Faithlife Sermons

The Toxic Culture of Self

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Start with a funny story about me and being focused on self
Our culture, more and more, pushes and promotes the indulgence of self above all else.
Rules, laws, products, identity, is all found in self or the need to indulge self
This idea of self focus, this culture of self as we’ll call it today, is toxic to a Christian who is called to live in an entirely opposite way
Yet even w/in Christian circles, I see and hear more about self (self love, self care, self esteem, self worth)
And as a result, I see that more and more people seem lost, depressed, lonely, unfulfilled, or unsatisfied with life - even many Christians!
Now I do want to call out an important distinction that we need to set straight before we dive further into our scripture today:
This message is not about self-deprecation or self-affliction
I’m not saying that if you take time in your day to go to the gym to take care of yourself that you did a bad thing
Or if you went and bought a new shirt that looks good on you that God is mad
Or if you run to Grand Ave Chill to get that large Reese’s Shake because you just need it after they day you had at work or w/ the kids that you are a sinner
Life shouldn’t be miserable
But this message is about the mis-guided focus, over-emphasis, and false hope that the culture of self above all else brings with it
This morning we’re going to hop around to a few different places in scripture to see what the Bible tells us about 5 different lies the world tells us about self
Toxic Lie #1 - The indulgence of self above all else should be your top priority. This is a me first viewpoint on life. Self care is me first. Laws/culture is being changed b/c of the prioritization of self above all else. Depression and addiction going up b/c we’re so focused on ourselves - insert author quote in this section)
I’m not talking about getting enough sleep at night or going for walks to get fresh air (those are good), I’m talking about the promotion of the care of self above all else
When we look around us at our nation in particular, this materializes in several different ways
Self Care/self love
Again, please don’t misunderstand me. Taking care of yourself is important. God’s word says that our body is a temple, and we should keep that temple in good working order
But what we see is this prioritization of self and taking care of self above anything and everything else in life. Even the deification of self where we make the love and care of self more important that our pursuit of God. It’s everywhere in our culture right now.
Author Allie Beth Stuckey wrote in her book You’re Not Enough (And That’s Okay), “Maybe our happiness doesn’t stem from the fact that we don’t love ourselves enough. Maybe we’re unfulfilled, lonely, and purposeless because we love ourselves way too much.”
New Products & Advertisements
You ever notice how ads are always targeted at you getting what you want/deserve, and almost never about getting someone else a nice gift?
We are bombarded about why you need the new iPhone, or why you need the new car, or you deserve this new thing that you need to buy.
I’m a capitalist through and through, so the idea of coming up with great products to sell is a good thing, but we can also make that too high of a priority by always wanting the best for our selves
Society now tells us that you get to pick you who are and who you love, and it doesn’t matter how that affects others, because all that matters is if it makes you happy.
This is a slippery slope where we are setting ourselves on the throne of God to decide our own identities rather than identify in Christ and His work on the cross.
Rule of Law
I see this one playing out more and more in politics and laws/bills that are being passed. We are so interested in what’s good for me, how do I get ahead, and we don’t approach things from a “for the good of the people” perspective anymore.
Our culture of self above all else is in direct contrast to what God tells us should be our view on life.
Matthew 16:24-27
Matthew 16:24–27 NKJV
24 Then Jesus said to His disciples, “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me. 25 For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it. 26 For what profit is it to a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul? 27 For the Son of Man will come in the glory of His Father with His angels, and then He will reward each according to his works.
Jesus tells us very directly here that if we want to follow after Him, we need to deny ourselves and pick up our cross. We need to die to self
The cross is a picture of death. So by pickup up our cross, Jesus is calling us to crucify our old selfish and sinful nature.
Paul talks about that same thing in Romans 6, how we have done away with our sin by taking up our cross and dying to self
Toxic Lie #2 - You need to make sure you’re taken care of before you can ever take care of others - serving others is about making you happy/fulfilled
Philippians 2:3-8
Philippians 2:3–8 NKJV
3 Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself. 4 Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others. 5 Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus, 6 who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, 7 but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men. 8 And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross.
