Selfishness is not living as one wishes to live, it is asking others to live as one wishes to live. Oscar Wilde
It’s Not All About You (2)
Like a spinning merry-go-round on the playground, a self-focused life will unwittingly push others away. If we are going to participate in the joy of “one anothering,” we need to let Jesus rewire our thinking to be even more aware of others than we are of ourselves.
Not Here for Me
If anyone has ever deserved to be the center of attention and demand others serve his needs, it was Jesus. He created the world, gave life to His disciples, chose them out of the world, and soon would be executed for their redemption. He had the right to demand their service. But He did not! (Mark 10:45).
Jesus had just told His disciples that He was going to Jerusalem to be beaten and crucified. However, the disciples were too busy thinking about themselves to understand what Jesus said. James and John were busy asking for the best seats in the Kingdom. The other disciples were just mad because James and John had asked first.
Most people treat others as their servants, trying to get out of them whatever they need to be happy. We naturally focused on our needs and desires, trying to maximize gain or minimize pain. As a consequence, our selfish actions and defense mechanisms kick in with hardly any forethought. We struggle to satisfy ourselves, which is our greatest tyranny. Instead of relaxing in the moment, we constantly have to manipulate it. We use people instead of loving them.
If Jesus, the one that had the right to demand that kind of attention, refused it to give His life away to others, what more do we need to know? Jesus wanted His followers to understand that just the opposite was true in His Kingdom. He had not come to make people meet His needs but to be available to touch their needs. This is a secret to the fulfilled and fruitful life in Christ! However, changing the focus from ourselves to others does not happen just by choice. Trying to put everyone else’s needs above our own will wear us out, and we will revert back to looking out for ourselves. A life lived in love will only work out of a growing trust in God to provide for us and show us how to love people He has put near us.
Again, we must not love others trying to please God (dead works) but rather love others knowing that God is already pleased with us in Christ (good works). Not to please but rather to bring pleasure. The key is living our lives with only one motive – to bring honor to Jesus Christ, our Lord. This can not be done within our ability. This can be done by ensuring that everything we do, including all prayer (1) requests to our Heavenly Father, has the motive of honoring Christ Jesus our Lord and Savior.
Realize the Holy Spirit’s primary mission to the church is to bring honor to Jesus. The Holy Spirit (1) primarily honors Jesus by revealing Him in and through us! (2 Corinthians 3:18. John 14:26. John 16:13. 1 John 2:27. Luke 12:11,12)
Honoring Jesus glorifies our Heavenly Father! (John 17:1. 1 Corinthians 10:31. Colossians 3:17,23. 2 Corinthians 4:7. Matthew 5:16)
Who’s Got My Back
The best moments in marriage do not come when each partner is looking out for his or her own rights. They come when each partner looks after the interests of the other. Instead of each having to manipulate the other to be fulfilled, each looks out for the other’s needs and desires. However, we will never spin free of orbiting around our concerns in our own ability. We must allow God to take care of them. Jesus could go through life responding to others around Him because he trusted that God would look after His needs. He did not have to walk into circumstances protecting Himself or trying to get His way. He knew His Heavenly Father would provide everything He needed. (Matthew 6:24-34. Philippians 4:6,7)
True freedom comes when we know that our whole life is in God’s hands and that He will provide everything we need. We no longer have to fight for things at someone else’s expense. We can then be relaxed enough to do the things that bless someone else. Jesus could have been devastated by the fact that the disciples cared only about their positions in His future Kingdom when in the face of death. Jesus was not because he knew selfishness dominates most human relationships and was past their failures before they were.
The Ruse of Expectations
Nothing Jesus’ friends did seem to bother Him. Martha thought kitchen chores more important than conversing with him. Peter vehemently denied Him three times at the trial. Thomas doubted His resurrection. Jesus did not lace His relationships with expectations, and He refused to be trapped when others sought to put their expectations on Him. He did not tell people all they wanted to know. He did not heal people just to prove His power. Many misunderstood Him; others were angry. Yet He just kept loving them as they were, gently pointing them to the truth and letting them decide whether it was “worth it” to come and follow Him. He refused to manipulate people even for their own good and was not crushed when they turned on Him.
Expectations are resentments waiting to happen. We sabotage many of our relationships by imposing expectations on others or trying to meet theirs. It can not be done! People who live with expectations will never be satisfied. We still love those who impose their expectations on us. However, we will have to find peace knowing that we may never love them their way. Disappointments are the surest test that we are captive to expectations.
