As we wrapped up the abridged version of the film, we began to see how mankind has become so preoccupied with selfish wants and desires that we end up treating God like some great, big, cosmic “candy man.” We all desire His sweet blessings, but most of us are not willing to join in on the selfless, bitter sufferings that God’s Son, Jesus Christ, calls us to endure.
In this article we will begin to look at the problem humanity has with being so very self serving, and we will reveal God’s remedy for overcoming this deadly disease. So as we begin, let’s consider one of the areas where symptoms of our selfish nature are most evident — the realm of advertising.
Most of us have seen, or heard, an advertisement that told us just how “special” and “important” we are. Flattery certainly can increase a business’ bottom line, especially when they seem to value our self worth. See if you recognize any of these famous slogans:
“Be All You Can Be” — U.S. Army, “Have It Your Way” — Burger King, “You Deserve A Break Today” — McDonald’s, “You Can” — Cannon, “Everything We Do Is Driven By You” — Ford Motor Company, “The Power To Be Your Best” — Apple Computers
Then there are the advertisements that appeal to our sense of entitlement:
“Be The First To Know” — CNN, “Two For Me, None For You!” — Twix (Mars, Inc.), “Nobody Better Lay A Finger On My Butterfinger” — Nestle’s Butterfinger, “Obey Your Thirst” — Sprite (Coca-Cola Co.), “This Bud’s For You” — Budweiser, “Think What We Can Do For You” — Bank of America, “Where Do You Want To Go Today?” — Microsoft, “Yours Is Here” — Dell Computers, “I Am What I Am” — Reebok, “I Love What You Do For Me” — Toyota, “It’s Everywhere You Want To Be” — Visa, “Because I’m Worth It” — L’Oreal
Selfishness is certainly a human trait, and placing Christ or others first unquestionably isn’t. And it’s not that we shouldn’t take care of ourselves — No — it’s when we over indulge in it that self servitude becomes deadly.
Our obsession with being selfish doesn’t just appear in commercial enticements, either, it appears in all areas of our lives. Above all other human traits, selfishness is mankind’s dominant characteristic. Think back over the previous six subjects discussed in this series. At the root of all of these topics is humanity’s selfishness.
What was the reason, from Article One, for people craving after money? Monetary wealth helps to ensure that our three most natural, and essential, needs are met on a regular basis — clothing, food, and shelter. When these “creature comforts” are not met regularly, then our happiness flees. Stress enters our lives and we lose our contentment. As we cease to thrive, our minds and bodies react in a variety of ways. Sometimes such struggles cause illness and disease to enter into our bodies. This natural desire for self-preservation, can open the door to selfishness.
In Article Two, it was our desire to be in control — to have power over our lives and our destinies — that also revealed another form of selfishness. Then there is our seeking to satisfy our appetite for personal pleasure, the topic of Article Three; also another form of selfishness. Even the subjects from Articles Four (religion), Five (philosophy), and Six (knowledge) reveal some form of humanity’s selfish nature.
When religion is practiced for the purpose of regulating and manipulating humanity, then the abuse of power being displayed becomes the act of sinful selfishness. God doesn’t long for our faith to be about legalistic rituals and traditions. God desires to experience a real and loving relationship with mankind. I’ll repeat this again, from Article Four, Jesus didn’t create you to be religious. Christ didn’t suffer and die for a pious philosophy. God’s son created you, lived as you, died for you, and conquered death — for you. True Christianity is not about religion; not at all. It’s about knowing and being known by the Creator of heaven and earth, Yahweh — the Lord, and savior, Jesus Christ.
The philosophies of the world are also steeped in selfish ideologies. Focusing on any thought process that pushes humanity to embrace who they are, just as they are, and working towards self improvement only if the individual deems it necessary. The whole idea of needing divine intervention, or giving God praise for human accomplishments, or acknowledging that there is a providential Creator in charge of the whole of creation, is rejected in lieu of mankind’s supposed ability to correct and right his/her own wrongs. This way of thinking leads into our topic from Article Six — knowledge.
Knowledge about the physical, or the mental, or even the spiritual, can be selfish in nature when it exists without understanding (Proverbs 18:1). God promises to grant all of humanity wisdom, if we will seek it and ask God for it (James 1:5). When God’s wisdom is given, the person who receives it enjoys real knowledge that is coupled with genuine understanding (Proverbs 2:6, 9:10; Isaiah 11:12; Colossians 1:9). If you possess knowledge that prevents God from ruling over your life, then you are holding knowledge that lacks understanding, and that is dangerous. It’s dangerous because knowledge that exists outside of God’s wisdom is self serving (Proverbs 18:1). And when we are self serving, then we become destructive to ourselves and all of creation (James 3:14-16).
