Freedom From #2: Egoism

 

Freedom From #2:  Egoism

 July 4, Independence Day, a day we celebrate our refusal to bend the knee to oppression and tyranny.  We are going to continue to explore our battle for spiritual freedom.  The scripture paints a picture of Satan being the ruler of all those outside the Kingdom of God.  The Evil One has blinded the eyes of those within its domain keeping them in spiritual darkness (2 Corinthians 4:4).  The Devil is crafty and tempts every one of us with what seems to be so very good.  But it’s always a bait and switch that creates spiritual prisons.  We become addicted to our sin.  You may think of the acts of sin as relationship destroyers.  Sin deters, damages, and destroys healthy relationships.  We can call a healthy relationship a righteous relationship, one that is working the way human relationships were created to function.  Mutually beneficial interdependent relationships that support, encourage, care, protect; are how humanity is designed.  Where this type of relationship does not exist, it's because sin has corrupted it.  That’s the enemy’s game plan, keep you in the dark, keep corrupting your relationships, keep you in the prisons of your own making.   

 There is a way out, out of the prisons, out of the darkness, out of destructive relationships.  Jesus said:

 John 12:31 (MSG)

At this moment the world is in crisis. Now Satan, the ruler of this world, will be thrown out.

 So the ruler is thrown out when you believe that Jesus can set you free, you acknowledge that you have been held captive all these years, believe that Jesus sets the captives free, commit yourself to live the life of a liberated person.  Ask God to accept your faith.  Jesus will set you free from the domain of the poser into the Kingdom of God.  Yes, all you need to do is ask, for Jesus has done all that is necessary to set you free.  It’s God the Father’s gift to you.

 Maybe during this presentation, the Holy Spirit will reveal your situation and what to do to escape it.  If you choose to live free, let me know, I want to pray with you, and then celebrate your newfound freedom.

 In session 1 we learned that after your release that the Tempter fights to get you back into its clutches attacking your righteousness, peace, and joy in an attempt to destroy your newfound faith.  We’re going to consider our need for freedom from egoism, or as the King James Version reads, the flesh, or as the New International Version reads the sin nature, or as the Message Paraphrase reads sinful self-interest.

 Galatians 5:16-18 (MSG)

My counsel is this: Live freely, animated and motivated by God's Spirit. Then you won't feed the compulsions of selfishness. For there is a root of sinful self-interest in us that is at odds with a free spirit, just as the free spirit is incompatible with selfishness. These two ways of life are antithetical, so that you cannot live at times one way and at times another way according to how you feel on any given day. Why don't you choose to be led by the Spirit and so escape the erratic compulsions of a law-dominated existence?


 Why don’t you choose?  Egoism, the flesh, the sin nature, the sinful self-interest is ingrained into our very being in such a way that we don’t even notice it unless the Holy Spirit reveals it to us.  We see the appearance of egoism in the creation story.  The man is told don’t, but he does, and he does because he thinks God is holding out on him, his trust waivers, so he does what he thinks is best.  That’s the nature of the problem.

 I am going to do what I want regardless of the consequences.  If I didn’t make the rule I’m going to break the rule.  The only person I obey is me.  I do what is best for me.  I am my authority, I decide what is good and what is bad, I don’t need sage advice, I know what needs to be done.  It is this very self-rule that enables Satan to blind the eyes of those who are not citizens in the Kingdom of God.  Many, if not all, our prisons are self-made.  When we first believe the good news of the Gospel that Jesus has made liberation from the messes of our lives a reality, God the Holy Spirit set us free, the prison cell door was opened; a gift we receive through faith in what Jesus has done for us.  Even though we are free, we still have this stubborn inclination, this inclination to look out for number 1. 

 The Kingdom of God comes with a new morality; everything is permissible that aligns itself with loving God and loving others (1 Corinthians 10:23).  In the 3rd century, a guy names Augustine taught “Love God and do whatever you please, for the soul trained in love to God will do nothing to offend the One who is Beloved.”

 Paul in Romans writes of a problem when it comes to obeying the Law.  He wants to obey, but he finds that he can’t always do it.  Sometimes he finds that he is doing the exact opposite of what the Law requires.  Now if we replace the Hebrew Law, with the command of the New Testament to love God and love others, the same problem presents itself. Let’s read the passage:

 Romans 7:15-23 (MSG)

What I don't understand about myself is that I decide one way, but then I act another, doing things I absolutely despise. So if I can't be trusted to figure out what is best for myself and then do it, it becomes obvious that God's command is necessary.

