Selfishness: The Road To Neglect And Deterioration

Selfishness can affect any aspect of your life. Your family is often first to pay the consequences of selfishness. You spend your time and/or money doing what you want, when you want it, and how you want it. You become so absorbed in your own schemes or problems, that you neglect your family. Then you wonder why family relationships are deteriorating.

Selfishness can affect your church family, too. Like when doing things to please yourself takes priority over doing things that please God. Or when buying creature comforts and status symbols for yourself is more important to you than giving to support the Lord's work.

The results of a selfish church are just as devastating as the results of a selfish home. A church building can suffer from neglect and deterioration, as can relationships and ministries within the church. And a congregation's attention may be so focused on its own problems and concerns, that it is oblivious to a world of people who need to be told about Christ.

How can you be a friend to a selfish person? If he feels that something is lacking in his life, a thoughtful gesture on your part may help him overcome this feeling. However, giving him more attention may not help, if he is already used to getting attention. He may need to look at the consequences of his selfishness. He may need to realize how he is neglecting and possibly even harming others.

"And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds." (Heb 10:24) If one of your friends never offers you any advice, is he a caring person because he accepts you as you are? Or is he just too busy trying to improve his own situation to be concerned with offering advice to improve yours? Perhaps another friend of yours who provokes you with his constructive criticism is actually the friend who has your best interests at heart. Perhaps your unselfish friend is the one who tries to stimulate your interest in love and good deeds.

As a person becomes more selfish, he becomes more adept at identifying his needs. (He sets goals.) He becomes more adept at identifying the steps necessary to meet his needs. (He takes action.) He becomes more stubborn about getting his own way. (He becomes more determined to reach his goals.) And he learns how to manipulate (or motivate) others into contributing their time and effort to meet his needs.

God isn't going to throw away all of that training. But God is going to change how a selfish person uses that training. God still wants him to motivate people. But he should motivate others to contribute their time and effort to support the Lord's work, not his selfish desires and ambitions. God still wants him to set goals, to take action, and to be determined. But he should set goals that benefit others, too, not just himself. And a selfish person is already trained to be a caring, sensitive person. But he should care about someone besides himself! (Php 2:1-5)

Pray about your sins, whatever they may be. When you surrender your life to Jesus, you become a new creation in Christ. (2 Cor 5:17) Although your old, sinful self passes away, your old training still remains. The Holy Spirit reinforces any beneficial training you have already received, and counteracts any harmful training. And the Holy Spirit gives us spiritual gifts; it is God's power working in us (not our own abilities or efforts) that accomplishes the Lord's work. Study the Bible to learn more "training tips".

It is God's will that we find our place in the body of Christ (identify and use our spiritual gifts) when we become Christians (become more like Christ by adopting His lifestyle). (1 Cor 12, Rom 12) We become more like Christ as we give up our dysfunctional, sinful ways, day by day. (Gal 5:16ff) The more we give up our sin (by giving God more control of our lives), the more God redefines and remolds our lives into something more productive and more holy.

Some people think God's love should instantly transform them, giving them new personalities. Christ's death on the cross and His resurrection do (and will) have transforming power. But it is God's constant love and our ongoing victory over sin that make the difference in our personalities.

Everyone needs Christ's transforming power. But how do we get people to come to our church so they can discover this life-changing power for themselves? We have to invite them. How do we get those same people to keep coming back? We have to make it worth their while. We have to fill some need in their lives. And if we want to fill their needs, we must place their needs above our own. What does our church have to offer that many other "churches" do not? We teach the Bible. We offer the Word of God, not the word of man. And we are a body of believers that cares very much about other people. What more could we do?

Since we are a church that teaches the Bible, what does the Bible say about this? Over and over again, the Bible is very clear on what we must do when we need help or guidance. We must pray. I know more people pray today (and more faithfully, too) than did a couple years ago. And what often accompanies prayer in the Bible? Fasting. (Ezra 8:21-23)

We cannot be selfish. We must be willing to sacrifice something to reach any goal. What are you willing to sacrifice to reach the goal of church growth? Are you willing to give up some food? Are you willing to give up some time to pray? And are you willing to give up enough control of your life to act on how God answers your prayers? (If you have any medical conditions, consult your physician before fasting. If you cannot give up food, find something else to sacrifice.)

As you fast, study the Bible, open your heart, and the Holy Spirit will lead you to God's will. Hunger is a great reminder of our dependency on God. We need God to sustain us both physically and spiritually. And hunger is also a great reminder to pray. Each time your stomach growls, you will be reminded to ask God whom you can invite to church. Each time your stomach growls, you will be reminded to ask God what you can do to meet the needs of others, while showing them that you, this congregation, and God all care about them.

When you are fasting you may be tempted to go to the cupboard and eat something to fill that void in your stomach. Think about those people who have no Saviour. They have nothing to fill that void in their souls, for they have no spiritual cupboard. Unless you feel like sharing, and are willing to lead them to your spiritual cupboard: Jesus.

When we serve ourselves, our success and happiness seem far too transient. But when we serve God and others, the Lord uses our love and good deeds to bring lasting results in the lives of others, bringing them (and us) true joy. That says a lot about whom God expects us to serve!

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