Have you found yourself saying:
- If they loved me, they wouldn’t (or would) have…
- After all I have done for them, you would think…
These are signs that we have fallen into a trap from which there is only one escape. Instead of letting your disappointment rage at whoever has not done what you thought he or she should. Ask Jesus to help you trust Him to bring whoever, or whatever, you need into your life without demanding that it come your way. Having expectations is not wrong; just misplaced if they are applied to people.
Our expectations should only be for God to be true to His Word. For only God does not change! (Malachi 3:6 a. Hebrews 13:8) Consequently, only God will not disappoint us.
Be Devoted to One Another
Romans 12:10a Be devoted to one another in brotherly love.
Not committed to one another but rather devoted to one another. When we substitute commitment for affection, we mistake the shadow for reality. As we experience God’s affection for us, we will find ourselves having affection in our hearts for others – we become devoted to them! Ask Jesus to help you trust Him to bring whoever, or whatever, you need into your life without demanding that it come your way (Romans 13:8). If we learn to love one another, we will need nothing more. We will not need commitment, we will not fall victim to expectations, and we will not be disappointed when others do not do what has been done for them. Remember, God’s love demands nothing in return. For every 30 to 40 people we love like this, 1 or 2 just might respond with a similar concern for us. These are the ones with whom we will experience a depth of spiritual community that is unrivaled by anything else in this world. This is the basis of our accountability groups. Our small groups provide a Bible-centered laboratory where we learn how to apply the principles of the Christian faith to everyday life.
Honor One Another above Yourselves
Honor one another above yourselves. (Romans 12:10 b)
Honoring others above ourselves simply means putting their needs above our own and watching out for their well-being. The stronger we are in our faith, the freer we will be to defer to the needs of the weaker. Not demanding what we want but rather being ready to help others get what they need is the essence of genuine church life. We should come to church to be a blessing! However, we have been schooled as consumers in church, finding a fellowship where our needs are met. The church where we get fed, have the worship experience we prefer, unload our guilt, have our children disciplined, and maybe even gather some business contacts. Consumers will never discover the joy of the Christian community. Orbiting around our needs causes us to miss the freedom of preferring others.
Consumers will never know the joy of:
- Taking the last place in line at a potluck.
- Helping make sure every mess is cleaned up before they leave.
- Caring more about how someone heard it than how we said it.
- Giving up a personal want for someone else’s need.
Can you imagine how a group of people who honor others above themselves would make God’s love known in a self-preferring world? It can happen so simply. When God has so satisfied you that you can trust him to fulfill every hunger in your life, you are ready to experience the depths of one anothering.
Oh, so you been overlooked? They have placed someone else before you? They have whispered that you are pretty small stuff after all? And now you feel hurt because the world is saying about you the very things you have been saying about yourself? Only yesterday you were telling God that you were nothing, a mere worm of the dust. Where is your consistency? Come on, humble yourself and cease to care what men think.
A.W. Tozer, The Pursuit of God
Cat and Dog Theology Genesis Chapter 1 (4)
Why are most Christians bored? They view the Bible from a people-centered view of the Scriptures. Most don’t get excited until Genesis 3, then they have something to live for – saving the lost world! They have nonverbally communicated to themselves and God that the Bible is all about people.
Two views on the main character of the Bible:
- God is the main character of the Bible and lives to radiate His glory; therefore, God lives for God.
- Humanity is the main character of the Bible, and God lives to provide for us; therefore, God lives for humanity.
The average true believer says the Bible is all about God but lives as if humanity is. Consequently, humanity often replaces God as the main character of the Bible.
Let’s look at two examples:
First example: What did God get out of Jesus’ death?
Most Christians want to say “He got us,” but that is jumping straight back into a people-centered perspective! He also received glory, honor, praise, adoration, and obedience. Most Christians overlook this! (John 9:1-3)
Second example: Why do you not want others to go to hell?
Most people don’t want others to go to hell because they’ll suffer (back to a people-centered perspective). David talks about the praise God wouldn’t receive (Psalms 30:9).
These two views on the Bible’s main character have “birthed” two types of Christianity. These two different types of Christians are seen in the different attitudes between a typical dog and a cat. (3)
Cat and Dog Theology
- A dog says: “You pet me, you feed me, you shelter me, you love me, You must be God.”
- A cat says: “You pet me, you feed me, you shelter me, you love me, I must be God.”
It’s very hard to differentiate between a Dog and a Cat Christian (1) in a church. They both look and act “Christian” but there is a huge difference in their heart attitude.
Getting to Heaven
- Cats have a tendency to walk away from hell. Their sole focus is on themselves.
- Dogs walk toward heaven having fallen in love with God.
