January 9, 2024
SELF- CENTEREDNESS VS. AGAPE LOVE
Well, it’s good to see everybody this morning!!!!
I’m going to start this by telling you the story of why I am teaching on this subject. I always go to the Intercessory Prayer time at 9:30 on Sundays before the service. Pastor Gary always joins us and, during his sabbatical, the visiting preachers have been joining us. So, on Dec. 17th, Chris Jones was the speaker and he joined us. During the prayer time, the Lord spoke to me and told me to lay hands on him and pray for him, and He told me how He wanted me to pray. So - I did. I prayed that, as Chris was preaching, that an awareness of self-centeredness would rise up in the hearts of people all over the congregation. I prayed about that, and all the others in there were agreeing with me, as I prayed, including Chris. It was a pretty powerful time of prayer. After the prayer time was over, we all, of course, went in for the church service.
When Chris began to teach, the thing he centered in on was SELF-CENTEREDNESS, and even mentioned that someone in Intercessory Prayer had prayed about this. Of course, I had no idea that this topic was his pre-planned topic for our service. I was just so stunned that God had told me this. Later that day as I spent time with the Lord, He told me essentially this. “The main hindrance in the Body of Christ is SELF-CENTEREDNESS. The primary reason for this is that it has become a normal way of life throughout the world, and, yes, here in America. So many Christians do not even have a clue that they are living a self-centered life - they are offended if someone suggests it. It has become so much a part of daily living, that even, when they are reading about it in the Word, or hearing about it in a teaching, they think, ‘Well, that’s not me!’ That’s your new subject for your class for a bit!” I just sat in my chair in awe! So - I began to think about it and think about it and think about it!
Then - Rick Porterfield preached Sunday, Dec. 31, and, in his message, he brought up SELF-CENTEREDNESS! I talked with him after the service and shared this with him. He and I laughed together - because we were both on the same page! He is a graduate of Charis Bible School, and I shared with him that Pastor Gary and I had talked about me contacting Andrew Wommack about working into his schedule preaching at our church, Grace Tabernacle, because of me knowing him for so many years. I shared with Rick that Andrew had preached at our church back in the late 70’s before he was on TV, and a man, John Taylor, had died during the service, and was raised from the dead. Rick knew all about it. He had someone take a picture of him, his wife, and me. He’s going to share it with Andrew when he sees him.
Also, Mike Atkins, who ministered last Sunday, the 7th, talked deeply about some things which fit in completely with this subject. He didn’t mention the words “self-centeredness,” but the whole topic that he was on just co-ordinated beautifully with this whole topic.
I just wanted to share this with you because I know, that I know, that I know that the Lord wants us to delve into this subject!!!
By the way, it seems like every teaching I’ve heard, in the last 3 or 4 weeks, “self-centeredness” has been mentioned. I really believe that God wants us all to get ahold of what this really is and deal with it in our individual lives.
So - I’m going to start with this portion of Scripture - 2 Timothy 3:1-5 - “But know this, that in the last days, perilous times will come: For men will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, unloving, unforgiving, slanderers, without self-control, brutal, despisers of good, traitors, headstrong, haughty, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having a form of godliness but denying its power. And from such people turn away!”
That’s 19 things describing what the world is to be like in the ‘LAST DAYS’. Now, I’m not a teacher of the book of Revelation, or of what’s going to happen in the END TIMES. However, all you have to do is realize that Jesus’ birth, death, and resurrection was 2,000 years ago and look about you in this world we live in today, and realize that we sure could be headed right into it. In Acts 2:17, it says that the outpouring of the Holy Spirit happened in the last days. So, the last days began 2,000 years ago.
I was born in 1937 - and I remember, as a little girl and a teenager, ordinary people were a lot different than they are now. Even people who weren’t Christians were kinder than now. Christians were all pretty determined to spend time in the Word and WALK THE WALK! Not so much today!
Now, I’m not going to go through all those 19 things, but they sure do sound like our current world’s normality. But I do want to bring to our attention that the very first of the 19 is, “Men will be lovers of themselves.” When it says, “men” it is referring to mankind. Andrew Wommack said in his Living Commentary, about this, “It is interesting to note that Paul listed the love of self first in this list of ungodly traits that will characterize people in the last days. This is not only the most offensive sin to God, but it is also the root of all the other things Paul mentioned.”
