Self: October 2016

Table of Contents

1. Self
2. Self and Self-Centeredness
3. The Problem of Self
4. “Selfies” of Me and Moses
5. Christ’s Unselfishness
6. Self-Esteem
7. Self-Occupation and Self-Judgment
8. Selfishness
9. Low at Thy Feet
10. Victory Over Self


“All the worst features of the human heart are linked with the name of Christianity.” Being a believer or professing to be a believer does not exempt one from the subtle danger of the awful plague of “self.” In the name of Christianity, “men shall be lovers of self, lovers of money, boastful, arrogant, evil speakers, disobedient to parents, ungrateful, profane, without natural affection  ...  having no love for what is good  ...  lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God; having a form of piety but denying the power of it” (2 Tim. 3 JND). Self orientation and occupation supports the love of self, supports the love of money, promotes boasting, promotes an arrogant spirit, promotes speaking evil of others, promotes insubordination to authority, and supports an ungrateful spirit that others owe me more than I receive from them. May we covet a right spirit, that which the Apostle Paul had — “I am crucified with Christ, and no longer live, I [self], but Christ lives in me; but in that I now live in flesh, I live by faith, the faith of the Son of God [that faith which has Christ, rather than self, as its object], who has loved me and given Himself for me” (Gal. 2:20 JND).

Self and Self-Centeredness

While it is true that “they that are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts” (Gal. 5:24), all of us must admit to occasional displays of selfishness, for man’s natural tendency is for self-preservation. A true story will illustrate this. Many years ago a man named Walter was walking home from his office at the end of the day, when a boy came running up to him, telling him that he had better hurry home, for his house was on fire. Needless to say, Walter (who was a devout Christian) ran as quickly as possible to his home, which was several blocks away. His own account of the incident is that when he came in sight of his home, he was vastly relieved to find that it was his neighbor’s home that was on fire, and not his own. But then he reflected on his attitude and realized that he could not go to heaven on the basis that he loved his neighbor as himself.
If we are honest with ourselves, we would all confess to a similar attitude under such circumstances. We would not wish calamity on anyone, but when it occurs, we are thankful if it happens to others rather than to us. Thus a Christian who is, in the main, most considerate of others and ready to sacrifice for them, may sometimes exhibit a bit of selfishness.
Self-centeredness, however, is far more serious and often more subtle. Fallen man has always made himself the center of his world, wanting everything to revolve around himself. For this reason, self-centered people are easy to find. They tend to talk mainly about themselves, their lives, and their activities; anything else matters very little. Often this is very blatant and obvious, and usually brings about a strong reaction from others. But sometimes self-centeredness, especially in a believer, is camouflaged under what seem to be good motives and right actions. Thus selfishness is occasionally one being “overtaken in a fault” (Gal. 6:1), but self-centeredness is a course pursued with self as the root. A self-centered person will see himself as the focal point of everything around, and even his own altruism will eventually migrate into self-pity or the need for admiration and praise. He may seem to be most spiritual, and with real interest and energy in the Lord’s things, but self is at the bottom of it all.
Self-centered believers tend to talk about their scriptural knowledge or their work for the Lord, and they will inevitably shoehorn this into every conversation. They will be constantly trying to enlist others to listen to them or to help them in their work, either monetarily or otherwise. If there is any question raised about this, the rebuttal is, “Are you not interested in the Lord’s things or in His work?” But the root of it all is my scriptural knowledge, my work — what I am doing.
We need to remember that scriptural knowledge, or work for the Lord, if done with the right motive and in the right way, humbles us; it does not lift us up in pride. Paul could remind the Galatians, “If any man think that he knoweth anything, he knoweth nothing yet as he ought to know” (1 Cor. 8:2). In the same way, when Paul was compelled to disclose to the Corinthians some of his sufferings for Christ, he could say, “I speak it not after the Lord, but as it were foolishly” (2 Cor. 11:17). It was necessary to say some of those things in order to put to silence some false teachers in Corinth, but it was not normally of God to boast of his labors.
True Christianity centers on Christ, not on man. He, and He alone, must be before us.
W. J. Prost

