While reading a book this week I came across a quote by James Taylor (not the singer). He wrote:
"The curse of the contemporary emphasis on personal growth is its narcissism: the secret of sanctification is the abandonment of every attempt to cultivate the self, or in a still simpler formula, coming from the heart of the gospel, it is losing ourselves to find ourselves."
What Taylor says is alive and well in our lives, more than our flesh would ever like to admit. I have told our people on multiple occasions that the statement, “What does this passage mean to you?” should never be uttered. The reason is that no one should care what it means to you or to me or to anyone except God, the author of the text. In spite of what the late Whitney Houston stated, loving yourself is not the greatest love of all, in fact it is the worse love of all. Scripture makes it crystal clear that we are to die to ourselves; that the reason we go through hardships, the reason we learn truth is not for “me”. The primary reason we grow is for God’s glory, to make Him known. The secondary is to teach others that they may in turn teach more. When this biblical thinking is not at work in us we become either critics or self absorbed spiritual 2 year olds, wanting what is in this for me. So, it leads to such things as a senior adult who has been married for 40 years who now has no desire to be at a marriage conference because they “know all this,” forgetting that they may need to go in order to encourage and engage with the young couple who has been married for 4 years. Mark Dever tells the story of a friend of his who was thinking about leaving a fellowship because “they were holding him back,” to which Pastor Dever basically said…maybe God sent you there to help speed them up. When I view my growth only for me, I lose why I need the church body. I begin to get consumed with “I’m beyond this teaching, or I have passed this class.” To help us understand this we have to remember…IT’S NOT ABOUT YOU. When I believe it’s about me, then I miss that the reason I am learning, the reason I am maturing is to make Him known! One of the primary ways of doing this is to make disciples. Christ’s call, the call to the cross is to lose myself, to prefer others, a consuming passion to know more about not only what I am interested in, but what is important to the body. The heart of the gospel is not to ask what’s in it for me, but to be Kingdom consumed and others focused. Certainly, this doesn’t mean I am not to be growing, but I am not to be living my Christian life like I go to a restaurant. If they cook what I like, have the service I want, and consistently meet my expectations, I will continue to go. There is nothing wrong with picking out a restaurant that way, but there is something terribly wrong with picking out a church, and even picking out friends that way. In our “pill popping” culture we tend to look at our problems or weaknesses and get determined to fix it and to do it quickly. We certainly need to be sensitive to conviction, but I need to know that my weaknesses, my struggles are not just for me, they are to glorify the King and they are to be used in the Kingdom to love, empathize, and mature others. Our growth with God must be fixed in our understanding as that I am not learning this just for me, I am learning everything in order to pour into someone else.