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A Remedy for Self-Love

A recent turn of family events has exposed something in me that, quite honestly, I’d rather not confess.  But perhaps in my confession, we can all find a deeper grace and a stronger walk. 

My mother-in-law was visiting us Thanksgiving weekend, and she developed a nasty virus that required hospitalization.  For a week.  After getting released, the very next day she had to be readmitted, and we’re not sure how long she’ll have to stay as she fights off her infection.  Two weeks before Christmas.  With several speaking events.  A funeral.  Christmas parties all lined up.  And family Christmas plans.

I’m trying to be the supportive son-in-law and be at the hospital, while Laura and her siblings do their best to rotate and provide their love and care.  But here’s my confession.  In the midst of other people’s pain, I actually begin to look inward at my schedule, my priorities, my demands, and my expectations above those around me. 

I’m reminded of C. S. Lewis’s “shrinking man” in The Great Divorce who hides behind the mask of the tragic actor and continues to shrink by his own self-love.  This image of the shrinking man comes from Augustine’s classic description of sin as self-love.  Augustine taught that God created us to be “curved outwards” with our gaze on God and neighbor in selfless love.

Sin, however, pulls our gaze away from God and others and turns it upon ourselves so that we become “curved inwards.”  The result, as Joshua Ryan Butler tells us, is a shrunken existence: “compressed, restricted, and small, in our self-shielded resistance to the source of love and the objects of love for whom we were created.  Self-love shrinks you” (The Skeletons in God’s Closet, 95).

Ever since the Fall (Genesis 3), humanity has curved inward and “put on leaves” (Genesis 3:7-8) in our attempt to create false identities and hide from God and others. 

What’s the remedy?  Exactly what my mother-in-law needs right now—an antivirus that will kill the infection and bring healing.  Jesus is the antivirus, and as we turn our gaze upward, we will see Him there all along, waiting to pour out His love and grace.  Through His redemption, we are given a new identity (2 Corinthians 5:17), and we shift from self-love to selfless love and from the shrinking man or woman to a radiant child of the King.

Sometimes when bad things happen around you, it reveals some badness still inside of you.  It has for me this week.  But overcoming it requires admitting it and then “curving outwards” once again with our gaze on God and neighbor in selfless love.

“Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves.  Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.  Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 2:3-5, ESV).

Posted by Rick Grover, Lead Pastor with

What Differentiates the Fallen from the Faithful?

What you’re about to read might engender a slight headache and an uneasy feeling of despair.  But if “facts are our friends,” then we need to welcome them and learn from them, even if we don’t like them.

David Kinnaman and Mark Matlock have written a groundbreaking book on five practices of young adults who possess resilient faith in our chaotic culture.  Their research through the Barna Group indicates that among today’s 18- to 29-year-olds who grew up in the Church, 22% no longer identify as Christian, 30% identify as Christian but no longer attend church, 38% believe and attend infrequently, which leaves 10% who are actively engaged in a personal relationship with Jesus and are strongly rooted in the church (Faith for Exiles, 32-33). 

The good news is that this percentage of young Christians whose faith is robust and vibrant represents just under four million people.  The bad news is that, according to this study, 90% of young adults raised in the church either no longer believe in Jesus and have nothing to do with the church, or they believe in Jesus but still have nothing, or almost nothing, to do with the church.

One of the key practices that differentiate the fallen from the faithful is the development of meaningful relationships within the church.  In other words, young adults who were mentored, discipled, and loved by others from the Body of Christ developed a resilient faith.  Those who merely attended services didn’t. 

When surveyed, only 5% of those raised in church but who claim no faith today indicated that the church was a place where they felt they belonged.  Of those raised in the church who now display a resilient faith in Jesus, 88% said the church is a place where they feel they belong.

The application couldn’t be more obvious.  If we don’t want to see our churches snuffed out in the next ten to twenty years, we need to build meaningful relationships with the next generation.  And this isn’t just a parenting issue.  This is an “all-in.”  We all need to engage in creating environments where children and students know they are loved, welcomed, and encouraged to use their gifts as fully functioning participants in the Body of Christ.

Don’t isolate yourself from the next generation.  When you see parents and children in the hallways of your local church, greet them.  Smile.  Ask them how they’re doing.  Get to know their names.  Volunteer.  Pray.

You never know.  You may be helping the next generation and their parents discover that Church is not just a formality of religious education.  You may be helping raise up the next generation of resilient disciples who will change the world. 

“Jesus said, `Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these’” (Matthew 19:14, NIV).

Posted by Rick Grover, Lead Pastor with

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