Hardly Anybody Does This, But Everyone Should

Most people are concerned about their own interests, and it is hard for any of us to think much beyond them.

I remember one pastor had a plaque on his desk with a saying on it, “People are not against you. They are for themselves.”

As the Apostle Paul thought about the churches he had planted, he lamented, “Everyone looks out for his own interests, and not the interests of Jesus Christ” (Philippians 2:21).

Isn’t this true? How many of us are really able to think beyond our own prosperity and comfort? How many of us can sacrifice for a cause that is truly bigger than ourselves?

As a Pastor, I need to ask this, too. Would I care about the prosperity of the church I serve if I was not its Pastor? How much do I care about church in general? Do I participate in church activities when I’m not being paid?

If we’re honest, as Pastors, a lot of our interest in church is more self-interest than we realize.

Truly, everyone looks out for his own interests and not the interests of Jesus Christ.

Why are we so obsessed with our own interests?

One answer is pride. We think of ourselves as the center of the universe and make our interests more important than anything else.

Everyone has this tendency. That’s why there’s so much conflict in the world. We are battling it out to see who gets to be the center of the universe and whose interests will predominate.

Another answer is anxiety. Pride and anxiety generally intertwine more than we think. We are worried that if we don’t give attention to our interests, then no one else will. So, we’ve got to look out for # 1.

Of course, there is no end to anxiety because we are finite. We can always put more money in savings. We receive applause, but then we want more. We always need more security. This keeps us focused on our own interests.

American theologian Reinhold Niebuhr described this trap. He wrote, “without freedom from anxiety man is so enmeshed in the vicious circle of egocentricity, so concerned about himself, that he cannot release himself for the adventure of love.”

How can we escape from this “vicious circle of egocentricity”? Trust in God’s goodness. God promises in the Gospel that He will “supply all our needs” (Phil. 4:19, cf. Mt. 6:25–34). When we know that God will care for us and love us perfectly, then we can let go of trying to desperately make sure our interests are satisfied.

Beyond that, we need to extend our imagination to think beyond our own interests.

Do we ever ask, what are the interests of Jesus Christ?

Let’s think about this for a minute, and let’s start with my county. What does Jesus care about in my county?

Here’s just a few things that come to mind:

  1. He cares about having a relationship with the people of my county.
  2. He cares about the churches of my county and that they would love one another and serve together as much as possible. His interest is the unity of the church.
  3. He cares about the marginalized: the elderly, the poor, and the fatherless.
  4. He cares about justice and that we would treat others well and live in peace as much as possible, living as good neighbors (i.e., love your neighbor as yourself!).
  5. He cares about truth. He wants to promote those things that are true and lovely and good.
  6. He cares about the creation. He wants it to be treated well, enjoyed, and beautified.
  7. He cares about families doing well and being a blessing to all those involved.

These are some of the most important interests of Jesus Christ.

What would happen if people really cared about those things the way Jesus did? What if people had a passion for helping people find a relationship with God, with making sure the elderly were cared for, with making things beautiful and good, not just getting a paycheck? Wouldn’t that give us a very different world?

People would be cared for much better than they are now. People who need love and care would not be forgotten. The world would be a much more beautiful place.

But we are all very busy. Sometimes we’re just trying to keep our head above water. How can we move out of the daily grind into concern about the interests of Jesus Christ?

Here are a few suggestions:

  • Pray bigger (see the Lord’s Prayer on this one!). Pray for your community, other churches, and the broader church assemblies. Take the newspaper and pray for the institutions and events mentioned in it.
  • Get involved with something bigger. Go on a mission trip. Get involved with a cause. Visit another church, not to change churches but to get to know what others are doing. When we get involved, we will begin to get a vision of what God is doing and want to be involved.
  • Step out of your comfort zone where you are. Even in your daily life, you run into people who are different from you and represent different interests. Get to know a variety of people. This will help us begin to think about what God is doing in the world.
  • Take inventory of your gifts and consider how you could use them on a bigger scale. This may simply mean volunteering to do something at your church. You may have something to offer your community or school or business. Just think bigger than where you are.