The Problem of Self

In today’s world, we are continually bombarded with self. While walking through a shopping mall in the U.S.A. recently, my wife and I could not help but notice several posters displayed at strategic places, telling the passers-by, “You are powerful!” In many magazines and other forms of news media, as well as in many public schools, we are taught to think of ourselves first — that for “me,” “I” am the most important person in the world. Most of our readers are familiar with “selfies” — pictures of oneself taken with one’s own cell phone. Although estimates vary, some have concluded that the number of these taken daily in the world is as high as 93 million. In the last few years, Facebook has provided a forum where millions continually announce what they look like and what they are doing, to all who wish to listen and watch.
Empathy Deficit
Even the world is beginning to recognize the problem all this creates. A recent article in a prominent magazine noted that those who have the potential to be happy and successful in this world are those with empathy — those who understand and appreciate those around them. The author notes that in America “we have a serious empathy deficit,” calling it the “selfie syndrome.” Among other things, she notes:
“Today’s kids are more self-absorbed than ever; one study estimates that narcissism rates among college students are up 58% versus three decades ago. And this has given rise to a culture of bullying, cheating and unhappiness. One in five middle-school students contemplates suicide as a solution to peer cruelty, 70% of college students admit to cheating in class, and one-third of all college students report having felt so depressed that they had trouble functioning.”
In still another prominent magazine, a group featuring a television program raises the question, “What does it mean to believe — really believe — in oneself? When does healthy self-esteem become self-idolatry?” Yet the answers to such questions remain elusive, and the exaltation of self continues to increase in this world.
From the Beginning
It is clear from man’s history that self has been a serious problem right from the beginning. Eve chose to believe the serpent’s lie because that lie ministered to self, while Cain killed his brother Abel because he could not face the fact that “his own works were evil, and his brother’s righteous” (1 John 3:12). Fallen man has always sought to place himself at the center of his world and to make himself as happy as possible, even if it came at the expense of the happiness of others.
Prior to the widespread influence of the Bible, man’s general attitude was for his self-interest — a mind-set of “every man for himself.” We can thank God that the spread of Christianity in the world has mitigated this, and it is to Christianity and its principles that we owe much of the altruism that is evident in at least parts of the world today. But all this is gradually changing, for as God and His claims are increasingly disregarded, the Word of God discounted, and Christianity despised, once again man’s sinful nature is beginning to assert itself.
It is beyond the scope of this article, and even of this issue of the magazine, to discuss all of the aspects of self that are around us and all that could be said about an antidote to the present glorification of self. However, there are several reasons given in the Word of God that show us why the elevation of self is wrong.
God’s Glory
First of all, self-occupation robs God of His glory. As creatures, we are to be subject to our Creator and to honor Him, for we were created for His pleasure (Rev. 4:11). Solomon reminds us that “God is in heaven, and thou upon earth: therefore let thy words be few” (Eccl. 5:2). The creature that is occupied with himself is inevitably proud — a sin that takes away from God’s glory and gives it to man.
Man’s Sinful Nature
Second, the exaltation of self brings man’s sinful nature to the surface, a nature that does not hesitate to trample on others in order to gain its ends. The rise of cheating, lying, immorality, bullying and other forms of violence in modern society are a direct result of the worship of self. Self is always a taker, never a giver, and when most people in a society are takers, the result is disaster. Fallen man is a taker, but God is a Giver.
Third, and connected with what has been mentioned in the previous paragraph, the one who is occupied with himself is never happy. Man cannot exist without his Creator, and yet the world of today is patterned after Cain’s world, that wanted nothing to do with God. He did his best to satisfy himself with what was available in a fallen creation, yet found out, and continues to find out, that nothing in this world can satisfy his heart. He finds out that “God has set the world [or eternity] in their heart” (Eccl. 3:11), and that he was created for eternity, not merely for time. Like Solomon in his day, he finds that, in this world, “all is vanity and pursuit of the wind” (Eccl. 1:14 JND).
The Example of Christ
Fourth, and perhaps the most important, we can get a right perspective on everything only by bringing Christ in. The One who had a right to please Himself, who “thought it not robbery to be equal with God” (Phil. 2:6), was the One who “made Himself of no reputation,” and finally “became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross” (Phil. 2:7-8). Can we dare to exalt self in the presence of the One of whom it could be said, “Even Christ pleased not Himself” (Rom. 15:3)?
Finally, we are occupied with Christ, and learn of Him, in humility, not when self is before us. He could say during His earthly ministry, “Take My yoke upon you, and learn of Me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls” (Matt. 11:29). In the same way Peter reminds us, “All of you be subject one to another, and be clothed with humility: for God resisteth the proud, and giveth grace unto the humble” (1 Peter 5:5). We learn more of Christ when self is forgotten and only He is before us.
God’s Place
Of course, we cannot expect unregenerate man to appreciate all that Christ is, or has done for him, but we can present the gospel in such a way as to show God’s purposes for the exaltation of His beloved Son, and not merely for the blessing of man. When God is given His rightful place, He is glorified, and man is blessed, because the blessing flows down from God to man. But when man’s need is paramount, man becomes a “taker” in reference to God, rather than a worshipper. It is true that the gospel is for the blessing of man, but that is only one aspect of it. God’s primary purpose is the glory of His Son.
When we start with God, then we as creatures take our rightful place before Him, realizing that as sinners, we deserve nothing but eternal judgment. But then we see grace flowing out from His heart of love, and this makes us worshippers, not takers. This attitude should carry over into our Christian lives, for it is easy to make ourselves the center of Christianity, instead of Christ. It is easy to allow our hymns, our ministry, and our prayers to focus on self, rather than on Christ. But if Christ is before us, He receives His rightful place, and we are far more blessed, for we are united to Him.
Self will have no place in a coming eternity; Christ will fill our eyes and our hearts. It ought to be more so now!
W. J. Prost

