January 23, 2024
SELF-CENTEREDNESS VS. AGAPE LOVE
We’re still on the same topic today but we’re going to look at it in a bit of a different way because it is really a very individual thing. Because it is so uniquely different for each one of us, we need to see some things regarding this subject. I’ve mentioned our uniqueness in our last two sessions, but we’re going to see how this whole thing works, when we are born again. As a NEW CREATION, the Lord wants us to walk freely and victoriously really as a NEW CREATION. Therefore, we’re going to talk about HOW TO REALLY SEE OURSELVES AS TRULY A NEW CREATION.
I’m going to share some things from my own life to use as an example for us to grab ahold of these truths. So - here goes!!!
I was born in 1937. When I was 18 months old, I had a terribly high fever. My parents took me to the hospital but the doctors couldn’t find exactly what it was. In a few days, the fever was gone - BUT - my left eye was crossed - all the way over. Along with that, there was only a little sight in that eye - I could see a little, but not clearly. By the time I was 3 years old, my parents took me to an eye doctor because my vision in the right eye seemed affected some also - not as bad as the left - but some. So - at 3 years old, I had to start wearing thick glasses. Oh how I hated those glasses - but I had to wear them to be able to see well. The glasses didn’t have an effect on my left eye - only my right eye. NOW - at that point in my life, my view of myself was not good. I felt like I was ugly, and that I looked weird.
My parents were very loving and they didn’t change the way they talked to and treated me - but the little kids my age in my neighborhood began to make fun of my left eye. Now, they were just little kids under 5 years old and they just didn’t know any better. I have a picture in my photo albums of a bunch of us sitting at little tables for a birthday party - and one of the little boys was using his hands up around his eyes to make his look like mine. It was so embarrassing to me. I felt so ugly and weird. That’s when I began to develop a deeply felt attitude of an INTROVERT. I didn’t want people to look at me (except for my family - my parents, my grandparents, and my aunts and uncles - I felt OK with them - but not with anyone else.
By the time I started kindergarten at 5 years old, I had developed my habit patterns of life. “Don’t do anything to make people look at you!!!!!!!” Now, since I was the same as I had always been around my family, they really didn’t understand how deeply my life had changed out around others. I would do anything to keep from having to be looked at.
In school, I did pretty good with my grades. I studied and learned and passed tests, but I definitely wanted to stay in the background. I went through the next years of school, pretty well. I had a few friends but not a lot. I had the girls and boys, who lived in my neighborhood, that I had grown up around and a few, here and there, in my classes. My personal attitude was, “Don’t do anything or say anything to draw attention to yourself.” If it looked like I was being given attention, with people looking at me, I tried to end the situation as quickly as possible. I WAS DEFINITELY AN INTROVERT.
Now - I want to tell you a little story, which will help things be better understood. When I was about 11 or 12, a couple of my girlfriends from my neighborhood wanted to go to the Jewish Community Center to take swimming lessons, so I got my parents’ permission and decided to go with them. We rode in a ‘streetcar’ to get there - this was in the late 40’s. So - we went! We all went to the girls’ room to change to our swimming suits and, of course, I left my glasses there with my clothes. We went to the swimming pool, and the teacher (who was already in the pool) had us all line up - looking at her. She started talking and, in just a little bit, she shouted, “Look at me!” We all were. A minute or so after that, she shouted louder, and said, “I said look at me!” I could tell she was looking directly at me. And then I got it. From where she was standing, she could see my left eye looking like it was looking in another direction. I kinda’ tried to turn my head a bit. I was absolutely devastated and embarrassed. I whispered to my friend beside me and said, “I’m going to the library - I’ll meet you there after the class.” I walked over to the steps and went up them and walked away from the pool to the dressing room. I put my clothes on and went to the library. When my friends got through with the class, they met me and I told them that I didn’t want them to tell anyone about what just happened. I told them I was going to keep coming, but I wasn’t telling my folks about what happened and I didn’t want them to tell anybody. I told them I would keep coming with them but I would go to the library. They promised they wouldn’t tell.