 But I need something more! For if I know the law but still can't keep it, and if the power of sin within me keeps sabotaging my best intentions, I obviously need help! I realize that I don't have what it takes. I can will it, but I can't do it. I decide to do good, but I don't really do it; I decide not to do bad, but then I do it anyway. My decisions, such as they are, don't result in actions. Something has gone wrong deep within me and gets the better of me every time.

It happens so regularly that it's predictable. The moment I decide to do good, sin is there to trip me up. I truly delight in God's commands, but it's pretty obvious that not all of me joins in that delight. Parts of me covertly rebel, and just when I least expect it, they take charge.


Do these words describe your experience?  You want to love God with all your heart, mind, soul, and strength.  You want to love others as you love yourself.  You want to obey, you want to do what is right, but “it happens so regularly” that you don’t.

 Your covert rebel is egoism; you’re centered on yourself; the inner propensity to be your god.  That’s what the original temptation was, do your own thing and you will be like God.  Let’s make the point again.  When you acknowledge, believe, and commit to Gospel, asking God to save you, God’s answer is to set you free from spiritual bondage to Satan.  Yet you have an old ingrained habit of calling your shots, so what can happen is you use your new-found freedom to return to some dead-end way of life because it's familiar, it’s what you’ve always known, and before you realize it you’ve damaged the righteousness, peace, and joy that was yours when Jesus set you free.

 1 Peter 2:16 (MSG)

Exercise your freedom by serving God, not by breaking the rules.

 You know that the rule of the Kingdom is to love God and love others.  Love is the path Jesus trail blazed, love demonstrated in doing everything He could to bring you into a right relationship with the One He called the Father.  Use your freedom to serve God as demonstrated by your love: your ferocious love that doesn’t back down, your faithful love that doesn’t retreat, your tenacious love that wins the victory.  But as we experienced sometimes we are spot on, and sometimes we prove the adage “a sinner saved by grace” cause we miss the mark when it comes to loving Kingdom style.

 Egoism causes inconsistency.  Do you recognize this up and down, right on, and way off behavior?  That realization is the first step in overcoming this inner enemy.  A feeling of contrition rises inside you.  Contrition is a deep emotion of remorse, regret, and sorrow.  It stirs up a desire to repent, to turn from this rollercoaster spirituality and begun to love with your entire being.  These feelings come because you know you aren’t returning the love that God has lavished upon you (1 John 3:1).

 Acknowledgment: Yes, this is my spiritual life and I don’t want to be this way anymore.  With that confession comes acts of repentance. There’s this determination to do better, to work harder, to discipline yourself more, find a strict accountability group, but the more you try, the more disheartened you become.  If you are there in your spiritual journey check this out:

 Romans 7:24-25 (MSG)

I've tried everything and nothing helps. I'm at the end of my rope. Is there no one who can do anything for me? Isn't that the real question?

 The answer, thank God, is that Jesus Christ can and does. He acted to set things right in this life of contradictions where I want to serve God with all my heart and mind, but am pulled by the influence of sin to do something different.

Once again Jesus comes to the rescue.  You put together the puzzle pieces.

Ezekiel 36:25-27 (MSG)

I'll pour pure water over you and scrub you clean. I'll give you a new heart, put a new spirit in you. I'll remove the stone heart from your body and replace it with a heart that's God-willed, not self-willed. I'll put my Spirit in you and make it possible for you to do what I tell you and live by my commands.

 1 Thessalonians 5:23-24 (MSG)

May God himself, the God who makes everything holy and whole, make you holy and whole, put you together—spirit, soul, and body—and keep you fit for the coming of our Master, Jesus Christ. The One who called you is completely dependable. If he said it, he'll do it!

 Did you catch that?—Jesus will rescue you from the inner enemy egoism.  God will do it.  The Holy Spirit will change your heart.

 Ask for this great gift to be given to you.  God will provide.  The power of egoism to hijack your best intentions will be broken.  Now you will be able to do what you set out to do.  The stumbling block is taken away.  Now instead of defaulting to doing what you want you will seek God and find out what He wants.  When you choose to do it, do it you shall.  The inner enemy is now powerless to make you do what you do not want to do.  You have the power to choose to follow the leading of the Holy Spirit, to keep in step with the spirit, and not gratify unloving self-interests.


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