“Selfies” of Me and Moses

The “selfies” we take tell a lot about who we are. This week my wife posted one on her Facebook page of us sitting in a restaurant in Seville, Spain, along with two plates of typical Spanish food. She didn’t post any selfies where she had two black eyes from walking into a patio door. And I tried to take cover under a hat in as many photos as I could. In considering what to post, we are faced with the issue of how to deal with self, whether we like posting or not. Let us take a look at what is posted of the life of Moses.
The first post he makes of himself is written in the third person and says, “When Moses was grown  ...  he went out unto his brethren, and looked on their burdens: and he spied an Egyptian smiting an Hebrew, one of his brethren. And he looked this way and that way, and when he saw that there was no man, he slew the Egyptian, and hid him in the sand” (Ex. 2:11-12). Stephen makes an observation of him at that time in his post of Acts 7:22: “Moses was learned in all the wisdom of the Egyptians, and was mighty in words and in deeds.” We can see how he was affected by Egypt. It was not the arts or science of Egypt that was the problem; it was the concept he came to have of himself as a deliverer of his people. The world builds this kind of self-image. But Stephen goes on in Acts 7:23-29, showing how Moses’ deeper desire was justice for his brethren. But he was not prepared for their reaction when they would not accept his deliverance, and he ended up fleeing to the wilderness.
The Wilderness
Moses writes very little of himself during the next period of his life, until the Lord appears to him in the burning bush. Now, if there was any confidence, it had to come from the Lord who sent him. God’s power to deliver was witnessed in the three signs given to him: the rod cast down as a serpent, the hand becoming leprous in his bosom and the water turned to blood. The hand becoming leprous is of particular interest regarding “self.” It teaches us that victory over the nature of sin within us is through obedience to God. Moses put his hand in his bosom and it became leprous. As he put his hand back in his bosom, it became clean. We must first recognize that the sin nature dwells within us. It is the source of sin. When we learn that, we are told to put it back and never confide in it for good in any way. Our source of power to do this is only through the power of the Spirit energizing the life of Christ in us (Rom. 8:2).
Moses was reluctant to go, and he put up this post of himself: “O my Lord, I am not eloquent, neither heretofore, nor since Thou hast spoken unto Thy servant: but I am slow of speech, and of a slow tongue” (Ex. 4:10). I can see myself in this episode. I do not like others to see my natural imperfections. But this excuse (low self-esteem) is not a valid reason for not doing God’s bidding. When God gives us something to do, He does not intend for us to do it in a way to improve our self-image. That would be for man’s glory. It did not matter if Moses’ speech was slow. The power was from God, and any human imperfections in Moses would make it more evident that he was being used of God. Moses continued with his posture, so the Lord gave him Aaron as a spokesman. But later, Aaron would prove to be a trial for Moses.
Two Extremes
In considering what we have observed of Moses thus far, we see him, first of all, with high self-esteem and able to get things done, but not able to face the consequences of what he had done. The injustice was avenged (the Egyptian was dead and buried), but his brethren did not appreciate him or understand his intentions. And, on top of that, Pharaoh wanted to kill him. Now Moses is on the other end of the self-esteem scale and does not think he can speak for God. He allows his low self-esteem to hinder his doing what the Lord told him to do. Neither of these is correct, and neither helped him do what God intended. How often we have to pass through trying experiences to learn the right concept of ourselves! The recipe is found in Romans 12:3: “I say, through the grace given unto me, to every man that is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think; but to think soberly, according as God hath dealt to every man the measure of faith.” The measure of faith given to each one is according to what God purposes us to do for Him. We ought to be neither more nor less than what God has made us. The world will tell us to “be all that you can be.” Such an attitude leads to self-centeredness. There is great liberty from the various self-esteem syndromes in being what the Lord made us.
Aaron and Miriam Murmur
