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. -Philippians 2:3-4
Occasionally, I have been asked to speak at professional meetings about my area of expertise: records management. This year, I’ve spoken at four meetings about various principles and facets of records management.
My most recent speaking engagement was last month, and as I left my office at noon to head to the conference location., my co-worker wished me, “Good luck!”
A response tried to creep up and out of my mouth. “Oh, I’ve spoken for this organization twice already this year. I must be doing a good job since they asked me to speak again!”
But something stopped me. That would have sounded like boasting. Instead, I said, “thank you!” and walked out the door thinking about Matthew 23:5-7 where Jesus is describing the scribes and Pharisees:
They do all their deeds to be seen by others. For they make their phylacteries broad and their fringes long, and they love the place of honor at feasts and the best seats in the synagogues and greetings in the marketplaces and being called rabbi by others.
This scripture in comparison with my own life, and my own selfish desires brought me to the conclusion that I need to work on dying to self.
Jan Johnson defines dying to self: To die to self is to set aside what we want in this moment and focus instead on loving God with everything we’ve got and valuing others as highly as we value ourselves (Matthew 22:37-39). This moves us away from self-centeredness and closer to becoming openhearted followers of Christ who care deeply for others. It’s much easier to pay attention to the concerns, interests and needs of people (Philippians 2:3-4) when our own interests no longer consume us.
When we take the first step in self-denial, we are placing God before our own desires. Whether it is the desire for recognition in the public eye, or the desire to eat copious amounts of junk food, or even the desire to spend money on something we don’t need, we can deny the flesh and honor God.
So how do we die to self?
Johnson suggests that we “start simple, start small—knowing more significant challenges lie ahead. Ask God how you might deny yourself a little something every day: In our me-first, materialistic culture, it might mean something as down-to-earth as refraining from sweets or other junk foods harmful to you. Or not becoming defensive when ridiculed, humiliated or questioned. Or not buying the latest phone you really want because your current one is fine. As you follow through with these choices, watch how God meets your needs and you find life. You forget about the food as you engage someone in conversation; you find that someone else sticks up for you; you’re relieved you don’t have to struggle to learn how to use a new phone! These daily behind-the-scenes denials train us to be selfless in small ways so that when we find ourselves in bigger struggles of faith, we more easily set aside our self-focused desires and think about others instead.”
Join me in the dying to self challenge today! A little self-denial today will lead us to the great freedom we have in Christ Jesus – a life found!
If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. – Matthew 16:24-25