Friday, February 5, 2016

Selfishness


Our culture today has been called the “me culture” by scholars and the “me generation” by Time magazine.


 

Our focus on the “individual” in our country impacts our view of human dignity and community. The desire to make our own choices, serve our own interests, and chart our own course takes precedence over everything else. In the “me culture” it is all about benefiting one’s self.

 

“There was a girl named Christy, who had broken up with Jimmy. She told him she simply didn’t want to be with him anymore. But after about a year of being broken up, out of the blue, she wrote Jimmy a letter. She said, “Jimmy, I miss you bad. I think of you all day and all night long. You dominate my mind, and I just don’t want to be apart from you anymore. Jimmy, let’s reconnect. P.S. Congratulations on winning the lottery!” It’s amazing how willing people are to do things when personal benefit is involved.”[1]

 

“Individualism places a higher value on lawsuits over reconciliation, individual rights over community responsibilities, career advancement over company loyalty, cynicism over trust, relative truth over absolute truth. Individualism, where the wants and desires of the individual take precedence over all else, has no place in the Christian Community. . . . We have become, in the words of John Locke, chairperson of the Department of Human Communications Sciences at the University of Sheffield in England, ‘solo sapiens.’”[2]

 

The use of technology and social media may make the problem of “me-ism” worse instead of better. Online relationships and communities lack the permanence of expression of real communities. “If history is any guide to the future, users tend to switch from one online community to another based on personal interest, popularity of the site, and their need at the time—from services like MySpace to Facebook, to Twitter, to whatever is next.”[3]

 



I have a picture of our dog Buddy on the screen. Buddy is a spoiled pet. We feed him on his schedule. Buddy lets us know when he wants outside. He tells us when he wants back in, regardless of the time—day or night. We pamper Buddy. So, Buddy thinks the family revolves around him. Buddy is a “me-dog.”

 

The problem we have in the church today is that we lack community in many ways.  Each Christian feels like he or she should be the “pampered pet.”

 

Churches have a tendency to function as a collection of individuals instead of a “community.” Even joining a community group or Bible study does not guarantee that we set aside our individualistic thinking. Princeton’s Robert Wuthnow mentioned that small groups could “provide occasions for individuals to focus on themselves in the presence of others. The social contract binding members together asserts only the weakest of obligations. Come if you have time. Talk if you feel like it. Respect everyone’s opinion. Never criticize. Leave quietly if you become dissatisfied.”[4]

 

For Christians, Christ is valued over all others, including “self.” The Apostle Paul looked at life from a completely different perspective than that individualist. He wasn’t stuck on himself. When Paul, a proud Jewish Pharisee, met Jesus Christ on the road to Damascus, in route to persecute Christians, he trusted him and became a true believer. Formerly, Paul was convinced that Jesus was the enemy. However, he was blinded by the light of Jesus and heard the Savior’s voice. Paul’s heart and direction changed in a moment. Instantaneous life change is possible for all who will admit their need for a Savior today.

 

Philippians 3:7-11 But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith— 10 that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, 11 that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead.

 

When Paul met Jesus, he realized just how purposeless and futile his life was before. Paul thought he was a righteous man; he realized his righteous deeds were as filthy rags. Paul saw himself as a champion for what was good; he understood how sinful and lost he was. Paul’s perspective changed when he met Jesus. He realized that it wasn’t about him.

 

Paul said, “Whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ.” Paul was a scholar, respected member of the clergy, proud Jew, and a passionate leader. When he looked at all of his credentials, Paul considered those achievements as “rubbish,” or the term could be understood “sewage.” What a radical statement from a successful, self-reliant man!

 

Jesus moved Paul out of “me culture” into a vibrant new perspective.

 

1. Life isn’t about “me,” it is about knowing Jesus Christ.

 

Philippians 3:8 Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ

 

One of the most common phrases we hear today about direction in life is that we need to “find ourselves.” For some, this is a quest to discover what makes them happy, fulfilled, and successful.

 

The problem with making life a quest to “find ourselves” is that this is not the purpose of our lives. When we look within to find our real meaning and satisfaction, we are looking in the wrong place. When we look within, we discover that we do not actually know how to achieve meaning and purpose. The answer to the question of life’s meaning does not lie within. The answer is not found by looking within. The answer is discovered by looking up to God.

 

To “know” Christ is to have a personal relationship with him through faith. It is the relationship that Jesus talked about in his prayer before going to the cross.

 

John 17:3 And this is eternal life, that they know you the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.