Now, this can be a very complicated subject - and this is the reason why. I’m going to read John 13:34-35 - “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”
Here’s another portion of Scripture that I’m going to read - Matthew 22:36-39 - “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. And the second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”
Now I believe that the Lord has led me to bring these verses before us today so that we can really get down to the nitty gritty concerning our attitudes about God, and about ourselves, and about others. When we get a clear picture of how God wants us to live while we are here on earth, and begin to walk in it on a daily basis, we will begin to live the lives He wants for us in all kinds of areas of our lives. Self-centeredness, which is a hindrance that keeps us from seeing answers to our prayers, and also brings up worry, frustration, loneliness, aggravation with friends and family, and lots of other things, will no longer be a part of our daily lives. We will find ourselves living in a relationship with the Lord, soaked with LOVE (AGAPE) and we will be in awe of what the Lord shows us and guides us and reveals to us.
So - let me share with you what the Lord has shown me. Now, when I say that, don’t think that I think I’ve just got it all together in everything. I’m still a work in progress just like we all are. However, the Lord showed me a very long time ago that He wanted me to teach others what He has shown me. He told me that a lot of Christians have been taught doctrine, and they know the way things ought to be - but they don’t know how to get there. He told me to get down to the nitty gritty and share what I’ve learned about, “How do you do it?”
It starts out with really getting ahold of how much God loves every single one of us. Now - think about this! Before we were born again, we were all sinners, headed for hell! Now - close your eyes and picture what Jesus looked like, hanging on that cross. He was cut, slapped, stabbed, blood was flowing out of Him, He had thorns pounded into His head, and His physical body was in agony! He took all that, not because He was a sinner - He took all that for you and me - to pay what we couldn’t pay (we weren’t even alive on earth yet). He suffered that horrible pain and death to pay for the sin of mankind - and He did that because of His great LOVE (AGAPE) for mankind. You and I weren’t even born yet, but He did it for us anyway. The motivation for that action was HIS LOVE FOR US. You’ve probably heard me say this before - but I’m saying it again, “I BELIEVE THAT THE LOVE OF GOD IS THE STRONGEST FORCE IN THE UNIVERSE!
When we get ahold of how powerful God’s love really is, God’s plan for each and every one of us is to SOAK IN THAT POWERFUL LOVE (AGAPE) AND LOVE HIM BACK, AS HE LOVES US. It means a total surrender to Him, to do His will, to follow Him, to please Him, to yield the right-of-way to Him and be so close to Him that we allow Him to direct everything. No body, or no thing, can be more important to us daily, than this wonderful CREATOR OF THE UNIVERSE, WHICH WE ARE ALLOWED TO CALL “OUR FATHER”.
Then - along with this, comes a whole new way to think of ourselves. WE ARE A NEW CREATION! Now that doesn’t mean that we give ourselves credit for who we now are. All we did was accept what He had done for us. We had to receive it. We didn’t earn it - it was a gift! Therefore, we can LOVE THE NEW PERSON THAT GOD HAS MADE US INTO. We didn’t do anything to deserve our salvation. Therefore, we can’t love ourselves in the sense that we’re proud! No! We love ourselves because our Heavenly Father gave us the choice to receive His wonderful offer to be with Him for all eternity by receiving the gift of salvation. Then He gave us a brand new Spirit! We had an old spirit, but it was dead to God, because of Adam’s sin. We needed to be BORN AGAIN.
Now - we didn’t get a new body and we didn’t get a new soul. The soul is where our mind, will, and emotion is. Therefore, the rest of our lives, while we’re here on this earth, we are getting that soul in line with the new Spirit. THAT’S WHAT RENEWING THE MIND IS ALL ABOUT, AS I’VE MENTIONED MANY TIMES IN THIS CLASS (FROM ROMANS 12:1-2) - “I beseech you, therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.”
When we begin to see things from this point of view, of what He has done for us, all we can do is LOVE (AGAPE) Him more and more, and also LOVE (AGAPE) THIS NEW PERSON THAT HE HAS MADE US. If we love ourselves and Him, with His kind of love (AGAPE), it produces a whole new way of living, thinking, and acting in our day to day lives. It isn’t hard - it’s not difficult - in fact, we don’t even have to try and try and try to walk in Agape Love - it becomes just the way we are.
We are loving God the way He loves us and we are loving ourselves the way God loves us.
Now - listen again to these verses - Matthew 22:37-39 - that I’ve already quoted - “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. And the second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”
Now - let me ask you - how can you love your neighbor as yourself, if you don’t love yourself? If you don’t love yourself - THE NEW YOU - with the Agape love that God loves you with and also love the Lord for what He has done for you - and walk in that Agape Love in your day-to-day life, there is no way that you can love your neighbor as God has instructed you to do.
Now- the Lord said to dig into this today, because a clear understanding concerning loving God, loving yourself, and loving your neighbor is absolutely necessary to being able to understand this whole realm of self-centeredness.
