(Simple close up view of mosaic tile)
Throughout my career in business, it was always stressed above all else, teamwork, everyone pulling together towards a common goal. Self-interests were secondary to what was best for the team. Many business models are built on this theme, basically, everyone benefits when we all work towards our shared goals. The oft-times over-used cliche would invariably come up reminding us there is no “I” in team, meant to quash self-interests, lest you become marginalized on the outside of the group.
However, in modern life today, it is the exact opposite with social media dominating the landscape, it’s all about the individual. We are encouraged to celebrate ourselves, share our every move with the world, invite friends to join us on social media where we update ad nauseam the daily minutia of life; what we’re doing, what we’re eating….look at me today, my life, my things, my surroundings. It’s a narcissistic playground gone wild. We not only create our own life narrative but we control it, we share the best of times and manipulate our very image to the likeness we want the world to see. Reality is what you create and the social media platforms are more than willing to exploit these narcissistic tendencies of the consumer. These personal narratives, however false or misleading, create a “look at me” portfolio to be shared inside this fabricated world of our own creation. Worst of all – the “selfie” – a term not used until just a handful of years ago, now has become part of our everyday lexicon and represents the new norm of narcissism.
I am not saying this is all bad, most of us participate to some degree, with many using these same platforms to encourage, share their spiritual beliefs or raise awareness to many causes. However, it’s the underlying theme of self above all else that is disturbing and trending in the wrong direction across our society.
At the beginning of this message, I use a simple view of assorted pieces of mosaic tile. At this close in level, you see the individual pieces, but not the image or purpose. Similarly, when we focus our view inward, becoming consumed with our own issues, our own perceived shortcomings or other problems, we lose sight of those around us. We become hypersensitive to our own needs resulting in those needs being placed above all else. We lose sight of those around us, those we are called to serve as disciples, thus falling out of step with God’s purpose for our life. We are unable to view the bigger picture of life, the purpose and meaning, becoming lost in our own isolation. In the world of social media, where we can cover the blemishes of our life, photoshopped to our own liking, we are at risk of losing ourselves in a make-believe world of our own creation. What’s worse is the more we look inward, puffing up our own self-worth, the farther we drift from the ability to be a servant, following in our Savior’s footsteps. The greatest narcissist of all time is Satan, so caught up in his own beauty and power that he turned on the Creator and it has cost him everything. It is no wonder he is using that very tool in attempts to bring down believers and non-believers alike at every opportunity.
In Matthew chapter 28 we are given our assignments by Jesus, to make disciples of all nations and teach them to follow His commandments. In a nutshell, share the love of Christ with everyone you meet, through words and actions, then participate in their spiritual growth through example and teaching. The blueprint is laid out quite expressly in the gospels; see Christ and be like Him. You would imagine the value of social media to share Christ with others, but I have to ask the question to believers, have you witnessed to anyone today? This week? This month? Do you worship at a church that challenges you to put other’s needs first – to share the gospel of Jesus with those around you?
These questions are asked for a reason and we want to remind believers, you have the responsibility to study God’s word, not just take for granted that you will be given the tools you need through a church service. 1 John Chapter 4, verse 1 warns us in this way, “Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, for many false prophets have gone out into the world.” You can not grow as a believer if you do not actively participate in the process. What’s worse is if you are attending a church or listening to messages that do not challenge you to share the gospel message and do not encourage your daily bible study – but instead place the focus onto yourself and your needs and desires. If the latter is your experience, you are being led astray.
So let’s see what this looks like when we bring into focus the dangers in our “look at me” world. Jesus Christ came to this earth, God in the flesh, and in his own words made clear His purpose. Jesus stated in Mark chapter 10 verse 45, “For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” Jesus put everything aside and became the servant of mankind. You have to go beyond just the example of servitude and examine the benefits of following this great example of life. It goes so much further than just putting one’s self aside, Jesus gave us this example to help us realize the overall value and benefits of living for others. When we put down our own selfish interests, we gain a broader perspective and the ability to focus on the true value of life as God intended for us.
Paul exalted all believers in Philippians chapter 2, verses 3 and 4, “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or empty pride, but in humility consider others more important than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests but also to the interests of others.” Paul then followed this with the divine revelation of the Attitude of Christ as written in verses 5 through 11:
Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus: Who, existing in the form of God, did not consider equality with God something to cling to, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to death—even death on a cross. Therefore God exalted Him to the highest place, and gave Him the name above all names, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
Of course, Jesus himself gave us one of the greatest examples, other than his ultimate sacrifice on the cross, of how we should humble ourselves as servants, placing others above ourselves, when on the evening of the last supper, he got on his knees and washed the feet of his own disciples as written in John chapter 13. Jesus went on to explain to them that they should wash each other’s feet and by doing so, find happiness.
