Consider your week. How would you rate yourself when it comes to being self-less?
Today, we gather to share hard truth, to speak honestly about our tendencies to be consumed with ourselves. But take heart, you are not alone. Selfishness is no respecter of persons. It affects the weak and strong, rich and poor, spiritually young and mature Believers alike.
Let’s dive in and see what God revealed to us about loving unselfishly.
I honestly don’t think my way is best. In fact, I am constantly listening to how Believers in the world are living, working, and serving God. One of my greatest desires is to encourage others to grow and embrace how God made each of us uniquely for His purpose.
Here’s the selfish part. I want others to do the same for me. And when I feel like I’ve failed to meet the expectations of others, when my feelings are hurt or I’m frustrated because my gifts don’t fit with another’s approval, I’m prone to throw myself one big pity party.
I can even go so far as to try to change myself, up my game, and decide what God has created in me is not enough. I’m like the child whose parents have lovingly given gifts and still wants more. Because I want to be liked and I place the approval of man before God’s. It’s selfish. Really. Selfish.
I find myself drowning in the selfishness of my not enough lately. Loving others is not about getting their approval. No, love is love when it continues without any approval. When it keeps loving to the point there is not one thought of self.
Oh my, I have a long way to go…
In her latest book, The Broken Way, Ann Voskamp shares an interaction between herself and a woman in a doctor’s office who is a cancer patient.
“You know what? Dr. Reid said the last time I was in here, that in our human bodies, the cells that only benefit themselves are known as cancer.”
It’s like the whole waiting room has gone dead quiet.
“I think about that a lot. ‘That cells that only benefit themselves are known as cancer.’”…
I swallow and falter. I can’t hear anything but the ringing of her words.
How had I never known that cancer is the cells that only take for themselves? Cancer is what refuses to die to self.
Selfishness is like cancer. It refuses to die to self. It refuses to lay down its life to love.
I’ve struggled with selfishness in my day. Just recently in fact. I don’t always demand my own way, but I can make it miserable for those around me as I begrudgingly do what they want. It’s a brokenness the enemy still uses to oppose what God desires in me.
We live out our new lives in these old bodies of flesh. This is where we fight the battle of discernment between good and evil, right and wrong, old and new.
Romans 8:12-14 says: So then, brothers, we are debtors, not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh. If you live according to the flesh you will die, but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live. For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. (ESV)
These verses were read in worship on Sunday, but in the Common English Bible.
So then, brothers and sisters, we have an obligation, but it isn’t an obligation to ourselves to live our lives on the basis of selfishness. If you live on the basis of selfishness, you are going to die. But if by the Spirit you put to death the actions of the body, you will live. All who are led by God’s Spirit are God’s sons and daughters.
Romans 8:12-14 CEB (emphasis added)
Do you see where the Common English Bible just flat out used the word selfishness for the word flesh? This is exactly what we glean from the memory verse this week.
Direct me in the paths of your commands, for there I find delight. Turn my heart toward your statutes and not toward selfish gain.
God’s way never leads toward selfishness.
God’s way only leads toward selflessness.
You cannot lead a selfish life and follow God’s way. You cannot follow God’s way without dying to self and killing the cancer of selfishness in you.
The cancer of selfishness can eat up marriages, relationships, ministries, churches, families, a soul.
It is a fight I must fight constantly. But God’s recent revelation of the enemy’s use of my selfish bent to cause division in Sister Talk: Faith and in my marriage, has freed me up to fight him instead of those I’m called to love.
Fighting the fight against selfishness requires remembering it’s not a battle against flesh and blood, because you are new creation (2Corinthians 5:17). You have already died on the cross of Christ and you no longer live, He lives in you (Galatians 2:20). The fight is a stealthy one, because the enemy makes you think it’s you fighting for you, but it’s really him fighting against the Holy Spirit in you.
For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out. For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing. Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me.
Romans 7:18-20 ESV
The freedom to recognize and separate the sin-full selfish flesh and the Holy Spirit dwelling within enables me to forgive myself, seek forgiveness from others, and take a firm stand against the devil and his schemes (Ephesians 6:11, James 4:7).
We’ve talked about some hard things as we’ve soaked in His definition of love and how to work it out in our lives. Envy, boasting & pride, rudeness, selfishness, and next up, short-tempered & bitter.
But don’t get discouraged. Remember to soak in His grace and not wallow in the shadows of sin. We are new creatures. The old has gone, the new has come. It’s just time to learn to walk in it.
But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin.
1John 1:7 ESV
As we continue to talk about what love is not, remember His great love for you and His promise of eternal forgiveness and grace.