Dear Friends,

It has been big news this week as the scandal broke about some Hollywood insiders and other wealthy parents paying (bribing?) to get their children into universities using deception.  More than 50 people have been charged by federal prosecutors in this scandal that involves actors like Lori Loughlin and Felicity Huffman, and prestigious universities like USC, UCLA, Stanford, and Yale.  It seems that athletic scholarships were given to non-athletes, and even standardized tests were circumvented.

I would suggest that this is only a small symptom of the problem we have in our modern culture.  We live in an incredibly selfish world where self-centeredness is seen as a virtue, and entitlement is a right.

In Rick Warren’s best selling book The Purpose Driven Life the first line is: “It’s not about you!

Many years ago I knew an incredible servant of the Lord by the name of George Joslin.  He was approaching 90 years old and yet was out daily serving the Lord with enthusiasm and commitment.  One day his UPS driver arrived at his door and seemed to be discouraged.  George immediately began witnessing to him only to find that he had a clear testimony of faith in Jesus.

Shifting gears, George asked him, “What are you doing for God?”  The man told George how he went to church each Sunday.  George replied, “No, that’s what you’re doing for you. What are you doing for God?”  Surprised by George’s response, he said, “Well I read my Bible and pray often.”  George again said, “No, that’s what you’re doing for you. What are you doing for the Lord?”  After a couple more rounds like this the man admitted, “George, I’m not doing anything for God.”  George replied, “Do you think that your discouragement and your lack of service to our Lord has a connection?”

Are you living for yourself?  “But he will pour out his anger and wrath on those who live for themselves” (Romans 2:8a ).  Living for yourself will only bring God’s judgment.  Plus living for yourself will never bring happiness and fulfillment.  John Stuart Mill observed, “Those only are happy who have their minds fixed on some object other than their own happiness.  Ask yourself whether you are happy, and you cease to be so.”  In other words the more you fixate on you, the more you bring God’s discipline, and the more you reduce your chances of being happy, or joyful, or fulfilled.  It’s paradoxical!

Do you have selfish ambition?  In our modern culture ambition is seen as a virtue, but selfish ambition is always used in the Bible in a negative context.  Listen to how James explains this, “But if you are bitterly jealous and there is selfish ambition in your heart, don’t cover up the truth with boasting and lying.  For jealousy and selfishness are not God’s kind of wisdom. Such things are earthly, unspiritual, and demonic.  For wherever there is jealousy and selfish ambition, there you will find disorder and evil of every kind” (James 3:14–16).  A life of chaos is the indicator of selfishness.

HOW TO DEVELOP AN OUTWARD-FOCUSED LIFESTYLE:

  1. Cultivate Extravagant Generosity.  Do you know why the Lord instructs us to develop a lifestyle of extravagant generosity?  It’s not because He needs our money to do His work.  In fact, the Lord states, “If I were hungry, I would not tell you, for all the world is mine and everything in it” (Psalm 50:12).  In other words the Lord doesn’t need what we have since He already owns everything.  No, the Lord commands generosity to break us from our insidious selfishness.

  1. Develop New Commandment Love.  Jesus commanded His disciples on the night He was arrested, “So now I am giving you a new commandment: Love each other. Just as I have loved you, you should love each other” (John 13:34).  Jesus had already commanded His disciples, “Love your neighbor as yourself.”  Now He was taking this command to a new level.  No longer would love of self be the standard that would distinguish the one-another love of His followers.  We are commanded to love one another the way Jesus loved us.  This is selfless love…sacrificial love…total love…unconditional love.  (By the way, how would this work for your marriage?)  This is love that must be developed and practiced continually.  We can’t love like Jesus when we’re selfish.

  1. Determine to be Servant of Everyone Else.  Jesus explained the attitude for His kingdom citizens, “Whoever wants to be first must take last place and be the servant of everyone else” (Mark 9:35b).  This is why we need to practice serving others so that we can break ourselves from the bondage of selfishness.  God has given each of us a spiritual gift to use in practicing selfless servanthood.  The Apostle Peter writes, “God has given each of you a gift from his great variety of spiritual gifts. Use them well to serve one another.  Do you have the gift of speaking? Then speak as though God himself were speaking through you. Do you have the gift of helping others? Do it with all the strength and energy that God supplies. Then everything you do will bring glory to God through Jesus Christ. All glory and power to him forever and ever! Amen”(1 Peter 4:10–11).

  1. Make God’s Glory Your Goal.  Selfishness makes glory of yourself your own highest goal.  As long as we’re focused on what we have or don’t have, deserve or don’t deserve, get or don’t get, we will be empty and unfulfilled.  But once we make God’s glory the driving passion of our lives we begin to experience a heart full of joy and contentment.  This is why we’re instructed, “Delight yourself in theLord and he will give you the desires of your heart” (Psalm 37:4).  I joke that this is God’s bait and switch:  the more you delight yourself in the Lord, the more He changes your desires to be His desires, then He gives you the desires of your / His heart!   This is when your life is truly fulfilled!

What if this is truly the way we lived as Christians?  How much impact mighty we have in the world if we lived selfless, sacrificial lives?  Some Christians do this and we hold them in high honor as a result, but maybe more of us need to join their example by developing a truly outward-focused lifestyle.  Will you be one who leads the way?

Onward and outward,

Pastor Gary