In Numbers 12, Miriam and Aaron spoke against Moses because of the Ethiopian he had taken as wife. Also, they claimed that the Lord had spoken by them as well as by Moses. The Lord heard it and was angry. He called the three to come before Him and said to them, “If there be a prophet among you, I the Lord will make Myself known unto him in a vision, and will speak unto him in a dream. My servant Moses is not so, who is faithful in all Mine house. With him will I speak mouth to mouth, even apparently, and not in dark speeches; and the similitude of the Lord shall he behold: wherefore then were ye not afraid to speak against My servant Moses?” (Num. 12:6-8). After the Lord left them, Miriam became leprous as snow. How sad to see such selfishness. It is an example of finding fault with the very one whose place they were seeking.
The Remedy
The succeeding developments of Miriam’s cleansing from leprosy are an example of God’s way of recovery from selfish ambitions. His governmental judgment of leprosy made their sin evident. “Aaron said unto Moses, Alas, my lord, I beseech thee, lay not the sin upon us, wherein we have done foolishly, and wherein we have sinned. Let her not be as one dead, of whom the flesh is half consumed when he cometh out of his mother’s womb” (Num. 12:11-12). This comment of Aaron reveals how his focus was on self. Yet Moses interceded for Miriam and the Lord healed her. But there must be a seven-day period of cleansing from leprosy where she remained outside the camp. The law of the cleansing of leprosy in Leviticus 14:3-7 says, “The priest shall go forth out of the camp; and the priest shall look, and, behold, if the plague of leprosy be healed in the leper; then shall the priest command to take for him that is to be cleansed two birds alive and clean, and cedar wood, and scarlet, and hyssop: and the priest shall command that one of the birds be killed in an earthen vessel over running water: as for the living bird, he shall take it, and the cedar wood, and the scarlet, and the hyssop, and shall dip them and the living bird in the blood of the bird that was killed over the running water: and he shall sprinkle upon him that is to be cleansed from the leprosy seven times, and shall pronounce him clean, and shall let the living bird loose into the open field.” The offering of the two birds shows that association with the death of Christ — the shedding of His blood — and the judgment He bore when hanging alive on the cross are necessary for cleansing from sin. The act of dipping the cedar wood, scarlet and hyssop in the blood of the slain bird represents self-judgment in three aspects. High self-esteem, self-centeredness and low self-esteem must all be laid down at the cross of Christ. They are all of no use for the Christian. The follow quotation from William Kelly is helpful:
“The taking of the cedar wood and the scarlet and the hyssop, the dipping them also in the blood of the bird that was slain, has a worthy meaning and like the rest is written for our admonition. The death of Christ has pronounced death for him that is cleansed on all with which man is here conversant. The chosen emblems of the highest in nature [cedar wood] and of the lowest [hyssop], along with that which figures the conventional glory of the world [scarlet], were dipped in the blood; just as in Numbers 19:6 they were cast into the midst of the burning of the red heifer. In what had not man corrupted himself, perverting all that God gave and sanctioned to His dishonor? But every evil is counteracted for the believer in Christ’s atoning death. The leper was himself sprinkled with the blood seven times in token of complete cleansing and was formally pronounced clean by the priest, with the significant mark of the living blood-sprinkled bird let go into the open field.”
The act of dipping the three things in the blood teaches us the need to judge high self-esteem, self-centeredness and low self-esteem. If we do not put them under the sentence of death with Christ, they will lead us into sin again. Perhaps we may more easily recognize the wrong of high self-esteem and of low self-esteem and think that it is good enough for us to be in the middle of the road. But it is not enough to be occupied with ourselves even in the middle of the road or average. Making ourselves the focus of what we do is equally as wrong as the two extremes. Self-centeredness must be surrendered to Christ. Paul the Apostle could say, “We had the sentence of death in ourselves, that we should not trust in ourselves, but in God which raiseth the dead” (2 Cor. 1:9). “Whatsoever ye do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God and the Father by Him” (Col. 3:17). May the Lord help us to keep the focus on Christ in everything we do in this world where so much emphasis is on self.
D. C. Buchanan

