There are only two ways of life, the give way and the get way. Jesus showed us the give way, yet even in the church many don’t believe him.
I want us to understand that giving is really far happier than getting.
We will discuss how Jesus revealed the way of self-sacrifice and how a false Christianity perpetuates the world’s way of self-centeredness.
Our best life ever
The devil deceives us by offering a wide variety of lifestyles with one ingredient in common, self. They all build altars of self-worship filled with idols of self-gratification. We may not all be able to build our own Trump Towers, or have a hundred million dollar trust fund for our children, but the idolatry of self expresses itself in thousands of other ways. It is a delusion that guarantees misery and loneliness. There is a lifestyle which guarantees happiness forever. Jesus described it in words which are the opposite of our culture of self (Mark 8:27-38). He defined a better way of life. It includes words like deny self, take up our cross and lose our self-indulgent lifestyle for the Gospel. This is shocking to a narcissistic, self-centered culture, but it is the way to our best life ever.
Narcissism is extreme selfishness. Narcissistic Christianity is therefore not true Christianity, but it is a very popular counterfeit. Rather than sacrificing for others and enduring injustice, it falsely advertises “your best life now,” but teaches a selfish life of setting our minds on the materialistic things of earth not the things of heaven. It lies by saying that our best days are ahead of us, while Christians in some countries await persecution. Narcissistic Christianity substitutes cheap materialism for spiritual wealth, selfishness instead of love of neighbor and promotes unrealistic expectations from this life. Narcissism is being ashamed of Jesus (Mark 8:27-38). Jesus defined true Christianity as the exact opposite of materialistic narcissism. It involves turning from our selfish ways, taking up our cross and following him. Following Jesus’ example of self-sacrifice is the only way to finding true life.
Real heroes would have to include any who make a great sacrifice for others. That would include soldiers, firefighters, those police officers who truly do protect and serve, missionaries and volunteers who serve the needy. A one-time sacrifice is to be praised, but also a lifetime of sacrifice. In Mark 8:27-38 Jesus defined some ingredients of what it takes to be a true hero. Denying self, taking up our cross and losing our life for the gospel. On one university campus a theology professor asked his students to look out the window at the school of medicine and the school of law. He then said that those graduating from those schools would make many times more than a pastor, but serving Christ is where the true riches are. We are all called to be part of that heroic mission.
True wealth and success
We live in a world obsessed with wealth and success. Yet true wealth is not found in gaining the whole world. Even Christians are deluded by monetary wealth and material success, even believing that God promises money. Yet a man with millions and billions who lives a selfish life does not have wealth but abject poverty of spirit. Someone who achieves worldly status by destroying the lives of others is an abysmal failure not a success. In Mark 8:27-38 Jesus defined true wealth and success as the way of the cross. True riches are the wealth of people that we have sacrificed to serve. True success is also found in rejecting selfish living in this world for a better life in eternity. True celebrity is not in this life, but in joining Jesus in his glory at his coming.
Church growth at the expense of truth
Some churches are growing while mainstream churches are dying. Yet, where are we more likely to hear the Gospel? The simple fact is that mainstream churches are far more likely to read a Gospel text each week. In large popular churches we are more likely to hear a materialistic motivational speech about health and wealth that actually contradicts the Gospel. The good news is that living a selfless life is a life of abundant blessings, but it is not popular. People do not want to hear about emulating someone who lived a life of poverty and sacrificed himself for others. They want to hear about making money and having things. Mainstream churches are tempted to change from the Gospel to empty-headed fluffy topical sermons that deny denying self (Mark 8:27-38). That is church growth at the expense of truth.
My world not yours
“My job, my flag, my team, my lifestyle, my inheritance, my church, my salvation, my world not yours.” Does any of this sound familiar? It ought to. We all tend to be selfish and our way of life is more about getting than giving. Jesus challenges us to think about another way of life (Mark 8:27-38). To our habitual way of thinking it seems to be the most miserable and unhappy way of life. That is because we have spent a lifetime steeped in the propaganda of the devil. His propaganda even enters the church as a counterfeit gospel of self-interest rather than self-sacrifice and of gaining our lives only to lose them. This counterfeit Christianity is ashamed of Jesus and his words because it seeks to have us run away from our cross rather than take it up.
The selfish life
The selfish life is appealing. Walking a red carpet to the cheers of worshiping fans drives some of us. Living away from the troubles of the world in a monastery penthouse atop a beautiful mountain appeals to others. Living in the lap of luxury with gold accoutrements, marble floors and servants to prepare gourmet meals every day also sounds appealing. Let’s face it. We don’t really believe in denying ourselves anything. We don’t really believe in burdening ourselves with a personal cross. We really believe in gaining the whole world for our country and ourselves. We give lip service to Jesus while in reality we are ashamed of emulating his life of self-sacrifice. We live selfish lives. Why did Jesus have to go and say that our way of life would lead to us losing our lives (Mark 8:27-38)?
There are only two ways of life, the give way and the get way. Jesus showed us the give way, yet even in the church many don’t believe him. The way of self-sacrifice is the way to true success and happiness.