Lovers of Self: Become Lovers of God!

True Christianity is under attack.  It is under attack in so-called churches and by so-called ministers of light; it is under attack by New York Times bestsellers, by the mainstream media, and the by popular philosophies that drive today’s thinking.  The world hates the true Jesus Christ.  There is for many of them a God in Heaven they love, who has made the exaltation of man His highest goal, but when faced with the true God of the Bible and His heart piercing Son Jesus Christ they will certainly cower.

Christianity doesn’t need rescuing.  Through all ages God has faithfully preserved His word and a remnant of those who worship Him in spirit and in truth.  I have no fear of God’s plans being thwarted by man’s cunning.  I do however fear when I think of the millions of lost souls who are puffed up under these false teachers, and encouraged by worldly philosophies to renounce what the Bible clearly teaches.

Here is a biblical warning to all: 

Colossians 2:8 “See to it that no one takes you captive by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the world, and not according to Christ.”

1Timothy 6:3-7 “If anyone teaches a different doctrine and does not agree with the sound words of our Lord Jesus Christ and the teaching that accords with godliness, he is puffed up with conceit and understands nothing.  He has an unhealthy craving for controversy and for quarrels about words, which produce envy, dissension, slander, evil suspicions, and constant friction among people who are depraved in mind and deprived of truth, imagining that godliness is a means of gain.  Now there is great gain in godliness with contentment, for we brought nothing into the world, and we cannot take anything out of the world.” 

Lie # 1: God Wants You Rich

Imagining that godliness is a means of gain.”  Does that sound familiar to you?  What kind of gain does Paul mean?  He means the imagined gain of an easier, more prosperous and financially secure life if a person would only “accept” Jesus.  They say “God has no intention of bringing anything painful in to a person’s life, but only that which is pleasant.  God wants you rich and He wants you healthy.  If you will only believe in Him and have faith He will give you more than you can begin to imagine.  If you would just give your money to a ministry or to a church, than surely He promises to pour material blessings over your head and will feel obliged to heal your diseases.  You’re missing out on God’s best for you.”

It’s nothing but a bunch of fluff friends.  It’s not in the Bible, it deceives lost souls, it makes false converts, it condemns the poor, the sick, and the failing, and finally, lest God has mercy- it damns.  It is a wretched and satanic message, and I would submit to you that God hates it.

This one portion of the Bible should be enough to make any person who professes that the Bible is God’s word reject the prosperity gospel.  If you are not a Christian than I pray this would shatter whatever you’ve seen of televangelists or read by men like Joel Osteen.  Continuing again in 1Timothy 6, verses 8-10.

“But if we have food and clothing, with these we will be content.  But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation, into a snare, into many senseless and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction.  For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evils.  It is through this craving that some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pangs.

What need I add?  The word of God aggressively clear.

Lie #2: Authentic Christianity Destroys a Greatly Valuable and Necessary High Self Esteem

Let me first clarify.  This is only a partial lie.  The truth is that authentic Christianity by necessity must destroy through all of life a high self esteem.  The lie is that self esteem is valuable and necessary for happiness.  This is how the common lie is presented, that is- if presented by a professing Christian:

“Didn’t Jesus say that we are to “love others as we love ourselves”?  That implies friends, that if we don’t first love ourselves, we can’t properly love other people.”  Or “You are made in the image of God, therefore there is greatness in you!  You were made for greatness!  Don’t listen to Satan, that accuser of the brethren when he reminds you of the mistakes of the past.  Guilt is not from God!  He doesn’t want you walking around with your head hung low.  Step in to your destiny, and speak to yourself “I have greatness on me; I am capable of doing great things.’”

Ok.  Let’s first combat this with scripture.

2Timothy 3:2,4-5 “For people will be lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant…swollen with conceit, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having the appearance of godliness, but denying its power.”

Romans 7:18,24  “For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh…Wretched man that I am!  Who will deliver me from this body of death.”

Matthew 16:24 “Then Jesus told his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.”

Romans 2:8 “But for those who are self-seeking and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, there will be wrath and fury.”

James 3:14 “But if you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast and be false to the truth.”

Galatians 6:3 “For if anyone thinks he is something, when he is nothing, he deceives himself.”

You might be thinking: “Then why did Jesus say to love others as we love ourselves?”

