Thursday, July 28, 2011

LEAVING THE CULT OF SELF-FOCUS

THE CULT OF SELF
A. Brother

“How great is the love the Father has lavished on us,
that we should be called the children of God!
And that is what we are!
The reason the world did not know us
is that it did not know Him.”
--1 John 3:1

          When we look around at our cultures and our churches, we see a self-focus that has become so pervasive it has twisted even many of the faithful into mere shadows of what God intends us to be.  This self-focus is a worldly focus, and turns our light into darkness, our good deeds into nothing. 

          Scripture teaches that our “self”—this unique, God-created person—is prone to sin, subject to decay, and that we must deny our “selves” in order to enter the Kingdom of God. (Mark 8:34)  Christ in us completes us.  When Christ inhabits us by His Spirit, He helps us let go of the old man, and behold, all things become new in Him. (2 Cor. 5:17)  This new man is not full of self, but full of Christ, and led and empowered by the Spirit of Christ within. (Col. 3:3)

          We are dead, and our lives are now with Christ, in Christ, and His life is in us, in this new man, created by God, reborn into freshness, and able to live the Christ-life by His power, and to His glory.  Living the successful Christ-life has everything to do with dying to self, and depends upon that death of self for its beginnings.

          However, many of us have been taught a self-focused gospel, which has come out of the churches in recent generations, especially in America.  This self-focus is really like a cult.  Its adherents are adamant about their personal rights to a good life, their political rights to freedom, their entitlements to receive the blessings of God because they claim the Name of Christ. 

          This gospel is not the true gospel of Christ, or it would teach what Jesus taught.

          Jesus taught self-denial.  Jesus taught us to be other-focused.  Jesus showed us how, with His life of self-sacrifice for our sakes.  So how could we have been led astray by this Cult of Self?  How could we follow teachings that fly in the face of all that our Lord Jesus exemplified?  I don’t have the answer to that question, but we’ve done it. 

          Think about Satan’s temptations of the Lord Jesus when He was out in the desert, practicing what He was soon going to preach by denying Himself food for forty days, and spending all His time with His Father preparing for ministry.  What did Satan tempt our Lord with?  Self-gratification, self-glorification, and self-focus.  (Matt. 4:1-11)  It was all about Jesus’ inner self, His manhood, His personhood, His pride, His need for attention, even His placement in the world.  Satan tests us in the same ways, and many of us are failing the test, because we have been unprepared.

          In the garden of Gethsemane, Jesus left His disciples while He went to pray in agony about the death He was going to die the next day.  How did He admonish them in that moment?  “Watch and pray that you will not fall into temptation.  The spirit is willing but the flesh is weak.”  (Matt. 26:41)  Yes, it is our flesh that is weak, and we not only experience these temptations to self-focus that Jesus did, but because we have been taught this self-focused gospel, we have often fallen to them. 

          Brothers, I admonish us, and I pray for us, that we would give up our membership in this Cult of Self.  There are many of those who claim Christ whose entire life is centered around themselves, their families, their churches, their jobs, their possessions, their activities and hobbies, their time, their efforts.  It’s all about us.  It’s all about me.  It’s all about my fulfillment as a person.  Our entire society is geared to this self-focus, and we’ve bought into it.

          We even preach Christ as if He’s the self-help guru, ready to bring us to self-fulfillment by following Him! 

          What a lie!  He’s going to bring us to self-death, so that in our new, God-wrought personhood, Christ is all, and we are nothing except His Sons and His Daughters.  As John cries out in joy, we are children of God now, and what a privilege!  Though the world hates us, we are His and His alone, and find our fulfillment in that fact. 

          How dare we preach a gospel that is other than that handed down to us in Scripture!    When Christ comes back, will He find faith on earth? 

          Those who seek Him will find Him, and when He returns, they will find their lives as promised, for eternity.

“For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but
whoever loses his life for My sake will find it.”
--Matt. 16:25

2 comments:

  1. I wasnt sure where to put my post but this post seems as good as any. Throughout your writting i can clearly see that you are a man who knows Christ and it seems that you have experienced the joy of knowing Christ.

