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.
Dying to Self is Countercultural
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. And 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, dying to self, yielding His 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 dying to 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.
Where Does Our Worth Lie?
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.
Dying to Self = Finding our 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. Truly, 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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Thank you. I’m blessed to know it spoke to you.
Can we agree that there is a difference between self-care and selfish living?
In a world where the testimony of Christian women is one of exhaustion, disillusionment, feeling stretched too thin and living overwhelmed I get concerned when we group self-care in with sinful desires of the flesh.
While there is certainly a hedonistic culture taking advantage of self-esteem, self-care, and positive thinking, throwing out God’s gifts to us because it can be twisted is not the answer. Too many women are sacrificing their vision, purpose, calling and identity on the altar of “deny oneself” – which is not at all what the gospel writers had in mind when they penned those words.
In fact, death was never the point – resurrection is. The only time we’re called to die to anything in the Bible is to find new life. So ask: is what you’re “denying” leading to new life? Good fruit? Or is it leaving you more overwhelmed, exhausted, discouraged and disconnected from the Abundant Life Jesus offers?
If Jesus’ death on the cross did anything, it freed us from the death-sentence ourselves.
Denying oneself, sacrificial living and intentional “decrease” isn’t a command against self-care, it’s a stand against selfish living.
Maybe the issue is with the term itself. In the Bible, self-care might have been called “good stewardship” instead. God gave us healthy limits that are important to guard as well as imperatives on how to care for our own spiritual, physical, mental and emotional well being (what today is called “self-care”) – including time for rest (Matthew 11:28-30), taking care of our bodies (1 Timothy 5:23, 1 Corinthians 3:16-17), sharing meals with friends (Luke 10:25-42), to name a few.
Yes, “I’m beautiful” may not be a helpful sentiment, but you know what is? “God delights in me” (Psalm 18:19). “God dwells in ME” (1 Corinthians 3:16) and “I am created with a purpose” (Ephesians 2:10). We need positive affirmations in a world of negative messages – just let them be Christ-centred.
Christ came – and died on the cross – because of our value to Him! To disdain self-worth is to disagree with God! The difference is our self-worth comes from knowing WHOSE we are, not in arrogant grand-standing.
Please, please do not exalt the exhausted, overtired, drained and weary existence of too many Christian women who, in their desire to please God, spend too much time “denying” themselves and not enough time rejoicing in God’s care, abundance, provision and purpose for their lives.
Your perspective is so appreciated. Balance is crucial. His voice never leads us down a path that ends in exhaustion and disillusionment.
The post was definitely aimed at, as you so aptly describe it, the hedonistic culture taking advantage of and twisting God’s plan for us to walk in our worth found in Him and the abundant life He came to give us — through the illusion that fulfillment is to be found through the pursuit of self.
I am blessed by your passion to lead women whose history is one of being overspent; to a place of healing, restoration and joy. Your commitment to encourage women to walk out their God given purpose reflects the heart of the Father. I pray the Lord continues to use your gifts and voice to minister encouragement and hope. ~ In His Love, Tabitha
I think you bring up a good point and my observation is that women are creating exhausted, busy, stress-filled lives by complicating their lives and trying to do “it all” and then frantically trying to “balance it all”. I agree with creating life-affirming statements that are Christ-centered and biblical. My message for women is that they do not have to do “it all” so they can have margin in their life to take care of themselves in a God-honoring way. Great conversation!
I love this: It’s only when we overlay the “love yourself” message with God’s Word that we are able to hear the dissonance.
Thank you, Mary. I believe the key is to lower the noise (i.e. ‘find your simple’ 😉 and create space for the stillness that allows us to tune our ear to Him and His Word.
Excellent article! Thanks for sharing!
Thank you, Carolyn, for taking time out of your day to read this. Your work is breathtaking, and such a tangible expression of how God uses the gifts He has given us for kingdom purpose —transforming our earthly efforts into something of eternal value. Blessings, Tabitha.
Yes, thank you! Our weary or feeling-like-not-enough souls can be encouraged by God in us. We can be exalted when we are humbled before our almighty God. Appreciate this as there is definitely a tide happening.
Thank you, Erica, for your kind words. Yes, I believe there are voices being raised up; those willing to risk swimming against the cultural current to speak words of Life, true Hope and the Joy to be found only through new life in Jesus Christ.
Thank you for this perspective. Indeed, our culture is getting more and more self absorbed. Although we all have a need to be noticed, it appears that need is being fueled more and more by social media, leading us to more self. The irony is that if we look to God, that need is satisfied by mercy. We deserve punishment, but instead, God pays attention to us in some of the most intimate ways. This is God’s mercy at it’s finest. In spite of our selves, His mercies are new every morning. By resting in that truth, we are reminded of the gospel, which is the most humbling focus we can have. Turn your eyes upon Jesus!
Amen, Susan. Focus is everything, right? As long as I am looking at me, I will find imperfection, longing, brokenness, and failure. My image leaves me wanting for more. When I look upon Jesus my gaze is met with grace, and mercy. He is the fulfillment of everything I could ever desire. His intimate, perfect, eternal love covers me and I am whole. I am emancipated from the insatiable demands of self and free to turn my attention, and my heart, to the One who redeemed me —the One who is worthy of my focus. Thank you , sister, for your beautiful contribution. ~ Love, Tabitha