Christ’s Unselfishness

One thing impressed my mind most peculiarly when the Lord was first opening my eyes — I never found Christ doing a single thing for Himself. Here is an immense principle. There was not one act in all Christ’s life done to serve or please Himself. An unbroken stream of blessed, perfect, unfailing love flowed from Him; no matter what the contradiction of sinners, there was one amazing and unwavering testimony of love, sympathy and help. But it was always others, and not Himself, that were comforted, and nothing could weary it, nothing could turn it aside. Now the world’s whole principle is self, doing well for itself (Psa. 49:18).
The World’s Selfishness
Men know that it is upon the energy of selfishness they have to depend. Everyone that knows anything of the world knows this. Without it the world could not go on. What is the world’s honor? Self. What its wealth? Self. What is advancement in the world? Self. They are but so many forms of the same thing. The principle that animates the individual man in each is the spirit of self-seeking. The business of the world is the seeking of self, and the pleasures of the world are selfish pleasures. They are troublesome pleasures too, for we cannot escape from a world where God has said, “In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread, till thou return unto the ground.” Toil for self is irksome, but suppose a man finds out at length that the busy seeking of self is trouble and weariness, and having procured the means of living without it, gives it up. What then? He just adopts another form of the same spirit of self and turns to selfish ease.
I am not now speaking of vice and gross sin (of course everyone will allow that those things are opposite to the spirit of Christ), but of the whole course of the world. Take the world’s decent, moral man: Is he an “epistle of Christ”? Is there in him a single motive like Christ’s? He may do the same things; he may be a carpenter as Christ was said to be (Mark 6:3), but he has not one thought in common with Christ.
Religion and Philanthropy
As to the outside, the world goes on with its religion and its philanthropy. It does good, builds its hospitals, feeds the hungry, clothes the naked, and the like, but its inward springs of action are not Christ’s. Every motive that governed Christ all the way along is not that which governs men, and the motives which keep the world going are not those which were found in Christ at all.
The infidel owns Christ’s moral beauty, and selfishness can take pleasure in unselfishness, but the Christian is to “put on Christ.” He went about doing good all the day long; there was not a moment but He was ready as the servant, in grace, of the need of others. And do not let us suppose that this cost Him nothing. He had not where to lay His head. He hungered and was wearied. And, when He sat down, where was it? Under the scorching sun at the well’s mouth, while His disciples went into the city to buy bread. And what then? He was as ready for the poor, vile sinner who came to Him as if He were not hungry, neither faint and weary. He was never at ease. He was in all the trials and troubles that man is in as the consequences of sin, and see how He walked! He made bread for others, but He would not touch a stone to make it into bread for Himself.
J. N. Darby


