Welcome to Connect. My name is Mike Edmisten. I get the privilege of being the pastor of this amazing church, and I’m so glad you’ve joined us today.
We are kicking off a brand new series today called Selfie. Back in January, we asked our partners here at Connect to post selfies on their social media sites with the hashtag #ConnectSelfie. We didn’t tell them why we wanted the pictures. We just told them if you use the hashtag, you’re giving us permission to use your pictures. And this is why. The logo for this series is made up of well over 100 Connect Selfies. And I want to give huge props to our Worship & Teaching Pastor, Brian Morrissey, for all the creative design work on the logo, the videos for this series, etc.
In case you’ve been living under a rock for the last few years, I want to inform you of something…selfies are everywhere. And I mean EVERYWHERE. And if you’ve been under that rock and you’re not sure what a selfie is, a selfie is a picture that you take of yourself.
USA Today estimates that over a million selfies are uploaded to social media sites every single day. And the number just keeps growing. They’re everywhere!
But it’s not just selfies anymore. Not by a long shot. Because of Facebook and Instagram and Twitter, we have expanded into more specific categories for selfies.
For example, there is the helfie. A helfie is a hair selfie. It’s a selfie that is focused specifically on your hair. And mine would probably be better if I had a little bit more of it.
And I had never heard of this one until this week, but apparently now there is also the shelfie. It’s a selfie that centers around your bookshelf, so it’s a shelfie.
There’s also the felfie. Now this one gets confusing, because there are a lot of different possible meanings for this one. This is just a sample of what felfie can mean.
A felfie can mean a family selfie. There’s the Edmisten felfie right there.
It can also mean a foot selfie. Not really sure about that one, but ok. There’s a nice picture of my boots in case you’re interested. I don’t know why you would be, but there you go. There’s my felfie.
And felfie can also mean a food selfie. Because how did we ever go through life without showing all our Facebook friends what we’re having for lunch? Seriously…does your lunch even count if you don’t post it on Facebook? I don’t think it does.
So, there’s the felfie.
And then, unfortunately there’s also the belfie. If you’re not sure what a belfie is, it is a selfie of your backside. A belfie is a butt selfie. I’m not kidding. I wish I was.
And in case you’re wondering, no. It’s not going to happen. The answer is just no. There will be no belfies on our screens here at Connect.
And by the way, if you’re thinking that posting a belfie is a good idea, I just want to give you a good rule of thumb to follow. If it’s a Kardashian thing to do, it’s the wrong thing to do. If Kim did it, you do the opposite. That’s a pretty good guiding principle for life in general. Just remember that, and you’ll probably be ok.
For better or worse, the selfie is part of our culture in the 21st century. So we decided to have some fun with it here at Connect. In this series, we’re going to take a look at some Biblical “selfies.” In fact, let’s just redefine belfie right now. Let’s make it a Biblical selfie. I like that one better.
So we’re going to look at some belfies…the real ones…the Biblical selfies in this series. God actually has a lot to say about “self” in His Word. And we’re going to spend the month of March listening as God teaches us about “self.”
Let me pray for us and then we’ll kick this series into high gear.
Today we’re going to kick off our Selfie series by listening to what God wants to say to us about selfishness. Specifically, we’re going to focus in on what James wrote in his New Testament book.
If you’ve ever read the book of James, you know that it’s a book that can kick you in the teeth. It’s an incredibly blunt, incredibly convicting book. And just like the rest of his book, James pulls no punches when it comes to selfishness.
In chapter 3, James wrote, “Who is wise and understanding among you? Let them show it by their good life, by deeds done in the humility that comes from wisdom. But if you harbor bitter envy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast about it or deny the truth.
Such “wisdom” does not come down from heaven but is earthly, unspiritual, demonic. For where you have envy and selfish ambition, there you find disorder and every evil practice.” (James 3:13-16, NIV)
Like I said, blunt. James is not afraid to give us the truth with no filter. Let’s go back and walk through what he said a little more slowly now.
James starts by saying, “Who is wise and understanding among you? [James loves to use questions to make his point.]
Let them show it by their good life, by deeds done in the humility that comes from wisdom. But if you harbor bitter envy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast about it or deny the truth.” (James 3:13-14, NIV)
The original Greek word that is translated “selfish ambition” was actually a word that was often used by Aristotle to describe partisan political fights. It brings up an image of jockeying for position. Of always looking out for what is best for yourself or your party. That’s the idea here.