Life is not about any one individual. It’s not about God and any one individual. Life is meant to be a community. A community made up of people fulfilling God’s divine purpose, will, and plan. A populous where humanity serves God, as He has commanded, and each other before we serve ourselves. Life is not about selfishness. No, life is about sacrificing ourselves in the service of God for others (Psalm 1:1-6, 119:36; Matthew 20:25-28; Philippians 2:3-4).
“The great danger for family life, in the midst of any society whose idols are pleasure, comfort, and independence, lies in the fact that people close their hearts and become selfish.”
Godly wisdom from a godly man, but I’d like to take his statement one step further and say that the great danger for humanity, as a whole, is in when people close their hearts to God’s purpose, will, and plan, and become self serving.
In our series on worship, known as The Joshua Project, Article Four discussed how serving God, and others, before we serve ourselves can bring about true joy in our lives. The following is an excerpt from that post:
“Joy is not a temporal emotion, but an actual attribution of God’s character — a part of His being; a ‘fruit’ of His Spirit, according to Galatians chapter five, verse twenty-two . . . to understand fully what joy means, and to correctly apply it to our everyday life and worship, we will have to dissect the word . . . find what lies at its core. To do this we will literally take the word ‘joy’ and examine it letter by letter. When we are done, the acrostic we end up with will be a simple and applicable tool with which you can allow God to bring real joy to you daily.
The first meaning we can find at the core of real joy is in the letter ‘J.’ And that is true faith in the Lord, God Jehovah via a relationship with His Son, Jesus Christ . . . we must recognize that sin has removed us from God’s glory (this is our current ‘fallen state’) and then realize that we need to be restored to the center and purpose of Jehovah (Isaiah 59:1-20) . . . We can’t experience true worship if we can’t exist in God’s presence.
We must also realize that we do not deserve Jehovah’s grace, but deserve death. ‘For the wages of sin is death’ (Romans 6:23a). Everything in life costs us something; nothing is free . . . Life costs us, male and female alike, something of each other in order to conceive a new life (child). The creation of the human race cost God, as well. Life cost Him, in the beginning, a piece of Himself — the breath of life and His image or spirit (Genesis 1:26-27). Life also cost Him the loss of our companionship when we sinned in the garden, as sin ushered in death, and death costs us our own lives as payment and prevents us from living with God eternally (again, see Romans 6:23a). But it’s because the Lord God, Jehovah, loved life — human life — so very much, it ultimately cost Him the life of His only Son, Jesus Christ.
God longs to see mankind return to Himself and He knew humanity would never be able to do so on its own. Thus the reason God chose to pay our debt to sin (the wages of sin is death) by allowing His only Son, Jesus Christ, to die (John 3:16). Christ’s blood paid our debt (Hebrews 9:22b), and His sacrifice became God’s free gift of eternal life to all of mankind (Romans 6:23b) . . . To fully trust in Christ we must know that just as life is costly so, too, are our relationships. A relationship with Jesus Christ costs us submission. I know the word submission in today’s equal rights world is yet another negative term, but if we will understand it and accept submission for what it really is, a willful act (choice) of servile flattery (serving/acting out of love and respect) then we will experience the eternal joy that God intended us to have in our lives.
Let’s ponder the definition of submission once more from the above paragraph: ‘a willful act (choice) of servile flattery (serving/acting out of love and respect).’ If you are married, try applying this idea to your relationship. If you do, your relationships will improve beyond your wildest dreams; your life will bloom and grow beyond what you ever imagined possible, and your relationship with Jesus Christ, God’s Son, will fill you with a joy that can only come from being centered on Him.
The second meaning we can find at the core of real joy comes from the letter “O” and is in two parts: be obedient in unity and serve others. The first, being obedient in unity (meaning that we should make every effort to be at peace with our brothers and sisters in Christ), is the key to understanding the second, which is to serve others . . . Realize, it’s Jesus Christ’s sacrifice (that we just talked about in discussing true faith) which allows for real unity (or peace) with other people. Paul wrote in his letter to the Ephesians:
‘But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far away have been brought near through the blood of Christ. For He Himself is our peace, who has made the two [Jew and gentile] one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility, by abolishing in His flesh the law with its commandments and regulations. His purpose was to create in Himself one new man out of the two, thus making peace, and in this one body to reconcile both of them to God through the cross, by which He put to death their hostility. He came and preached peace to you who were far away and peace to those who were near. For through Him we both have access to the Father by one Spirit.’ (Ephesians 2:13-18)
We are called to do all we can to live unified, as one (at peace) with each other (Romans 12:18). We cannot be restored to the center of God’s will and purpose if we are not restored to each other, which brings us to the second part of this second meaning of joy.
