For not one of us lives for himself, and not one dies for himself; for if we live, we live for the Lord, or if we die, we die for the Lord; therefore, whether we live or die, we are the Lord's. For to this end Christ died and lived again, that He might be Lord both of the dead and of the living. Rom 14:7-9
One of the mothers of two girls in the youth group I ministered to, would get her girls attention at times by saying to them, “Oh yeah, because it’s all about you, isn’t it?” A good reminder that would help them understand, that no, life wasn’t all about what they wanted. This is a message I have brought to my preaching at our congregation, “It’s not all about you and me.” Probably one of the biggest epidemics we have in today’s culture is thinking it’s about what we want and how to satisfy ourselves. One of the main teachings of the New Testament is, that we as Christians, do not live for ourselves, but for the Lord. That we have died to self and now live for the Lord and His will. That we are not here to serve ourselves but to serve others; to love one another and to share each other’s burdens.
When I was a young man, I was very self-centered, and looked to gratify by own wants. It took going down a very dark path to help me understand that what I was doing wasn’t really gratifying. It took a very low time in my life to realize that I was only really happy when I was at church with the Lord. It still didn’t take away my selfishness. What made the most difference was having kids that I was responsible for. Peggy and I had to work together to make sure they were taken care of, and it turned my joy not in possessing material things, but in providing for my family. I still have to remind myself that it isn’t about me, but what is best for others, and especially what’s best for Christ’s church. Paul reminds us in the Philippian letter, “Therefore, if there is any consolation in Christ, if any comfort of love, if any fellowship of the Spirit, if any affection and mercy, fulfill my joy by being like-minded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind. Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself. Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others” Phil 2:1-4. Then Paul writes how Jesus was exalted by humbling Himself, even to the point of dying on a cross for others.
Sometimes we feel sorry for ourselves because we don’t think our needs are being met. Usually, that is an indicator that we need to quit thinking so much of ourselves and start reaching out to others. By helping and lifting up others, many times we are lifted up, and we feel a sense of satisfaction and fulfilment. Paul is writing in the Philippian passage about humbling yourself, seeking to be in tune with other’s needs, looking to their interests over your own, and then says in v.5 to have the attitude of Christ. How often do we sacrifice ourselves for others? To not have everything all your own way in your marriage, family, at work, or at church. It’s the practice of giving of yourself to help fulfill the needs of others so that relationships with others and God progress and grow. It takes trying to become likeminded and of one accord as Paul encourages us to do. If we fuss with one another over things that could be resolved easily, if someone was willing to budge, it would make it to where things get done instead of at a standstill because of disagreement.
This takes us back to Paul, and the Romans passage above, where he is speaking to Christians that are judging others for not doing things the way they think it should be done. They were judging each other about what they ate and what special days they observe. Can you imagine that? Whether it was food sacrificed to idols, Jewish dietary restrictions, or someone being a vegetarian when everybody else likes their meats. Some were saying that every day is the same as the other and there are no special days, while others thought that there were special days to observe, no matter who started them or for what reason. It’s just good to get together and observe special events in history or in our Christian heritage. The main thing is that they were judging each other over things that Paul thought weren’t important to their Christian lives. I wonder what he would think about observing Christmas and Easter?
It's bad enough judging others because they don’t do things the way you do them, but even worse, they were showing contempt for each other. Let’s put that another way, they were thinking evil thoughts about each other. These are brothers and sisters in Christ and they are having bad thoughts about each other. That is not what Christ intended for His church! This is not the way the church should think and treat each other! The apostle John in his first letter speaks continuously about loving one another. Do you think that there might have been a problem in the church back then, with people checking their attitudes at the door, so that the church could move forward together in the right direction? The church John was dealing with was splitting because of gnostic thoughts. There are varying gnostic thoughts, but most of them had a hard time dealing with Jesus being the actual Son of God, and that He had been with God from the beginning, and had come to earth, and went back to be with God when His mission on earth was done. It also involved how they thought they should live as Christians. Some thought they could do whatever they wanted because they were saved. While others thought, you needed to abstain from almost everything of the world in order to be pure before God. Two extremes trying to come together as one. Can you see how there were differences in the church at that time, so that writers like Paul, John, and Peter write to get people to set aside their differences and serve Christ together? There thoughts needed to be more about serving the Lord, instead of serving themselves. Can we learn from this today? Are there people in the church that you don’t agree with? Are there churches in the brotherhood that you don’t like what they’re doing? These writers might be writing to you and me just as much as they are writing to their own situations back then. That’s the way of God-inspired writers and why their writings are timeless.
So how do we put their writings into practice? Paul says in Romans 14, that we need to live our lives for Christ. It’s having the conviction that you are going to live, think, and do things just as though Christ was inside of you guiding you. We need to live for the Lord. Wait a minute, that’s exactly what we are to be when we are baptized into Christ. We are in Christ and He is in us! So, we put our old self aside and start living as though Christ is in us. I don’t know about you, but I struggle with this, because I want to be in the lead of my life. It’s hard giving control over to Christ, and allowing Him to lead you, until you have practiced it long enough to where it becomes natural.
But wait there’s more! We need to die for the Lord also. Not only putting our old self aside, but actually dying to self. Paul put it this way in the second Corinthian letter, “For the love of Christ controls us, having concluded this, that one died for all, therefore all died; and He died for all, that they who live should no longer live for themselves, but for Him who died and rose again on their behalf” 2 Cor 5:14-15. Christ died for all of us, so we ought to be willing to die for Him. Not physically die, although that could be true also, but dying to self to give ourselves to the Lord more. It’s developing a life of giving more of yourself to the Lord so that His kingdom may grow. It’s developing a life of working together with others in the kingdom to make the church grow. It’s developing a life where you are concerned more about helping someone come to the Lord than satisfying your own desires. How can you live more for Christ and less to yourself? How can you die to yourself and allow Christ to lead you more into His will? By living and dying to the Lord. I’ll end with this passage from Jesus, “Whoever desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me. For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake and the gospel's will save it. For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul?” Mark 8:34-36. May we all put aside our selfish way and come together to serve the Lord and His church. I love you all, Doug.