“Don’t be naive. There are difficult times ahead. As the end approaches, people are going to be self-absorbed, money-hungry, self-promoting, stuck-up, profane, contemptuous of parents, crude, coarse, dog-eat-dog, unbending, slanderers,
impulsively wild, savage, cynical, treacherous, ruthless, bloated windbags, addicted to lust, and allergic to God. They’ll make a show of religion, but behind the scenes they’re animals. Stay clear of these people.” (2 Timothy 3:1-5, MSG)
When we go to a library or the book store it is amazing how many magazines and articles are available on the topic of ‘SELF’!
‘Self actualization, self analysis, self assertion, self awareness, self confidence, self control, self defense, self determination, development, self discoveries, self enrichment, esteem, self expression, self fulfillment, self help, self identity, self image, self improvement, self indulgence, self love, self realization, self reliance, self respect.’
We are a very self conscious society.
The baby boom generation has been called the Me generation.
We are so preoccupied with ourselves.
We shouldn’t be surprised at that.
“In the last days it’s going to be very difficult to be a Christian for people will love only themselves and their money.” (2 Timothy 3:1-2, LB)
There are three forms of self expression in our society, our culture.
The three forms of self concern are individualism, secularism, and narcissism.
- Individualism – others don’t matter
- Secularism – God doesn’t matter
- Narcissism – all that matter is me
1. EXPRESSIONS OF A SELF-CENTERED CULTURE
a. Individualism – “I’ve got to do what’s best for me.”
The motto is “Do Your Own Thing”.
The theme song is “I Did It My Way”.
Are people in our society becoming more considerate or more rude?
Rude, for sure.
What’s the cause behind that?
It says, other people don’t matter.
“An unfriendly man pursues selfish ends.” ( Proverbs 18:1)
He only thinks of himself.
b. Secularism – ‘God doesn’t matter’
I’ve discovered that for most people it’s not that they don’t believe in God, they just think He’s irrelevant.
Most people that live around you don’t deny that God exists.
They just are not interested in Him.
They ignore Him.
They don’t need God.
“The wicked tell God to leave them alone. They don’t want to know His will for their lives.” (Job 21:14)
They basically say,
“God, You stay on Your side of the fence and I’ll stay on mine and never the twain shall meet. You don’t bother me, I don’t bother You. You handle the world, I’ll handle my own life.”
“A wicked man in his pride thinks that God doesn’t matter.” (Psalm 10:4, GN)
NIV version says, “In all his thoughts there’s no room for God.”
Can we become so full of ourselves, we don’t have room for God?
Sure we can.
These are some of the titles of best writers today:
- ‘Re-creating Yourself’
- ‘When all You’ve Wanted Is Not Enough’
- ‘Looking Out For Number One’
- ‘How To Be Your Own Best Friend’
- ‘Pulling Your Own Strings’
- ‘Total Self Confidence’
- ‘Trusting Yourself’
- ‘How To Keep Control Of Your Life After Fifty’
Do you sense the attitude in these titles?
Secularism and individualism that says “I don’t need God.
I don’t need other people.
All I need is me.
I certainly don’t want anybody else to cramp my style.
I don’t need anybody else.”
The problem with the self made man is that he often ends up worshiping his maker, himself, and he lives for himself.
c. Narcissism – ‘All that matters is me.’
All that I’m interested in is my goals, my dreams, my desires, myself fulfillment, my happiness, my career, and nothing else matters.
Everything becomes evaluated by the question,
“What’s in it for me?”
That’s the whole attitude of our society that says,
“I don’t need others, I don’t need God. All that matters is me.”
In our world today we are very image conscious.
So many magazines that have whole sections that deals with the image of a person.
So many ads on plastic surgery — reduce certain parts of your body, enlarge other parts … you’re worth it!
All that matters is me.
“Sin whispers to the wicked, deep within their hearts. They have no fear of God at all. In their blind conceit, they cannot see how wicked they really are.” (Psalm 36:1-2)
People think, if I look good, I must be ok.
What are the effects of this preoccupation with self in our society?
- Disintegrating families/marriages.
How many are living families today, because they need to find themselves?
A study was done nationally in North America’s on the topic ‘Search for Self Fulfillment.’
Hundreds of people were interviewed in various cities.
“Among married people that were interviewed, those most devoted to their own self fulfillment were those having the most trouble in their marriage.”
The result 50%-53% of marriages end up in divorce, that’s 1 in 2 marriages!
- Superficial relationships.
‘I’ve got no time for closeness.’
‘I’m too busy with my own goals.’
‘I can’t afford to let a relationship interfere with my career, my plans or my goals.’
The result is we have many very, very lonely people.
- Frustration and despair.
‘If you place yourself at the center of your universe, if you make yourself a little god, pretty soon your world becomes meaningless.’
Self-centeredness never satisfies.
It leaves a bitter taste in your mouth – an aftertaste.
There’s more to life than just you.
Tom Wolff wrote the bestselling book ‘The Bonfire of the Vanities.’
And in that book there’s a guy by the name of Sherman McCoy, a high-priced stock broker, investment banker.
