Sunday, April 14, 2013

The Battle for Self

Lately I've noticed a battle within me. It's always been there, but I couldn't quite define it. The tension swells in difficulty. The question I ask myself is simple, but incredibly important: do I own the rights to myself or does God?

Instinctive Love of Self

Looking out for my own interests is natural--instinctive really. Even though the bible tells us to look out for the interests of others, it somehow feels morally wrong to look out for others interests at a cost to your own. Especially if the cost is never completely repaid. There is always a voice in the back of your mind screaming "injustice" when another person gets their needs met more often then you do. (Ironically the reverse rarely feels unjust.) And when Paul tells the Philippians, "Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves", it almost feels scandalous.

It seems proper to be possessive of our self. We desperately want exclusive control over it. It is hard to conceive that there could be One outside of us who has more of a right to us than we do. It offends the pride.

A.W. Tozer in his book The Knowledge of the Holy says,
"Because man is born a rebel, he is unaware that he is one. His constant assertion of self, as far as he thinks of it at all, appears to him a perfectly normal thing. He is willing to share himself, sometimes even to sacrifice himself for a desired end, but never to dethrone himself. no matter how far down the scale of social acceptance he may slide, he is still in his own eyes a king on a throne, and no one, not even God, can take that throne from him."
Christians are called to do the impossible. I do not think it is actually possible for our natural self to "count others more significant" than us. It is only by grace that we can even attempt this impossible feat.


I think if we are honest, many of us are fearful. Fearful that a life of service to others will cause us to nearly disappear. We instinctively want to live a life of significance. We are afraid of not reaching our full potential and of missing out on what might have been.

The powerful impulse of selfishness often causes us to be blind to the needs of others. I am guilty of overlooking others, underappreciating them and injuring them (often without intending to.) I find I am the most presumptuous with those closest to me.

The Peace-Making Alternative

I cannot help but think of my own Lord Jesus who "did not come to be served, but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many." He died for his own creatures who rebelled against Him.

Living in a fallen world means that we need to be peacemakers like Jesus.
Loving others well requires much forgiveness, compassion, and prayer for those who hurt us.

The following truths compel me to resist self-glorification when everything in me wants to indulge:
  • The Lord sees what we do in secret and will reward us in eternity. (Matt. 6:4,6,18-20)
  • It doesn't matter if others don't see our worth. We do have value and worth because we are made in the image of God.
  • The God of the universe loves us more then we can even comprehend. He has revealed it powerfully so that we cannot misunderstand. "God demonstrates his own love for us in this, while we were still sinners, Christ died for us."
  • God is pleased when we do good things because we love Him.
  • If God forgives our cosmic sin of rebellion against him, how can we not forgive others who sin against us?
Our strivings for self are like chains that hold us down. When we stop trying to vindicate ourselves, prove our worth and get paid in full for our good works, we may be surprised to find freedom, joy, rest.