Many Christians today are joyless simply because they are still focused on themselves and are walking away from hell (Matthew 13:44)
Guarantee of Salvation
- Cats are sure they are Christians because they “prayed a prayer” some time in their lives.
- Dogs are sure they are Christians because they hunger for God in their lives. This is how they know they are believers whether or not they prayed a prayer at some time in their lives.
Both Cats and Dogs want obedience in their lives. Dogs want to obey God. Cats want God to obey them. You usually see this reflected in the motive for their prayer requests:
- Cats pray for a more Christ-like spouse in order to have a better quality of life for themselves and children.
- Dogs pray for a more Christ-like spouse in order for the name of Jesus to no longer be reproached by their poor behavior.
Both Cats and Dogs have quiet times.
- Dogs focus on God’s glory (they think, “How is God’s reputation being affected by my life?”)
- Cats focus on themselves (how can they better their life?)
- Dogs pray to establish God’s kingdom.
- Cats pray to establish their own kingdom.
Blessing and Responsibilities
Cats want all the blessings and none of the responsibilities. As a result, two major problems arise in Cat Theology:
- An incomplete gospel develops
- Cats have mixed-up priorities.
Over time, Cat Theology develops into an incomplete gospel. Cats are saved from hell, and it stops there. This is not incorrect, but it is incomplete. Dogs are saved from hell, FOR WORSHIP!
In Our Prayers
Praying “Father, thank you for dying on the cross for our sins” is not incorrect, but it is incomplete. He died on the cross for our sins SO THAT we might point to God and glorify Him.
In Our Blessings
- Cats focus on gathering all of God’s blessings with a bucket. And once they have them, they keep them.
- Dogs gather as many blessings as they can from God and pass them on to others. They know that the blessings are meant to go through them to others.
Mixed up Priorities, Blessings, and Glory
Both Cats and Dogs want to see God glorified and want to be blessed by God. Dogs hunger more for God’s glory. Whereas Cats hunger more for blessings.
- Dogs worship God primarily for who He is.
- Cats worship God primarily for what He’s done for them.
Why all these differences? Dogs study “Theology” while Cats study “MEology.” Dogs see God’s glory as a stained glass window. Each piece of glass is called a “tessera.” Each tessera uniquely displays God’s glory, such as the animal kingdom, the family unit, taste, the stars. “Glory is any revelation or expression of His excellency in His presence, creativity and/or character” One way God chooses to reveal His glory is through blessing us!
Satan doesn’t want Christians to focus on God’s glory. His strategy is to get humanity to focus on something “safe” and “close to God’s heart” so their focus is off of God’s glory. As a result, we begin to think that life is all about us. Because of this, we make a foundational shift in our theology. Our focus goes off of God-glorifying Himself through blessing us. Our focus is on receiving the blessings from God, and we become primary; God’s glory becomes secondary.
Cat’s are Living for Themselves
Cats are basically living for themselves in a Christian context. They’ve rejected other “ways” of life and have chosen Christianity as the best way to live for themselves. Therefore, Life is still all about them.
What Does God Get?
Dogs ask one key question as they go through life: What does God get?
As a result, they realize that life is for God, it is not for us. They see the joy God had in Genesis 1 while He was creating!
A Prayer of Repentance
Heavenly Father, please forgive us:
- For thinking life was about us and not You.
- For advancing our kingdom and not Yours.
- For seeking Your blessings more than You the Blessor.
- For an incomplete Christianity.
- For mixed-up priorities.
- For living for ourselves in a Christian context.
- For not seeing Your glory all around us.
Fill us again with your Holy Spirit that we might live only to bring you glory (1) and make You famous! (Philippians 1:9-11) (4)
Authentic Relationships Series:
- Authentic Relationships: Introduction
- Authentic Relationships: Loving One Another
- Authentic Relationships: Forgiving, Accepting, and Bearing with One Another
- Authentic Relationships: Being Devoted to Another and Honoring Another Above Ourselves
- Authentic Relationships: Greeting and Being Hospitable to One Another
- Authentic Relationships: Being Kind, Compassionate, and Sharing with One Another
- Authentic Relationships: Serving, Carrying Burdens, and Building Up One Another
- Authentic Relationships: Instructing and Admonishing One Another
- Authentic Relationships: Praying for One Another
- Authentic Relationships: Confessing Your Sins to and Being of the Same Mind Toward One Another
- Authentic Relationships: Submitting to One Another
(Peace, Wholeness, Success)
(1) Select the link to open another article in a new tab with additional information.
(3) My point here is not to argue whether dogs or cats are better but rather to help us see ourselves in and through them.
(4) Adapted from CatnDog Theology (1), Dr. Gerald Robison, (http://www.catndogtheology.com)