And James sets up a contrast between this kind of selfish ambition, and humility. It’s been said that, “’Humility is not thinking less of yourself but thinking of yourself less.”
That’s a pretty good definition, and it sets up a great contrast between humility and selfishness. Selfishness thinks about self more. Humility thinks about self less.
And James brings that contrast out in these verses. And it all comes back to these words. “Let them show it by their good life, by deeds…”
In other words, if someone is selfish, they don’t have to tell you. It will show up in their actions.
And if someone is humble and selfless, they don’t have to tell you that, either. You’ll see it in what they do.
Both selfishness and humility begin in our heart, but they both spill out into our lives. All you have to do is watch what a person does.
This is so incredibly practical and relevant for believers in our culture today. It’s easy to say anything in our culture. Thanks to social media, there are a lot of people that never have an unexpressed thought. If it pops into your mind, you can tweet it or post it. And a lot of people do.
And a lot of Christian people do. Every week, my Facebook feed fills up with people quoting Scripture, commenting about their faith, posting articles and blog posts, etc. And don’t get me wrong, I’m all for it.
But sometimes the problem comes in when I see someone post a Bible verse, and then I think, “Wait a minute…there’s a problem here. I’ve actually met you. And this stuff you’re posting just isn’t lining up with what I know about you.”
Now, don’t misunderstand. Nobody is perfect. If you’ve been around Connect for longer than two seconds, you know that there are no perfect people allowed here. We are a church for messed up, hurting, broken people…because messed up, hurting, broken people are the only kind of people that exist.
I will often stand on this stage and tell you about my shortcomings and my failures. Some people don’t like it, and I just don’t care. Because being open and transparent and honest is the only way I know to be.
So don’t get me wrong, I don’t have a sensor in my mind that always goes “hypocrite, hypocrite, hypocrite” every time I see someone post a Bible verse on Facebook. The vast majority of the time, I appreciate it and I think it’s awesome.
But then, there’s always a few people who talk a big game, aren’t there? They talk a big game about their faith. They can quote Scripture. They can speak in Christianese. They just know the right things to say, but then you watch them for a while. You hear what they say, but then you compare it to what they do. And it just never adds up.
That’s what James is saying here. It’s one thing to say it. It’s another thing to do it. And that was never more true than when it comes to selfishness vs. humility.
If you were to ask anybody in this room today, they would probably tell you that selfishness is bad. There might be an exception or two, but almost all of us are going to say, “Yep. Selfishness is bad. You shouldn’t be selfish.”
And if James were here talking to us, he would say, “Ok, that’s great. But don’t tell me. Show me. Show me what you think of selfishness or humility by what you do. Don’t tell me. Show me.”
For example, the best way to combat selfishness in our lives is to be generous. Selfishness can’t survive when it is confronted with generosity. And most of us would agree with that. “Yep. Generosity is good. Generosity is better than selfishness.”
I bet there are very few people in this room that would disagree with that statement. But does it translate into what you do? Does it move from words to actions?
For example, it’s one thing to give lip-service to generosity, but it’s another thing to tithe. Tithing has been the benchmark of generosity for God’s people since the time of Abraham in the Old Testament. And Jesus Himself reaffirmed the tithe.
Tithing means giving 10% of your income back to God. There is a mountain of Biblical support for the tithe, but only 2-3% of Christians actually do it. Now, I bet almost 100% of Christians would say, “Yes, generosity is the way to go. I’m all about being generous.”
But only 2-3% of them actually return a tithe to God through their local church. What’s going on here? What’s going on is words and actions aren’t meshing up.
Now, if you think this is one more example of “the church only wants my money,” you can forget it. That’s not what this is about. If you think this is just a pastor fishing for more money, you can forget about that, too. We don’t play that way here at Connect. If you don’t believe me, keep coming. You’ll see.
This is about confronting an ugly truth in our lives…when it comes to this whole selfishness thing, our words often don’t match up with our actions. And the pitiful number of believers who actually bring the full tithe is just one example of it.
It’s one thing to talk about being humble and selfless and generous, but it’s another thing to actually put it into practice. It’s another thing to actually BE generous. It’s another thing to actually GIVE. It’s another thing to actually BRING the tithe. See, when it becomes a verb…when it becomes something that we actually do…it changes things.
Another surefire way to run selfishness out of your life is to be a servant. There is no such thing as a selfish servant. It’s a contradiction in terms.
But it’s one thing to talk about being a servant, but it’s another thing to actually serve.