Jesus was assuming that all men by nature love themselves.  Ephesians 5:29 also states that “no one over hated his own flesh, but nourishes, and cherishes it.”  As far as man is capable he takes care of his own eating, drinking, clothing, relationships, interests and enjoyment.  Taking care of one’s own practical needs is necessary, but what Christ would condemn is those who are full of “greed and self-indulgence (Mathew 23:25).”  Most of man’s thinking revolves around himself, which is why scripture exhorts us to “in humility count others more significant than yourselves (Philippians 2:3).”  We don’t need much encouragement to love ourselves, for it is what comes naturally to us.  Even much of man’s self loathing is based in his self loving, for his eyes are so fixed on self- how to better self, how the highly estimated power of self has failed him, how self could and should look better… that he has become blind to the needs of others and consumed with thoughts of self. 

In assuming that man by nature loves himself and looks out for his own interests, Jesus is saying “in the same measure that you already spend so much time looking out for and loving yourself, turn it around and do it for your neighbour.”  This is not a promotion to spend time and energy further loving one’s self so that they can love others better.

I want to make it clear that there is a type of self love that is biblical.  As far as one cares for themselves by pursuing their joy in Jesus Christ, scripture reading, prayer, fellowship, service, evangelism etc, I exhort them to pursue their own joy and happiness until they feel so full of satisfaction in Jesus that they absolutely must praise Him out loud.  As far as one looks to Heaven, and the staggering promises of reward found there, and as far as one anticipates the glorious words of Jesus Christ “well done, my good and faithful servant,”- go and delight yourself in the Lord.  Go and pursue your own joy in Him!  But to however small of an extent that we try to satisfy ourselves with self, with the world, and with its “desires of the flesh…desires of the eyes and pride in possessions,” then we must die to self.

I think it might be helpful and simple to show the contrast between what the world wants you to believe about yourself and what the Bible says is true about yourself.  Here we go.

Issue:  Worthiness.  The World says:  “God is happy with you just the way you are.”  Implied: “You are worthy of God’s love and God isn’t asking you to change.”

Biblical Truth:

Romans 3:10-12 “None is righteous, no, not one; no one understands; no one seeks for God.  All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one.”

Isaiah 64:6 “We have all become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous deeds are like a polluted garment.”

Luke 13:13 “…unless you repent you will all likewise perish.”

We are, apart from saving grace, not worthy of God’s love, not worthy of forgiveness, not commendable by our supposed good works, and in fact not worthy of anything from God but wrath.  God is not happy with the unregenerate just as they are, but rather angry yet in love commanding all sinners to repent.  What does man deserve from God?  “Those who practice such things (as envy, gossip, slander, disobedience to parents etc,) deserve to die (Romans 1:32).”

It is critical that we understand that we do not deserve anything good from God’s hand, nor is there anything great about us that would make God feel more inclined to save us than He would somebody else.  All that we have to offer Him is our filthy rags, and all that we should rightfully expect is coming judgement.  If we will not recognize our unworthiness before Him then we will not see Jesus Christ’s atoning death and resulting salvation as the free unmerited gift that it really is.  As a poem I wrote states:

“But what have I to offer thee?”

“Your dirty hands that I might cleanse thee.”

“I’m sore ashamed.”

“I’m glorified to take your sin and give you life.”

“I don’t deserve..”

“One breath, it’s true

But I honor my Son

Who was broken for you.”

“Will he wash away my stains?”

“He must.  This is His joy

For which He suffered much.”

Then I have none to offer You

But Your Son whom you have offered me

None who come to Him are ever refused

So into his refuge will I flee.”

Issue:  Trusting your heart.  The World says:  “Follow your heart and it won’t lead you wrong.”  Implied:  All your desires are from God, and the human heart is innately good.

Biblical Truth:

Jeremiah 17:9 “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?”

Mark 7:21-23 “For from within, out of the heart of man, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, coveting, wickedness, deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride, foolishness.  All these evil things come from within, and they defile a person.”

The Bible says that man’s heart is deceitful.  He looks at things that are evil and thinks that they will do him good, and he looks at what is good and godly and thinks that it will be oppressive and life draining.  Out of man’s heart comes a world of iniquity, and when pumped with the self promoting teaching that you must follow the desires of your heart, one is at a greater risk of acting on their sinful impulses.  The heart of man isn’t good or worthy of following.  It is desperately sick and leads man to the grave. 

