January 4, 2014

Progress? Or Regression?

During this holiday, I’ve read a book and seen a movie with a similar theme. In both, the rich or elite exploit or ignore the poor to the point of extreme cruelty. They think they are stronger and better people, yet they have actually become far more weak and horrible than those they look down on.
An observer of human nature noted that “One strange result of scientific progress has been the reversion of monotheism to local idolatries.” He described those idolatries which are all expressions of “I and mine are more important than you and others.”

When self becomes the center of my life and the thing the most important to cultivate, I tend to suppose that I am growing, even “finding myself” but this is not true. The opposite is true. Every self-centered person is unhappy and unfulfilled. As my mother used to say, no one is happy unless they are doing things for others. Jesus put it this way . . . 

Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. (Matthew 10:39) 

In Christ, the idol of self so easily usurps the place of God. I am prone to making decisions without consulting Him, and even telling Him how to answer my prayers. “God, do this for him and that for her” as if I know more than God knows about what is best.

There are many reasons God tells me to “flee from idolatry.” (1 Corinthians 10:14) The first is that the power of Satan is involved. Whenever I put anything, including me, on the throne of my life instead of Jesus Christ, then I am open to the lies of the enemy without realizing it. In a discussion about eating the food offered to idols, Paul writes that the food and the idols are nothing. The real danger is the power behind those idols . . .

What do I imply then? That food offered to idols is anything, or that an idol is anything? No, I imply that what pagans sacrifice they offer to demons and not to God. I do not want you to be participants with demons. (1 Corinthians 10:19–20)

The second reason that I’m to flee from self-worship and self-rule is that it devotes time and energy that God intends I spend on others, to help build them up instead of me. 

Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. (Philippians 2:4)

God does not ask that I ignore my own needs, but that my focus is not solely on me, but on others. That is what it means to be like Jesus and being like Jesus is my destiny. In Christ and because of the gospel, I am free to live as I choose, yet those choices are indicative of a changed life. Doing good is not for the purpose of earning God’s favor, but to demonstrate the life of Christ and the power of God.

 “All things are lawful,” but not all things are helpful. “All things are lawful,” but not all things build up. Let no one seek his own good, but the good of his neighbor. (1 Corinthians 10:23–24)

The Bible talks about strength and weakness in terms that are opposite those of today’s world. In our culture, the strong take care of Number One, and build up themselves. In the Bible, the strong serve and build up others, drawing their power to do this from Jesus Christ and not from their own resources and reserves. Paul said that God’s power is perfected in weakness. He also said . . . 

We who are strong (in Christ) have an obligation to bear with the failings of the weak, and not to please ourselves. Let each of us please his neighbor for his good, to build him up. (Romans 15:1–2)

This is why finding myself is a futile endeavor. It is self-serving and creates an idol. Jesus said if that is my choice, then I will lose that life. But if I choose to lose my life for the sake of Jesus Christ and for the good of others, then I will find it.

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