Paul's Ponderings

Thoughts about following Jesus

Tag: Selfishness

Curing Selfishness

In ChristWe live in a world gone wrong. This becomes evident every time we are faced with some sort of tragedy and something within us screams, “That is not right!”

In those moments God is reminding us that our world has been corrupted and things are not what they should be. Satan, sin, and death are wreaking havoc throughout this world.

Another way we see the corruption of sin is through the selfishness of people. Many of the problems that exist in the world are the result of human selfishness. These problems were either caused by selfishness or they continue because or selfishness. This tells us that a tremendous amount of good could be done if people just lived out to the two great commandments: love God and love people. When we live with compassion and mercy we fight against the evil that is present in the world.

The fact that we are selfish creatures shouldn’t be a surprise. After all, we spend all our time with ourselves, and our thoughts are often on us and our feelings. If we are going to have compassion for another person it is going to happen because we intentionally switch our focus to them.

Spiritual formation in Christ is important because it reorients our focus. Instead of ourselves being the most important thing in the world we begin to value Jesus and his will as the most important. We begin to see the world through the eyes of Jesus.

How did Jesus see people? Matthew 9:36 says, “When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them because they were confused and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.” (NLT)

When we see the world through the eyes of Jesus we see things as they truly are. We will realize that people are being terrorized and oppressed by Satan and his kingdom, and the injustices and indignities inflicted on humanity will be more heartbreaking.

Dallas Willard wrote:

Apprentices of Jesus will be deeply disturbed about many things, but they will be largely be indifferent to the fulfillment of their own desires as such. Merely getting their own way has no significance for them, does not disturb them. (Renovation of the Heart, p. 72)

Think about how you respond when you don’t get your way.

I am embarrassed to say that I don’t respond very well. I become frustrated and angry, and this is seen in how I treat other people, especially my wife and children. Christian spiritual formation seeks to make us more like Jesus, and in the process help us see the world through his eyes.

The more time we spend with Jesus through disciplines like prayer, Bible study, fasting, worship, and service the more our hearts will be shaped to be like his heart. We will discover that the things that disturb Jesus also disturb us, and the little things that inconvenience us are no longer that important.

Imagine how our lives would be different if we could get rid of selfishness. Instead of spending so much time trying to craft our version of the perfect life we would be using our time to do the will of our Lord. In order for God’s purpose to become primary in our lives our rights have to become secondary. That doesn’t happen easily.

What the world needs are people are have found their life in doing God’s will. That is what we were created to do and what it means to be created in the image of God. This is why the apostle Paul wrote:

For all creation is waiting eagerly for that future day when God will reveal who his children really are. Against its will, all creation was subjected to God’s curse. But with eager hope, the creation looks forward to the day when it will join God’s children in glorious freedom from death and decay. (Romans 8:19-21; NLT)

As we learn to lay down our rights and be conformed to the image of Jesus, we become the people this world needs. The world doesn’t need more people who primarily look out for themselves, it needs people who will live like Jesus.

Don’t Focus on Self

Don't Focus on Self{Philippians 2:3-4; NLT}
Don’t be selfish; don’t try to impress others. Be humble, thinking of others as better than yourselves. Don’t look out only for your own interests, but take an interest in others, too.

People are strange. We get all worked up over gas prices, and then drive the most gas consuming vehicles we can find. We complain about the environment, but we are willing to buy anything that is disposable and we are quick to throw out last year’s model for the small improvements found on this year’s model. We support anti-bullying campaigns, but we are quick to demonize people who do not agree with us. We live in a culture that promotes a “me first” mentality.

It is difficult to change our perspective.  Commercials constantly tell us that “we can have it our way” and that we deserve nothing but the best.  Politics remind us that we need to stand up for our rights.  Over and over again we are told that we are the center of the universe.

Consider what Erwin McManus wrote in his book Uprising:

In the midst of our growing fragmentation, we have never been more focused on the individual than we are today. This focus plays itself out in unbridled consumerism. While materialism is certainly an outgrowth of consumerism, it isn’t its primary focus. Consumerism’s primary product in our culture is narcissism. Remember, narcissism is a life in which everything is about us.

From a cheating spouse to the teenager looking to get high what we are ultimately after is whatever  will bring us a few moments of pleasure or will bring some form of happiness into our day. The consequences of our actions are not considered because we are living for the moment. What we are most concerned about is the experience and we hope the future will take care of itself.

Here is the problem as I see it: We might find pleasure for the short term in pursuing a life that is all about ourselves, but sooner or later the consequences of that type of life will catch up to us. Even worse, usually the pain and misery of these consequences outweigh any of the pleasure we experienced in the moment. Mostly because those consequences affect those people around us.

Because a self-centered life will produce addictions in a person what will happen is to escape the negative consequences we will engage in even more selfish experiences. A person who has destroyed their life with sexual promiscuity will become even more promiscuous. The person who has shipwrecked their lives with drugs will turn to harder or different drugs to take away the pain. A life lived for “me” will always be trapped in a cycle of pleasure and consequences. Sadly, most people will not connect the consequences with their pleasure seeking ways. Instead  they will end up blaming either other people or circumstances for their situation.

One of the most common phrases in the New Testament is the phrase one another. We are called to love, serve, forgive, encourage, and help one another. Understanding this concept will help us to discover that the best life is a life lived for others.  A self-centered life makes us miss out on the life God created us to live.

When we reflect on our lives we realize that the best times we have experienced are times we spent with people and invested in their lives.  Relationships are where we experience the best life. Since relationships provide us with the best life has to offer, then we should focus our time and attention on other people rather than living a life that is focused squarely on us.

The apostle John wrote; Dear friends, let us continue to love one another, for love comes from God. Anyone who loves is a child of God and knows God. But anyone who does not love does not know God, for God is love (NLT). Love is what makes the difference.  When we love people we will seek ways to serve them, encourage them, and to spend time with them. The life of a Christian is one where our focus is removed from “me” and is put on God and then on others.

We are not the most important thing in the universe. To live our lives as if we were will lead us to experience a very dissatisfying life.  It is when we put others ahead of ourselves that we are able to experience the life God created us to live.

Questions to consider:

  • Why is it so easy to live a self-centered life?
  • How does a self-centered life make us miss the life God created us to live?
  • Why are relationships so important for us to experience life?

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