Issue:  Trusting in one’s own “truth” and wisdom.  The World says:  “If it’s true for you it’s true for you, but what’s true for me is true for me.  It’s all relative.”  Implied:  You can believe whatever you want to believe and whatever makes you happy.  No one can know what’s really true.”

Biblical Truth:

1Corinthians 1:20-21 “Where is the one who is wise?  Where is the scribe?  Where is the debater of this age?  Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world?  For since, in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom, it pleased God through the folly of what we preach to save those who believe.”

John 14:6 “Jesus said to him, ‘I am the way, and the truth, and the life.  No one comes to the Father except through me.”

This could make for a whole other article so I will try and be brief.  Part of trusting in self is trusting in your own understanding of who God is, why you exist, how the world runs etc.  Since the goal of life is to feel good about you, then you should feel good about believing in whatever is right for you.  This makes it very easy to create a God in your own image, a God who tolerates sin and accepts everyone into heaven.  This way of thinking is an attack on the authority of scripture.  God is who He says He is in His word, and His ways are made very clear in scripture.  The world will never come to know God through their own inner searching and wisdom.  The cross that appears foolish to the world is the power of God for salvation, and the way that He has chosen to save men simply offends the natural mind.  Men want to trust in their own foolish wisdom to the grave, but it is Christ crucified who is the “power of God and the wisdom of God (1Corinthians 1:24).”  The world says that all the answers for life and happiness lie within you, but the absolute truth is that only through God’s word and in Jesus Christ can a person learn to live and think rightly, and find everlasting joy.

 Final Contrasts

The world says man is capable, but Jesus says “apart from me you can do nothing (John 15:5).”  The world says “be independent” but the Bible says we must “rely not on ourselves but on God who raises the dead (2Corinthians 1:9).”  They say it is absolutely imperative that you have a high self esteem, but God says “this is the one to whom I will look: he who is humble and contrite in spirit and trembles at my word.”  Blessed are those who are poor in spirit, that is those who recognize they have no spiritual resources of their own by which to win themselves to God, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven (Matthew 5:3).  Blessed are those who will mourn over their sin, for they will receive comfort from God (Matthew 5:4).  “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble (1Peter 5:5)” and so whoever would recognize his sinful state before God and put their trust in Jesus Christ will receive grace and mercy.  This is why I conclude that an unbiblical sense of self esteem is NOT valuable or necessary for life, and is actually a thing to be laid aside as by it men do not see their need for the saviour.

Being Unworthy of God’s Favour Does Not Mean You Are of Little Value to Him

So how should a person esteem themselves?  Romans 12:3 “For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned.”

 I think it is necessary to clarify that I am not suggesting that we walk around depressed, nor hating our selves.  As touched on above to be caught up in constant thoughts of self hatred is still selfish (self revolved) thinking, just as it would be to be obsessed with thinking highly of yourself. 

We should view ourselves in light of what the scripture says: that we are all fallen astray, sinful, and unworthy.  We must see what the Bible says about God as true also, that He is perfect, just, and holy.  He hates sin and must punish sinners, yet He is “merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love (Psalm 103:8).”  To sit and mope endlessly about our sin is faithless.  That is not what I am suggesting.  We must grieve over our sin and then turn from it, placing our trust in Jesus Christ to wash it all away.  He took the punishment that we deserve from God, when He died upon the cross.  When we trust in Him, we can rejoice that we have been made a new creation, not because of anything that we have done but because of what Christ has done. 

We don’t deserve His forgiveness, and that is why salvation is a “free gift (Romans 6:23).”  Jesus Christ doesn’t love us because we deserve it, but because He chooses to and because it is the overflow of His generous and kind heart towards us who are weak, yes even dead in trespasses and sin.  If Jesus would die for us, when we didn’t deserve it, when we were His enemies, how is it possible to be more valuable to Him?  “He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things (Romans 8:32)?”  He is a God who counts our tears, who hears our cries, who feeds the hungry, and delivers the needy.  He is a father to the fatherless, a husband to widows, and the lover of our souls.  He lays down His life for His friends, He satisfies the desire of every living thing; He stoops down to raise us up.  Our God, He is incredible.  He loves us very much because He wants to.  This is true Christianity, and may every perversion of it be burned up in the mind of the reader.

Romans 5:6-8 “For while we were still weak at the right time Christ died for the ungodly.  For one will scarcely die for a righteous person- though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die- but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”

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