Saturday, April 2, 2016

Unselfish Christianity

Is it OK to be selfish? I don’t think you can find a Christian who will admit to thinking that it’s acceptable for a Christian to be selfish. Selfishness is at odds with Christianity.

In Philippians 2:3(NCV) Paul writes, “When you do things, do not let selfishness or pride be your guide. Instead, be humble and give more honor to others than to yourselves.” He also wrote in his first letter to the Corinthians that love “is not rude, is not selfish, and does not become angry easily.” 1 Corinthians 13:5 (ICB)

James addressed the selfishness this way, “Are there those among you who are truly wise and understanding? Then they should show it by living right and doing good things with a gentleness that comes from wisdom. But if you are selfish and have bitter jealousy in your hearts, do not brag. Your bragging is a lie that hides the truth. That kind of “wisdom” does not come from God but from the world. It is not spiritual; it is from the devil. Where jealousy and selfishness are, there will be confusion and every kind of evil. But the wisdom that comes from God is first of all pure, then peaceful, gentle, and easy to please. This wisdom is always ready to help those who are troubled and to do good for others. It is always fair and honest.  James 3:13-17 (NCV)

The Bible is clear: In the heart of the Christian, there is no room for selfishness. That was easy. We have answered that question. Now let me ask you another question. Do you want Jesus to come again?

I would hope that the answer is yes. So let’s move on to a third question. Why do you want Jesus to come again?

Something strange happens when we discuss these most basic Christian ideas: Salvation, Eternal Life, The Second Coming and Heaven.  We often talk about them in the most selfish of terms. Think about it. The average “gospel” presentation goes something like this: you’re a sinner who deserves death, but if you want to be saved from hell and live forever you need to believe in Jesus. Salvation is presented as something to get from God for the benefit of self.

A friend of a friend posted the following encounter on Facebook this week. “Today an individual stopped me in a parking lot and asked me if I were to die today, right this very moment, do I know I would go to heaven. I took a second to gather my thoughts because I have always thought this to be a strange question. As if the entire point of the cross, the tomb, the resurrection and my salvation is going to heaven. Sure, I want to go to heaven someday, but I also want to be saved for today. I need salvation to be the father and husband that my kids and wife need. I need salvation to be a good teacher. I need salvation in order to preach the gospel. I need salvation to love my neighbor and enemies alike. I have had a lot of life to live since I was saved. Sure, heaven is in the mix, but right now life is what is on my mind. When I talk to the lost, life seems to be their immediate concern as well. Perhaps we need a different question when sharing our faith. Perhaps we should talk about living because life is ultimately what Jesus gave.”

Secular psychologist Alfie Kohn, writing about child rearing, states that a rewards approach to raising kids is actually “by its very nature dehumanizing.”  He adds that the great challenge with using rewards as a motivator is that “the more rewards are used, the more they seem to be needed.”

When we as Christians use the rewards method of evangelism, we are simply setting people up to live in an endless cycle of requiring future benefits in order for their belief to be sustained.

Instead of presenting the gospel as something that will yield a future benefit we need to present it as something that has already benefited. Something that benefits us now. The rewards of the gospel are present tense not future tense. This changes faith from being something that we are rewarded for to a way we express gratitude.

Back in the 70’s, one of my favorite music artists was Evie. She sang a song that relates today. It was titled, “If Heaven Never Was Promised to Me.” Here are some of the lyrics.

“You may ask me: Why do you serve the Lord? Is it just for heaven's gain? Or to walk those mighty streets of gold? And to hear the angels sing? Is it just to drink from the fountain that never shall run dry? Or just to live forever, ever and ever in that sweet all by and by?

But if heaven never was promised to me. Neither God's promise to live eternally. It's been worth just having the Lord in my life. Livin' in a world of darkness. But he brought me the light.

Evie says that, “it’s been worth just having the Lord in my life. Living in a world of darkness. But he brought me the light.”

The promise of Heaven and eternal life is awesome, but God loves us and wants us to love Him now. He wants a relationship with us now not just the promise of one in the future.

Jesus wants to be with you.  Revelation 3:20 tells us, "Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and dine with him, and he with Me." This promise is present tense. Jesus wants to come in now. He wants to be with you now. He has prepared a place for you in heaven, but he wants to be with you now not just later in heaven.  He wants to give you a rich and satisfying life. He wants to do it now!

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