Serving others is a crucial part to our receiving true joy from God and to our corporate worship. Obeying Jesus Christ’s call to serve mankind over self is a core truth we must grasp if we want to become the true worshipers that God intended us to be. Christ Himself came to serve us, so why should we not also serve as He commands (Mark 10:45; Galatians 5:13; 1 Peter 4:10)? Remember our (the bride’s) submission to the Bridegroom of heaven means we both serve Him as well as mimic, or imitate, Him. We can do this when we allow Christ to make His Spirit dominant within us (John 3:30; Ephesians 6:7) and when we follow His model of self sacrifice, which was to lay aside His heavenly throne to become human, live a human life, and die a sinner’s death so that we could be restored to God as holy and righteous (2 Corinthians 13:4; Philippians 2:6-8). Faith in Jehovah and submission to Jesus comes first, then obeying Christ by being united as one body (the church) and serving each other (the members of that body) comes second. So, what’s third? You!
The letter ‘Y’ represents being at peace within yourself, and is the last meaning we find at the core of true joy . . . This type of peace can be ours daily. Real peace comes to us, via the Holy Spirit, from the Lord God, Jehovah, and is a gift that awaits all who are faithful in submitting their whole life to His Son, Jesus Christ (1 John 3:21-24).
Our internal peace is also a by-product of righteousness (Psalm 85:10, 119:165; Isaiah 26:3, 32:17, 48:18). Righteousness and inner peace are ours through our relationship with Jesus Christ. If we do not allow God’s righteousness to grow and dwell in our daily lives, then we will not only live a life of stress and unrest, but we will put the Son’s reputation at risk . . . And returning once more to our first meaning of real joy (true faith via submitting to Jesus Christ’s headship over the body) by acknowledging the Son’s headship and submitting to serving Him, we gain peace within our own spirit (Romans 15:13; 1 Corinthians 14:33; Hebrews 12:11). Then by following (submitting to; serving and mimicking) Christ’s example to serve others, we remain at peace with our brothers and sisters resulting in our own spirit being at peace with God and ourselves (Ephesians 4:3-6; 1 Thessalonians 5:12-13; Hebrews 12:14).
This is joy! And joy’s core meaning: to allow God’s real joy into our daily lives and daily worship. Did you catch the acrostic from earlier? Here it is once more:
– J – True faith in the Lord, God Jehovah and submission to His Son, Jesus Christ.
– O – Obedient to be unified as one body (the church) and to serve others (the members of the body).
– Y – Be at peace within yourself by being faithful to submit to Christ and serve others.”
J.O.Y. — Jesus, Others, and You — this is how we can avoid the dangerous lifestyle of selfishness.
I’ll say it again, the great danger for humanity, as a whole, is in when people close their hearts to God’s purpose, will, and plan, and become self serving. Henry Van Dyke, American author, educator, and clergyman, made this statement, “Self is the only prison that can ever bind the soul.” (from his poem entitled The Prison and The Angel) Escape the prison, that is selfishness. Embrace life to the fullest by living with real joy in yours. Don’t let your self become, as Robert Louis Stevenson once said, “A house of many windows.” This famous Scottish novelist, poet, essayist, and travel writer went on to complete his thought when he stated, “there we all sit, showing ourselves and crying on the passers-by to come and love us.”
God made us to desire love and affection from each other, and from God, Himself, but if we settle to receive “love” and “affection” by performing for artificial affection — if we settle to receive “acknowledgement” and human “connection” by entering into superficial relationships — if we utilize selfish tirades to hold on to endless cycles of cosmetic and fake companionships, then expect to be very unfulfilled. Expect to feel lost and alone. But if you seek genuine fulfillment, real love, and true affection, then find rest in knowing that God genuinely loves us more than any sincere human being ever could or would (John 3:16-17; Romans 5:8; 1 John 3:1). Enjoy the peace that comes from knowing that God provides our every need emotionally, mentally, physically, and spiritually (Philippians 4:19). We must all surrender our lives to the only One, who can bring us real, everlasting joy (Nehemiah 8:10; Psalm 4:7, 5:11, 16:11, 19:8, 28:7, 30:11). All it takes is our willingness to sacrifice our selves in the service of God for others.
I’ll close with this verse from Galatians, chapter five: “You, my brothers, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the sinful nature; rather, serve one another in love.” (Galatians 5:13)
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