Friday, May 3, 2013

The Self-Love Culture

2 Timothy 3:1-2a But know this: Difficult times will come in the last days. 2 For people will be lovers of self, ...

I was bullied quite a bit as a kid, and there have been some stories in the news in recent years that show the problem still exists and in some ways is worse. Just do a search on the term "cyber-bullying" and you'll see what I mean. The internet has added a layer of pseudo-anonymity that empowers the darkest impulses of our fallen nature. People are saying things to other people they would never have said in person all because they have become detached from the reactions to and consequences of their actions via a keyboard and screen.

So how do we react as a society? Our culture tells us "Just love yourself, believe in yourself and you can accomplish anything. You are wonderful just as you are." Do a search for "self help books" on amazon.com and you'll see almost 200,000 results. From attitudes of "let's just all get along" to "everything is beautiful in it's own way", we are encouraged to embrace everything about everyone. And if we dare to point out even the smallest bit of actions or attitudes needing correction, we are subjected to a the verbal firing squad of "Intolerance!!".

The Church is not immune to this. We just use different words. "Don't tell me I need to change because I am fearfully and wonderfully made (Psalm 139:14). God has plans to prosper me, not to harm me (Jeremiah 29:11). I am His workmanship, His masterpiece (Ephesians 2:10)." We call it our "identity in Christ". And for many people, they have used this idea to embrace self-love as much as the world around them has.

Paul tells us in 2 Timothy 3:2 that in the last days, one of the signs of difficult times to come will be that people will be "lovers of self". And this particular symptom of the disease of this world does not find itself in good company. It is the first in a long list of really bad stuff.

2 Timothy 3:2-5 For people will be lovers of self, lovers of money, boastful, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, ungrateful, unholy, 3 unloving, irreconcilable, slanderers, without self-control, brutal, without love for what is good, 4 traitors, reckless, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, 5 holding to the form of godliness but denying its power. Avoid these people!

Those verses I referenced above are all true. We are God's workmanship, fearfully and wonderfully made. But we were made with a purpose, to bring glory to God (Isaiah 43:7). God does have a plan for each of us, and it is to be made Christlike (Romans 8:29) through suffering (Philippians 1:29, 3:7-11). In understanding our identity in Christ, we must be careful not to forget our identity in relation to Christ.

1 Corinthians 4:1 A person should consider us in this way: as servants of Christ and managers of God’s mysteries.
Romans 6:17-18 But thank God that, although you used to be slaves of sin, you obeyed from the heart that pattern of teaching you were transferred to, 18 and having been liberated from sin, you became enslaved to righteousness.

We are literally slaves to Christ. That is who you are in relation to Christ: a slave. Yes, we belong to Him. But we also belong to Him.

Despite what the world may tell you, don't love yourself. Crucify yourself (Galatians 2:19-20) and pour out your life as a living sacrifice to Him.