Self-confidence. Self-esteem. Self-acceptance. Self-realization. Self-righteous. Self-conscious. Self-determination. The list goes on and on, and I’m sure you’re familiar with at least most of those words. In today’s culture, those people described as such are often times the people we “look up to” and try to model our lives after. I have heard it said many times that we must learn to love ourselves before we can ever learn to love another, as well as that if we can just get ourselves “right,” then everything else will fall into place. While many people believe that to be true, I am not convinced.
Paul wrote these words to the church at Philippi in Philippians 2:3: “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves.” Sadly, few of us place the needs of others before the needs of ourselves. The condition of our heart is the main motivation behind what we do, and many of us simply "don't have time to" serve or love or care for others, because we're too wrapped up on our own needs + desires. This is not to say that we should become people pleasers who stay busy to make ourselves feel better, but rather to long to meet help those whom we are able to help with an earnest heart who seeks to please our Lord. Instead of looking to our own strength, knowledge, or experiences to enable us to do as this verse commands, we ought to be looking to the Father. Instead of seeking to be confident in our own skin, we ought to be confident in the Name which we bear. Instead of aiming to find peace within us to accept ourselves for who we are, we ought to rejoice in the acceptance that we have with the Father because of the cross Jesus bore on our behalf. Instead of trying to learn more about ourselves, we ought to long to know more about the heart of the One who created us as vessels of praise to Him. Instead of comparing ourselves to the things of this world, we ought to be comparing ourselves to Jesus Christ, He who lived a perfectly sinless life for us because we couldn’t. Instead of trying to find what makes us happy, we ought to be more concerned about the things that bring joy to the Father.
Apart from Jesus Christ, we are hopeless + broken + dead. When we try to be righteous or good on our own, God describes our attempts as filthy rags (Isaiah 64:6). Sin is a simple word, but the depth of its meaning and destruction are far from simple. Through Adam’s disobedience, we all became sinful before birth and should experience death (Psalm 51:5; Romans 5:12), but praise be to God that He extended abundant grace to us who were dead and granted us the gift of righteousness through Christ, which Romans 5:17 proclaims! Several chapters later, Paul tells us that God allowed our disobedience so that He could show us mercy in our transgressions (Romans 11:32). God didn’t send Jesus to us so that we could try our best to become good on our own if we would learn how to love ourselves, but rather to show how deeply we are loved by the Almighty God, the Father of the nations, the Creator of the universe, the Judge. It’s not about loving ourselves, but instead about accepting + embracing the love that makes us worthy.
What lies are you believing about what makes you worthy? Our only hope is Christ, but the prince of this world is still out to destroy us. Those who are hidden in Christ are free from slavery to sin and, therefore, no longer under Satan’s rule though we still battle with our flesh (Colossians 1:13-14), but there are so many who are trapped by the schemes of Satan + need our gentle instruction on how to be made righteous (2 Timothy 2:25-26). The lies we are daily fed appear to be no big deal, because the serpent is sly and convincing...unless, that is, we know what the Word of God says concerning a certain circumstance or situation that arises. Children of God, our only hope of knowing truth is to humbly draw near to the Father, letting his Word transform + sanctify us while it creates a pure heart in us (Psalm 51:10). Therefore, we must not seek to please men, but rather God, our loving Lord who abounds in grace + mercy that will never run out.
May we, as the body of Christ, be moved to pray prayers of repentance + seek to chase after the heart of the Most High God who took on flesh so that we might dwell with Him in eternity. He died for you, not so you could become more like yourself, but rather so you could become more like His Son. In ourselves, there is death, but in Christ, there is life. Who will you choose to worship today, Christian, yourself or your God? My prayer is that we would sow to please the Spirit and, thus, reap eternal life, just as Galatians 6:8 promises.
“Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock. But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash.”