To return to the introduction of this message, we started with a close-up view of mosaic tile, not of any apparent significance or value, rather plain and imperfect around the edges. Singling out this one section is similar to the self-oriented “look at me” society in which we live. Instead of looking at those around us, placing equal or higher value on their needs as opposed to our own, we are told to look at ourselves – that it is okay to value your own needs above all else. This has even made its way into the church, the so-called prosperity message and the empowerment of self, which has gained tremendous popularity and created the mega-churches across our nation, takes the teachings of Christ out of context and blurs the lines between servant and master. Itching ears like to be stroked, the “you are special” mantra, coupled with the idea that you deserve to be happy and prosperous, marginalizes God and treads on dangerous ground that places ourselves above our creator. The litmus test to be applied to any doctrine must be the comparison of the message with the teachings of Jesus. Given that qualifying standard of measure, the “me first” religion that lifts up self-interests and gratification is in direct contradiction of the message shared by Christ. That’s not to say that God did not promise to bless His followers, in fact, in Matthew chapter 19, verse 29, Jesus tells us, “And every one that hath forsaken houses, or brethren, or sisters, or father, or mother, or wife, or children, or lands, for my name’s sake, shall receive an hundredfold, and shall inherit everlasting life.” Imagine that sort of return on investment, but in all blessings promised, we must resist the idea that this means money, fortune on earth and other worldly possessions. To do so is a mockery of the scriptures and takes every example of Jesus and reduces it to fit our own worldly desires. Sound instruction comes in Matthew chapter 6, verses 19 through 21,
“Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal: But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal: For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.”
I do not believe that Jesus’ promise to give us a life more abundant ever meant a bigger house, new cars, and money. Why would we limit the power of our heavenly Father to man-made creations that will only rust, depreciate and eventually pass away? But let’s return to the point of this message. (If you ever have questions or wish to discuss these issues raised in our posts, please reach out and share your thoughts, they are always welcome)
The real danger of the “look at me” society in which we live, is the way it contradicts the calling we have from Christ and it is growing in popularity, to the point that it has taken a stronghold inside our own churches. Many are being led down a blind alley, away from the true calling of our Lord, hearing a message that is soothing to the ears but not based on sound doctrine. You may read this and think it is nonsense, just another message aimed at putting down those that are different, breaking from tradition and making things uncomfortable. This is not a complaint against breaking from traditions, such as those that get upset because the music minister doesn’t sing the old gospel hymns, but to the contrary, I am telling you directly, this is a dire warning that must be heeded both personally and as a church body.
2 Timothy chapter 3, verses 1 through 5 states, “This know also, that in the last days perilous times shall come. For men shall be lovers of their own selves, covetous, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, without natural affection, trucebreakers, false accusers, incontinent, fierce, despisers of those that are good, traitors, heady, highminded, lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God; having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof: from such turn away.”
The warning comes with a disturbing reference when it says “having a form of godliness” which tells me it will resemble a church but in reality will not be of God. In our self-serving ways, we will fall victim to those false teachers that will speak a form of religion that will be pleasing to our ears. What we need is to be challenged and tutored by the Word of Truth, like-minded with our savior. However, the more we fall into the pattern of self above all else, the easier it will be to turn from that message and seek the things that please us, self-help, prosperity, religion without conviction. Paul continues the warning in 2 Timothy chapter 4 verses 3 and 4,
“For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths.”
Maybe this seems like an overreaction as if I am drawing dire conclusions from these verses and applying them in a broad moralistic context. Some will rebuff these warnings as another zealot playing on our fears with the age-old warning “the end is near.” Just this morning I read a story in the national media which says that a Christian numerologist – a title of which I am totally unfamiliar – has deciphered from what he interprets as biblical code along with date markers from the pyramids of Giza that point to the world ending on September 23rd of this year. I do not scoff at the notion of the end of the world, the bible very clearly states that God will bring this world to an end. However, there is no code to be deciphered or any other clues that have been left lying about as if God wanted us to figure it out. The only reply to anyone that predicts the end of the world is the very words of Jesus in Matthew chapter 24, verse 36 which states, “But of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, but My Father only.” That leaves no room for anyone to stand up and claim they know the day and the hour so even the well-intended (although I am very skeptical of intentions when it comes to biblical contradictions) can be led astray by these sorts of claims.
Suffice it to say, we serve a God of Love, one that loves us so much that He provided the solution to a sinful world, salvation through Jesus Christ. We have nothing to fear, but we must heed the warnings and be vigilant in our relationship with our heavenly Father so that we are not led astray. The world today is pulling at everyone to be full of themselves, be selfish, take what is yours and demand equality at every turn. This is the tool of the enemy and it is in direct contradiction to the example given by Jesus. There are so many reasons to follow Christ’s examples and one of the greatest is to die to self, truly accept and embrace the salvation through Jesus and as Paul states in Romans chapter 6 verse 4, “Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life.” Walking in the newness of life in Christ means we have died to the old self. We put off the selfish ways of our past and embrace the new walk as disciples of Christ. To go back to the beginning of this message, we showed a single mosaic tile, part of a larger image, but when we focus simply on ourselves, all we can see is the single tile. Our problems are magnified, we become disengaged from those around us and we desire only that which pleases us. We make ourselves more important than the greater surroundings of that which is beyond our view. In the end, we have nothing to show for our lives, just one small mosaic tile that seemed meaningless and without merit. If only we would follow our Savior’s example, look beyond our own selves, care about those around us and strive to put our own desires and selfish interests away. If we can learn to walk by faith, living a true LIFE BEYOND HORIZONS, only then will we start to gain that broader perspective on life and begin to realize the abundance of joy and hope that Christ promised to those that follow Him. I leave this to you now, which do you take, the single-minded view of the selfish individual, the single tile, or do you accept Jesus Christ and follow His example of obedience and selflessness to the end….for when we expand our worldview, see beyond the single tile of our own self-interests, then and only then our Father will reveal the truth, the wonderful mosaic that we share in Jesus Christ. Life has true meaning as a follower of Jesus and our place, the single mosaic tile, represents our place as true heirs of God.
John Stephen Frey, Director and Senior Editor, Life Beyond Horizons
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