There is absolutely no way to walk in God’s Agape Love on this earth, the way He wants us to, as long as everything deep within us revolves around “ME - ME - ME - MYSELF - WHAT I LIKE - WHAT I WANT - HOW I FEEL - HOW I LOOK - WHAT THEY THINK ABOUT ME - HOW COULD HE SAY THAT TO ME - HOW COULD SHE HURT ME LIKE THAT - AREN’T I IMPORTANT - ME - ME - ME!!!!!!!!!!!
The only way we can walk through our lives while we are still here on this earth is to be so absorbed in GOD AND HIS AMAZING LOVE FOR US - AND THEREFORE LOVING HIM AND LOVING THE NEW ME THAT HE MADE ME. See - that’s not pride! You didn’t do anything to deserve it - SO, IF YOU DIDN’T DO ANYTHING TO DESERVE IT, HOW ON EARTH CAN YOU BE PRIDEFUL AND BE CONCERNED ABOUT EVERYTHING AND EVERYBODY WHO COMPLIMENTS YOU - AND BE HURT, AND ANGRY AND RESENTFUL TOWARD ALL THOSE WORDS AND ATTITUDES THAT CRITICIZE YOU!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Overcoming SELF-CENTEREDNESS in your life is the NO. 1 KEY to living the life that God wants you to live. It is the key to getting the answers from the Lord that you desire. It is the key to seeing the answers to prayers about family and friends and money and WHAT HE WANTS YOU TO DO IN ALL KINDS OF SITUATIONS.
The Lord really desires that our relationship with Him be way more than just a 15 min. Daily Devotion, or a quick read in the Word, just to cross it off your ‘to-do’ list. I have discovered through these 73 years of being a Christian that He, and what He desires for me, has to be the most important thing in my life.
Think for a minute about those New Testament Christians - those people who actually got to walk with Jesus, see all those miracles, listen to Him preach and teach, sit with Him eating meals with Him, hearing Him speak all those parables, watching Him love people who were absolutely difficult to be around because of all their past - prostitutes, tax collectors, Pharisees!!! Jesus loved with a LOVE that was beyond anything that they had ever seen. Then, after His resurrection, and they were born again, He told them to go do what He did!!!!
Those New Testament Christians had to leave the past life behind them, let go of the Me-Me-Me way of life (we can call it self-centeredness) and LOVE THE WAY JESUS LOVED!
Then - there is PAUL (FORMERLY KNOWN AS SAUL)! I’m going to read a portion of Scripture about Paul, after his encounter with the Lord on the road to Damascus. It’s Galatians 1:15-24 (Paul wrote this) - “But when it pleased God, who separated me from my mother’s womb and called me through His grace, to reveal His Son in me, that I might preach Him among the Gentiles, I did not immediately confer with flesh and blood, nor did I go up to Jerusalem to those who were apostles before me; but I went to Arabia and returned again to Damascus. Then after three years I went up to Jerusalem to see Peter, and remained with him fifteen days. But I saw none of the other apostles except James, the Lord’s brother. (Now concerning the things which I write to you, indeed, before God, I do not lie.) Afterwards I went into the regions of Syria and Cilicia. And I was unknown by face to the churches of Judea which were in Christ. But they were hearing only, “He who formerly persecuted us now preaches the faith which he once tried to destroy.” And they glorified God in me.”
Now - I wanted to bring this Scripture into our awareness for a reason! I believe that Paul needed TIME (3 years) to just get to know the Lord so intimately before he began to minister to others - so that he could see and become acquainted with the NEW HIM! He needed to leave the past (the OLD HIM) behind and see himself as he now was. He needed to be so intimate with the Lord, immersing himself in God’s Love, so that he could truly LOVE GOD, LOVE HIMSELF, AND LOVE OTHERS. Paul had to soak in the things of God and get rid of the self-centeredness which had dominated his life.
If the Apostle Paul needed to do it - so do we!!!!! Am I saying that we need to go to a desert? Laughing! No! He knew that there was a calling on his life to let the Gentiles know about the Savior of the world - Jesus - and he knew that he needed to see himself and the Lord different than he always had - so the Lord guided him, through the Holy Spirit, to get a clear view of it all before he could really enter into his calling.
BUT - I am saying that we need to spend time with the Lord in an intimate way so that we get a picture of who we really are now, and how powerful the LOVE OF GOD (AGAPE) can lead us for the rest of our lives.
Now - I’m going to read a portion of Scripture to you that I know we all are familiar with. I want to share something with you, that the Lord brought to my attention this past week, and specifically told me to read this morning.
