January 16, 2024
SELF-CENTEREDNESS VS. AGAPE LOVE
If you weren’t here last week, we started a series on this subject - and I suggest that you go to my website and read it. We really delved into what self-centeredness really is and what Agape Love really is. We talked deeply about what God has put into our born again spirits and that we have in there all we need to walk the way God wants us to walk while we’re here on this earth. To be clear about this, all we have to do is read the Gospels and see how Jesus acted, talked, loved, and thought - and realize that He told His followers (that includes us) to do what He did. He was God here among mankind and He LOVED WITH AGAPE LOVE - THE GOD KIND OF LOVE. THERE WAS NO SELF-CENTEREDNESS IN HIM.
We also talked last week about the fact that the majority of Christians have been just taught doctrine but not taught ‘HOW TO DO IT’ - THEREFORE, THEY’RE WALKING IN SELF-CENTEREDNESS AND DO NOT KNOW IT. If somebody mentions it, they think, ‘Oh that’s not me,’ because it has just become a normal way of life in these days we’re living in.
So today, we’re going to talk about how to deal with this on a daily basis among family and close friends. I know that this is a very delicate subject - BUT it is a realm that is hindering a lot of Christians in their everyday lives and they don’t even know it. We’re going to tackle dealing with difficult relationships - and, of course, we are going to be digging into some Scriptures that a lot of Christians just kinda’ pass over quickly and do not ponder on them because they feel like they’re just for the super saints!
We’re going to start with this - Matthew 5:43-48 - Get ready! “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven; for He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. For if you love those who love you, what reward have you? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet your brethren only, what do you do more than others? Do not even the tax collectors do so? Therefore you shall be perfect, just as your Father in heaven is perfect.”
Now - family and close friend relationships are some of the most difficult to walk the walk in! I know that many of us have experienced situations with people close to us that have been horrible - and yet - as we just read in the WORD, we are to be perfect, just like the FATHER. Brothers and sisters, we can’t do that in our own soul strength, by trying and trying and trying. It has to come from our NEW BORN AGAIN SPIRITS. The most perfect example in the Word of God is Jesus, hanging on that cross in agony and saying, “Father, forgive them, they don’t know what they’re doing.”
Now - this is what God wants us to understand - He wants us to know how to really, really, really handle it when people treat us badly, hurt us deeply, and speak terribly to us and about us. Now - get this - HE ISN’T SAYING THAT IT IS OKAY FOR PEOPLE TO MISTREAT US, SPEAK TERRIBLY TO US AND ABOUT US, AND DO THINGS THAT ARE EXTREMELY HURTFUL TO US!
He wants us to be so in tune with Him that, when something like that occurs, WE ARE TO TREAT THEM THE WAY GOD TREATS US - AND HE HAS PUT THE POWER TO DO IT INSIDE OUR NEW SPIRITS. Now listen to this! When something like that happens, He wants us to see the person hurting us as the one who is need of GOD IN HIS OR HER LIFE, AND WHAT THIS IS DOING TO HIS OR HER LIFE. IT IS WRECKING THEIR LIVES. HE WANTS US TO CARE SO MUCH ABOUT THEM, AND WHAT IT IS DOING TO THEM, THAT THAT IS MORE IMPORTANT THAN US. See, if we’re centered in on US, then we just want to shut them up and forget about them. BUT - if we’re living our lives from GOD’S POINT OF VIEW, like He wants us to - like Jesus did, here on this earth - then, our desire is to pray for them and do whatever we can to help them see the truth.
Now - am I saying that we just be quiet and not say a thing? NO I AM NOT! However, if the person is in an argument mode, sometimes it’s best to wait until the person has calmed down before saying anything. However, instead of centering in on how bad they hurt you, God wants us to center in on how this is ruining their lives. THAT IS WHAT GOD WANTS US TO DO - HE TOLD US TO BE PERFECT AND THE ONLY WAY WE CAN DO THAT IS TO LOOK AT LIFE AND PEOPLE THE WAY GOD DOES.
