an earthly kingdom, constructed of selfish goals, dreams, and aspirations – and ultimately for the purpose of seating self upon the throne.
God’s Word tells us there is only one solution to the insatiable needs and desires of self: LESS of self and MORE of Jesus.
“He must increase, but I must decrease.” John 3:30 ESV
Paul the apostle said his life as a Christ follower had one purpose: to share the hope found through faith in Jesus so that others might know Him. He considered all other self-pursuits a waste.
“Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord.
For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ.” Philippians 3:8, ESV
He went on to say that he was willing to yield his entire life in order to invest in others – to sacrifice self for the benefit of their faith.
“Even if I am to be poured out as a drink offering upon the sacrificial offering of your faith, I am glad and rejoice with you all.” Philippians 2:17, ESV
Jesus is our supreme example. He perfectly demonstrated the relationship we are to have with self. Jesus did not live in pursuit of earthly reward. He lived sacrificially, yielding self-desire to the will of His Father. He freely exchanged self-love for love for others.
One fact speaks more loudly than all of our social psychology, intellectual rationale and humanist rhetoric.
JESUS NAILED SELF TO THE CROSS
Jesus’ heart was one of surrendered humility. In complete denial of self, He set aside His throne and the opulent riches of heaven, the adoration of a million worshiping angels, and unimaginable glory so that we could have life.
To be a Christ follower is to become more like Christ – to increasingly be conformed to His image – to have a heart that reflects His heart.
Then Jesus said to His disciples, “If anyone desires to come after me, let him deny himself,
and take up his cross, and follow me.” Matthew 16:24, ESV
The cure for the maladies of self is not the repetition of current cultural mantras: I am worthy. I am enough. I deserve. That strategy doesn’t work. Cheering ourselves on may serve to temporarily prop up our spirits, but in our hearts, we feel the hollow echo of those words. We know the answer to our problems does not lie within us.
The cure is to proclaim what is true: Jesus Christ alone is worthy. He is enough. He is perfect, beautiful and holy. His worthiness covers my sin and shame. He is the lifter of my head. He is the lover of my soul.
As our focus shifts from self to Jesus, we begin to see ourselves through His eyes – the recipients of His extravagant love and undeserved grace. We are highly valued, ransomed at significant cost, worthy because we are lavishly covered in His righteousness. We are beautiful and exceptional because we are His creation and our attributes were hand-selected by Him.
The view of self through the lens of His love leaves no room to be ruled by a negative self-image, self-neglect, or self-condemnation. The price paid for our redemption bought our complete emancipation from self.
“Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.” Galatians 5:24, ESV
Our worth lies in our identity as the children of the King of kings. Through our pursuit of Christ, we find ourselves. Our story is significant because it reflects His story. Our journey is worth traveling because it leads us to Him. Our message has value as it echoes His truth.
Joy and true contentment will never be found in the placation of self but in the overcoming of it. Only by dying to self can we experience genuine freedom and become everything we are created to be in Christ.
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