Grow Up Part 2 -- Starve Egoism

Grow Up Part 2

Grow Deep, Grow up, Grow Fruit—this is the task of a disciple of Jesus. A disciple is one who is a Christ follower, they have made a commitment to do life with Jesus as their mentor. Growing deep deals with one's relationship with God, doing the things that enhance and promote that relationship while refraining from any behavior that would hinder or degrade that relationship. We are now considering what it means to Grow Up in the faith; how to grow up in the faith. Our guiding scripture for our exploration is

Hebrews 6:1-3 (NIV)
Therefore let us leave the elementary teachings about Christ and go on to maturity, not laying again the foundation of repentance from acts that lead to death, and of faith in God, instruction about baptisms, the laying on of hands, the resurrection of the dead, and eternal judgment. And God permitting, we will do so.

The elementary teachings are what you first learned when God accepted your faith in Christ and claimed you as His adopted child. These elementary teachings are foundational, they have to be in place in order to grow up in the faith. You should be able to articulate these elementary teachings to anyone. If not, maybe you should reexamine what you believe and why you believe.

2 Corinthians 13:5 (MSG)
Test yourselves to make sure you are solid in the faith. Don't drift along taking everything for granted. Give yourselves regular checkups. You need firsthand evidence, not mere hearsay, that Jesus Christ is in you. Test it out. If you fail the test, do something about it.

Last time we learned that God is a jealous God and wants us to respond to Him not for what we can get from Him but instead love Him for who He is, not what He may or may not do for us. Suffering removes all those external gifts and all we are left with is the question, will we continue to love the Lord our God with all our heart, mind, soul and strength, even in the midst of our suffering? When God doesn’t do what we want, will we still be obedient?

This time we are going to consider three enemies to spiritual growth. Here’s the conclusion before the teaching on how you defeat those enemies: starve egoism.

To starve something is to deprive it of basic life necessities. The human body starves when there is not enough air to breath, food to eat, water to drink and one might also add not enough sleep, exercise, and sunlight. To starve egoism is to deny egoism it’s necessities. Its necessities are what it consumes in the way of your time, your talent, your paycheck.

Egoism is not to be confused with the general psychological usage of the word ego or egotism. Egoism is a translation of the Greek word sarkos. Possibly in the translation of the Bible that you read you’ll come across words like the “sin nature,” the “sinful nature,” the “sinful self,” “carnal,” and probably the most confusing to modern ears is the word “flesh.” What these words all refer to is the human propensity to do what we want, when we want, the way we want, disregarding the consequences for ourselves and others. Other word pictures include the self-centered upon the self, self-autonomy, self-rule, or just about any other combination of words that means: “I disregard God’s commands and do what I want.”

The Apostle Paul says this about egoism:

Romans 8:6-8 (NCV)
If people’s thinking is controlled by the [egoism], there is death. But if their thinking is controlled by the Spirit, there is life and peace. When people’s thinking is controlled by [egoism], they are against God, because they refuse to obey God’s law and really are not even able to obey God’s law. Those people who are ruled by their sinful selves cannot please God.

There are three enemies of your spiritual growth that require you to starve them out of your life. Three enemies that you need to put to death. We can liken them to a weed in the garden.  I have found that even after you pull the roots of a weed out, it's not long until a new shoot pops up and you have to deal with a variation of the weed again. Eventually, with persistence, you win the battle and the weed is no more.

Our task in growing up is to deprive egoism of its necessities to survive. The enemies are revealed to us in Jesus' encounter with Satan.

Luke 4:1-14 (MSG)
Now Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, left the Jordan and was led by the Spirit into the wild. For forty wilderness days and nights, He was tested by the Devil.

He ate nothing during those days, and when the time was up he was hungry.
The Devil, playing on his hunger, gave the first test: "Since you're God's Son, command this stone to turn into a loaf of bread." Jesus answered by quoting Deuteronomy: "It takes more than bread to really live."

For the second test, he led him up and spread out all the kingdoms of the earth on display at once. Then the Devil said, "They're yours in all their splendor to serve your pleasure. I'm in charge of them all and can turn them over to whomever I wish. Worship me and they're yours, the whole works." Jesus refused, again backing his refusal with Deuteronomy: "Worship the Lord your God and only the Lord your God. Serve him with absolute single-heartedness."

For the third test, the Devil took him to Jerusalem and put him on top of the Temple. He said, "If you are God's Son, jump. It's written, isn't it, that 'he has placed you in the care of angels to protect you; 11 they will catch you; you won't so much as stub your toe on a stone'?" "Yes," said Jesus, "and it's also written, 'Don't you dare tempt the Lord your God.' "

That completed the testing. The Devil retreated temporarily, lying in wait for another opportunity. Jesus returned to Galilee powerful in the Spirit.

