There is no doubt about it. We live in a society where ‘self’ is the ultimate god. This is a period in time where psychologists stress the value of self help and charge an exuberant amount of money for theirs. People spend thousands upon thousands of dollars to get a piece of paper that opens the doors for self advancement. Our society is defined by its obsession with consumer goods and how these define the buyer. Another person’s success is usually not seen as self improvement so those who want to get “ahead” in life have to make that happen by themselves. Heck, even in something as mundane as driving, we get upset when someone cuts us of, because now they are ahead of us meaning we are no longer number one. Make no mistake; we live in a self driven society. I guess the question then becomes, how does someone live in a world where ‘self’ is god? Christ tells us to live for others but this world tells us to live for self. Even some who claim the name of Christ are deceived by the god of self because they constantly seek their own rights and their own gains and yet neglect to seek after the Kingdom. It’s important to state that there are exceptions to this worship of the self god in that not everyone does it. But the vast majority in our culture does. This is not an exaggeration or even an over simplification on my part. Marketing research confirms it, psychological research confirms it, and even physiological research confirms it. We are hard wired to seek our own interests. It is our nature. So how does someone live in a manner that is against the god of self? I guess the question that needs to be asked is: is training self to habitually do something that is not natural, good?
Actually, this is something that we do already. We teach a child not to steal, hurt people, to be nice, etc. However, there is research that shows that left to our own devices; we will do things that are considered to be negative like be angry, steal, be violent, etc. Why, because that’s our nature. But I guess a person could argue that these things in it of themselves are not necessarily wrong. I mean scripture does say to “be angry and sin not”. But what make these things so wrong are not the actions in it of themselves but the lack of control within themselves. I.e., control is the main unnatural catalyst. It would be natural for me to be angry and punch a guy in the face if I was provoked. However it’s unnatural for me to restrain the
urge to do so because control is unnatural. Nowhere is this clearer than in sex, especially for guys. According to scientists, it would be absolutely natural to have multiple sexual partners. Scientists have pointed to the fact that such behavior is natural for us since it’s wired into our instinctual nature and DNA in order that we may spread our genes. Thus, to some scientists, to restrain such sexual proliferation is unnatural. Yet we do it. So what does this have to do with how to live in a world that serves the god of self? Everything. Understand that to seek your own desires is natural. The god of self is a natural god whose worship is as natural as anything else. To do anything other than worship it, is unnatural. So, when Jesus asks you to do something like be selfless, he is asking you to do something completely unnatural. And that is the point. Anything and everything that God will ask of us goes against our nature. And that is why the Christian life is unlivable. “With man this is impossible”. This is actually a good thing.
It stands to reason then; if something by nature acts one way, and yet you want it to act contrary to its nature, you have to change its
nature. This can be clearly seen in medical science, by changing the makeup of bacteria, you can change its behavior and its effects on the human body. For example, in the case of the Clostridium bacteria, it can be trained to target cancerous cells that have a necrotic node as opposed to attacking healthy cells. This is accomplished by changing the nature of the bacteria. In the Clostridium’s case changing some of its properties enables it to attack and kill cancerous cells (for more info on this treatment, check out: http://blogs.scientificamerican.com/guest-blog/2010/11/03/bacteria-the-anti-cancer-soldier/).
Is restraint and control possible? Sure, but ultimately we will act naturally and produce the product of our nature, sin. To change this fact, our nature must be changed. Is this possible? “With man, this is impossible but (and this is a big but) with God, all things are possible.” God has asked us to do things that go against our nature, an impossibility, but He has provides a way to do it. A good boss will equip you for the assignment he gives you. In like manner as a good boss (He is so much more than that but for illustration purposes let’s just say He’s our boss) God has also provided a way to do the impossible, the unnatural…to love the true God, as opposed to the god of self. He did this by changing our nature. How does He do this? Well He actually already did, 2000 years ago on a cross. Perfection (unnatural for us) required a payment for our sin that involved and still does the utter and complete annihilation of our existence both in the physical and the spiritual. Since perfection is not natural for us, our annihilation would be justified. Yet God did something that only He could do…He paid the requirement of perfection by offering Himself. Naturally, He could do this for He is perfect. By taking upon Himself the blunder of our imperfection he paid for it, lifting the sentence of the law and equipping that which is imperfect with His perfection. To live in an imperfect world, we who are
perfect must depend on the status that does not depend on our perfection (or lack of) but on the perfection of Him who naturally was able to give it to us. But this can only happen to those who asks for this (God would not force something so precious on those who don’t want it). You see, we have the option to remain natural or become unnatural. Being natural is easy, because, well, it’s natural. However the reward is temporal and fickle in the present and nonexistent in the life to come. Being unnatural is substantially more difficult since you wage war against that which is natural and by our actions, judge it. But this option offers the great reward of union with God both in this life and in the next. The option to be unnatural is an option that will change our nature so that that, which was unnatural for us, now becomes natural. Where to love God is the goal of our every fiber I.e. natural. Not everyone wants this and so it would be unjust to force this change on anyone. The consequences are unchangeable for either decision so each decision must be weighed carefully. There is a reason why Jesus says to count the cost (Luke 14:28-35). To be with Christ means to be a new creation (II Cor. 5:17), meaning you’re going to start thinking, behaving, desiring things that are different (A whole blog in itself).
At any rate, I guess the answer to “how does a person live in today’s self driven world” is: to act naturally. On one had you have those with the nature of the world and on the other hand you have those with a new nature. As believers, our nature is to love God, our new desires are geared towards Him. Act on these. Seek to get close to the One who you now love.
For the unbeliever, your nature is for self (this is not a negative, derogatory statement. It’s just what it is) I admonish you to get the new nature of Christ but you have to count that cost. I am not in the business of bible thumping you into religion but if you are interested, there’s nothing more that I would rather do then tell you about the most amazing savior ever. Jesus Christ, who was and is and is to come.