I recently saw a twitter post by Matt Smehurst, a writer for the Gospel Coalition, stating that Satan doesn’t tempt us by asking us to believe in him, but rather to put full belief in ourselves. I read it not as Matt asking us all to hate ourselves (which would be unbiblical), but rather reminding us that our ultimate trust has to be put in God and his Word, rather than in ourselves. I filed it away as a good sermon illustration and moved on.
So I was very surprised a few days later when I saw another writer I follow on social media, who is not a Christian, forward a screen capture of Matt’s original statement with the comment, “Satan sounds like a pretty great guy,” attached.
I stopped and thought, and I realized that Satan’s message throughout scripture has clearly had a powerful impact on our society. He tends to go one of two ways in the bible. He either tries to get us believe that our value is TOO high, or he tries to get us to believe that we are worthless. And in our modern age of self-promotion on one side, and rampant drug use and suicide on the other, we see that this message is still alive and well today.
The Bible however, offers us a third path. In his letter to the Philippian church, Paul tells them that the church should count others as more significant than themselves rather than acting out of selfishness and conceit. He tells them that they should not look only to their own interests, but also to those of others (note, he doesn’t tell them to neglect their own needs, he says to look beyond them to help others as well).
His aim is not that others will think more highly of them and he doesn’t tell them that doing those things will make God love them. Rather, he says that they should do these things because their mindset, their way of thinking, should be the same as that of Jesus Christ.
Jesus, who even though he deserved everything, all praise and honor and glory and admiration and power and authority and love, chose to die for us. That’s the kind of attitude that we should have towards others. Not merely thinking of ourselves in life, but moving outside of ourselves to focus on others.
Tim Keller has said that grace is both humbling and restorative. It pulls you down because Christ had to die for you, but also lifts you up because he wanted to die for you. When the devil tempts you to think too highly of yourself (elevating yourself above God) or too lowly of yourself, soak in both of those elements. Know that you are a sinner, that Christ came to die for your sins, that your sin is so evil as to require the death of Jesus Christ. But know also that he gave his life willingly, that Jesus chose to experience pain and suffering and loss and rejection and death, so that he would not have to be separated from you, nor you from him. That right there is amazing grace.
Jon is the pastor of Woodlake Presbyterian in Woodlake, CA. He has been married to his wife, Sarah, for six years and they have a three year old daughter and a son on the way. He writes for pastordiscussions.com and can be found on Twitter (@jonathanmdennis) and on Facebook.
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