The basic, wrong thought that colors most of the current thinking about self-esteem is that a proper self-esteem requires pride, and pride itself is good. A Reader’s Digest article speaks of being “proud of our self-image” in order to be “confident, and free to be ourselves.” The spirit of pride has pervaded so much of our world today that it enters into almost every phase of life, perhaps without our realizing it. We must understand in the light of God’s Word that every form of pride is wrong, and a sin against God.
In order to understand the subject of self-esteem properly, we must realize that pride is the wrong response to success. We tend to be proud of our natural abilities, but we must see that these are all given of God. We are apt to be proud even of our sinful ways, perhaps thinking that there is still some good to be had from them.
Low Self-Esteem
We speak of those with “low self-esteem,” and others who have “high self-esteem.” Often they are really opposite sides of the same coin, that coin being pride. The one with “low self-esteem” is depressed and upset because his self-image is not what he thinks it should be. He really has very high self-esteem — it is just that the reality does not match his ideals. He does not accept the way God has made him. (We are speaking now about his God-given abilities, not about sin.) How many times have some of us looked in the mirror, and heartily wished that we were taller, that we had a different color of hair, that we were smarter, or perhaps that we had other qualities that the Lord had not given us! How many times have I watched others participate in athletic activities, and wished I had some of their ability! As life went on, I found out that many of those who were so good in athletic activities wished that they could do better in academic circles, where perhaps some of us felt a little more comfortable. We always seem to want what we do not have. Sad to say, Satan works on us through our sinful natures to make us unhappy with what God has given us and to consume us with thoughts about talents He has not given us.
High Self-Esteem
The one with “high self-esteem” thinks that he is up at a certain point, when he is not there at all. He has an unrealistic self-image, while others usually have a much more realistic appraisal of him! You know this kind of person — one who is always talking about himself and what he can do. We find him insufferable and do not want to be around him.
But you may say, “I am content with myself. I am right in the middle; I have neither high nor low self-esteem.” That is what the article in Reader’s Digest is trying to tell us — that we are to realize what our self-image is and be proud of it. That too is wrong, for pride, as we have seen, is always condemned in the Word of God. While we are to recognize our God-given abilities, we must realize that we will never be happy if we are occupied with ourselves, for pride will always come in. People today say that there is an epidemic of low self-esteem in our society. Let us be honest and admit that there is an epidemic of pride. It is the result of the focus being on man instead of on God.
The wisdom of this world says that we have to build up an individual’s self-esteem. We are told that we must take individuals and show them that they have good qualities, that they are valuable people, that they have abilities which they can develop, and that they can have pride in themselves. We must show them that they are useful members of society, that they have a job to do in this world, and an important contribution to make. That is good as far as it goes, for many do not realize their natural abilities due to a lack of proper encouragement, love and understanding. But if this approach causes me to focus on myself, I will always be occupied with myself, either in a positive or a negative way. Pride will always tend to come in, if I am the object of my own heart.
Setting Our Sights Above
What is the answer to it all? The Word of God teaches us to have our sights above it all, on Christ Himself. When He is before us, we do not depend on anything down here for our happiness. He is unchanging, and when our hearts are occupied with Him, there is a steadiness, a calmness, a peace that nothing can shake. If our joy depends on anything down here, even the best things, then our state of soul will go up and down depending on how things are going down here. God wants to lift us above it all. Another has aptly remarked that the great thing for a Christian is not to have either high thoughts of self or low thoughts of self. Rather, he should not be thinking about self at all.
Will being occupied with Christ make us neglect our responsibilities down here? No, for the thought that we want to please Him in all things makes us want to do everything for Him and in the best possible way. We will not neglect our work, our family, the local assembly or even ourselves. But they will not be our object; rather, we will want to do everything for Christ.
The happiest Christians are those who are not even thinking about themselves, but whose hearts are filled with Christ, seeking to please Him, and then occupied with the good and blessing of others. But again, do not do it to be happy; do it to please the Lord! Think of His happiness, not your own. You will find that it will put a glow on your face, a spring in your step, and you will have that confidence with which we should walk as Christians. Moses was not aware that his face shone, but others saw it. In walking with the Lord, there will be a moral dignity about us that others will see, and they will take knowledge of us that we have been with Jesus.
W. J. Prost (adapted
from Self-Esteem)

