“For if a man think himself to be something, when he is nothing, he deceiveth himself.”
It is bad enough for a man to be deceived by another; but it is worse to be deceived by himself. But this verse gives the true corrective and preventive of self-deception—and it is found in a man’s thinking himself truly what he is; that is, nothing.
But this is not natural. The natural thing is for each one to think himself something; and then continue so to think until he becomes more and more something, and the chiefest of all. That is simply the secret and the spirit of self-exaltation.
But the truth is that of himself man is nothing; and the true way for any man to find this truth is to confess that he is nothing. That is simply the way of self-abnegation.
And then he can become something.
Now the reason of all this is that man is separated from God; and this separation was accomplished by his accepting the suggestion, and following the way, of the one who originally in his self-exaltation, declared; “I will be like the Most High.” And the end of this course, with that one, is that he shall be absolutely nothing. For of him at the end of his course it is written: “Never shall you be any more.” Eze. 28:19. And when he entered upon that course which inevitably ends only in his being absolutely nothing, then it is certain that at the beginning of it he practically made himself nothing, and that all through his course he was truly nothing.
It is so also with the man who accepted the leadership, and followed in the way, of this one. By this the man made himself nothing. And so it is written: “All nations before him are as nothing: and they are counted to him less than nothing, and vanity.” Isa. 40:17. And “they that war against thee shall be as nothing, and as a thing of naught.” Isa. 41:12.
Yet the original leader, and, from him, all who are led in this course, really think themselves to be something, when, in very truth, they are nothing.
Now there is a way out of this nothingness into that which is something, and in which each one shall be truly something. And this is in the way of Christ—the way of the cross. Christ is the example: he has led the way; for “he emptied himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross.” Thus he gave himself up to be, and to become, lost and nothing, that he might redeem those who are lost and nothing.
Therefore all are exhorted: “Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus: who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery [a thing to be seized upon and to be held fast] to be equal with God: but emptied himself,” and became nothing. And because he did this, and through his doing it, “God also hath highly exalted him, and given him a name which is above every name: that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things under the heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth; and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” Phil. 2:5, 9-11.
Therefore the first of all things for any man to do to help himself, to set himself in the way of deliverance from nothingness, is to recognize truly that he is nothing. Then, in Christ he becomes something, and shall be something, even though, in himself, he is ever nothing. As it is written: “In nothing am I behind the very apostles, though I be nothing.” 2 Cor. 12:11. This, because we are not “sufficient of ourselves to think anything as of ourselves; but our sufficiency is of God.” 3:5. “As God hath said, I will dwell in them and walk in them; and they shall be my people.” 6:16. This is “the mystery of God:” God manifest in the flesh: “Christ in you, the hope of glory.”
And these things are written “that ye might learn in us not to think of men above that which is written, that no one of you be puffed up for one against another. For who maketh thee to differ from another? and what hast thou that thou didst not receive? now if thou didst receive it, why dost thou glory, as if thou had not received it?” 1 Cor. 4:6, 7.
When it is true of every man that he is nothing, absolutely nothing, even to his existence, which he did not receive from God; then, without God, what is he? —Plainly, he is nothing. And that is just the condition of men as they are in the world, naturally, “without God in the world.” Eph. 2:12.
Thus, it being strictly true, in the nature of things, that, without God, any creature is nothing; man, being without God, is truly nothing. Then, when, in this condition, man thinks himself something, in that very thing he asserts self-existence—equality with God. And this is true of man in his condition of sin and separation from God; because that was the very thing, which was asserted to him and expected by him when sin entered: “Ye shall be like God.”
But self-existence is not true of any creature: self-existence is true only of God. All persons and things are from him, and by him; and in him all things “live, and move, and have their being:” each in itself nothing, but in him something, according as his mind, his will, his purpose, is manifest therein.
Thus the self-deception of a man in his thinking himself to be something, when, in absolute truth, he is nothing, is the worst and most destructive of all deceptions, because it is the deception of asserting of himself self-existence, —divinity; “showing himself that he is God,” —the only end of which is to become, indeed, absolutely nothing, in the awful consummation that is declared. “For yet a little while, and the wicked shall not be: yea, thou shalt diligently consider his place, and it shall not be.” Ps. 37:10.
But only let a man accept, in his heart and life, the truth that he is nothing; let him accept the manifestation of Christ, which alone can ever hold him in the place where he shall know that, in truth, of himself he is nothing; let Christ live in him; let God be manifest in his flesh; let the mind, the will, the purpose, of God thus be manifest in him, —and of him it will be also true that, because of this, “God also hath highly exalted him.” For it is written: “To him that overcometh will I grant to sit with me in my throne, even as I also overcame, and am set down with my Father in his throne.” Rev. 3:21. Jesus said, “Without me ye can do nothing.” This is so because, without him, ye are nothing. For to be without Christ is to be “without God in the world” (Eph. 2:12); and to be without God is to be nothing.
Only the way of Christ, the way of the cross, is the way of life, the way of something. Any other way is only the way of death, the way of nothing.
“Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus: who . . . emptied himself.”
[Advent Review and Sabbath Herald | October 30, 1900]