I believe that the Lord wants us to let all those who are close to us to know the way we look at life. Isn’t that what Jesus did. I’ve been reading the Gospel of John this week, and pondering on the way Jesus handled everything. He didn’t just be quiet and not tell people what they needed to hear. No matter what was going on, He spoke the truth. A lot of the people didn’t get it right away - but it finally got through to them. We have to be willing to SPEAK THE TRUTH IN LOVE - NO MATTER WHAT!!!!!!!
Now, in John 3, the Lord had an encounter with Nicodemus, who was a ruler of the Jews - a Pharisee - and they had quite a conversation. I’m just going to read 3 verses - John 3:16-19 - “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved. He who believes in Him is not condemned, but he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.”
I suggest you read that whole chapter - John 3. This is a Pharisee who Jesus is talking to - and Jesus sees him not as an enemy (like all the Pharisees were) but He saw him as a person in need of the truth. We need to see people the way Jesus saw people when He was here on the earth in a physical body. He has given us that ability in our new spirit - that’s why we’re called, “NEW CREATIONS.”
If we begin to walk the walk, depending on what is available to us in our new spirits (which we talked about last week), then we will not be constantly living in self-centeredness. IT’S A WHOLE NEW WAY OF LIFE - AND AVAILABLE TO EVERY ONE OF US.
Now I’m going to read another portion of Scripture - it’s pretty lengthy but it goes into this that we’re talking about - the ability to live the Christian life out of our new spirits, rather than just the way we always did before we were born again.
Ephesians 4: 17- 32 - “This I say, therefore, and testify in the Lord, that you should no longer walk as the rest of the Gentiles walk, in the futility of their mind, Having their understanding darkened, being alienated from the life of God, because of the ignorance that is in them, because of the blindness of their heart, who being past feeling, have given themselves over to lewdness, to work all uncleanness with greediness. But you have not so learned Christ, if indeed you have heard Him and have been taught by Him, as the truth is in Jesus: that you put off, concerning your former conduct, the old man which grows corrupt according to the deceitful lusts, and be renewed in the spirit of your mind, and that you put on the new man which was created according to God, in true righteousness and holiness. Therefore, putting away lying, let each of you speak truth with his neighbor, for we are members of one another. Be angry and do not sin: do not let the sun go down on your wrath, nor give place to the devil. Let him who stole, steal no longer, but rather him labor, working with his hands what is good that he may have something to give him who has need. Let no corrupt word proceed out of your mouth, but what is good for necessary edification, that it may impart grace to the hearers. And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Let all bitterness, wrath, anger, clamor, and evil speaking be put away from you, with all malice. And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave you.”
Now, the Lord had me read this portion of Scripture because it makes it quite clear THAT ALL THE STUFF FROM THE LIFE OF THE OLD US HAS TO BE FORGOTTEN AND PUT BEHIND US BECAUSE WE ARE NOW NEW CREATIONS.
Therefore, it is God’s will that we really do walk in the New Creation that we are. Therefore, when family or friends treat us badly in any way, we can handle it exactly the same way that Jesus did, when He was here on the earth. He saw them the way the Father sees them - as people who need to have a relationship with God. Even though He didn’t agree with them, He forgave them. He also spoke truth to them. He told them the truth. WE HAVE TO SEE THEM THE WAY GOD SEES THEM AND LOVE THEM WITH GOD’S KIND OF LOVE - AGAPE, AND, BECAUSE WE LOVE THEM, WE WANT THEM TO HAVE A RELATIONSHIP WITH THE LORD.
People do not get born again unless they HEAR THE TRUTH. SOMEBODY HAS TO TELL THEM - IT MIGHT BE YOU! That is the way of thinking that keeps you from being self-centered!
Now there’s one other thing I want to mention in this portion of Scripture. Remember back there a couple of minutes ago when I was reading those last verses, it said, “Be angry and do not sin.” Now - I want to remind you of a story that we have all read. It’s John 2:14-17 - “And He found in the temple those who sold oxen and sheep and doves and the money changers doing business. When He had made a whip of cords, He drove them all out of the temple, with the sheep and the oxen, and poured out the changers’ money and overturned the tables. And He said to those who sold doves, ‘Take these things away! Do not make My Father’s house a house of merchandise!’ Then His disciples remembered that it was written, “Zeal for Your house has eaten Me up.” (By the way, that’s a quote from Psalm 69:9.)
