(Continuing from Calvin’s Golden Booklet of the True Christian Life)
Wouldn’t it be lovely if we could forget ourselves once in a while? Or at least almost forget ourselves? When we are thinking of others and putting God foremost, it is the closest we ever get to really being free of self.
The opposite of self-denial is, of course, vanity or an excess of self-love. We should want to love ourselves correctly, which means that we understand who we are in Christ and what we are for. When we understand that our lives have purpose (glorifying God) and meaning (because He has redeemed us for Himself), we are set free to worship God rightly and love others sacrificially.
Self-denial is putting God’s glory ahead of our own. It means we “regard God in every enterprise” and surrender ourselves to Him. We don’t rely on our own wisdom or boast in our own will power. We “take leave of ourselves,” which is a great way to put it. When we live this way for God, there just isn’t room in our lives for vain glory, love of praise, selfish ambition, pride, or other “worldly pollutions.”
Consider this brilliant insight: Just about every vice can be cured by self-denial. Just meditate on this for a minute and make a plan for overcoming those stumbling blocks. Self-denial is to be expressed primarily toward God, and from there it is also exhibited toward men. But we must always start with our demeanor toward our Maker.
Self-love causes us to under-value others and exalt ourselves. Not a good worldview. It leads to double-standards, a critical spirit, and completely misunderstanding ourselves. We under-rate talents that others have and look down on them from our own exalted position.
“Everyone flatters himself and carries a kingdom in his breast.” Our talents are gifts on loan to us for the benefit of others, and we are to steward them wisely for the benefit of the church. When we become conceited over them, it betrays a lack of gratitude. We should honor and value others and the gifts they have, overlooking faults with good humor, politeness, and friendship.
Even the smallest kindnesses extended toward others can be dedicated to God.