He stands up every morning in front of his mirror to psych himself up for the challenges of the day.
He stands in front of the mirror and says, “I am the master of my universe!”
That sounds like a lot of self help books today.
But one day because of a freak car accident, his world falls apart and he doesn’t have control of everything.
We are not God.
We all want to be little gods.
People like Shirley McClain runs around charging thousands of dollars for a seminar to say “You’re a god.”
This is nothing new, because, the very first thing that Satan said on the earth, he told Adam and Eve,
“The serpent was clever, more clever than any wild animal God had made. He spoke to the Woman: ‘Do I understand that God told you not to eat from any tree in the garden?’
The Woman said to the serpent, ‘Not at all. We can eat from the trees in the garden. It’s only about the tree in the middle of the garden that God said, ‘Don’t eat from it; don’t even touch it or you’ll die.’’
The serpent told the Woman, ‘You won’t die. God knows that the moment you eat from that tree, you’ll see what’s really going on. You’ll be just like God, knowing everything, ranging all the way from good to evil.’” (Genesis 3:1-5, MSG)
The New Age is just old lies.
There’s nothing new about it.
It’s as old as man.
You’ll be gods!
That’s nothing new.
Satan’s been saying that for years.
We want to be gods.
But the fact is when we make ourselves the center of our universe it eventually crumbles because you cannot control everything around you.
You need a higher power, a greater authority, a focus, a north star, a moral compass to give your life meaning and significance.
“Greed (SELFISHNESS) causes fighting;
trusting the Lord leads to prosperity..” (Proverbs 28:25)
If that’s true, and it is, what’s the solution to self-centeredness?
How can I counteract the constant influence in my society where everything around me and the advertising of culture is constantly saying,
“Think only of yourself.”
Even Christians can get caught up in that.
It’s easy to be influenced, to think only of yourself.
Yet selfishness only causes trouble.
What’s the antidote self-centeredness?
2. THE SOLUTION TO SELF-CENTEREDNESS
i. Build Strong Relationships
Get interested in other people.
You need other people to give you balance in the society so that you’re not so self centered.
Caring about each other is the fastest way to get our focus off our self.
One of the purposes of the church is to build relationships so you’re not selfish.
It’s called fellowship.
“You are a member of God’s very own family and you belong in God’s household with every other Christian.” (Ephesians 2:19, LB)
Everybody needs a church family.
You need a place where you could belong and become and be what God wants you to be.
We’re not Lone Rangers out here.
When we don’t have relationships, when we get too busy for them, we tend to see only ourselves.
The best place to build relationships is in church.
“Let us not give up the habit of meeting together. Instead let us encourage one another.” (Hebrews 10:24)
He’s saying let’s don’t give up meeting together; you need to get together with other Christians.
Not just attend.
You need to participate.
You need to share, to belong. Accountability keeps us on track.
We need to encourage each other.
That’s why we need small groups so people know you and you know others.
You support each other and you help each other and you pray for each other and you encourage each other.
For your own emotional health, you need these kind of relationships.
That is one of the reasons I don’t believe in television church.
People ask me all the time.
Television church makes passive people.
It requires no involvement, no commitment.
You don’t have to interact with anybody else.
And part of the benefit of church is the interaction you have with other people.
We’re already too passive as a society.
You need to build strong relationships.
That’s the first antidote to counteract the flow that says live for yourself.
ii. Give Yourself Away
Give yourself away through some kind of service.
Become a minister, which is another word for ‘serve’!
I’m convinced that to be spiritually and emotionally healthy and balanced, that everybody needs some form of service on at least a weekly basis, where they voluntarily give themselves away without receiving any personal benefit in return.
I think you need it as a balance in our culture.
We have 168 hours this next week.
God doesn’t want you to spend them all on yourself.
You need a place of service where you say, “I’m going to give myself away.”
- Children ministry
- Hospital visitation
- Community volunteer
- Hospitality service
You need it for your own health.
You need it for balance.
“God has given us new lives from Christ Jesus and long ago He planned that we should spend these lives in helping others.” (Ephesians 2:10, LB)
There’s so many people who have an identity crisis today.
Who am I?
Where am I?
Where am I going?
Where did I come from?
Why am I here?
What am I supposed to do with my life?
Here is the answer:
“Long ago He planned that we should spend these lives in helping others.”
That’s what God wants to do with your life.
You’re never going to find fulfillment in simply living for yourself.
You find self fulfillment by giving your life away.
A number of years ago, the Salvation Army held an international conference.
They were expecting the founder of the Salvation Army, General William Booth, to come and speak.
But he got sick and he couldn’t come.
So he promised he would send a telegram from London.
The telegram to the international conference was to give the vision and the direction and to set the goals and the basic objectives for the organization for the next decade.
When the conference received the telegram, the convention center was packed with people.
Everybody was anxiously anticipating what Mr. Booth was going to say to the conference for the vision and the direction for the decade.
When the man opened the telegram and began to read it, he started frowning because there was only one word on the telegram — “Others”.
That’s the focus.
What’s your word?
What’s the word that drives your life?
