Sermon Illustration: Self-Inflicted

“Ironically, the more obsessed we are with our selves, the more we neglect our souls. All of our language reflects this. If you’re empty, you need to fulfill yourself. If you’re stressed, learn how to take care of yourself. If you’re on a job interview, you have to believe in yourself. If you’re at the tattoo parlor, you must learn to express yourself. If someone dares to criticize you, you have to love yourself. If you’re not getting your own way, you have to stand up for yourself. What should you do on a date? You ought to be yourself.” Excerpt From: John Ortberg. “Soul Keeping.”

And he died for all, that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised. 2 Corinthians 5:15

Much has been made about the way Baby Boomers and GenX-ers have been raising the millennial generation to focus on self-esteem. There’s a reason those who were born between 1982 and 2002 are sometimes referred to as the “everyone-gets-a-trophy” generation.

Even a publication as a-moral (or at least counter-Christian) as Psychology Today recently asked: “Why is Narcissism Increasing Among Young Americans?” lamenting the deepening love affair with the self.

But before we go pointing figures at the young folk, we should keep in mind that a distorted view of self is symptomatic of living in 2015 for all of us, potentially, especially in a culture of independent rugged individualism being taken to its natural extreme. The Me Generation on steroids. (Let’s also remember who raised these millennials.)

But mark this: There will be terrible times in the last days. People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy. 2 Timothy 3:1-2

Perhaps the most important question for Christian leaders is – how do we model Biblical selflessness and help those Christ loves?

The John Newton hymn, “I Asked the Lord” – may give us clues as to how the Lord intends to free us.

I asked the Lord that I might grow
In faith and love and every grace,

Might more of His salvation know
And seek more earnestly His face.

Twas He who taught me thus to pray
And Thee I trust has answered prayer,
But it has been in such a way
As almost drove me to despair.

I hoped that in some favored hour
At once He’d answer my request,

And by His love’s constraining power
Subdue my sins and give me rest.

Instead of this He made me feel
The hidden evils of my heart,
And let the angry powers of Hell
Assault my soul in every part.

Yea more with His own hand
He seemed Intent to aggravate my woe,

Crossed all the fair designs I schemed,
Cast out my feelings, laid me low.

Lord, why is this, I trembling cried,
Wilt Thou pursue Thy worm to death?
“Tis in this way,” the Lord replied,
“I answer prayer for grace and faith.”

“These inward trials I employ
From self and pride to set thee free;
And break thy schemes of earthly joy
That thou mayest seek thy all in Me.”

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