You talk about being an introvert!!!! I was one to the nth degree. I never told my parents all through the years - I finally told them about it when I was an adult, married and with children. They were absolutely shocked and they felt so bad about it.
NOW ---- When I was 13 years old, one Sunday in our Baptist Church, an evangelist was preaching and I was sitting with my Sunday School teacher and 3 or 4 of the other girls from the class. My heart had been greatly stirred as the man preached and I wanted to accept Jesus as my Savior, but I was so afraid to go up there in front of all those people who would see me. My teacher said she would go with us if we wanted her to. So, we went up there. I was so scared - but I did it! I GOT SAVED - I GOT BORN AGAIN! BUT NOW I HAD TO FACE SOMETHING ELSE. I HAD TO GET BAPTIZED! That was the next Sunday evening.
I was terrified of having my head put under the water. All week I prayed and prayed and prayed. I would go to my bedroom, get on my bed, and pray. I told the Lord that I was afraid but, I had read in His Word, that when people accepted the Lord, they had to make it public that they belonged to Jesus - and get baptized! I told the Lord that, even though I was scared, I was going to do it - because He said to.
The next Sunday evening, as we drove to the church, I remember, going to the room for girls to put on the baptismal robes and getting in line - there were lots of people being baptized. As I stood in that line, my knees were shaking so bad that they were knocking against one another - and I just couldn’t make them stop. The service started, and the baptisms started. Even the ones in front of me and behind me could hear my knees knocking against one another.
Then, it was time for me to go down in the water. My thinking was, “I told the Lord I would do this - I can’t lie to God - I will do this, even if it kills me.” As I was half way down the steps, Dr. Edwards, my pastor, took ahold of my hand to help me down - AND ALL THE SHAKING STOPPED!!!!! He helped me turn around, and we spoke the words - and then he moved me backwards, with my head going under the water and then brought me back up - AND I WAS STILL ALIVE!!!!!!!
It was the first and most miraculous thing in my life. My knees never shook again and still never have. That was the beginning in my life of me beginning to SEE MYSELF AS A NEW CREATION.
Now - I want to read this verse - 2 Corinthians 5:17 - “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold all things have become new.” Now it may seem weird to think of a 13 year old getting ahold of this truth - BUT it really is true that it was the beginning of me learning how to see myself differently than ever before. IT WAS ONLY THE BEGINNING!!!
This was what was going on inside of me! “I’m really, really, really in the family of God now - He really does love me and listens to me and wants to help me. I don’t look different - but God sees me inside and He knows me better than anyone. He listens to my prayers and THE HEAD OF THE UNIVERSE REALLY, REALLY CARES ABOUT ME AND WANTS TO HELP ME!!!!! Now - remember, I was only 13 years old and I really hadn’t been taught about becoming a New Creation. Getting saved in the Baptist church primarily was about getting to go to Heaven instead of Hell.
Brothers and sisters, at only 13 years old, I began to see myself different - but it wasn’t something I had been taught. I was learning it a little bit at a time. This is essentially what I was learning - When you get born again, you’re all new on the inside - the part of you that you cannot see - I knew nothing about spirit and soul! BUT - every night - from the Sunday I received Jesus as my Savior to the Sunday I was going to be baptized - I spent time in my bedroom, talking to the King of the World (that’s the way I viewed Him) and He had listened to me, and loved me so much that He had answered my prayers and miraculously taken the shaking and trembling and knocking away from my body!!!! Therefore, I had a NEW BEST FRIEND IN MY LIFE - WHO HAPPENS TO BE THE KING OF THE UNIVERSE! As I pondered on these things in my mind, (at 13) I knew that something had changed on the inside of me and I had to learn to see myself different than ever before.
