Reading: Philippians 2:1-4, Galatians 5:25-26, James 3:14-15, James 4
Be Still And Know
"Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves." Philippians 2:3
Drink Deep From The Well
On the last page of my Mawmaw's well-worn Bible are these words written in scribbly hand-writing: For every look at self, take ten looks to Christ (Robert McCheyne). Mawmaw's letters were a testament to her faith. She wrote with severely crippled hands from rheumatoid arthritis. Having had her leg amputated due to an infection, she was bound to an automated wheelchair for half her life. From the outward appearance, her body suffered in ways most people will never understand. But her smile told a different story. She lived Robert McCheyne's statement in a powerful, gospel-centered way. Every time she looked at herself and her suffering, she looked back at Christ. In her looking to Christ, she served others in His name even with her crippled hands. Instead of looking to the mirror, she looked to God's Word for life, joy, and peace. And her faith and legacy still speak today.
Mirrors are everywhere in our society. Reflections are often used as a tool of the enemy in the lives of men and women. Vainglory is bred in us from the moment we breathe our first breath. Humility is not man's natural response. 1 Samuel 16:7b says that "...man looks on outward appearances but the Lord looks on the heart." Our hearts are reflected in our outer appearance. What is in inside us is revealed in our actions, motives, and words. Paul understood man's tendency to correct outward behavior while neglecting inner attitudes. As he wrote to the church at Philippi while sitting in a prison cell, he called for a heart check of the believers. With deep conviction, he called the believers to be unified in heart, mind, and love (Philippians 2:1-2). Being unified in Christ enables believers to see in the mirror of the gospel clearly.
This weekend I had a major heart check. In the beginning of the Give Me Jesus Journal is a section meant for introspection before journalling. Often, I have learned that it takes good questions to draw out the thoughts, motives, and dreams that are stored in our hearts. In many ways, this study on Philippians has already scrubbed my heart and it is only the beginning of week two. The Lord scrubs our hearts to cleanse us of our sin and reflect the love of Jesus. The scrub is uncomfortable, but the result is beautiful. God is using Philippians 2:3-4 to give me a good scrub in the junk drawers of my heart.
I can almost feel the yearning in Paul's heart as he wrote Philippians 2:3 - "Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves." In order for us to see our sin more clearly and be free, we must name it and know what it is. I looked up the definition to "selfish ambition" and was shocked at how many of these words describe thoughts and feelings that run through my heart at any given point in a day. The definitions I found included envy, bitter jealousy, contention, and rivalry. "Conceit", or vainglory, is having "inordinate pride in oneself or one's achievements." Ouch. Selfish ambition and conceit are essentially being obsessed with ourselves. When we place our gaze on ourself, we begin to compare and compete with other believers. Comparison is one of enemy's greatest joy-stealer and unity-destroyer. Comparison is opposed to the gospel that declares that Christ has given us all we need and made us who we are for His glory. When we compare, envy, and compete, we seek our glory and not His. Instead of looking to Christ ten times we look to self only.
Galatians 5:25-26 tells us "If we live by the Spirit, let us also keep in step with the Spirit. Let us not become conceited, provoking one another, envying one another." Comparison and competition is rooted in pride. We cannot be unified with the body of Christ when these attitudes are present, and Paul understood this. When we look in the mirror of this world, we seek in fame and recognition that fades away. When we look in the mirror of God's Word, we seek the glory and renown of Jesus. The Word of God is the mirror through which we see the state of our hearts. The gospel is the lens through which we see ourselves clearly. What we see when we look at ourselves through the lens of the Word is a sinner in need of a Savior. The result of this holy gaze is humility born out of a deep admiration and love of Jesus who died for us.
Paul not only tells us what not to do, he tells us what we should do instead. We should humbly count others as better than ourselves. When we fix our gaze on Jesus, who bore the cross for our selfish ambition and vain conceit, we can't help but bow low in humility, weeping over our sin and rejoicing over His love. James 4:6-10 tells us to resist the devil, humble ourselves before the Lord, and draw near to Him. This is what it means to take ten looks to Christ. That is the secret to humility. We cannot try harder to be humble. We would simply become prideful in our false "humility." In fixing our gaze on Jesus, we lift Him high to His rightful place as King and we bow low recognizing our need for Him. This is the secret to a life that looks into the mirror of the Word.
Mawmaw's scribbled letters were the theme of her life. She gazed at Christ and served others humbly, even in her own crippled condition. Through the strength and joy of Christ, she lived her life well for His glory.
This day, take ten looks at Christ. Gaze steadily into the mirror of His Word and allow Him to scrub your soul clean. This is the secret to a full, kingdom-focused life.
Ask And Apply
- In what areas of your life do selfish ambition and vain conceit reveal themselves? Write them down and confess them before the Lord. Read James 4:7-10 and respond to these verses.
Today I Learned
Selfish ambition and vainglory steal the joy Christ purchased for me on the cross. I cannot defeat these sins in my own strength. I need to look to Jesus for freedom.
Today I Will
Today I will take ten looks to Jesus when I begin to look to myself and build up my own name.
"Not to us, O Lord, not to us, but to your name give glory, for the sake of your steadfast love and your faithfulness." (Psalm 115:1) Amen.