Point of clarification here again, this isn’t saying that you need to constantly give & give & give from a place of emptiness
You can’t forgo sleep or eating or exercise or taking care of yourself and expect to be of any help to others
If you don’t sleep or take care of yourself, you’ll be a grouch, and then in Sunday School you’re gonna snap at the kids, “I was up all night studying for YOU!”
Vs. 4 tells us that we are going (and should) look out for our own interests
But what can happen too often is us prioritizing me time over others.
We can be upset when that person time is taken up by someone else.
My wife and I have been reading Spiritual Leadership by J. Oswald Sanders and in one of the chapters in that book, he talks about looking at interruptions in our schedules as opportunities, not getting angry that you can’t get done what you want to get done or that your time has been disturbed. It was very convicting to read.
You look at the life of Jesus, and He did take time to get away, but when the crowds came to Him, He never complained that He didn’t get enough sleep or didn’t get to do what He wanted, or it was inconvenient, He always looked on them with compassion and then served the people.
We can’t think that we have to only serve from a place of fulness. How could we ever gauge when we’re full enough to finally serve? We can serve from weakness, and that’s where we rely upon God’s Holy Spirit to give us help.
Sometimes we try to serve to in order to make us happy/fulfilled
We approach this from the position of knowing we should serve, but it’s all about what you get out of it
Yes, serving others will bring you joy, but that’s not the main reason we should do it
We should be motivated out of love for others & love for our Savior
Just like Philippians tells us, look for opportunities to serve, and not just for your own benefit. Consider others greater than us.
It’s not Me, then God, then others
Not even God, my life, then others
It’s God, others, me
Toxic Lie #3 - You are enough
This is the lie that if you try hard enough, if you do all the right things, you can stand before God in your own righteousness
So we struggle and strive to pull it all together, to act like we’ve got things figured out, to try and put on a show that life is good and I’m serving the Lord
But we can feel like such failures because we know we don’t measure up. We know we’re messing up and that other person in our life seems to always have it figured out and we just don’t compare to them
Yet the world, and even Christianity tells us that you can do it! You can get there. It’s a lot of self work and self focus and self determination, but you possess what’s needed to measure up.
Ephesians 2:4-5
Ephesians 2:4–5 NKJV
4 But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, 5 even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved),
We are morally bankrupt - spiritually dead w/o God
But God!
Through His power, His mercy, His grace, His work, made us alive
We aren’t enough! We can’t add one thing to His grace!
Yet b/c of His love, and His greatness, He saves us
We are nothing. We are not enough. But God is everything
And God doesn’t expect us to be enough! - expand on this one
Toxic Lie #4 - You have to live your best life to be happy
This is the lie of social media - you only post the good and/or your posts are only about propping yourself up for others to see
You only see the good on social media - the happy vacation pic, the smiling kids, the top of the mountain
We don’t ever post the picture of the kids crying, or the busted knee on the way to the top
I’ve been slowly checking off my list of 14ers that I’ve been climbing
And I’ll admit, that frequently has been a source of my Instagram posts - look at me and this big mountain I climbed! Look at how many I have now!
But the last 14er I did, there was no way I was going to post on social media
Hit a deer on the way to the TH
Zip tied the bumper to make it there
Big headache
Bloody nose for half of the time above timberline
Body hated me
On the way home, had to stop 3 times to re-zip tie the bumper, eventually ripped a big piece of it off so it didn’t rub the tire
I’m not saying to post the bad, but we get this idea that if we can have this picture of a life that is put together, everyone will think life is good
You could be breaking on the inside
You could be jealous of what that other person posted and how perfect their life seems
You could live life pursing the Instagrammable moments - the vacation, the toys, the stuff, the perfect, smiling, happy family but be miserable in your constant pursuit
And it wears us out
Instead, we should come to God as broken vessels, letting Him transform us into the image of His son
