We are kicking off 2022 with a series entitled “it’s not about me” – and this just happens to be one of our core values
It’s not about me.
We will model the self-giving love of Christ by considering others as better than ourselves, setting ourselves aside, and practicing genuine humility (Philippians 2:1-11).
As a church this is one of the postures that we want to exemplify – putting others first – setting ourselves aside and this core value – this posture is going to be kind of a focus for the whole year – something we will come back to frequently – how do we as the body of Christ – as Grace Church put others first?
And as I look around me, I think it’s going to be a bit of a challenge. Our culture, our society – everything around us pushes us the other direction. Encourages us to create a world that is all about me – a life of self-centeredness, self-preservation, self-promotion – not to mention the fact that we are pretty much wired that way from the moment we enter the world - we demand to get our way from the get-go – if I could just run the world – if it could all just work out for me
And it’s gotten even worse – even uglier in the last few years
The “Karen” epidemic – you’ve seen them right – all over social media – and what did we decide the male equivalent is? Cause it isn’t just the women acting like this
Self-absorption is all around us
How do you feel about this whole idea? That we are all selfish? Pretty egotistical? Pretty self-serving?
How about if we take a little quiz? There are some scenarios here and I want you to answer honestly – in your own head – you don’t need to share – unless you really want to – and not every scenario will fit your circumstances directly – but I think you can still put yourself in the situation and give an answer
(see attached quiz – put up question and answers one at a time)
So how did you do – were you honest? Where do you fall on the selfish spectrum?
I’m gonna be honest – I struggle with this – in a big way – not only do have innate selfishness and the influence of our American culture (which I think collectively as a country we have this idea that we are better than the rest of the world but that’s a whole other topic) I was kind of groomed to be a me first thinker.
And let me just say this next part could just be one big sound bite for our between Sundays podcast. This is just a gift of humiliating edits of things I am going to say.
I grew up the youngest of 4 and when I say youngest, I mean by a lot – 10 years separates me from my next sibling – I was the classic baby of the family - and my parents doted on me – gave me all that I wanted – when I wanted it – they supported me and encouraged me and loved me really well – I never struggled to be the center of attention because my mom made sure I was the center of everything. And if people weren’t paying enough attention my parents would make sure to remedy that. I really kind of believed the world revolved around me.
And I am not blaming my parents for this – they did the best they could – and much of my confidence and boldness came because of their love and support. But I did kind of believe I was going to be catered to forever. So, God sees me and sees where I am heading with all this and in His infinite wisdom – he gives me 4 children and a job in ministry. And those 2 things right there will snap the selfishness out of anyone. Obviously, I am still very selfish at times, but the Lord knew that the best step for me would be to give me a job at a church where other people’s needs must supersede my own. And 27 years later I’m still here. And it’s still a struggle to live sacrificially – and I fail all the time. And still learning every single day how to put others first. And watching every single day as others put me first. Because we weren’t meant to do any of this alone – in isolation. Self-giving love can only be played out in community. The only way a bratty, self-centered girl from the middle of Indiana discovers that it’s not about her is thru the love and connection of a self-sacrificing community. And I believe that this community is the only way for you to live out this value as well.
Because it’s not about me – it’s not about you – it’s not about us – it’s about the community – not individuals but the whole.
This kind of self-giving, others first, humble, loving, community is the Gospel message to the rest of the world.
To see what I’m talking about – let’s turn to Colossians chapter 3 to see what the apostle Paul has to say about all of this.
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I also want to give one giant caveat – when we are talking about “it’s not about me” that does not mean that you neglect yourself – that you abandon your own physical, mental, emotional or spiritual health – or that you endure any type of abuse in order to put other’s first – you need to take care of yourself in order to take care of others – the best thing you can do to put other’s first is bring your transformed and transforming self into their lives – and you can’t continue in transformation by ignoring your own health
So, this particular letter that Paul wrote was to this young church in the city of Colossae – this was a group of people Paul had never met and the Colossian church was not started by Paul but by his friend Epaphras – after Epaphras visited Paul in prison to tell him how the church was doing – he informed Paul that the church was doing well except for the cultural pressure to turn them from Jesus – so Paul writes this letter to address Epaphras’ concerns. Paul wants them to re-examine their whole lives around the death and resurrection of Jesus. It is a new creation. What does that new creation look like? What does the church look like in this new creation? The world has been turned upside down by Jesus. That was true then and it is still true today.
There is no room for selfishness – no room for self-promotion – self-absorption…
Where we pick it up in chapter 3 verse 12 – Paul has just finished reminding them of their new life in Christ and in this new life they need to put to death the sinful earthly things – lies, anger, slander, greed – and that it doesn’t matter who you are or where you come from – what matters is Christ Jesus – he lives in all of us - we are all one in Him – and then Paul continues with the section we’re going to look at
Colossians 3 starting in verse 12
12 Since God chose you to be the holy people he loves, you must clothe yourselves with tenderhearted mercy, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience. 13 Make allowance for each other’s faults and forgive anyone who offends you. Remember, the Lord forgave you, so you must forgive others. 14 Above all, clothe yourselves with love, which binds us all together in perfect harmony. 15 And let the peace that comes from Christ rule in your hearts. For as members of one body you are called to live in peace. And always be thankful.
16 Let the message about Christ, in all its richness, fill your lives. Teach and counsel each other with all the wisdom he gives. Sing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs to God with thankful hearts. 17 And whatever you do or say, do it as a representative of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through him to God the Father.