I want to suggest to you that those things will ultimately not satisfy.
In fact, look at what Jesus said,
“Jesus said only those who throw away their lives for my sake and for the sake of the Good News will ever know what it really means to live.” (Mark 8:35, LB)
If you’re not giving your life away, you are not living, you’re just existing.
Our world says, “Get all you can.”
And Jesus Christ says the exact opposite – “Give all you can.”
And in giving you understand what real life is all about.
There is no greater fulfillment than giving your life away for the kingdom of God, for God’s work — helping others.
You’ve got 168 hours this next week.
I challenge you to invest part of it in unselfish service somewhere — in your church, in your community, somewhere.
iii. Practice Self-Denial
This is not a popular word.
Most people don’t want to listen to a message on self denial.
But it’s in the Bible.
Every day we need to find at least one opportunity where we can choose to do the thing of conviction, rather than the thing of convenience.
Where you choose to do the right thing rather than doing the easy thing.
“Look out for each other’s interest, not just your own. The attitude you should have is the one Christ Jesus had.” (Philippians 2:4, GN)
He’s saying pay attention to the needs of those around you.
Be aware of what’s going on.
Pay attention to the needs of your husband/wife, children, friends, the people at work.
Look out for other’s interest, not just your own.
Cartoon: Guy washing in the dishes. He’s saying, “Where in the Bible does it say a man’s job is to wash dishes.”
The wife is over making a salad and she says,
“And I will wipe Jerusalem as a man wipeth a dish, wiping it and turning it upside down.” (2 Kings 21:13)
In a society where everybody else is saying ‘Live only for yourself.’
Think only for yourself.
We, as believers, must be different, go against the flow, and not just think of ourselves.
Jesus said that defines what a Christian is.
That’s what it means to follow Me.”
“Jesus said, `If anyone would come after Me, he must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow Me.'” (Matthew 16:24)
Self denial is not one grand decision made once and for all.
It’s a daily decision of small choices, often painful choices, in which I choose to put other people or God’s will ahead of my own.
Sometimes it’s invisible.
This is radical.
Many of us grew up in the 60’s in what was known as the counter-culture.
I want to suggest to you that the greatest counter-culture revolutionary was Jesus Christ, that He was a radical counter-culture figure.
In our society that says,
“Express yourself. Assert yourself. Indulge yourself.”
Jesus says, “Deny yourself.”
What does it mean to really deny yourself?
There’s a lot of misunderstanding and confusion over this.
Some people think deny yourself means you go around putting yourself down all the time.
That’s not what it means.
Some people think deny yourself means going around saying, “I’m no good. I’m worthless. I’m just a bunch of junk.”
You’re not a bunch of junk.
Jesus didn’t die for junk.
He died for people.
You are of value.
You are of worth.
You are significant.
The very fact that He died for you shows how valuable you are.
What does it really mean to deny yourself?
When you can watch your peers and those close to you prosper and succeed without feeling jealous but rather rejoice in their success, then you know the meaning of deny yourself.
When you can see other people attain goals you’ve failed to reach and see others receive rewards and recognition that you’d like to have without being envious, that’s denying yourself.
When you see other’s people’s needs being met with abundance while your needs are far greater and you don’t question God or fail to be grateful for what you do have, that’s denying yourself.
When you choose to serve your wife or husband or children and put their needs ahead of yours, that’s denying yourself.
When you share your faith at work or school knowing that you may be insulted or put down, that’s denying yourself.
When you don’t seek praise or fish for compliments and approval from others and when you can live without constantly being recognized and applauded, that’s denying yourself.
When you draw out the other person in conversation rather than telling your stories and opinions, that’s denying yourself.
When you tell the truth, even at personal expense, that’s denying yourself.
When you pay your fair share of taxes when everybody else is cheating, that’s denying yourself.
When you can accept criticism willingly and learn from it with a teachable attitude, that’s denying yourself.
When you place the comfort of others ahead of your own comfort.
When you allow others to do a job that you know you’re better trained to do.
When you submit to authority over you in deference to God even though you don’t understand or agree, that’s denying yourself.
When you can be content with less than the best of circumstances without griping or complaining, when you can accept interruptions that God places in your schedule and patiently endure irritations, that’s denying yourself.
When people break promises to you and let you down and you refuse to become bitter, when you are misjudged unfairly and your motives are questioned and you don’t retaliate, that’s denying yourself.
When you are content to let God settle the score and content to wait for your reward in heaven, that’s denying yourself.
When you have the attitude of Jesus Christ, that’s denying yourself.
Why do I do with a message like this?
The biggest battle we will ever face, is to win over self centeredness.
It is life’s fundamental challenge.
It makes the difference between a winner and a loser, a believer and an unbeliever, a giver and a taker.
It’s the only way to live.
I want to challenge you to make three radical counter culture steps today.
In a society that is going 180 degrees the opposite direction.
1. God, I’m going to start building strong relationships.
2. I’m going to give my life away in service.
3. Then practice self-denial daily.
This sermon was preached by Pastor Elio Marrocco at New Life Christian Church on September 14, 2014.