Summary: God’s way of "self-fulfillment" goes against the grain of our culture of Self, and allows us to be Free to Be Nothing.
Free to Be Nothing
February 3, 2002
If you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any fellowship with the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, 2then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and purpose. 3Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. 4Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others. 5Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus: 6Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, 7but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. 8And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death-- even death on a cross!
This morning, with this very rich passage as our context, there are so many ways we could go, but I’d like to focus on three key verses and their understanding of self:
Verse 3: Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves.
Verse 4: Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others.
Verse 7: speaking of Jesus, He made Himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant,…
Let’s think for a moment how very much against the grain of modern society these verses go - We live in a culture of Self, with a capital “S”
We live in a culture where narcissism, which is defined as
1. Excessive love or admiration of oneself
Or 2. A psychological condition characterized by self-preoccupation and lack of empathy
is defined as a personality disorder - a disorder that 1% of the population supposedly has
It’s named after Narcissus - a character in Greek mythology - he was a young man who thought he was pretty hot, and pined away in love for his own image in a pool of water,
He was so obsessed with his own reflection that he later became so distraught, because he couldn’t touch or embrace his own image, that he died, we can probably all think of people who have self-centered tendencies.
A young woman asked for an appointment with her pastor to talk with him about a besetting sin about which she was worried. When she saw him, she said, "Pastor, I have become aware of a sin in my life which I cannot control. Every time I am at church I begin to look around at the other women, and I realize that I am the prettiest one in the whole congregation. None of the others can compare with my beauty. What can I do about this sin?" The pastor replied, "Mary, that’s not a sin, why that’s just a mistake!"
But narcissism, and its lesser cousins, is probably the personality disorder - or human tendency, which is most heavily promoted and encouraged by nearly every other aspect of our society.
- which encourages self-love to the extreme. Just watch the Super Bowl commercials tonight, - during which you’ll be encouraged to love yourself by buying all kinds of stuff - because you deserve it.
This culture of self is why it’s so unusual, and remarkable, when we come across a person like the late Mother Teresa:
When she was passing through a crowd in Detroit once, a woman remarked, "Her secret is that she is free to be nothing. Therefore God can use her for anything."
That’s the title of this morning’s message: Free to Be Nothing
It’s the message in verse 7 of the scripture passage we just read, describing Jesus, who “made Himself nothing,” and Paul says that’s to be our attitude, too.
Here in our culture of self, we see perfectly capable people taking a handicapped parking spot, or creating a spot near the store’s door that’s not really there, because somehow, they’re so special, that they shouldn’t have to walk an extra 10 parking spaces.
We see people demanding rights that never existed 25-50 years ago, they didn’t exists as rights then, because an accepted understanding of rights was this:
My right to swing my fist ends at your nose. In other words, there are some rights I have, but when they infringe on your rights, my rights are at least that much abridged or restricted.
Today, our “rights” allow women to kill their unborn children. Our culture of self doesn’t seem to see the disparity of so-called “rights” that trample on others’ rights, because what we think is this: - it’s all about me.
Perhaps there are some of you thinking, “you mean it isn’t?”