 

“A guy was watching football on a Saturday afternoon. He had the remote in his hand when the phone rang. He walked over to the phone with the remote in his hand. Even while on the phone, he was interested in keeping up with the game so as not to miss any big plays. He couldn’t see the TV, but he figured that at least he could half listen in. He pointed the remote in the direction of the TV and attempted to turn the volume up. Nothing happened because he was too far. It’s not that the TV didn’t work. He was just too far.

 

“Sometimes Christians will say that God doesn’t work when in reality the problem is that they are simply too far. It’s not that Jesus doesn’t work; it’s not that the Bible doesn’t work, and it’s not that the Holy Spirit doesn’t work. If a person is not in the vicinity, then it will certainly seem that way. Closeness and intimacy with God is what provides the full experience of walking with Him.”[5]

 

Do you feel far away from God? Do you miss that closeness you once experienced with him? I understand what you’re feeling. That feeling reminds me of a quote I have read many times.

 

 

2. Self-righteousness gets me nowhere; Jesus’ righteousness brings forgiveness and peace.

 

Philippians 3:9 and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith—

 

Righteousness before a holy God had been Paul’s goal before he met Jesus personally. Every good Pharisee wanted to attain favor with God by earning God’s approval through obeying the Law. However, it was only when Paul lost his self-righteousness on the road to Damascus that he gained the righteousness of Jesus.

 

I was talking on my cell phone not too long ago, and it started beeping: “beep, beep, beep.” The battery was weak. After a short conversation, I looked at the screen, and the phone was powering down. Earlier in the day, I had not pushed the charger cord into the phone properly. The phone had not been hooked to the charger.

 

A lot of people are coming up empty spiritually because they were never connected to Jesus. They looked connected. They thought everything was okay. However, they are spiritually powerless. Only Jesus’ righteousness is our adequate source of strength.

 

The theological word for getting the righteousness of Jesus Christ in our lives is “imputation.” Paul added up his own works and good deeds and determined that he was spiritually bankrupt. When Paul considered the righteousness of Jesus, he saw riches beyond compare. Jesus Christ’s riches were placed into Paul’s account, and God would never count his sins against him!

 

3. Faith in Jesus isn’t the end of “me,” it is a new beginning.

 

Philippians 3:10-11 that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, 11 that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead.

 

When Paul became a Christian, it was a momentous change. Everything about Paul’s life changed: his belief system, purpose, perspective, and even his circle of friends. Paul had a personal bond with Jesus. He said, “I know him.” “I know his power.” I share his sufferings.” “I am becoming like him in his death.”

 

Galatians 2:20 I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.

 

This experience with Jesus was a new beginning with Paul. Paul found out what he had been created to do. Paul died to himself and took up the cross daily and followed Jesus. As a result, Paul gained far more than he lost on the road to Damascus.

 

Not too long ago, I was in a restaurant having dinner with my wife, and it came time to pay the bill. I asked the server to come over bring the check. She came back a few minutes later and said that I did not owe anything. I looked puzzled. She said, “Someone else paid for your dinner.” Now, I would have been crazy to argue with the server. I would have been foolish not to accept the gift. I simply needed to say, “Thank you!” The price had been paid in full.

 

God wants each of us to accept his free gift. He has paid our bill. Some are foolish because they refuse to accept the free gift. The price of salvation has already been paid, and God’s Son has taken care of the check.

 

Christian, maybe it is time for you to exit the “me culture” and to gain life in Jesus Christ. Teresa of Avila was a 16th-century nun who wrote about the visible demonstration of what life in Jesus Christ looks like for all of us in her poem “Christ Has No Body.”

 

Christ has no body but yours,

No hands, no feet on earth but yours,

Yours are the eyes with which he looks

Compassion on this world,

Yours are the feet with which he walks to do good,

Yours are the hands, with which he blesses all the world.[6]

 

Our experience with Jesus Christ is not for ourselves. We are to live our lives to glorify God by reaching out to those around us.

 

For many people today, the Bible is like the Queen of England. She is in the top position, but has no real power! I’m not asking you to give lip-service to Jesus today. I am asking you to trust him completely and follow him completely.



[1]Tony Evans, Tony Evans Book . . ., (Chicago, IL: Moody Publishers, 2009), 276.
 
[2]Randy Frazee, The Connecting Church,  (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing, 2013), 36.
 
[3]Ibid, 39.
 
[4]Ibid, 40.
[5]Evans, 168.
[6]Tersa of Avila, “Christ Has No Body,” www.journeywithjesus.net, (Retrieved on January 25, 2016).