Lay Aside the Weight of Self-Preoccupation

Lay Aside the Weight of Self-Preoccupation

Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. (Philippians 4:8)

Want to refresh your soul? Want to run with more endurance today? Cease to be the focus of your attention.

The state of your soul depends on what occupies your mind. If your self is occupying your mind, forget peace and contentment. You don’t find those in a vacuum of needs and sinful cravings. And forget loving others. A self-preoccupied soul might like the idea of being viewed by others as loving, but ends up finding others obstacles that plug up its craving vacuum.

And forget joy. The soul does not find satisfaction in the self. It’s not designed to. It’s designed to find supreme satisfaction in Someone else (Psalm 107:9), and then to enjoy everything else because of that Someone else (1 Timothy 6:17).

The Self Will Never Satisfy the Soul

The soul is designed to worship, but not to worship our self. The self is not glorious enough to captivate the soul. We know this. Yet our fallen selves don’t want to believe it. We’re drawn again and again into the hopeless labyrinth of deception that is self-worship. We know we’re not worship-worthy—no matter how many self-affirming pop psychology mantras we chant. And yet we try over and over to satisfy our souls with other people’s praise—and if possible, worship—of our self. Our fallen natures seem to believe that if enough people admire us we just might believe we’re admirable.

Self-preoccupation is disorienting, because when we’re looking at ourselves we aren’t looking to Jesus (Hebrews 12:2) and we aren’t looking at the road we are running on (Hebrews 12:1). It’s disappointing because we never find in ourselves what we’re looking for. Therefore, it frequently leads to discouragement and despair. Ironically, we are then often lured into self-centered introspection, which leads us into a vicious cycle of self-improvement efforts, self-indulgence, self-disillusionment, new self-resolves, etc., etc.

How to Lay Aside the Old Self for the Sake of Joy

Self-preoccupation really is a sin that “clings so closely” (Hebrews 12:1). It’s hard to lay it aside. It’s so much a part of us that we can despair of ever really changing. “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible” (Matthew 19:26). The Bible tells us how to do this:

1. Deny yourself by getting your eyes off yourself. But remember, Christian self-denial is hedonistic because you’re denying yourself of what robs life in order to gain life.

“If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.” (Matthew 16:24–25)

2. Look to Jesus (Hebrews 12:2) and all that God promises to be and do for you through him. Only he will satisfy your soul (Psalm 63:1-3) and only he has the words of eternal life (John 6:68).

Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. (Colossians 3:2)

But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. (Matthew 6:33)

Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. (Philippians 4:8)

3. Serve others. Strike a blow at self-preoccupation by focusing on others’ needs and concerns. Our Lord’s commands to love one another (John 13:34) and serve one another (John 13:14) have a double-edged benefit for us: they give us the blessing of giving and liberate us from the tyranny of self.

“It is more blessed to give than to receive.” (Acts 20:35)

Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. (Philippians 2:3–4)

Worldly hedonists believe that narcissism is the path to joy. That is a horrible lie. Christian Hedonists know that narcissism is the death of joy, because only God is our “exceeding joy” (Psalm 43:4, Psalm 16:11).

So join me today, for the sake of God’s joy, our joy, and others’ joy, in laying aside the weight of self-preoccupation by denying ourselves lifelessness, looking to Jesus who is our life (John 14:6), and giving life to others by serving them.


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Jon Bloom (@Bloom_Jon) is the author of Not by Sight: A Fresh Look at Old Stories of Walking by Faith and serves as the President of Desiring God, which he and John Piper launched together in 1994. He lives in the Twin Cities with his wife, Pam, their five children, and one naughty dog.