2 Corinthians 3:5
2 Corinthians 3:5 NKJV
5 Not that we are sufficient of ourselves to think of anything as being from ourselves, but our sufficiency is from God,
2 Corinthians 3:18
2 Corinthians 3:18 NKJV
18 But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as by the Spirit of the Lord.
Toxic Lie #5 - It is healthy/necessary to have high self-esteem
1 Corinthians 1:26-31
1 Corinthians 1:26–31 NKJV
26 For you see your calling, brethren, that not many wise according to the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called. 27 But God has chosen the foolish things of the world to put to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to put to shame the things which are mighty; 28 and the base things of the world and the things which are despised God has chosen, and the things which are not, to bring to nothing the things that are, 29 that no flesh should glory in His presence. 30 But of Him you are in Christ Jesus, who became for us wisdom from God—and righteousness and sanctification and redemption—31 that, as it is written, “He who glories, let him glory in the Lord.”
The biblical viewpoint here isn’t to walk around in self-loathing
But it’s to realize our true worth before God - which is nothing!
BUT, God has chosen us, broken vessels, to do His work, and we should rejoice in that
What’s crazy is He has chosen us b/c He loves us so much!
And b/c of that, we shouldn’t boast in ourselves, but boast in the Lord
Anything that we do for Him, is solely b/c of Him and b/c of His amazing love for us
Instead of walking around thinking highly of yourself, walk around thinking highly of your God who you serve, and be amazed and in awe that you get to serve Him
So these are 5 lies that I see the world preaching at us about the importance of self above all else.
Now, I want to flip the script and cover 5 truths the Bible tells us about ourselves
We’ve seen the lies, let’s see what God says about us
Glorious Truth #1 - You are loved by your Maker
1 John 3:1a
1 John 3:1 NKJV
1 Behold what manner of love the Father has bestowed on us, that we should be called children of God! Therefore the world does not know us, because it did not know Him.
“Behold” = to look or study intently
Glorious Truth #2 - You have been created with a purpose that God has chosen you for
Psalm 139:13-14
Psalm 139:13–14 NKJV
13 For You formed my inward parts; You covered me in my mother’s womb. 14 I will praise You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made; Marvelous are Your works, And that my soul knows very well.
Ephesians 1:3-5
Ephesians 1:3–5 NKJV
3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ, 4 just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love, 5 having predestined us to adoption as sons by Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the good pleasure of His will,
Glorious Truth #3 - Your sins have been washed away and you stand before God justified
Colossians 1:13-14
Colossians 1:13–14 NKJV
13 He has delivered us from the power of darkness and conveyed us into the kingdom of the Son of His love, 14 in whom we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins.
Romans 5:1
Romans 5:1 NKJV
1 Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ,
Glorious Truth #4 - God can transform our weaknesses and brokenness into something glorious
2 Corinthians 12:8-10
2 Corinthians 12:8–10 NKJV
8 Concerning this thing I pleaded with the Lord three times that it might depart from me. 9 And He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. 10 Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in needs, in persecutions, in distresses, for Christ’s sake. For when I am weak, then I am strong.
Glorious Truth #5 - You are enough
Ephesians 2:4-10
Ephesians 2:4–10 NKJV
4 But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, 5 even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), 6 and raised us up together, and made us sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, 7 that in the ages to come He might show the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. 8 For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, 9 not of works, lest anyone should boast. 10 For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.
So where do we go from here?
Matthew 10:38-39
Matthew 10:38–39 NKJV
38 And he who does not take his cross and follow after Me is not worthy of Me. 39 He who finds his life will lose it, and he who loses his life for My sake will find it.
True life is found in losing it
Not in trying to find life or worth in self
Not in prioritizing self, not in an elevated view of self, not in even trying to find our righteousness in ourselves
But it’s in realizing that we all are sinful creatures who cannot meet God’s standards
But He came to save us! He died for us, He gives us His mercy, His hands out grace. He loves us with an unconditional love that is based on His greatness, not on ours
And when we see all that, when we have a right view of self, and when we choose to put to death our self (take up our cross) and go follow after Jesus, that’s where true life is
It’s not, “What do I want?” in this world, it’s “What does He want for me?”
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