The Cowardliness of Self-Centeredness
By Jacob Tanner
We exist to glorify God and enjoy Him forever. That may seem like a simple statement. You may even have been familiar with it for years now. Perhaps you grew up knowing it.
But for me, that statement was life altering. When I first understood it—I mean truly understood it—life itself took on a totally new perspective. I suddenly saw every single moment of life enchanted with meaning. Instantaneously, there was no longer such a thing as idle time or wasted moments. The potential to glorify and enjoy God began to reveal itself to me in the most mundane of tasks. Whether I was washing the car, mowing the lawn, cutting up dinner for the kids, pulling weeds from the garden, or feeding the dog, every moment became an opportunity to glorify and enjoy God. Life was no longer about living for myself, but boldly living for Christ.
The Westminster Shorter Catechism, Question and Answer 1, is where I first really began to grasp this truth. "Question: What is the chief end of man? Answer: Man's chief end is to glorify God and to enjoy Him forever." This catechism brought clarity and sense to texts like the following:
1 Corinthians 10:31: "So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God."
Colossians 3:17: "And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him."
1 Peter 4:10-11: "As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God's varied grace: whoever speaks, as one who speaks oracles of God; whoever serves, as one who serves by the strength that God supplies—in order that in everything God may be glorified through Jesus Christ. To him belong glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen."
As these texts took on new meaning and significance, I found I could finally answer the question, "Why are we here? Why did God create us?" The answer was there all along. "To glorify God and enjoy Him forever."
This knowledge should lead us to bow the knee to Christ and become Christians who live Christ-centered lives, rather than self-centered lives.
The Self-Centered Sinner’s Way of Life: A Coward’s Safety
But, why do people insist on self-centeredness as a course of life? Frankly, it's safer in some way. They have their preferences and they stick to them. In churches, they often rear their heads by liking a certain style of music and then making a fuss when they don’t hear it, demand a service structured after their lusts and wants, and nitpick the tiniest of details to make everyone around them miserable with their constant complaining. The self-centered sinner is only concerned about their three favorite people: Me, myself, and I.
The Christ-centered Christian has a new group of favorite persons: The Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Rather than seeking to please ourselves and serve our flesh, we seek to serve God and please Him above all else. Perhaps the music isn’t quite our tempo, the sermon was a bit long, the sanctuary a bit too hot (or too cold), and the person next to us stank like a swamp, but we remember that we are there to serve Christ, and rather than complain and bring disharmony, we strive toward unity in Jesus.
In another sense, the self-centered life is the perfect life for cowards. The self-centered sinner seeks to satisfy their own desires and cravings. They never worry about being hurt by others because they can't be. It's all about them. But the Christ-centered person must be courageous as they seek to glorify God, knowing that this life often involves suffering for the sake of the Kingdom, sacrificing what we would prefer in favor of what God demands, loving the people of God (warts and all), and being hurt by both the world and brothers and sisters in Christ who act as enemies and despitefully use us (Matt. 5:44).
The differences between the two groups are staggering. Consider something as simple and natural as sex. The self-centered sinner will use things like sex to satisfy lusts, but never commit themselves to a spouse and never seek to have children. (I've often said to engaged couples that if they have no intention to love one another and aim to have children, I'm not sure what the purpose of their marriage is.) The Christ-centered saint sees sex as a gift from God within the covenant of marriage, and a means whereby children may be born. The fundamental difference is this: The self-centered sinner uses sex to satisfy themselves, but is too cowardly to commit to a spouse or children, whereas the Christ-centered saint views sex as a means to glorify God and enjoy Him forever and courageously commits to obey God by being fruitful and multiplying to rule the earth and subdue it (Gen 1:28).
The Current and Future Condemnation of Self-Centered Cowards
The cowardliness of self-centeredness ought to be condemned. In fact, Scripture does condemn it in Revelation 21:8, wherein cowards are warned, "But as for the cowardly, the faithless, the detestable, as for murderers, the sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars, their portion will be in the lake that burns with fire and sulfur, which is the second death."
While God calls self-centered cowards to salvation in Christ just as much as He calls the murderer, homosexual, and liar, He never permits sinners to remain in their sin. He loves His children far too much for that. He will transfer the most cowardly and self-centered of sinners into the most courageous and Christ-centered of saints. But make no mistake: Unrepentant self-centered sinners will be judged for their cowardliness.
Here's the catch, though: The self-centered sinner may selfishly and cowardly insist on their own way, seek their own wants, and fulfill their own lusts, yet still never be satisfied in this life. Not only will they be judged by God, but they'll never be content on earth. The world reveals itself to them to never be enough. They always want more, more, more, and, as they try to obtain it, find they need more still. It's like those who are "always learning, but never able to come to a knowledge of the truth" (2 Timothy 3:7). They are always fulfilling their self-centered lusts, but never coming to a point of satisfaction or contentedness.
Becoming Courageously Christ-Centered Christians
The Christ-centered Christian, on the other hand, "is patient and kind... does not envy or boast... is not arrogant or rude... does not insist on [their] own way... is not irritable or resentful... does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth... bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things" (1 Cor. 13:4-7) because they possess the love of God. In fact, the Christ-centered Christian is no longer a slave to sin, but a slave to righteousness in Christ (Rom. 6:18). Through the Holy Spirit, the Christ-centered Christian finds satisfaction in fulfilling God's Law by loving "the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind" and loving "your neighbor as yourself" (Matt. 22:37-40).
Self-centeredness is cowardliness. Let us strive, then, towards bold and courageous Christ-centeredness. Let us live every moment of life to glorify God and enjoy Him forever.
When people ask me, “Why are you married?” The answer is, “To live a Christ-centered life of glorifying and enjoying our Triune God forever.”
When people ask me, “Why do you have kids?” The answer is, “To live a Christ-centered life of glorifying and enjoying our Triune God forever.”
When people ask me, “Why do you preach?” The answer is, “To live a Christ-centered life of glorifying and enjoying our Triune God forever.”
Whenever I am asked for the reason I have done something, I must always be able to answer that I have done it and do it to live a Christ-centered life of glorifying and enjoying our Triune God forever.
And, when people ask us why Christ
Keystone Church exists, our primary answer ought to be this: To glorify God and enjoy Him forever as courageous Christ-centered saints, and to teach others to do the same.