If you are a human being reading this blog today, it’s likely that you struggle with being self-centered. And if you think you don’t, then it’s likely you struggle with being both self-unaware and self-centered.
If there is any propensity that runs rampant in all of our hearts, it is the never-ending inclination to be obsessed with ourselves. Becoming a Christian and being filled by the Holy Spirit subdues this sinful disposition . . . to a degree. We grow in our freedom from selfishness, and every other iniquitous tendency, as time goes on. But as of today, five years post-conversion, I still think a lot about me, myself, and I. It’s just that now I spiritualize my infatuation with myself. I don’t walk around thinking about my life in a way that is disconnected from Jesus. All my Matt-thoughts are also Jesus-thoughts (or that’s at least how I choose to see things).
I think and pray about my sin struggles, the work I need God to do in my heart, the strength I need him to provide me with, my desire for him to use me, and things like that. Now, I know it’s good to think and pray for oneself. The last thing any Christian needs to do is ignore their needs in the name of “selflessness.” However, when I fall into perpetual-navel-gazing-mode, I am well beyond a healthy concern and focus on self. Here’s a quick example: one morning last week as I was praying, I felt the Spirit nudge me to pray for a sister in Christ who was going through a rough time. My initial reaction was, “Ugh. Okay.” Conviction rolled in like an avalanche. On this particular day, I was doing just fine spiritually, emotionally, and physically. I had no pressing needs. I was just lifting up my normal prayers for Matt Moore – you know, the usual:“Help me know you, Lord. Soften my heart. Empower me to live for you.” And when the Lord pressed me to add in some prayers for my struggling sister, I essentially threw a hissy fit.
This mindset – my mindset – totally contradicts the mind that God calls me to have.
“Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.” – Philippians 2:3-9.
If anyone has the right to be all about himself, it’s God. Yet in Jesus, we actually see God serving us. The Ruler of this world abandoned his heavenly prestige, wrapped himself in the frailty of human flesh, and then allowed the creatures he created to nail his naked flesh to a Roman cross. Why? For you and me. In Jesus, God diverted his wrath away from us and took it upon himself instead. In Jesus, God let go of everything, even his life, to give his enemies the gift of eternal life.
If Jesus is our Master and he lived so sacrificially for us, how much more should we live an others-oriented kind of life? How much more should we, beneficiaries of divine selflessness, step away from the mirror and look instead to the needs and wants of others – especially our brothers and sisters in Christ?
If you’re anything like me, the thought of abandoning focus on self to focus on others scares you. Who’s going to spend time thinking about and praying for you if you’re too busy being wrapped up in other people’s lives? The beautiful thing is that when we all walk in obedience to this passage in Philippians, and we all consider others more significant than ourselves, we all end up taking care of each other. As we intercede and care for others, they intercede and care for us. As we take genuine interest in the lives of others, they take genuine interest in our lives. Everyone is focused on, cared for, lifted up in prayer, and ministered to. Humbly serving one another is win-win for everyone.
I love this quote from C.S. Lewis: “True humility is not thinking less of yourself, it is thinking of yourself less.” God doesn’t want us to degrade or devalue ourselves. He simply wants us to stop staring into the mirror all day and instead fix our gaze onto those around us. Self-obsession is enslavement. It only produces anxiety, lovelessness, and a hard heart. When I’m all infatuated with myself, not only do I rob others, I also rob myself. It is in laying down my life for others where I most closely identify with Jesus and most fully experience his joy. I pray the Lord would remind me of this every single time I begin to slip into “it’s all about Matt Moore” mode.