Jesus was ANGRY but He was not SINNING! He was angry because this precious house (temple), which had been built, and had cost so much money, and had taken so long to build, and was there for the people to come and repent of their sins, and be reminded of who GOD was and what He was doing for them as they repented - had now become like a store to buy stuff. He was angry at the way this was all affecting the people’s attitude concerning the HOLINESS OF GOD.
This is a perfect example of anger which is not sinful. We can be angry at the way the world has taken away so much the honor there used to be for the Lord. However, Zeal for honor for the Lord God Almighty, Creator of Heaven and Earth should be motivating us to pray for there to be breakthrough, bringing in revival all over the world.
When it comes to our family and friends, you may hate what awful stuff is wrecking the lives of your loved ones, but be so in tune with the Lord that you know what to say at the right time which will cause them to want what you have in your life - a relationship with the Almighty. That’s leaving ‘self-centeredness’ in the past!!!
Now I know that family and friend relationships are very unique. That’s because we are all unique people here on this earth. We all have our own individual personalities, our backgrounds, our parents, our good stuff and our bad stuff. Some people (like me) had a wonderful childhood with wonderful parents who loved one another. Others of us have had a very difficult childhood, hearing yelling and screaming going on between our parents, some have had their parents divorce one another and had several re-marriages take place, and others of us have been through several marriages ourselves. Others of us have had really loving marriages and have experienced the loss of a mate. Most of us have had children - some have not.
The reason I bring all this up is that WE ARE ALL DIFFERENT. Life has been different for all of us - so there isn’t a “one size fits all” when it comes to our past lives. BUT ONE OF THE MOST MARVELOUS THINGS ABOUT BEING A NEW CREATION IS THAT, NO MATTER WHAT HAPPENED IN THE PAST, OUR FATHER GOD HAS PLACED IN OUR NEW SPIRIT THE POWER TO OVERCOME ANYTHING.
Now listen to these four verses from Galatians 5: 13-16 - “For you, brethren, have been called to liberty, only do not use liberty as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. For all the law is fulfilled in one word, even in this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ But if you bite and devour one another, beware lest you be consumed by one another. I say then: Walk in the Spirit, and you shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh.”
This gives a pretty good picture of the fact that fussing with one another in all the ways that happens - with bad words, with bad attitudes, hateful words and actions - all kinds of ways that arguing takes place - is not doing any good in any way and only produces more problems.
I’m going to say something here that the Lord has directed me to say. When this kind of arguing comes up, it is far better to not say anything until the other person calms down. It is better to smile, and when you are smiling, think, “I love this person with the God-kind of love.” Then, when it’s calmed down, tell the person, in your own words, that you don’t want to argue with them - that you would like to have a conversation with them - and be (on the inside of you) placing your attention on the Lord and trusting Him to show you what to say. Keep one thing in mind - God loves this person and He may want to use you for this person to get a good understanding of who God really is.
Each situation is different - there isn’t a ‘one-size-fits-all’ way of handling it - but, if there are situations that you know could possibly come up, it would be good to be spending some time ahead of time with the Lord and be asking Him to help you with what to say.
God is so good, kind, helpful, and caring - and He loves it when we, His children, pray in advance about things before they even come up. He loves to prepare us ahead of time.
Now - I want to deal with something here that can be very confusing for Christians - and that is how to really walk in humility. I’m going to read a portion of Scripture and, and I’m going to read it slow. Think about what true humility really is. It’s Philippians 2:1-8 - “Therefore if there is any consolation in Christ, if any comfort of love, if any fellowship of the Spirit, if any affection and mercy, fulfill my joy by being like-minded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind. Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself. Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others. Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus, who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bond servant, and coming in the likeness of men. 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.”