When you read this I think you miss the struggle that is going on. These three tests where not as easily vanquished as a quick read of the passage might suggest. Failing these three tests, the result is the damage, if not the destruction of positive, productive and prudent relationships. We call such damage sin.

Enemy number 1 is hidden in the temptation to turn a stone into bread. What that temptation involves is physical pleasure. Physical pleasure is a gift from God. But like any gift of God physical pleasure can be turned into something that corrupts and destroys. I really like Italian cuisine, but a continued indulgence results in detriment to my body. What do you find physical pleasure in? What gives you that adrenaline rush? What makes you feel good? Overindulgence leads to ignoring God’s commands in favor of doing what is physically pleasurable, the result is sin.

Enemy number 2 is hidden in the temptation is to have whatever your eyes see. What that temptation involves is seeing it coupled with the desire to possess it. I see it, I want it. I see it, I’ve got to have it, I need to possess it. There are a lot of beautiful things in this world but, the love of beauty without a corresponding love of righteousness leads to a lack of self-control, which will result in sin.

Enemy number 3 is hidden in the temptation to jump. What the temptation involves is identifying oneself to one’s accomplishments. The jump represents separating yourself from the crowd by the abundance of things you possess, the things you are privileged to, and the “look at me” things. You boast in what separates you from the “sheepeople.”  This sort of behavior is prideful and it separates and divides you from others, which results in sin. 

Couple these enemies with the inroad into your life made possible by egoism and you will not grow.

Galatians 5:19-21 (MSG)
It is obvious what kind of life develops out of trying to get your own way all the time: repetitive, loveless, cheap sex; a stinking accumulation of mental and emotional garbage; frenzied and joyless grabs for happiness; trinket gods; magic-show religion; paranoid loneliness; cutthroat competition; all-consuming-yet-never-satisfied wants; a brutal temper; an impotence to love or be loved; divided homes and divided lives; small-minded and lopsided pursuits; the vicious habit of depersonalizing everyone into a rival; uncontrolled and uncontrollable addictions; ugly parodies of community.

This passage reveals to us the results of being defeated by the three enemies. These are the ways of the world, and when I use the term world I mean that all that encompasses society that opposes the rule of God.

1 John 2:15-16 (MSG)
Don't love the world's ways. Don't love the world's goods. Love of the world squeezes out love for the Father. Practically everything that goes on in the world—wanting your own way, wanting everything for yourself, wanting to appear important—has nothing to do with the Father. It just isolates you from him.

See those enemies again?—wanting your own way, wanting everything for yourself, wanting to appear important. Feeding these enemies results in no growth; in spiritual stagnation. You will not mature in your faith.

In another age and time, this teaching would include a list of behaviors that would be considered worldly, or like the world. There are still many in the Church that wants to tell you what you can and cannot do, mostly what you can’t. If we make such a list it would be elementary teachings, spoon feeding for babes in Christ who lack discernment, those lacking the ability to figure out the difference between appropriate and inappropriate behavior for a follower of Jesus.

To grow up in your faith you have to leave these kinds of lists behind and instead allow the Holy Spirit, with whom you have been sealed, to reveal to you what needs to be starved out of your life. You starve these enemies by refraining from the behaviors that indulge them. Let me warn you, there will be withdrawal pains.

Starving egoism requires contemplation and accountability because it is the nature of egoism to convince you that what you are doing is OK. “After all, everybody is doing it.” “You deserve a break today.” “Hey if it feels good, do it.” “It’s just a harmless diversion.” “If nobody gets hurt it must be ok.” Egoism tends to make us poor judges of our own behavior, we never think we have a problem, or if we recognize the problem we think we are still in control of it. It is in contemplation that we ask the Holy Spirit to reveal to us what needs to be starved out and often we need to allow the words of another that we are in fellowship with to illuminate our egoism feeding behaviors. A simple question to ask is: Would Jesus be doing this or something else?

One thing I have experienced is that starving a behavior leaves an emptiness within you. Nature abhors a vacuum so if you don’t fill that emptiness with something good, it won’t be long until you are back feeding egoism. To grow up you need to starve egoism and feed righteousness. You will need to find something to do that replaces what you have been doing. It will take about 60 days to make the switch. The result will be you growing up in your faith.

“Therefore let us leave the elementary teachings about Christ and go on to maturity…”
The Cut –Jason gray


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