A Brief Meditation for the Month

June 2021

According to the Saviour himself, one of the requirements for following Christ is the denying of self—Matthew 16:24; Mark 8:34; Luke 9:23. This is not an option but an essential demand upon every one of Christ’s disciples. Due to our natural sinful love of self, however, divine grace is needed if self is to be denied. Jonathan Edwards (1703–1758), who experienced many trials throughout his fruitful ministry, stated the following. “The great Christian duty is self-denial, which consists in two things: first in denying worldly inclinations and its enjoyments, and second, in denying self-exultation and renouncing one’s self-significance by being empty of self.” Every honest child of God will acknowledge the difficulties they experience suppressing the spirit of selfishness. Self-interest is so often hidden behind what motivates even apparently good and outwardly praiseworthy actions.

When Paul the apostle wrote to the Christian believers in Rome, he advised them that every man among them would “not think of himself more highly than he ought to think,” Romans 12:3. Egoistic self-importance, accompanied with unjustified high thoughts of personal significance or superiority, has forever plagued society, but it has been responsible for a multitude of problems within the bounds of Christ’s Church. In the early New Testament church, a man named Diotrephes caused pain and grief in the congregation where he had a position of influence because he loved “to have the pre-eminence among them,” 3John verses 9–10. Those who are sometimes referred to as “control freaks” inevitably cause resentment among their associates. This controlling attitude towards others is offensive, but it is outright sinful when it is found among the Lord’s people. Paul told the Philippian believers that they were to think in a Christlike fashion towards one another—Philippians 2:5.

Our Saviour’s experience in this world was one of consistent and perpetual self-denial. Therefore, he is the supreme example to us all how we ought to relate to members of society, and in particular towards other members of the body of Christ—the Church. When Paul the apostle wrote to the Philippians, he commended Timothy, of whom he stated: “I have no man likeminded, who will naturally care for your state. For all seek their own, not the things which are Jesus Christ’s.” Philippians 2:20–21. Paul, who worked so fervently for the good of Christ’s Church, and who demonstrated his love for the Lord’s people through his sacrificial efforts on their behalf, was implying in his words to the Philippians that the selfless attitude of Timothy was not common. While justifying grace brings a sinner into a right legal standing with God, sanctifying grace is necessary to deal with the indwelling corruption which manifests itself so often in artificial humility or simulated self-sacrificing actions.

Because the heart of man is deceitful above all things (Jeremiah 17:9): self-centred actions may on occasions give a false impression to those who witness them. While it appears that Christ is faithfully honoured, the secret motive is really to obtain praise and admiration from our fellows. When our relationship with the Saviour is as it ought to be, then like John the Baptist, we will unreservedly affirm, “He must increase, but I must decrease,” John 3:30.

Dear reader, are you happy to be nothing or a nobody in the eyes of men that the Lord Jesus Christ might be everything—the focus of all attention and admiration?

G. G. Hutton.