    So my question is that in my walk, I am struggling with this dying to self and living for Christ. I know and believe the scriptures are true but I am not experiencing the filling of Christ you are talking about, or this new life in Christ to be joyful or fulfilling.

    I want to ask, what is the upside to this life of Christ? I know the Sunday school answer and I could give you a good answer, but I mean I don’t know it personally through experience.

    I know that although God does not promise us safety or comfort or riches in this world he does promise us peace and other riches in Him. So I feel like I am missing something. Like as I begin to follow Christ and begin to let go of the things of this world I am not being filled with the things of Christ.

    People talk about and sing songs about Him being their everything and how they are content in Him alone, and how He is their everything and meets all their needs and desires, and I am not getting that yet. I don’t feel satisfied in Him alone. Nor do I have peace. I feel like this is difficult and I am at war within myself and although i am growing, i don’t feel like i can say with honesty that God satisfies my every need and desire.

    I don’t know if God is testing me or just still working things out of me and growing me or what but it is discouraging.

    I am spending time in prayer and Gods word daily, bible study, church, fellowship.

    Any comments, suggestions would be appreciated.
    I enjoy reading your writtings, thank you.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Mike:
    I feel your pain. Often I'm exactly where you are. "At war with myself" as you say. I believe we've been taught that we enter the Christian walk, and then, from then on, we're supposed to have peace if we go to church, read God's Word, and are around other Christians. Unfortunately, for millions of us, that doesn't seem to work.

    I believe it's because we've been taught the wrong things about what it means to come to Christ. And since the churches and "Christians" around us are practicing all the same sort of "instant easy Christianity" there is nobody to lead us. Where are the Paul's and James' and Peters? Where are Silas and Titus and Timothy and Onesimus? Where are those brothers and sisters who have launched out into the deep?

    All I am is another brother who is seeking Christ alone, and His power and His love, and what it means to live this Christ-life I hear Paul and other New Testament writers talk about. I'm here, like you, to learn and grow.

    The biggest thing I can say is this: Seek the Lord with all your heart, no matter how hard it is. Be willing to step back from the stuff you've been taught. For me, the biggest realization was that most of what I'd been raised on was baby food. Come to Christ and life will be good. Come to Christ and you'll be a happy, productive member of the church. Life will be ok, and your family will be good, and your work will be good, etc. Just tithe and God will bless you. Why can't you just be happy with a normal life???

    Well, the Christ-life as given us in the New Testament is NOT the normal life we see. It is not "accepting Christ" and then beginning some life of routine "Christian" activities. It is the actual life of Christ in us. It is absolutely impossible for us to do it. We cannot do anything good in ourselves. Christ Jesus must do it. For the past couple of years I've been "living" in passages like John chapters 14,15,16,17. Like Ephesians, and Philippians and Galations. Only just letting Christ do His work, which is to destroy the works of the devil, and that includes erasing the wrong things we've been taught, and replacing them with His actual Word of Truth.
    We, brother, cannot live this Christian life. It is only by giving up trying that we will begin to allow Christ to work in us.

    He says, "Apart from Me you can do nothing." And He means it. Just let it go. Embrace this life of Christ in yourself. Let Him do the work, and realize it is that struggle that Paul talks about in Romans 7 and 8. It is not by trying to live by some "laws of Christianity" that we will be changed. It is by the power of Christ in us. He will do it. We only have to seek Him and His life in us. It is by the Spirit that we walk, and His Spirit in us is that power to change, and to become like Him.

    And remember, the end result is up to Him. We've got this crummy little idea that being "at peace" in our hearts is the goal. NO-living in the Spirit of God, and letting him work in us, is our goal. That is often extremely painful and difficult, and results in us going through hardship and loss, in order for God to get rid of all that self. And to bring in Christ's Spirit in us in increasing measure.

    Hope this helps some. I'm still struggling myself, but often see His Light now, and know it's not just artificial lights we have lit ourselves. It's the "true light" that now shines to every man or woman who seeks to drop religious Christianity and go with Christ on the narrow road. Remember He said, "few will find it?" He meant it!

    Let's be part of the few!

    Your brother,
    A. Brother

    ReplyDelete

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