Now - think about this for a minute! The One who created the Heaven and the Earth, and everything on the Earth (including mankind) - that same part of the GODHEAD, took on being born as a little baby - in a physical body - growing up as a little child - and then a teenager - and then on into an adult body - living as a man here on this earth, yet without sin - so that He could take into His being, the sins of the entire world and pay a price that the rest of humanity could not pay. Can you imagine? Him, who knew no sin, living a humble life for 33 years as a human being, because He loved mankind so much - and man could not redeem himself! You talk about humility!!!!! JESUS IS THE ONLY ONE WHO COULD PAY THE PRICE FOR US - WE COULDN’T PAY IT FOR OURSELVES - AND HE LIVED HERE ON THIS EARTH FOR 33 YEARS IN A HUMILITY LIKE NO OTHER PERSON EVER IN THE WORLD!!!
We can rejoice in what He has done for us. And, brothers and sisters, He is the example set before us of what true humility is. We can look at the the world around us - including the ones in our families, and the friends that we have known and become close to - and see them the way God sees them. He has given that ability to us in our new born-again spirits. If Jesus walked on this earth in humility, so can we. We can see ourselves, walking through our time here on this earth, just like our Savior did - in humility - and yet, at the same time, with all the power and love in us that was in Jesus. He has given it to us. We don’t have anything to strut over - He did it all!
Therefore, when we think about what Jesus did for us, and the way He lived on the earth - and we look at the people around us, we have to learn to look at them the way Jesus saw the people around Him (even when they were killing Him) - AND WE HAVE THE ABILITY, FROM OUR SPIRIT, TO LOVE THEM WITH THE SAME LOVE THAT JESUS LOVED WITH (AGAPE)!
Therefore, self-centeredness really does become a thing from our past life (before we were born again).You know what happens? The more we think like that, the more we find it just our way of life - and we begin to find it just a normal way of life for us.
There’s one more thing I want us to think about. Jesus was born into a FAMILY. He was the firstborn with a miraculous conception. Then there were other children born. We know the names of some half-brothers (James and Jude) and there were some sisters, it is believed. As we read the Gospels, it appears that James and Jude struggled to believe that He was really the Son of God. Now, we might think we have trouble getting through to some of the members of our families - but Jesus knows exactly what that’s like. It is believed that it wasn’t until His resurrection that the brothers actually believed that He truly was the Son of God. His half-brother, James, ended up leading the church in Jerusalem and and writing the book of James. It is believed by many Bible theologians that the ‘Jude’ who wrote the book of Jude in the New Testament was the Lord’s half-brother.
My reason for bringing this up is that the Son of God, our Savior and Lord, really does understand that it is not easy when the ones closest to you here on the earth are some of the hardest people to receive TRUTH from you. But - that doesn’t mean that you just give up on them. He wants us to keep them in our prayers, praying that the “eyes of their understanding will be enlightened,” as it talks about in Ephesians 1. He also wants us to be ready to operate in AGAPE LOVE toward them and be ready to share with them at any time what we have learned in our relationship with the Lord. The only way we can have that kind of attitude when we are around them IS TO NOT THINK CONSTANTLY FROM A SELF-CENTERED WAY OF THINKING (ABOUT ME - ME - ME) AND, INSTEAD, THINK FROM AGAPE LOVE WHICH IS THERE INSIDE YOU IN YOUR NEW SPIRIT - HOW MUCH GOD LOVES THEM AND YOU.
Brothers and sisters, I know that these things that I have been talking about and the Scriptures that I have been reading are delicate areas of our lives - but the Lord wants us all to really get ahold of ALL THE TRUTH in the Word of God - not just about how to get saved. Here’s the basic way I think we should all look at this. The Creator of the Universe, Our Father, loved us so much that He (the Trinity - or the Triune Godhead) went through Jesus taking all the sin of the entire world into His being to pay a price that no one else could pay - so that we could accept what He did and have a NEW LIFE! He has told us in His Word, in all kinds of ways, the way He wants to live through us and use us - and He has provided for us by putting the same power in our born-again spirits that was in the Savior as He walked on this earth. So - He said for us to be perfect - for us to love one another - for us to love Him like He loves us - and to love others like we love ourselves. He wants us to be so in tune with Him, that we can live like He lived on this earth - WALKING THROUGH THIS LIFE - NO MATTER WHAT HAPPENS - IN HIS AGAPE LOVE.
IT MAY SOUND IMPOSSIBLE - BUT GOD SAID TO DO IT - SO IT’S POSSIBLE!!!!!!!!!!
Scriptures for this lesson