I don’t know about you but at times I could be the most self indulged person even as a kid. Those who knew me as a child might have chalked it up to only child syndrome….but that was not it. I was not always an only child….and my parents certainly did not give me everything I ever wanted. Yet, I was selfish and still can be at times. I remember my friends and I used to get all kinds of brilliant ideas on how to raise a ton of money fast. We were always thinking about ourselves and wanted that rush feeling having money would give us. Most of my friends were lucky if we got an allowance…and if it was over a dollar, we thought we were rich. Sometimes, because of my selfishness, it others would have to pay something. I guess you could say I was a selfish, a self-centered jerk? I was only thinking about me.
How many of you can relate – just like me, you have been selfish at some point in your life? You see, for all of us, we have a choice, my life can revolve around I, in the theory that I am the center of the universe or my life can revolve around God and putting other people’s needs ahead of my own. So, let’s be honest, it is a whole lot easier to be self-centered than others-centered. It’s easy to buy into my father in-law saying he who hesitates is lost , it’s all about you and you being the first one in line, the first to talk, the first one you think about when a circumstance happens – how will I benefit from this? How is this going to effect ME!
One reason that this comes so naturally is because the world around us is very I focused. Country Music singer, Toby Keith did a great song a few years ago that really sums this up….part of the song goes like this:
I wanna talk about me, I wanna talk about iyou get the point?
Wanna talk about number 1 oh my, me, my,
What I think, what I like, what I know, what I want, what I see.
I like talkin about you, you, you, you usually….
In this day and time when we hear that someone does something that is for others we tend to think they are from some other planet and are strange, and have some sort of problem. I remember the year I went to Chavies, Kentucky to work ASP for a week one summer. I gave up a chance to go to a work related…all expense paid….workshop in Dallas, TX for a week….to go get muddy and dirty and fix someone’s house. My friends could not believe that I was spending my Fourth of July week….doing this….and on top of all that….I had to pay my own way…..What kind of loser was I? I guess I am just weird why would anyone do that? And when I gave a special pin away to a sweet person….who said they loved it. Now…they did not just LIKE it….they LOVED it….and so did I….so I wanted her to be happy every single time she put it on…and think of me…..and when I took a single mom and her four children school supply shopping….Good grief my friends said….can’t you just leave that for welfare people
Like I said earlier, it is a lot easier to be i-centered and focus on one person, especially when that person is me…. than it is to be other’s centered. But the problem is that Being I centered comes with some side-effects or “I” problems.
1. The letter “I” is not in the word love. It is almost impossible to have a true meaningful relationship with a person who only thinks about themselves.
Think about it………..The Bible puts it this way in James 4:1-2
Vs 1- What is causing the quarrels and fights among you? Don’t they come from the evil desires at war within you? Vs 2- You want what you don’t have, so you scheme and kill to get it. You are jealous of what others have, but you can’t get it, so you fight and wage war to take it away from them. Yet you don’t have what you want because you don’t ask God for it.
The cause of relational conflicts is simple: someone is not getting their way.
As long as I put I first, it is only a matter of time before I meet someone else who wants to be first and the result according to the bible is “fights and quarrels.” OK…so let’s Test this theory think back to your last fight with your spouse, parents, friends….What was your fight about and why “What did you want?” if we really looked at it and had you come up here to share what it probably came down to the truth is you were mad because you didn’t get your way?” There will always be a first in something. At a door, only one person can go through the door first. At lunch, only one person can order first. When determining who will talk and who will listen, guys when talking to a female will be the ones listening, but seriously only one person can talk first. When there is a disagreement, only one person is going to get their way. Either I go first or I allow you to. If I go first and make you wait, there is the potential for conflict. But if I let you go first, there is potential for relationship. That relationship in God’s eyes is more important than you being first. Selfishness is the enemy of relationships. The letter “I” is not in love. Ultimately “I” destroys families, friendships, teams, rock bands, student ministries, churches, countries, governments…and that single letter holds us back from what God wants to do in our lives. A Prime Example is Divorce – someone put their needs ahead of everyone else’s, and now you are forced to have two different families. Being the one that has to be recognized for everything causes your friends to walk away, Being the one that has to be catered to leaves others out. When we choose to make “I” #1, we are saying no to making others first. We are saying no to love. There is no “I” in love, but “I” is always in the middle of sin. Sin is when we miss the mark, we miss where God wants us to be. Sin is an archery term. When an archer misses the bull’s eye or the center of the target, it is called a sin. For some of us, we are barely missing the target, for others, we couldn’t hit the ocean, we are so far off. In both of these situations, we are sinning. We are missing the mark. We are not living where God wants us to be. The reason we do this is because of that little letter “I”.