What Paul is describing here is the gospel in our lives – what does it look like to live that out – what does it look like to live that out in community
It is the same motivation as the previous verses in chapter 3 – but it moves from negative to positive - in those verses Paul is sharing how be rid of your old self – getting rid of the characteristics that may have defined you before Christ and now he is sharing how to be about the attributes that should define you after Christ
And now no matter who you are – Jew or gentile, slave or free – if Christ is in you that is all that matters and if he is in you – you have surrendered to him – you are his chosen people by his grace and since you are his chosen people – you are the holy people he loves – holy people means that you are set apart to do his work – not because of your goodness but because of His grace – and you are people that he loves – not because you are so lovable but because of he loves you anyway – since we are his chosen people - then you will put to death the ways of the world and you will live in the ways of Jesus.
And what does this look like? Verse 12 again
We must clothe ourselves:
A list of 5 things to put on – just as in verses 5 and 8 there was a list of 5 things to take off. I love this whole idea of clothing ourselves with these attributes. Previously Paul has told them to get rid of the old things – you can’t clothe yourself in the new things until you’ve gotten rid of the old. You’ve got to take off the old rags in order to put on the new.
Clothe – to put on – the Greek word enduo means to sink into (clothing) – absorbed by the clothing of tenderhearted mercy - Gut level compassion
kindness – Generous, Considerate
humility – Forgoing your own rights
gentleness – Tenderness, respect
patience – Endurance/self-restraint
And the idea of clothing yourself with them means you must make a choice to put them on everyday – you continue to put on these characteristics until they begin to fit better as you continue thru spiritual practices to be transformed into the image of Christ
The more you put these on each day – the more you understand the character of Christ – the more your life is transformed
And then Paul says in verse 13
Just as God forgives you –
Make allowances for each other’s faults.
Forgive anyone who offends you.
Paul has laid out in verse 11 that all people from all backgrounds, all experiences, all areas now come together in the name of Jesus which means the church should be a place of
If that is the case, then we must bear with one another – give grace and forgive – when different people come together – they will do things differently – they won’t always understand each other – so we must work hard to listen and be patient and kind as we try to learn from each other – and forgive when we are offended – and that is really hard
“Everyone thinks forgiveness is a lovely idea until he has something to forgive.” C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity
These are not easy concepts but as the second half of verse 13 tells us
Remember, the Lord forgave you, so you must forgive others.
We are showing the world Jesus as we put each other first.
And then Paul instructs for us
Above all, clothe yourselves love,
Love is the greatest of all – the greatest commandment – love the lord and love others as stated in Deut 6 and Lev. 19 and by Jesus in Mark 12
Love brings all of the rest of it together
If mercy is the shirt and kindness the pants and forgiveness the sweater vest – etc. – then love is the belt that holds it all together – or an outer coat that covers – love covers them all
As Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 13 – if I have all these gifts – prophecy, knowledge, faith but I don’t have love – I am nothing.
The same is true here – I can try to be humble or gentle or patient – the fruits of the spirit but no love – it is hollow – it can even become distorted or unbalanced without love – love is the supreme virtue that leads the others to perfection
And all of these actions
Putting your rights aside
Truly loving others
Putting them first
All leads to harmony, unity, peace
And as verse 16 says – when we let this message of Christ – in all its richness fill our lives – then we can teach and counsel one another with wisdom – we can sing with thankful hearts – and we do all of this as a representative of Jesus
There is no room in God’s kingdom for selfishness.
Don’t look out only for your own interests, but take an interest in others. Philippians 2:4
Don’t be concerned for your own good, but for the good of others. 1 Corinthians 10:24
There is no room in God’s kingdom for pettiness.
Love each other with genuine affection, and take delight in honoring each other. Romans 12:10
There is no room in God’s kingdom for grudges.
Instead, be kind to each other, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God through Christ has forgiven you. Ephesians 4:32
When we as individuals decide “it’s not about me” – and we follow what Paul instructs in Colossians 3 then the church – this community - becomes a beacon of light to the rest of the world -
And this kind of self-giving, others first, humble, loving, community is the Gospel message to the rest of the world. When they see us – his chosen people – living out Colossians 3 – they see Jesus.
And isn’t that the point?
34 So now I am giving you a new commandment: Love each other. Just as I have loved you, you should love each other. 35 Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples.” John 13:34-35
We are his disciples – don’t we want the world to see that? This outpouring of love that says it’s all about you - how can I care for you – what can I do for you – how can I meet you where you are
I can still and very often am that bratty baby of my family – selfishness rears its ugly head in me quite often I’m afraid – but I have learned so much about self-giving love – from you – the way many in this community have put me first – have loved me and my family – have sacrificed their time and energy and resources for me
I am learning more and more each day how to live out “it’s not about me” from your Godly example – I wish I could name all of you – you know who you are
My grandma was all of these things and people were just drawn to her. Wanted to be in her presence always. She made everyone feel like they were her favorite. She would joke about it.
Can you imagine if we were all like that can you imagine what that would say to the world about you as a Christ follower about the church? About Jesus? We wouldn’t have the credibility gap if we all treated each other and treated the rest of the world the way Colossians tells us to
Saying I love Jesus is not hard living like Jesus is really hard
The gospel really has very little to do with what we say it has everything to do with how we live – but that is what Jesus calls us to – to live like he did – and he sacrificed it all – and Paul is reminded the Colossians and us that is what we are to be about – what we are to look like
This kind of self-giving, others first, humble, loving, community is the Gospel message to the rest of the world.
Jim Falk – love the person right in front of you