Self-Occupation and Self-Judgment

Many confound self-occupation with self-judgment, and seeing self-judgment to be right (when we fail), are found asking themselves where the one ends, and where the other begins. A word or two on these may help, if the Lord permits.
Self-occupation is the bane of the soul. Man makes himself the center, and himself the chief object upon earth. This is self-occupation. It lands him in that place “where their worm dieth not, and where the fire is not quenched.” The end of all self-occupation is death.
Self-judgment is the work of the Spirit of God. It is not His proper work, but it is often, from our want of watchfulness, His necessary work. There is no way of return to the joy of communion without it. Self-judgment, though right in its place, is not communion; on the contrary, it is the confession that communion is lost. But it is the only way back; it is medicine, but not food.
For me to live daily with self being ignored is the highest Christian condition. Here the Spirit of God is free to carry on His proper work in my soul, to take Christ and put Him before me as my food. Here the soul is free to be occupied by and for Christ alone. It says, “For me to live is Christ, and to die is gain” (Phil. 1:21). It is the only right state for food. And food is the soul’s appropriation of Christ, and feeding upon Him as ministered by the Spirit. He alone is the “bread of life that came down from heaven”; as John 6:56 says, “He that eateth My flesh, and drinketh My blood, dwelleth in Me, and I in him.” This verse is not about having done so once by faith. That is in verse 51 and is of first importance. Food is the daily need of the man, and it is here his daily habit to feed. But how important to see that self-occupation is not food and self-judgment is not food, for how can I live or grow without food?
What then is self-occupation? It is a human being, a worm of the earth in God’s sight, a particle of dust, forgetting or ignoring the fact of GOD and ETERNITY; one who says, “Let us eat and drink: for tomorrow we die,” and to whom God says, “Thou fool!” (1 Cor. 15:32; Luke 12:20).
What is self-judgment? It is looking at yourself (note it well), not in contrast with other saints, but in contrast with Christ, the perfect, heavenly Man.
And what is self-ignored? It is the forgetting that there is a self, through preoccupation with the perfect One, with Christ alone. This will be our eternal occupation in heaven, when there will be no “self” to mar our vision, or to call for judgment. But it begins on earth; it begins, though harassed on every hand, in a poor earthen vessel, “that the excellency of the power may be” seen to be “of God, and not of us” (2 Cor. 4:7).
H. C. Anstey (adapted)


Let us now briefly consider this emphatically anti-Christian sin of selfishness. We call it anti-Christian because it is expressly recorded of Christ our Lord that He “pleased not Himself” (Rom. 15:3). This strikes at once at the root of the matter, for when we read (1 John 2:6) that we ought to walk as Christ and remember these are the words of GOD, and then turn to the scripture just quoted, we must at once see that all selfishness is truly anti-Christian. If, however, example is not enough, we have the precept as well. “Let no man seek his own, but every man another’s wealth [or good]” (1 Cor. 10:24). “Look not every man on his own things, but every man also on the things of others” (Phil. 2:4). Most touching of all, perhaps, to the heart that has tasted the love of Christ, to whom He is precious, is 2 Corinthians 5:14-15: “The love of Christ constraineth us.  ...  He died for all, that they which live should not henceforth live unto themselves, but unto Him which died for them, and rose again.”
A Sign of the Last Days
Selfishness is shown in many and various ways. As one of the signs of the last days it is said, “Men shall be lovers of their own selves” (2 Tim. 3:2), or in other words, “selfish.” This is the root from which every variety springs. The selfish man seeks his own things, not the things of others, still less those that are Jesus Christ’s (Phil. 2:21), as the Apostle so touchingly writes to the Philippians, complaining that this sin was a great and crying evil in his day.
It is found everywhere, even among believers, although it is a vice so repulsive in its nature that the man of the world outdoes the Christian in despising it when shown in grosser ways. The latter only, however, can know what it is to be truly unselfish in spirit in all things. How ashamed we feel when we consider how often our best actions are blighted by the foul spot of selfishness!
Self the Object
Pleasing ourselves, directly condemned in Romans 15:1, is a common form of seeking our own. It is seen in great and little things — in our choice of work for the Lord, in our choice of residence, of companions, of dress, of occupation, and in many petty ways in which we daily indulge, instead of denying, ourselves. Oh, how ashamed we feel when we just sit awhile and think of our dreadful self-pleasing in little things — always looking out for number one. So contrary are we in spirit to our beloved Lord.
Seeking Our Own
Another phase of seeking our own (Phil. 2:21) is in eagerly pursuing some worldly advantage, being unscrupulous in money-making, or keen in money-saving. All this becomes much worse, terribly worse, if in any way hypocrisy comes in to aid our selfishness. Is it not fearful to think how the name of Christ is despised by men of the world through those who should be His “epistle,” who thus seek their own? The worldly man well knows that Christians should be unselfish, though all the time he may be selfish enough himself. Paul was not like this: “Not seeking mine own profit” (1 Cor. 10:33). This line of conduct is powerfully described in Isaiah 56:11: “They all look to their own way, every one for his gain.” Surely it is a sign of the last times when one professing Christian is heard urging another to raise himself in the world by pushing others down. It may be there are not many bold enough to give such fearfully unchristian advice, but are there not hundreds who in the main practically follow it? Another form is seeking precedence over others. Such selfishness was displayed in Matthew 20:20 and gently rebuked by Christ. It is often seen, alas, in spiritual as well as worldly matters, and many have been the bitter parties or factions that have been developed from this form of selfishness. Let us judge ourselves as to this, seeking neither the chief seats in synagogues, nor the greetings in the markets.
Not Caring for Others
Neglecting the poor (1 John 3:17) is a flagrant form of selfishness strongly condemned by the Word. Often it is unintentional and arises simply from a habit of considering ourselves instead of others. In some cases selfishness may give to get rid of annoyance, but it can never give with true sympathy. That rare and tender plant of Christian growth (see 1 Peter 3:8 JND) cannot grow in the same atmosphere as self.
In many cases we do not mean to be selfish, but being careless in following Christ and having naturally ourselves instead of Him as our object, this vice shows itself in little ways in almost all we do. We trust that to many of our readers a word will be enough to point out this un-Christlike sin, which perhaps unknown to themselves has been undermining their Christian life and taking away from the power of their words to others. If we look at one of the characteristics of “love” in 1 Corinthians 13:5 — “seeketh not her own” — and then turn and quietly look at our own lives by the side of it, the light of the Word like a sunbeam in a dusty room throws out into strong relief all the “little foxes” of small petty selfish deeds that have so spoiled the “tender” grapes of our spiritual life.
The Remedy
What then is the remedy for selfishness? One might answer, To think of others, as in the parable of the good Samaritan. This is a good and Christian habit — to find a neighbor in every one whom I can serve and to love him as myself. It is most important to acquire a habit of thinking of the comfort, convenience, and wishes of others on all occasions, and seeking to please my neighbor for his good unto edification at all times, but there is a more excellent way yet, and that is for Christ to become the center of my thoughts instead of myself, so that all my actions naturally have reference to Him. In this way I not only become truly unselfish, but I become (not only negatively, but) positively like Christ.
Dear fellow believer, this is the sort of Christianity which is understood among men and brings true glory to God. When a man gives up voluntarily the best place, to which he has an undoubted right, when he foregoes his own advantage, and to his own loss goes out of his way to show kindness to others, when he becomes poor, and not merely gives of his abundance, for the sake of Christ’s people for whose needs he provides, and when he not only spends, but is spent for others, then indeed does he become an epistle of Christ known and read of all men. None can pass a man unobserved in whom the brand of selfishness has been obliterated by the fresh brand of Christ (Gal. 6:17).
Oh, may His love constrain us thus to live to His glory!
A. T. Schofield (adapted from Plain Papers for Young Believers)