Listen to this - It’s Colossians 3:9-10 - “Do not lie to one another, since you have put off the old man with his deeds, and have put on the new man, who is renewed in knowledge according to the image of Him who created him.” Man Oh Man - that’s what I was doing! I was PUTTING ON THE NEW MAN! Now I didn’t understand all this in detail then - in my 13 year old brain - and I hadn’t been taught this - but that is exactly what I was doing. Now, this is what I was thinking and talking outloud to myself, “Gloria, you just have to surrender to the Lord - like those guys in the Army have to do - only they are surrendering to other human beings who don’t care about them and it’s their only way to stay alive. You just have to surrender your ways over to the King of the Universe, who loves you, and He’ll work it all out for you and wants what’s best for you.” I would lay there on my bed and remember how I had prayed all week between salvation and baptism and how God had miraculously removed that shaking from me! I didn’t know it, but I was PUTTING ON THE NEW MAN! I WAS SEEING MYSELF AS A NEW CREATION.
Now, I had another situation occur later on in that year. I was in Junior High, now and the classes were different. I was in a Speech class and didn’t have a choice - I had to take it. I was really afraid - in my flesh. Then, one day, we were handed our speech assignments. We each had to give a speech in front of everyone. Boy oh Boy - I was a nervous wreck - but I HAD LEARNED TO PRAY AND GIVE THINGS OVER TO GOD! So I did - night after night after night! It was a couple of weeks before I had to give a speech and I still didn’t know what I was going to do. My Daddy took me to the library every two weeks and I would take back the books from the last two weeks and select other books to read. As I was in the Library, looking and looking, I ran across a very unusual book that had speeches in it which had been given in various types of subjects and ways.
I ran across a speech given by a very old lady to a bunch of other old ladies. I read it - and, as I did, I thought, “I could act like I was a really old lady and make my voice sound like that. That might make me feel funny, instead of scared, and the kids would probably think it was funny. So I checked out that book and prepared for the next two weeks.
When I got up to speak, I wasn’t shaking, or anything. I just said, with my natural voice, “This is a speech given by a very old lady.” Then I said, “Hello Ladies. How are all of you today. It’s good to see everyone of you. I want to talk to you about………..” I talked a little while longer reading the notes of the speech, in that voice, and then said, “Well, that’s all for today. I hope you’re all okay.” I closed my notebook, and, as I did, all the kids were laughing and clapping and I was just in awe!!! I got an A!!!!!!! I could hardly believe it - no shaking - no nervousness - and got an A!! I had started my learning on “How to See Myself as a New Creation.”
Now, I hadn’t been taught any of this in church - I was just learning it from my spending time with the Lord, and also reading His Word. I read Scriptures in the Bible that talked about us being NEW, but I didn’t understand all of that at that point in life. Mostly, it was from God answering my prayers!!!!!! I began to think of Him as my Best Friend.
I’m telling you these stories because I learned a long time ago that people learn the easiest from the testimonies of other people. I think that’s one of the reasons that people are drawn to teachers like Andrew Wommack, because he shares the truth of the Word AND HOW IT WORKED IN HIS LIFE. I could probably tell you hundreds and hundreds of his stories. I’ve been learning from him since the late 70’s, before he was even on television.
Brothers and sisters, the moment we were born again, we were able to have a deep relationship with the LORD GOD ALMIGHTY - no matter how old you were, or where you went to church - or if you never used to go to church - no matter whether you had been taught concerning these things or not!!!!!
I want to read these verses from Ephesians 4: 20-24 - “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.”
I really believe that, in those years, when I was just a young teenager, that I really was BEING TAUGHT BY JESUS, as it says in that that I just read. By the way, when it says, “spirit of your mind,” it is referring to the “attitude of your mind.” That’s the way it is in many translations. You’ve heard the phrase, “team spirit;” It means “team attitude.”
Now - I’m going to share another experience with you.
I went through high school, graduated well, then went to college. It was Park College, in a little town close to Kansas City, named Parkville. I lived on campus in a dorm. I made new friends. During my second year of college, I began to really look into the whole surgical procedure stuff concerning my eye. In those days, people didn’t have medical insurance like we all do today. My family didn’t. During the Christmas break, I went searching for the right eye surgeon - of course, I prayed and prayed and prayed!!!
