Last week I wrote about the relationship between what John Calvin calls self-denial and the love of others, and I pointed out that the main problem with this is that we have too high an assessment of ourselves. Some of us are bold and audacious, others of us seem humble but we basically only think about ourselves. Both of these, and every shade in between, are arrogant and self-centered.
So how are we to deny ourselves so that we can love others as we ought? Last week I listed eight things, this week I want to say just a word or two about the first four of them and then next week I’ll say a word or two about the rest:
1. Contemplate ourselves in the light of the being God. The best way to get a proper view of ourselves is to grow in our view of God. The bigger he becomes in our minds, the smaller we become in our minds. The more he takes his rightful place in our hearts, the more we take our rightful place in our hearts. So contemplate the being and character of God often for the fountain of humility is found here.
2. Contemplate ourselves in the light of creation. Creation is massive and the more one thinks about this fact the more he or she is humbled in the light of it. So go to the Hubble Telescope’s website, look at the moon and stars, think about lakes and trees and oceans, contemplate the extent and variety of life on the earth. The more we contemplate how small we are in light of all these things, the more we will properly assess ourselves.
3. Contemplate our sins and short-comings. One of the best ways to kill pride is to think deeply about our sin. Our hearts are hopelessly wicked and we are ever sinning! So take some time and list your shortcomings. Ask God to help you. Remember that everything that is not done in faith is sin, so that whatever you do without regard to God is sin. If this is the standard how often do you sin, and how deep is your sin? Always and very! Contemplating our hopeless brokenness will help us tremendously.
4. Contemplate the brevity of life and our utter powerlessness over death. At times life seems so long but it is truly just a vapor. It seems like only yesterday I was 20 years old and now I’m in my mid-40s. Where did the time go? I don’t know but I do know that I will come to the end of my days more quickly than I think and I will be completely powerless over my own death. Life and death are greater than me. They are not in my hands, rather I am in their hands. More properly speaking, I am in God’s hands but the point is that the most basic elements of life are beyond my control and this should seriously humble me.
As we long to die to ourselves that we might live to God and others, let us contemplate these things with the help of God. And as we do may he give us insight, grace, and power to live in him.