WARNING…this post is long and if read, can help anyone, but it could be difficult to read and apply…just a heads up:
No one wants to be told they are self-centered but the fact of the matter is that all sin is committed from self-centeredness! It is a difficult reality for me to look in the mirror and see MY self-centeredness…but I am doing it.
I can tell you the process is NOT FUN. It is uncomfortable but necessary! :o) I love the scripture found in Proverbs 4:23, “Above all else guard your heart for everything you do flows from it.” I have been meditating on this scripture for six years. It is a part of God’s Word that has been foundational for the Back 9 of my life.
Part of guarding your heart is realizing everything I/we do–every thought, every action and every judgement I/we make–comes from what is in my/your heart. This scripture is not only about guarding your heart from the world but it is about guarding your heart from our fleshly sinful nature…and our sinful nature…is self-centeredness!
I have come a long way in learning to “guard my heart” as I have dug deep into God’s Word, but I have to constantly “look in the mirror” at my self-centeredness. Some days are victorious and some days I fail miserably. I am a work in progress but I take comfort in knowing I am working very hard in the area of self-centeredness.
I am learning that we are all motivated in our hearts either by love or leverage! Leverage is the desire for control and power. We see this in the fall of man in the garden–the “desire to be God”–which translates into wanting to “control” or “be in charge” and to “judge others”. That leads me to the scripture in Matthew 7:3-5, “Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, Let me take the speck out of your eye, when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye and then you will see clearly to remove the speck in your brother’s eye.”
So my/you/our work, what we are responsible for, is OUR BEHAVIOR, our heart.
If my desire is truly for others to know Christ, I have to live it. And in order to live it I have to know it and apply it which leads me to operating and living out of a desire to “LOVE” not leverage, REGARDLESS of the actions of others. It has taken me a very long time to realize and distinguish what my responsibilities are and what I am held accountable for. When we decide to be judgmental of others’ responsibilities and decisions, we are playing God.
Yes, God wants me to make wise decisions on where and who I spend time with and what I say yes to and what I say no to. But we also live in this world and we are to go out and, to the best of our ability, “Do what Jesus would do.” That, my friends, means DYING to SELF. Yep, self-centeredness has to go.
Now, that doesn’t mean that I/you fall down a notch on the totem pole (which should be God first then me/you second). Yes, the order remains the same. Nothing, not a spouse, child, parent, friend, relative, boss, coach should come second in our relationships. The correct order is God then me/you. That is the first and most major step we all should take in “guarding our heart.” If God is truly first and we are second, He will then have the opportunity to refine us in the area of self-centeredness and we can be assured that the communication between me/you and God is not hampered by sinful man/woman!
I/we should never seek to be #2 on anyone’s totem pole either. As my children have gotten older, I have had to learn to point them to Jesus and ask them, “What is God telling you?” I do love it when they come to me for advice. I have learned now that when they ask my advice that I need to go to God in prayer first and not just tell them what comes off the top of my head. Sometimes, because of experience, it doesn’t require prayer but often what I think is clouded by self-centeredness too.
I have also had to learn with the order of the totem pole, God first and me second, that everyone (all humans) have the same sin nature which is that of self-centeredness… even those that are closest to you. Therefore, in order to operate out of “love and not leverage,” by listening to God first, sometimes the hardest kind of love to offer is “TOUGH LOVE!” Yes, Satan can get in your ear when God tells you to draw boundaries. Satan will deceive you and tell you that you are NOT being loving. But I have discovered in guarding your heart with God first and me second, it sometimes requires you to show “Love” that is tough!
The reason why we have labeled it “tough love” is that out of love for God and what He is telling us to do, we are not giving into others “self-centered” behavior which is sin. When we don’t give in and we are listening to God, the reaction we get to “tough love” is anger. Why? We are not giving them what they want, or thinking the way they want us to think, or giving them the answer they want to hear.
This may sound complicated but simply put–everyone on the face of the planet suffers from the desire to be “self-centered”. We are to be “Christ-centered” which is a daily discipline for all Christians. We have to stay very close to God and make sure we are hearing from Him and not following our own “selfish” desires, nor falling into the trap of pleasing “others” self-centered desires.
I encourage you today with this: embrace the fact that sin comes from self-centeredness. The only way to be more like Jesus, and to die to self, is to put God first and yourself second on the totem pole which is the first step in “guarding your heart”.
Next, even though seeing your self-centeredness is NOT FUN, YOU WILL LOVE THE RESULTS. Trust me, I can tell you it isn’t fun. Just warning you. But, just like eating healthy and working out, the process isn’t fun and can be very painful at times, but the saying is so very true…..No PAIN…NO GAIN. YOU can gain ground today and it can be rewarding. Don’t let Satan win and make you fearful of the pain of addressing self-centeredness.
“Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting” (Psalms 139:23-24).