One day, I found him! This doctor (an eye surgeon), after looking at my eye, said to me, “It’s going to take two surgeries - one about 3-4 weeks after the first one. If you will promise me that you’ll get a job and pay me an amount every month, ‘til it’s paid off, I’ll do these two surgeries for you - and YOUR EYE WILL BE STRAIGHT!” Man oh Man - was this God or what???????? God was working everything out for me. I promised him!!! We made an agreement that I would finish my second year, and when school was done, we would have the surgeries!
SO WE DID!!!!!! AND FOR THE FIRST TIME IN MY LIFE, MY EYE WAS STRAIGHT WHEN I LOOKED IN THE MIRROR.
After recovering, I started looking for a job. I had taken shorthand in school, so I was looking to be a secretary. Immediately, I was hired and became an executive secretary to the vice president of Employers Reinsurance Corporation. This was ‘an insurance company for insurance companies’. It was a wonderful job that paid me well and I loved it!!! I paid off my medical debt to that wonderful eye surgeon pretty quickly.
I was really learning how to walk through life as a New Creation. Now, I didn’t do everything perfect - I made mistakes here and there - but, for the most part, the more I trusted the Lord, and talked to Him about everything, the more I saw myself as His Precious Child, and He would never forsake me.
One of my favorite verses is Hebrews 13:5 - It says, “Let your conduct be without covetousness; be content with such things as you have. For He Himself has said, ‘I will never leave you nor forsake you.” Then, of course, I have to read the next verse (verse 6) - “So we may boldly say: The Lord is my helper; I will not fear. What can man do to me?”
Then - I have to tell you this!!! Working at this job was the way I met my future husband. A lady-friend that I worked with had a husband who worked for TWA. That husband had a lady-friend he worked with who had a brother who was in the military and was home on leave. They decided they wanted to set us up on a blind date, if we would both agree to it. After praying about it, I said yes and so did he.
We went out to dinner together and came home and sat on our front porch in a swing, talking for hours and hours. The more we talked, the more we KNEW!!! He whispered to me, “I know this may sound weird - but I want to marry you.” I said back to him, “I think I want to marry you too, but don’t tell my mom and dad yet - they’d both have heart attacks.” After 3 - 4 weeks, he took me and my parents out to dinner, and asked them for their permission to propose to me. They said yes. So he did and I said ‘Yes’ and accepted an engagement ring. He had to leave to go back to South Korea for 13 months. So, for 13 months, I planned a wedding. He got home on a Monday and we got married on Friday! We dearly loved one another. I thought he was already a Christian, but one month, to the day, after we were married, HE GOT SAVED!!! We were invited to dinner by his best friend and his wife. He was my husband’s best man at the wedding and had gotten saved while my husband had been in South Korea. He witnessed to my husband and led my husband to accepting the Lord that night at their home. Of course, that led to my husband being led by the Lord into going to Bible School, and entering the pastoral ministry!!!!!
Can you see the hand of God working????? Brothers and sisters - it boils down to really, really, really LOVING GOD DEEPLY FROM YOUR HEART - AND TRUSTING HIM WITH EVERY DETAIL OF YOUR LIFE. IT’S LOVING HIM WITH THE SAME KIND OF LOVE THAT HE LOVES US WITH - AGAPE - THE GOD KIND OF LOVE. HE HAS TO BE THE MOST IMPORTANT PERSON IN YOUR LIFE - AND PLACING YOUR CONFIDENCE IN HIM IN EVERY SITUATION IN LIFE.
I really believe that really loving God the way He loves us (AGAPE), is the key to overcoming self-centeredness in our lives. I’ve read these verses before but I’m going to read them again - Matthew 22:36 - 38 - “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the law? Jesus said to him, ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and great commandment.’” Now - this was from the Old Testament Law (It’s in Leviticus and Deuteronomy) - There was no knowledge about spirit in the Old Testament because everybody’s spirit was dead. It wasn’t until Jesus paid the price we couldn’t pay - took our sins upon Himself - and rose from the dead - that mankind began to learn about being born again and receiving a new spirit. People understood that their hearts were the part of them that they really lived from. They understood that they had a soul and they knew that their mind was in their soul. To most people of the ‘Old Testament Days,’ the heart, soul, and mind were all connected together and meant, ‘deep thought.’ Therefore, when Jesus was asked this question, and He quoted the Old Testament Law, they understood what He was talking about. So - first of all, even under the Old Testament Law, loving God was foremost of all things.