It will not be easy. That’s why hardly anybody does this. But it’s something everyone should do. Jesus and His kingdom and the good of our fellow human beings are worth it.

Let’s pray that this vision comes true: “Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed by Thy name. Thy kingdom come . . .”

Why General Assembly?

This year, I attended our denomination’s General Assembly. I don’t plan to attend every year, but I really enjoyed it this year, more than I thought I would.

It would be easy for someone not familiar (or even those familiar with) General Assembly to wonder why anyone would want to go to General Assembly. Why go to a big church business meeting? Why spend all that money? Why take off of work or spend time away from your family and local church?

For those who watch or sit in General Assembly, you can get even more frustrated. At times, it seems like a total mess. Motions and counter-motions and points of order. “No thanks,” you might be thinking.

(Note: you can watch some of the mess here.)

So, why should a local church support the broader assemblies of the church?

Here are a few reasons.

First, it reminds us that the Church is bigger than our local church. When representatives from all over the nation and world come together, it is a good and helpful reminder that God is doing much, much more than we are aware of.
Continue reading “Why General Assembly?”

How to Live by Grace

In Philippians 1, the Apostle Paul tells the Philippians that he prays to God that their love would increase (v. 9). This means that love is a gift of God’s grace, and we should ask Him to give us that gift. We can’t just manufacture love on our own.

This is further confirmed by what Paul goes on to say in the same passage. The fruit of righteousness “comes through Jesus Christ—to the praise and glory of God” (1:11).

In addition, the Philippians can be assured of the grace of God because “he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus” (1:6).

Our virtues are gifts of God’s grace.

This is more controversial than it should be among Christians. One reason for this, I believe, is that people take these truths out of the broader context of Scripture.

So, Christian A will say, “Did you work out your own salvation with fear in trembling, or was it God who was working in you?”

Christian B responds, “I worked. Christianity has not been easy.”

Christian A responds, “No, it was God working in you.” And the conversation spirals down from there. Continue reading “How to Live by Grace”

The Best Part About Boonville

By Brian Carpenter

In the summer of 1994 General Mills moved my wife and I to southwest Indiana. She was in sales, and I was trying to go to seminary. As we looked for a place to live, we decided to purchase a small home in a small town outside of Evansville. The town was called Boonville.

Boonville had several advantages. It was 20 miles closer to Louisville than Evansville was, and I was commuting to Louisville four days a week for classes. It turned a two and a half hour drive into a two hour drive. It was also cheaper. We bought a 2 bedroom, one bath house for something less than $40,000 if memory serves. Continue reading “The Best Part About Boonville”

The Difference Between Secular & Christian Humility

One of the most surprising things about books on business strategy and organization is the emphasis on humility. These books have given me a lot to think about as I consider the application of humility to daily life.

For example, in Marshall Goldsmith’s helpful book What Got You Here, Won’t Get You There, he explains his work with successful people who could not move up any further because of some significant character flaw. Most of these flaws were rooted in pride.

Goldsmith provides a list of 21 character flaws that he has seen in working with various executives. They include:

  • passing the buck–refusing to take responsibility for what happens under your watch;
  • the desire to add value to every conversation by throwing in your two cents;
  • continually beginning sentences with the words “no,” “but,” and “however” in a way that makes people think, “I’m right, and you’re wrong”;
  • feeling the need to answer every suggestion rather than just saying “thank you.”

There’s a lot of simple, practical wisdom in Goldsmith’s list (see the whole list here, and I would encourage you to read the whole book which you can find here).

I have learned a lot from these books. They have shown me very practical ways to show humility that I would most likely not have learned in other ways.

In light of that, it’s worth considering: what is the difference between secular humility and Christian humility? In saying this, let me be clear that I’m not describing the difference between particular secular individuals and Christian individuals. Rather, what different perspective does Christianity provide on the subject of humility? Continue reading “The Difference Between Secular & Christian Humility”