A Trinitarian Perspective
Phil Jones – September, 2016
It seems as if the world is constantly urging us to turn more and more inward, to find our ‘inner-selves,’ to put ‘me’ first. Such an emphasis on ‘turning inward’ – such ‘self-centered spiritualism’ – is simply a form of the ancient Gnostic heresy the church battled in her earliest centuries. But the Biblical, Trinitarian perspective is radically different.
I hope to convey in this short discussion a Christian perspective of what our ‘self-image’ should be. In contrast to the Gnostic view of looking inward and away from the Triune God, the Bible teaches us to look upward to God and outward in love and concern for others, to our church, our family, and our neighbor. Indeed, this is not new thought, but good thought that is worth repeating.
The Apostle Paul tells us in Philippians 2:3,4; “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.”
Note that Paul says “not only to his own interest.” Paul does not say we are to neglect our own interest, but rather he expands our scope. We are to look beyond ourselves and are to take an interest in others’ needs also. C.S. Lewis is quoted as saying: “Humility is not thinking less of yourself but thinking of yourself less.” – Self-less.
‘Selflessness’ is the opposite of ‘selfish ambition.’ To be selfless is not to abandon self or to debase self; but to be selfless is to have a proper (i.e. Biblical) perspective on our purpose. We are to imitate and pattern our lives after the selflessness of our Creator and Redeemer. And in so doing, we will find true purpose and contentment.
In a recent sermon by brother Carl Miller on Philippians 4:10-13, he rightly points out the contentment obtained from Christ, and the discontentment that leads us to sin. The source of such contentment, of course, is Christ himself. “I can do all things through him who strengthens me.” (Philippians 4:13). And thus the source of discontentment is looking away from Christ to self. In other words, discontentment is grounded in ‘self-ish-ness.’
So again, where does this selflessness come from? Why should we be selfless? For one, this is how we were created! Yes, we were created to look outward not inward. We were created in the image of the Triune God. “So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.” (Gen 1:27).
Our Triune God is one in essence, three in person. Love and goodness eternally flow from one person to the others. The Father loves the Son and gave a people to the Son to be His bride. Think, dear Christian … the Father gave us to His Son as a love gift to glorify and rejoice in His Son. We were not created for our own benefit, but to glory in Him. All of creation reflects the very nature of the Triune God. So how can we not reflect the selflessness of our Creator?!
Furthermore, from one perspective, selfishness, lay at the root of all sin. Michael Reeves, in his book Delighting in the Trinity, expresses it well: “That is what went wrong in Eden, the garden of God: those who were made to enjoy the beauty of the Lord turned away to enjoy their own.” Sin – all sin – can be said to sprout from selfishness – from the love of our personal desire over and above God’s glory. That, after all, is what led to the Fall (Gen 3:1-8) – a selfish desire.
What is a proper ‘self-image’? To see ourselves in union with Christ. As we rest in Christ by faith, we are united to him in his death and resurrection. So in a real sense for the believer, to look at self is to look at Christ – the exalted Christ to whom we are united (Eph 5:29-30).
Your self-image is in most fully realized in your union with Christ. Your purpose, the purpose for which you were created, is to live with an outward focus – a focus on Christ our high priest and bridegroom – the King and head of the church, to whom we are united! As we overflow in love for others, we are simply imaging the Triune God in whose image we were created, and to whose image we are being conformed. So dear brothers and sisters, do not look in, but look upward and outward!
Blessings in Christ.