THEN - Jesus brought in - with His death and resurrection - A WHOLE NEW LIFE FOR THOSE OF US WHO RECEIVE WHAT HE HAS DONE FOR MANKIND. A BRAND NEW SPIRIT WITH THE ABILITY IN THAT NEW SPIRIT TO LOVE GOD IN A WAY THAT WAS NOT AVAILABLE TO THE OLD TESTAMENT PEOPLE!!!!!!!!
We have the ability to love God with the same kind of love that He loves us with - AGAPE! But we really do have to put Him first in our lives. We have to be so dedicated and surrendered to Him that we ONLY WANT WHAT HE WANTS, ACT LIKE HE ACTS, TALK LIKE HE TALKS, LOVE LIKE HE LOVES, THINK LIKE HE THINKS!!!!!!!!!!! Brothers and sisters - that leads the way to a life free of self-centeredness!!!!!!!!!
I love, love, love this verse - Matthew 11:28 (This is Jesus talking) - “Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” What a wonderful promise!!!!! And brothers and sisters - He keeps His promises. Now I have learned something through the years, that may sound a little difficult - but the Lord told me to mention this. Often, we are not finding the rest and the peace we want because we are not yielding the right of way to Him. Now I haven’t done everything perfectly - none of us have - but I have found that, if things are not going well and I’m not getting the answers from Him that I was hoping for - often it’s been because I’m not totally yielded to Him. I might be frustrated, upset, anxious, and on and on. It boils down to completely trusting in Him. TRUSTING IN HIM BECAUSE I LOVE HIM AND KNOW HE LOVES ME IS THE KEY TO WALKING IN REST AND PEACE!!!
It is also the OPEN DOOR to living a life free of self-centeredness and living every minute of every day while here on earth in a loving relationship with the KING OF THE WORLD - DOING WHAT HE WANTS ME TO DO AND BEING IN TUNE WITH HIM!!!!!
As Mike Atkins was ministering on Sunday, he was sharing with us deeply the whole truth of the Lord living in us - and, therefore, allowing Him to live this life here on earth through us. As he made it clear, that ability was given to us through a NEW SPIRIT WHEN WE WERE BORN AGAIN. It’s not about us just trying real hard to do everything right, it’s about YIELDING THE RIGHT-OF-WAY TO THE LORD AND LETTING HIM LIVE THROUGH US.
I began to learn some of these truths as I was just a 13 year old kid. I’m not patting my self on the back - I’m just showing you that, whether you’ve been taught all the details of how this works, or not, as you yield to the Lord and put Him first in your life, He will never let you down.
Now, I didn’t do it all perfectly, but I did learn that TRUSTING THE LORD GOD ALMIGHTY AND SEEING HIM AS THE MOST IMPORTANT PERSON IN MY LIFE WAS THE KEY TO SEEING MIRACULOUS ANSWERS TO PRAYER AND SEEING THINGS WORK OUT IN WAYS YOU NEVER WOULD HAVE THOUGHT OF.
BUT YOU HAVE TO BEGIN TO SEE YOURSELF AS A NEW CREATION - AND YOU HAVE TO SURRENDER TO THE LORD AND TRUST HIM - AND LOVE HIM WITH THE SAME LOVE THAT HE LOVES YOU WITH.
It would be good to set aside some time to just talk to Him. It would also be profitable to read in the Gospels - Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John - especially those times that Jesus talked. Imagine yourself being right there with the other people who were listening to Him. See yourself listening and learning from Him. See yourself as one of His followers - dedicating your life to following Him, NO MATTER WHAT!!!!!! THIS WILL HELP YOU SEE YOURSELF AS A NEW CREATION.
Scriptures for this lesson
2 Corinthians 5:17
Colossi ans 3:9-10
Colossi ans 1:21-22