In Matthews Gospel, chapter 5, verses 39-44, Jesus shows us what the Christian character should be: to turn the other cheek, to go the extra mile, to give to the one who has needs, and to love your enemies and bless those who curse you. But how do we do it?
Some would say, just do it. No matter how you feel about it, just do it. Well, I suggest that it is important to first put yourself in the right frame of mind. To be selfless, like Christ was. To be poor in spirit. That is one of the first things He taught His disciples. If we are to act with Christian character, we must do it with a genuine heart, with a Christ-filled heart. And it all starts with denying self and looking to Christ. How do we do that? I’ll start with Paul’s example and teaching. In 1 Corinthians 4:1-4 he writes,
Let a man so consider us, as servants of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God. 2 Moreover it is required in stewards that one be found faithful. 3 But with me it is a very small thing that I should be judged by you or by a human court. In fact, I do not even judge myself. 4 For I know of nothing against myself, yet I am not justified by this; but He who judges me is the Lord.
So Paul was focused on his service to Christ, not on what others thought of him. He didn’t even judge himself. He left all judgment to God. I suppose we could say that He judged himself only with the judgment found in God’s word. And all other opinions that others had of him and the opinions of himself that were not of the word he disregarded.
And I thing he was especially careful not to think on himself too much, as to where he ranked himself compared to others. I don’t even think he spent too much time developing ambitions or goals, or even preferences. His single thought was to serve Christ and to follow Him, no matter how he felt or thought about it. And he did it for the glory of God and not for his own accomplishment.
Now if you are thinking, that’s impractical and too hard for anybody to do. Well, it definitely is too hard without the Holy Spirit helping us. In fact, only the Spirit-filled Christian can do it. According to the world, we should fight for our honor and our name. And we should always be thinking of what is good for us and how we can get there. But for the Christian, the name of Christ and the honor of His name is most important, not our own.
I struggle constantly with self-sensitivity, which is an indication that I am not strong in Christ. I get my feelings hurt by what people say about me. I am too concerned about my reputation, my pride and my honor. And I spend too much time thinking about myself—my likes and dislikes, my ambitions, my comforts, and my needs.
God wants us to be like Him and His Son, who humbled Himself and was obedient to God in all things, even to the point of dying on a cross. We should have the same attitude—of a servant, a servant to God, which requires that we have an indifference to self. That is, we are to be dead to self and alive to God. We are to always be looking to serve others, which requires that we stop thinking all the time about our own needs.
So then, if you want to do God’s will and love others, you must first be delivered from a self-centered life. Don’t just force yourself to do good deeds. First, have the mind of Christ, which is to have a proper attitude toward self—denying self. All the words Jesus spoke were not of Himself, but were of God. He didn’t consider Himself at all. He made Himself dependent on His Father. He came to do His father’s will, not His own.
If you have any goal or mission, make this your mission: to die to self in order that you can follow Him and do His will. He died in order that we might have a selfless life like His. Ask God to fill you with His Spirit and help you to have that kind of a life.