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Selfishness to Selflessness

Matt Barlow - 20 December 2020

Thanks for heading over to our blog to find out a little bit more, and think a bit more deeply about selfishness, and how Jesus is the antidote and even the vaccine.

Definition of selfish

1: concerned excessively or exclusively with oneself : seeking or concentrating on one’s own advantage, pleasure, or well-being without regard for others

It is widely considered that we are the most individual focussed generation, and when I say ‘we’, I mean those of us who live in the materially more affluent west. Community is widely dispersed and often really quite broken compared to what it used to be. It is not uncommon nowadays that our primary concern is for ourselves as an individual, for our own personal needs and rights, with less and less concern for the wider community or even the wider world.

If you don’t believe, just cast your mind back to the days when the shelves were empty of toilet rolls and you couldn’t buy pasta nor flour for love nor money. The world looked after number one. Sure, not exclusively, we can report that donations to Foodbanks continued, and some people will have taken enough loo roll or pasta for a week, but let’s face it, it was a stark wake up call.

You can take almost every ill in society and you will find a strain of selfishness there, be that massive crime or tiny micro aggressions.
You get my point, I won’t labour it. Pretty much everything that destroys the fabric of society comes down to selfishness on the part of someone, my needs, my wants, my desires are more important than someone else’s.

  • Drug dealing - I care more about making some money than about your future health and life prospects
  • Sexual Abuse - I care more about my depraved kicks than I do about your wellbeing
  • Relationship breakdown - ok, this one is complicated, but be that the need to be right in an argument, an unwillingness to put the other person’s needs before my own, or whatever, you will find it there
  • Breaking the speed limit - I care more about me getting there quickly than about the safety of others on the road

So, what has Jesus got to do with all of this?

Well, let’s start with the meaning of this whole world from a Christian perspective. Here’s my best really simplistic take on the big story:

  • God created this wonderful world, and he created it brilliantly
  • He created humans because he wanted a relationship with us
  • It was his plan that we would enjoy this world, living in harmony with him, with each other, and with the creation
  • However, by creating us with the freewill to choose, he took the risk that we might choose not to live in that harmony.
  • And yes, we have all fallen short of that brilliant harmony God had planned for us. We often call this fallen short ’sin’, which simply means ’to fall short’ or ‘miss the mark’
  • So what was the mark? The mark was to love God and to love others, as ourselves. Yep, you can see how we’ve all fallen short.
  • Jesus came into this world (and forgive me for repeating my talk) to show us we are loved, to die that we might be able to receive forgiveness and to teach us how to live.
  • Jesus clearly promises eternal life for those who choose him and the eternal life he offers
  • Yep, I know that was really quick and each one of these could be a week long seminar!

So, that’s the big story. Selfishness, ie. putting me first, is the opposite of the harmony God had planned.

  • If I put me first, I don’t put God first, yet he is our creator who created us for relationship with him, so we must start there.
  • If I put me first, I don’t put others first, yet God knows that this world is at its most beautiful when we care for one another, and put the needs of others first.
  • If I put me first, I don’t put the wider creation first, I live and consume in such a way that abuses the planet and the people on it, and the people to come.

Whilst we will never ever end up perfect this side of the grave, Jesus has the power to heal us and lead us into greater selflessness. If we welcome him in as the son of God he says he is. If we say we are sorry for our prior selfishness and sin and we commit to live a different way, then he comes and makes his home in us, and gives us his power, the power of the Holy Spirit to live differently. Having done that, we commit to building the kingdom of God, which is basically driving our self centred ness and leading people into relationship with God, with others and this wonderful world he has given us.

You can do that now if you want, simply by praying this prayer:

Dear God,

I believe in you. I believe that Jesus was God in flesh who came to rescue me.

I want to turn away from my old life, and want to start a new life with Jesus.

I am sorry for the things I have done wrong, that have caused pain to you God, to others and to myself.

Please forgive me.

Thank Jesus that your death on the cross has made that forgiveness possible to receive. I receive it now.

I give you my life, please take it and use it to bring in your kingdom wherever I am.

Fill me with your spirit so I may know your love in my heart, may know your presence within me and the power to live differently.

Thank you for accepting me. I receive this as a gift, not as something I could earn, but freely given.

Today I have truly become your child.

Amen.

MAKE THE MOST OF EVERY OPPORTUNITY

Matt Barlow - 08 December 2020

As we heard about the amazing courage and faith of the persecuted church this last Sunday, I think we should take this to heart as we enter into this Christmas period.

I’d like us to take a few minutes to think about how we can apply the verse from Colossians that Lisa shared with us:

‘Make the most of every opportunity’ Colossians 4:5

I’m going to comment on it word by word -

MAKE - when it comes to sharing our faith, it often requires us to be proactive as well as reactive, so we need to MAKE. To make means to be proactive at creating. It means to shape and to form. We are called to be proactive in sharing Jesus and we are called to shape and form our conversations.

Yes of course an invite to join our online carol service is best in passing in a natural conversation, but only so many of those happen don’t they? Choosing to ‘MAKE’ the most of an opportunity, means being proactive, reactive, ready to share the hope of Jesus with people.

The MOST - this isn’t saying that every opportunity is going to bring about instant results. But it is saying, given the opportunity that is in front of you, what does MOST look like? Let’s believe and press into God for his MOST this Christmas. The MOST non Christian friends and neighbours watching our online service. The MOST people you’ve prayed for in ages. The MOST people you’ve blessed in one way or another. But let’s also be aware that we’re all Corona-exhausted, and for some of us our MOST, may not hit the heights of previous years. That’s cool. God’s ok with that. Self care is brilliant. Apathy, not so much. Just make sure you know which is which, lean into one, repel the other!

Of EVERY - I’m sure like me, when you read the word every, it feels like a burden too heavy to carry. Yes, let’s try for EVERY, but if we simply do SOME, then we’re heading in the right direction. But let’s definitely try and be alert and seeking God for those obvious opportunities.

OPPORTUNITY - this Christmas is a huge, huge OPPORTUNITY. It’s such a big OPPORTUNITY because our outreach Carol service is easier to access than ever. It’s big because many of us have had more contact with our neighbours than ever this year. It’s big because this year, you can watch it anytime, anywhere, anyway. The anxiety of going to a place you’ve never been has been totally removed. On top of this, we know that this year has shaken everyone’s foundations, more people are open to God than ever. Which means your invitation could be more potent than ever before. It’s a huge OPPORTUNITY, let’s MAKE the MOST of it!

We have the best ever gift anyone can ever receive in our hands and in our heart. Let’s share it and trust God for many to come to know him.

Yes! We have an assistant pastor!!

Matt Barlow - 18 November 2020



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