It’s Luke 15:11-32! “Then He said: ‘A certain man had two sons, And the younger of them said to his father, ‘Father, give me the portion of goods that falls to me.’ So he divided to them his livelihood. And not many days after, the younger son gathered all together, journeyed to a far country, and there wasted his possessions with prodigal living. But when he had spent all, there arose a severe famine in that land and he began to be in want. Then he went and and joined himself to a citizen of that country, and he sent him into his fields to feed swine. And he would gladly have filled his stomach with the pods that the swine ate, and no one gave him anything. But when he came to himself, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired servants have bread enough and to spare, and I perish with hunger! I will arise and go to my father, and will say to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you and I am no longer worthy to be called your son. Make me like one of your hired servants.’ And he arose and came to his father. But when he was still a great way off, his father saw him and had compassion and fell on his neck and kissed him. And the son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and in your sight, and am no longer worthy to be called your son.’ But the father said to his servants, ‘Bring out the best robe and put it on him, and put a ring on his hand, and sandals on his feet. And bring the fatted calf here and kill it, and let us eat and be merry; for this my son was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’ And they began to be merry. Now, his older son was in the field. And as he came and drew near to the house, he heard music and dancing. So he called one of the servants and asked what these things meant. And he said to him, ‘Your brother has come, and because he has received him safe and sound, your father has killed the fatted calf.’ But he was angry and would not go in. Therefore his father came out and pleaded with him. So he answered and said to his father, ‘Lo, these many years I have been serving you; I never transgressed your commandment at any time; and yet you never gave me a young goat, that I might make merry with my friends. But as soon as this son of yours came, who has devoured your livelihood with harlots, you killed the fatted calf for him.’ And he said to him, ‘Son, you are always with me, and all that I have is yours. It was right that we should make merry and be glad, for your brother was dead and is alive again, and was lost and is found.”
Now, we’re all familiar with this story.. However, usually the attention focuses on the son who was the prodigal. I want us to focus on his brother. It is a perfect example of ‘SELF-CENTEREDNESS’. Now, of course, the prodigal was WRONG in what he did - however, the Lord wants us to see people the way He sees people. In fact, I really believe that Jesus told this story, not necessarily to point to the prodigal son - but to point to the self-centered older son who could not rejoice because his brother had come home.
Don’t you know that the Pharisees, and the Tax-collectors hated this story when they heard it! The older son was a picture of them. They hated attention of any kind being given to anyone other than them. They saw themselves as the religious ones, following all the rules, and, therefore deserving honor and respect. They couldn’t stand to see honor, compassion, and forgiveness being given to anyone else. THEY TRULY LIVED SELF-CENTERED LIVES! It’s all about ME, ME, ME, ME, ME! Who cares about what anybody feels, is going through, the pain, the sorrow - WHO CARES!!!!!! Aren’t I important?!!!!!!
Don’t you know that when those Pharisees heard this story from Jesus, it really upset them. They felt like they were really important, and were to be the people that everybody looked up to and here Jesus was telling a story that made the one doing everything right look bad - and the one who had gone astray, the reason for a party!!!!!!! This is a perfect example of self-centeredness. Now, it comes in many forms. Everybody’s lives are different.
I’m going to make a suggestion that over this next week, we all read these scriptures from this section. If you have several translations, read them from all of them. Read them slow and ponder on them. Ask the Lord to reveal to you what He wants you to see. Think about LOVING GOD, LOVING YOURSELF, AND LOVING OTHERS. (You can’t love your neighbor as you love yourself, if you don’t really love yourself with Agape - the God kind of love.) The normal way of thinking about loving yourself is, centering in on you, you, you, and ends up causing PRIDE to be the result of that thinking. BUT GOD HAS A BETTER WAY - When we begin to see ourselves as the NEW CREATION IN CHRIST THAT WE ARE, WE CAN’T BE PROUD - WE DIDN’T DO ANYTHING TO DESERVE IT. HE WANTS US TO BE LIKE HIM.
Listen to this verse - Romans 8:11 - “But if the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, He who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through His Spirit who dwells in you.” The new spirit which was given to us, when we accepted Christ as our Savior, has the same power in it that raised Jesus from the dead. That kind of power is in every born-again Christian on earth. There is power in that spirit in us to walk a walk of faith, power, love, and oh so many things. But it doesn’t come about unless we live a life loving our Lord with His Agape love, loving the new creations that we have become, and loving our neighbor as ourself. Once we begin to live the life, free of self-centeredness and walk the way Jesus wants us to, we will begin to experience the miraculous.
It just purely boils down to living our lives centered in on God instead of centered in on us.
We’ll dive into some areas of this that I believe all of us need to be aware of because, brothers and sisters, I know that all of us really want to live the life God wants us to live - but, if we are trying to do it in our own strength and power, we’ll just keep missing the mark. God wants us to see things from His perspective. Like I said, “I BELIEVE THAT GOD’S LOVE IS THE MOST POWERFUL FORCE IN THE UNIVERSE!!!!!!”
Scriptures for this lesson
2 Timothy 3:1-5