Serving means that I put the needs of others ahead of my own. It means I give of my time, my talent, my energy. It means that I’m willing to do things that actually inconvenience me…things that actually cost me. And I do it without complaining or grumbling. In fact, I do it joyfully.
And most every Christian I know would agree with that. They would say, “Yes. Serving is good. Christians should serve.”
And again, James would say, “That’s awesome. But don’t tell me. Show me. Don’t tell me that you think serving is good. Just show me be being a servant.”
That changes things. But there are people who claim to follow Jesus who use all kinds of excuses to not serve.
“Well, it just doesn’t feed me.”
I’m sorry…I didn’t realize that serving was all about YOU. I didn’t realize it was about what YOU could get out of it. I thought Jesus taught us that serving was actually about other people.
Or, “I’m just so busy with work, and the kids playing in three different sports, and everything. I just don’t have time to serve.”
I get being busy. I really do. But I also understand that if I’ve scheduled serving right out of my life, then my schedule is the problem. If I don’t have time to do what Jesus commanded me to do, then I need to understand that His commands aren’t the problem. My calendar is.
And we could go on and on about the reasons some Christians give for not serving. And yet most all of them would agree that serving is good.
Just like giving and tithing, it’s one thing to talk about serving, but it’s another thing to actually serve.
I’m thankful to be part of a church that gets this. Our volunteers, our servants, are the lifeblood of our church.
That’s why we want to take an opportunity to really pour into our volunteers. On March 15, we’re hosting an event called Volunteer Fuel. It’s from 5:00-6:00 pm that Sunday evening. Now, to be clear, this is not another Night of Worship like we had last week. We’ll be meeting for church that morning like usual. This event is different.
We’re inviting all our volunteers back that evening for an event just to thank them. To encourage them. To show them how much we appreciate them. It’s going to be so much fun! Our band is cooking up some really fun stuff. We’re going to hear from some of our volunteers themselves. If you miss this, you WILL regret it. I promise!
We have the best volunteers on the planet, because we are a church that understands that our words have to match up with our actions. We don’t just talk about serving. We are servants.
The point is that if you’re selfless, it’s going to show up in what you do. And if you’re selfish, it’s going to show up in what you do.
That’s why James said that there’s no point in boasting about it or denying it, because talk is cheap. This is not something you feel. It’s not something you think. It’s not something you say. It’s something you do.
And then James goes on to say, “Such “wisdom” does not come down from heaven but is earthly, unspiritual, demonic. For where you have envy and selfish ambition, there you find disorder and every evil practice.” (James 3:15-16, NIV)
Our culture believes and teaches that selfishness is wise. Look out for #1. Put yourself first. Focus on what you need and what you want and what you desire. No one else is going to look out for you, so you just look out for yourself.
That’s the “wisdom” that our culture has bought into. But James puts that “wisdom” in quotation marks because it’s not wisdom at all. James reminds us that this “wisdom” does not come down from heaven. It’s not from God.
And then James gives us a three-step progression that this kind of selfish thinking follows. It “is earthly, unspiritual, demonic.”
It is earthly, meaning that this is not how things work in God’s Kingdom. Selfishness makes perfect sense in our world and in our culture, but it is completely out of place in God’s Kingdom.
That’s why Paul wrote this in 1 Corinthians 1. “For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. For it is written: “I will destroy the wisdom of the wise; the intelligence of the intelligent I will frustrate.”
Where is the wise person? [Pretty much the same question that James asked in our passage.] Where is the teacher of the law? Where is the philosopher of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world?
For the foolishness of God is wiser than human wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than human strength.
But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong.” (1 Corinthians 1:18-20, 25, 27, NIV)
Our world values things like selfishness and self-centeredness and looking out for #1. It views things like serving and generosity and sacrifice as foolish. But we have a choice. We can be foolish in the eyes of our world or we can be foolish in the eyes of our God.
So when someone mocks you because of your generosity…when they say things like, “Why do you do go to a hotel so early just to set stuff up for church? or “Why do you want to work with kids all month?” or “Why are you giving up an entire week this summer to work at that church’s Sports Camp?”…whenever you’re questioned or mocked because of your generosity and your service and your selflessness, just remember that some of the people in your life may think you’re a fool, but your God doesn’t. In fact, not only does God not think you’re a fool, but God is your biggest fan.
But when we choose to live in selfishness, we are choosing a life that James says is earthly and unspiritual.