Low at Thy Feet

“Low at Thy feet, Lord Jesus”:
This is the place for me;
Here I have learned deep lessons —
Truth that has set me free.
Free from myself, Lord Jesus,
Free from the ways of men;
Chains of thought that have bound me
Never can bind again.
None but Thyself, Lord Jesus,
Conquered this wayward will:
But for Thy love constraining
I had been wayward still.
Found in J. N. Darby’s Bible
after his death
Author unknown

Victory Over Self

I sought to conquer self, but knew not how;
I asked of man to teach me, but in vain;
All human rules and efforts, like a plough
That skimmed the surface, let the roots remain,
Which, when I thought them gone, sprang up
Self cannot cast out self; I’ve tried it well;
’Neath the monk’s cowl, as well as courtly dress,
In the low cottage you will find it dwell
As rank as in the palace; in distress
And poverty as splendid wealthiness.
One weapon only can its reign destroy;
It is the cross — the cross of Christ alone:
His cross who counted it supremest joy
To leave the glories of His heavenly throne,
And in unselfish love for sin atone.
Self-sacrificing love! O Jesus! name
Before which heartless selfishness expires,
And selfish pride looks black with hellish shame:
To be like Thee, O Lord, my heart aspires,
And, self to crucify, Thy grace desires.
O Lord, alas! My progress still is slow,
So hydra-headed is this monstrous ill;
When on the right I seem to lay him low,
Upon the left springs up the insidious foe;
I smite and wound him sore, but cannot kill.
But Thou wilt bruise him soon beneath my feet;
Oh, gladsome hour, when I from self am free!
When all Thy blessed work of grace complete,
Thou shalt Thy ransomed one in glory greet —
And all his soul be swallowed up in Thee.
J. G. Deck