”I” is always in the middle of sin.
How many of you have ever lied? Ah come on now…Yeah, we all have. Have you ever told a really stupid lie and got away with it, at least for a while? I remember this kid named Chipper in junior high put a potato in the tail pipe of his mom’s car. It caused some malfunctions with the car…and made a huge noise….when she asked him if he had done this…he innocently said no….and told on another neighborhood boy, Mike. Mike’s dad was a cop….and he wailed on Mike for doing this. Chipper’s lie….cost Mike a great deal. What would have been the right thing to do in this situation? told the truth, take the blame, clean up the mess, and receive the punishment. Is that what he did? No way. Chipper didn’t want to be grounded. He didn’t want to get in trouble. He had to do what was best for him and telling the truth was not an option. He intentionally did what he knew he shouldn’t do to protect “I”. He lied because he thought that was the best thing. YOU SEE Every sin comes back to selfishness. When someone asks you to do something and you don’t do it. Selfishness.
When we have a chance to serve and don’t. Selfishness.
When we hang with that person we know we shouldn’t. Selfishness.
When we gossip. Selfishness.
When we have a chance to stand up for someone and don’t. Selfishness.
When we get too busy for God. Selfishness.
HOOKS, HOOKS, HOOKS
We are basically saying “God, I am going to do what I want to do, not what you want me to do. I choose I, and not You, and in a sense we claim to be god with a lowercase g. The letter I is always in the middle of sin. I think Jesus knew that we would lean towards I, that we would want to do our own thing. I believe this is one reason why when Jesus came to this earth, He wanted to show us what would happen if we took the I out of the center of our lives. In Philippians 2:5-8
Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature 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!
What if Jesus said man I’m not dying on that cross for you….why should I?…You see Jesus didn’t come for Jesus. Jesus came for others. Just like me and you, Jesus could have said, this life is about me. I was a king in heaven and now it is time to be king here on earth. But he didn’t. Instead he humbled himself and put others first. Jesus came to serve.
And we are called to do the same thing. So, Why don’t we serve? We pour into ourselves because we think that will exalt us. It will make us better. It will make our lives matter, but Jesus had a different take on this. Matthew 23:12 we see But those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.
What Jesus is saying is that those who are trying to make themselves something will become nothing, and those who are choosing to become nothing by putting others before themselves will become something. What if….For one day, we, the members of Sunnylevel Methodist Church were to pour our lives into others. What would happen? Then….a week later….all the members of the Eastern District of the United Methodist Church…followed suit…..and then the North Alabama Conference….and then the entire State of Alabama…..Well….this place would be bursting at the seams….and a lot more of your friends would be here for starters. People would look at us differently.
Our relationships would change. Our lives would change. Most importantly, we will become more like Christ, who humbled himself and poured out his life for others.
In closing let me say that there are some of you who are living like this world revolves around you and you are pouring into you. If that is you, if like me you have a tendency to be selfish, I am asking all of you to make a commitment to pour your life into other people. Because of our selfishness, we are separated from God. Jesus came to serve, and pour his life into others, and then he took it another step further. He poured out his life completely on a cross for you and me so that we could be filled with God, and so that we might have a relationship with Him.