SELF-FORGETFULNESS

March 05, 2024

SELF-FORGETFULNESS

 
 
If there is one word that describes the focus of our lives, it is simply “self.” Dozens of words tag along to this root: selfish, self-absorbed, self-focused, self-inflicted, self-appointed … the list is endless.
 
A FOUNDATIONAL SECRET
Against this litany of words is Christ's small but staggering statement that is designed to break our myopic view and lift us up to right living.
 
“If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow me.” (Mark 8:34)
 
“If you have this desire,” Jesus said, " if there is something inside of you that longs for a transcendent life above the pettiness of mere humanity and wanton selfishness, then you must stop against yourself.” It is summed up in two words: “Deny yourself.”
 
A TWO-WAY TURN
The two words combined are pregnant with meaning. What does this mean?
 
Bible translations help us with this phrase. “Deny himself (forget, ignore, disown, and lose sight of himself and his own interests)” (Amplified); “Give up your own way” (NLT); “Let him begin at once to lose sight of himself and his own interests” (Wuest).
Jesus speaks of a determined choice to turn from a selfish, self-consumed life. Do you always think first of how something or someone will affect you? Are you consumed with other’s opinions? Careful to say just the right words to impress? Wear the right clothes? Make sure that you get the preferential spot? Be recognized and applauded?
 
Are you intent on letting everyone know what’s happening in your life? The good and the bad? All your ailments as well as all your accomplishments? Are you the favorite topic of your conversation? Do you naturally pull the conversation to yourself or others?
 
Tim Keller defines it in the incredible little booklet, The Freedom of Self-forgetfulness.
 
C.S. Lewis, in Mere Christianity, makes a brilliant observation about gospel-humility at the very end of his chapter on pride. If we were to meet a truly humble person, Lewis says, we would never come away from meeting them thinking they were humble. They would not be always telling us they were a nobody (because a person who keeps saying they are a nobody is actually a self-obsessed person). The thing we would remember from meeting a truly gospel-humble person is how much they seemed to be totally interested in us. Because the essence of gospel-humility is not thinking more of myself or thinking less of myself, it is thinking of myself less.
 
But the turn of self-denial is not merely away from yourself, but towards Someone. “Follow Me” is the end of the sentence. It is from us to Him. We become so enamored with Him that we forget about ourselves. Our pains and problems, our suffering and difficulty, our ego and recognition, our works and accomplishments. We just don’t care because we are thrilled with Christ, overjoyed with pursuing Him, and humbled to be used by Him.
 
Our vision is so filled with Him that self is obscured.
 
When we have genuinely made the turn, we don’t live for ourselves anymore. We live for Christ and the others He loves. Our conversation does not orbit us but Him. Our service is not to help yourself but others (with no thought of ourselves). We enter the blessed, liberating state of self-forgetfulness and find the biggest and most joyful life possible.
 




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