It’s unspiritual because it’s strictly natural. Selfishness is our natural inclination. Let’s just admit that. It is. Nature pushes us to be selfish. Call it the natural order. Call it survival of the fittest. Call it whatever you want, but it’s natural to live a selfish life.
But we are not called to live natural. We are called to live supernatural.
That’s why in the tiny little book of Jude in the New Testament, Jude reminds us, “But, dear friends, remember what the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ foretold. They said to you, “In the last times there will be scoffers who will follow their own ungodly desires.” These are the people who divide you, who follow mere natural instincts and do not have the Spirit.” (Jude 17-19, NIV)
That’s not who we are called to be. We are not people who just follow our natural desires. We follow the Holy Spirit.
Our natural desire is us. Think about it…why in the world are we uploading over a million selfies everyday? Because we want it to be about us.
The plain truth is that narcissism is natural. I have a buddy that says we need to rename selfies. He said instead of selfies, we should call them needies. And he’s got a point.
And here’s the thing about that…we already have all we need in Jesus. If I truly understand who I am and what I have in Christ, then I don’t need to constantly seek approval. I don’t need to constantly pursue affirmation. I don’t need to chase after praise. And I don’t need to fall into the trap of people-pleasing. Because if I am in Christ, then God is already pleased with me. He has already approved me. He constantly affirms me.
So in reality, when I live selfishly, I’m living like I believe that Jesus is not enough for me. I have to have more. I need more than what Jesus has given me. When the truth is that Jesus gave His life for me. He died on a cross for me. And He fulfills all my needs.
But when I deny that and I still choose to live a selfish life, James says that I am living a life that is “earthly, unspiritual, demonic.”
Does that last word seem a little strong to you, because it seems a little strong to me? We’re talking about selfishness, we’re not talking about Satanism.
As I was prepping this message this week, I really struggled with the word “demonic.” I see how being selfish is earthly. I even see how it is unspiritual. But demonic seems a little over-the-top.
But it’s not over-the-top in God’s mind. It’s accurate.
Selfishness isn’t just a bad decision or an inferior way to live. It is in direct opposition to God Himself. It’s living a life that was born in the pit of hell itself.
And when we live lives of selfishness, we hand Satan a win. That’s why James said, “For where you have envy and selfish ambition, there you find disorder and every evil practice.” (James 3:16, NIV)
Selfishness throws everything into disorder. It hurts friendships. It wounds families. It divides churches. It just throws everything into disorder and disarray. And a whole lot of us can remember times in our lives when a selfish person did just that…they threw everything and everyone around them into upheaval.
And James reminds us that selfishness is the root of every evil practice. Pride and selfishness are at the root of every sin in our lives, without exception. Pride and selfishness aren’t just a symptom of sin. They are the root cause.
And if that was the end of the story, then we’d all be in deep trouble. But in Christ, this is never the end of our story.
We all struggle with selfishness more than we want to admit. We can all be motivated by pride and self-centeredness. What’s the answer?
The answer is what James wrote in the next chapter of his book. “But he gives us more grace. [Just stop and think about those words right there. “But he gives us more grace.” Is there anything more awesome than that? Is there anything we need more than that? No.]
“But he gives us more grace. That is why Scripture says: “God opposes the proud [or the selfish] but shows favor to the humble.” Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Come near to God and he will come near to you.” (James 4:6-8a, NIV)
God opposes pride and selfishness, but He shows favor to the humble. And because He gives us more grace, we always have an opportunity to submit to Him. To surrender to Him.
And when we do, James gives this amazing promise. “Come near to God and he will come near to you.”
It’s stated as a promise. If you come near to God, He WILL come near to you.
And that’s what our church is all about. Our church exists to connect people to Jesus Christ by leading them into a growing relationship with Him.
We invite you to come near to God, because we know that He WILL come near to you. And it’s all because of that incredible truth…He gives us more grace.
He gives us more grace because of Jesus. Jesus died on a cross, for our sin. When Jesus was crucified, He took our every sin on Himself, including every selfish thought, word, and action. Our selfishness is overcome by Jesus’ selflessness…because He selflessly gave His life for ours.
That’s incredible news for us, because it means that our hope doesn’t hang on us. Our hope hung on a cross, and then three days later our hope walked out of a tomb. Our hope is in Jesus. He is calling us out of our selfishness and pride, but it’s because He’s got something much better in store for us. He’s got forgiveness and freedom and life for us. And His invitation is simply to come. Come near to God, and He will come near to you.