In Matthew 16:24, Jesus said, "If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me." William Barclay, in commenting on this verse, said, "To deny oneself means in every moment of life to say no to self, and to say yes to God. To deny oneself means once, finally and for all to dethrone self and to enthrone God. To deny oneself means to obliterate self as the dominant principle of life, and to make God the ruling principle, more, the ruling passion, of life. The life of constant self-denial is the life of constant assent to God." (The Gospel of Matthew, Volume 2, p. 167).
The Christian must submit himself and his will to the will of God and make it that which is most important to him. He must not be conformed to the world and its thinking but rather be transformed by the will of God into one who exemplifies the qualities Jesus possessed while on earth (Romans 12:1-2). The spiritual growth and maturity of the child of God is seen as he becomes more and more like Christ. That is accomplished by becoming dead to self and alive to Christ.
The apostle Paul lived in this manner. In Galatians 2:20 he said, "I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me." In another passage he encouraged people to imitate him as he imitated Christ (1 Cor. 11:1). He is a good example of the attitude the Christian must have toward self -- he must lose himself and his will in Christ.
Once the child of God has put Christ first in his life, he must then place others before himself. Philippians 2:3 states, "Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself." This goes along with what people have come to call the "Golden Rule" which is stated in Matthew 7:12 -- "Therefore, whatever you want men to do to you, do also to them..."
These principles do not mean that the child of God is of no value to himself or heaven. His worth, though, is not determined by the world's standards such as wealth, prestige, power, etc., for the parable of the rich fool in Luke 12 plainly states that the worth of a human life is not to be measured by the standards of men (vv. 16-21). The only true standard to measure self worth is the one God has given.
God's standard says each individual is of greater value than all the wealth in the world because every human possesses an eternal soul (Matt. 16:26). When the psalmist wondered why God was mindful of man (Psalm 8:4), the answer was seen in the soul. That soul that makes us in the image of God (Gen. 1:26-27; John 4:24), is that which elevates our worth in the eyes of the All-Mighty and should cause us to realize our value. Our importance does not lie in our physical accomplishments and attainments but in those things spiritual in nature.
Those in the world have forfeited their souls by giving in to sin (Rom. 3:23; 6:23). Jesus died on the cross to redeem, purchase back, the souls of those who would submit to His gospel and crown Him King of their lives (1 Pet. 1:18-19). Therefore, without obedience to the gospel, without restoration of the soul, and without the continual walk in fellowship with God, man has no real worth.
The most important thing you will ever do is establish and maintain a proper relationship with Jesus. You start by putting self to death and being made alive to Christ (Rom. 6:11). Your life will then have meaning both to you and to Heaven.