Wednesday, February 15, 2012

It's Not About Us (Even Though We Think it is)

     In the Westminster Catechism, the first question is:  "What is the chief end of man?"  The answer is:
The Church of the Holy Rood in Scotland
"To glorify God and enjoy Him forever."  Our purpose in His calling and election is to pursue holiness and reflect His glory in our every day walk on earth.  Unfortunately, we often trip over our own flesh and fall into the sin of selfishness.  We take the wonderful truth of the catechism and turn the question around to read:  "What is the chief end of God?"  Our answer sounds something like this:  "To love me and make me happy."  Instead of listening to God's call for holy living, we become self-absorbed with our own pursuit of happiness and gratification.  I wish I could say that none of us fall into this pit, but the truth is that ever since the Fall of man in the garden we have all come up short in this area.
     Paul's letter to the Philippian believers included a call to remember who they are in Christ.  He wrote:
"Do nothing from rivalry 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.  Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus" (Phil. 2:3-5).  If selfishness and self-centered living were not a problem, the Apostle would not have taken time to instruct believers in this matter.  Self-centeredness is at the heart of and the essence of sin.  Sin, itself, demands the autonomy of self instead of submission to God.  We see this all the time when people (many who call themselves Christians) develop a great deal of anger when they are cut off in traffic or when someone cuts in line in front of them.  Their reaction says a lot about their spiritual maturity.  Self-centered people think "it's all about me".  "I" am the most important person.
The Church of the Holy Rood in Stirling, Scotland
     By contrast, we would do well to consider the earthly life of our Savior.  Jesus summed up His lifestyle in Matthew 20:28 when He said:  "The Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give His life as a ransom for many."  Likewise, He told us that we are to imitate Him in this servanthood to others when He answered His disciples who were arguing over their rank in His kingdom.  He said in Matthew 20:25-27:  "You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them.  It shall not be so among you.  But whoever would be great among you must be your servant and whoever would be first among you must be your slave...."  The King of Glory came in the form of a humble servant, washing the dirty feet of His disciples, healing the multitudes, and giving Himself as a sacrifice for our sins.  There was nothing self-centered in His perfect life.
     According to the Bible, our first step in changing from "me" centered to "God" centered is in coming to Christ as our Lord and Savior.  When we respond to God's regenerating work in our life and receive salvation, we begin a process of transforming grace which is gradual and progressive.  We are forgiven instantly and justified in Christ at that moment, but our sanctification requires a lifetime of faithful application and diligence to the teachings of our Lord.  This is the area where we can fall down.  How easy it is to put aside time in prayer and Bible study.  Yet, we have been warned over and over in God's Word to put on His armor and be prepared because we have an Adversary that is looking to find our weak spot.  This weak spot is selfishness and self-centered living.
     Our culture surrounds us with messages all day long about how to gratify the self.  Politicians promise "x, y, z" in order to pander to our "self-centered" flesh, and it works even among Christians.  Listen to commercials and the television set or radio, and all of them will appeal to some aspect of what we deserve in life.  Christians, we need to be alert, and remember to whom we belong.  We were bought with a price and we are not our own any longer.  If we name the name of Christ, then what we say must line up with how we live.
     In order to really take a good look at our lives, we need to do an inventory of our behavior each day and reflect on whether we have acted like a servant or more like a Pharisee having the appearance of godliness on the outside but an empty heart on the inside.  Asking some questions, helps us to consider our conduct:  How did I interact with people at work today?  Was I demanding of my own way or did I offer help and encouragement?  How did I treat my family?  Have I shown respect to my family, my boss, my co-workers or did I criticize and tear down?  Above all, did I reflect the love and humility of Christ to those around me in word and deed?
The Church of the Holy Ghost in Heidelberg, Germany
     Each day we are adding to the legacy which we will leave behind when our life on earth comes to a close.  Will people remember a self-serving individual who demanded their own way or will they remember a person whose heart was obedient, servant-like, and glorifying to Christ?  Our daily walk is being watched every day by people around us and especially by our heavenly Father.  What will they see?  My prayer is that we will glorify God and enjoy Him forever!  Selah!

What helps you overcome this tendency to be selfish?  Do you have a favorite Scripture that encourages you?  I welcome your comments and thoughts and I read each one with joy.  Blessings!

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