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About this series
I Choose Love
How to Build Lasting Relationships
One of Jesus' last commands, and one of God's greatest delights is that His children, those who call Christ Lord, would love one another. But we all know loving other people doesn't come naturally, and it's not always easy. In this series, Chip teaches us, from the book of Philippians, Chapter 2, how to choose love and build relationships that last.More from this series
How to become a more loving person. “Choose to declare war on,” write the word, “selfishness.” Choose to declare war on selfishness.
And, as usual, when I go high-tech here, my iPad is not working so I think I’ll go with a little bit less technical one that you all have. Turn to Philippians chapter 2, if you’re not already there. And let me, let me read for you this command. Philippians chapter 2, we have looked at verses 1 and 2. Follow along here in chapter 2 as we read verses 3 and 4.
“Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but in humility of mind, consider others more important than yourself.” Verse 4, “Let each of you look not only on your own interest, but also on the interest of others.”
You may be looking at this and saying, “Declare war – aren’t you getting a little radical here?” No. No. We are born with this innate ability to be selfish. In fact, let me define selfish ambition, here. Four words: “I want my way.” That’s selfish ambition. I want my way.
You might jot down: it’s a “me first” mentality. I want to be first in line. I want the best spot. I want to get on the plane first – that’s one of mine. I want to get to work first. When I go through the buffet, I want the best piece of meat. I want the best promotion. It’s me first. I want my needs met in this marriage. I want my mom and dad to come through for me. I want my professor to give me what I want, when I want it.
It’s a “me first” mentality. I want to be number one. I am selfish. Now, it’s very unpopular to admit that. But what is hard to see in ourselves, isn’t it easy to see in others? You get out on the freeway, are people selfish or what? This isn’t out there somewhere, either. Anybody here tried to get out of the parking lot here? Especially the eleven o’clock service.
Now, there are some people, very Christian, wave you in. And there are some of you that are still working on it. Let me put it that way. But we are selfish. But you don’t slide out of being selfish. Even though the living Spirit of Christ lives inside of you and you are born again and you’re a part of the kingdom of God – there is this battle.
Galatians talks about the Spirit wages war against the flesh. This predisposition toward my way, my stuff is rooted in your heart and you’ll have it until the day you die. But the Spirit of God can give you the ability to, in humility – look at the second half of that text – in humility, consider others as more important than yourself.
Humility can be a very misunderstood word, so I came across a very, very interesting article. I think of humility as not thinking too highly of yourself, not thinking too lowly of yourself – but having an accurate, sober self-assessment. As one person said, “Humility is not thinking less of yourself. Humility is just thinking less about yourself.”
Beating yourself up, “I’m a terrible person,” that’s not humility, that’s not accurate. It’s just not letting you, it’s me not letting me be the thing and the person I think about all the time.
They are doing science now on the benefits of virtues – things like forgiveness. Or, they have done lots of research on gratitude. You may have read some of that. This is an article by a professor at George Fox University. It’s called The Science of Humility. It says, “Researchers have developed scales to measure intellectual humility, relational humility, cultural humility, and some are now working on spiritual humility as well.
“As with forgiveness and gratitude, humility fosters,” now, listen, this is what humility delivers. Are you ready for this? “Humility fosters physical and mental and relational heath, humble people are more grateful and forgiving, so they enjoy the benefits of those virtues. They are also, humble people are more generous and helpful to others.”
Hey, this is a good one. You want, “They have better romantic relationships,” for some of you, get humble right away, okay? “They have better romantic relationships, have less anxiety about death, and experience less spiritual struggle.” Those parents who are concerned about your kids? “People that are humble perform better at school, show more compassion to others, and even have better self-esteem than less humble people.”
So, in other words, they are doing scientific research, and what God has commanded, what delights our Father and what Christ modeled, amazingly, is that genuine humility – not putting yourself first, but actually considering the needs of others – it’s what we call around here, and you’ll learn more about in this series, it’s the “I am second,” mentality. It’s just goes completely against everything. I am second as I go through the line. I am second as I drive on the freeway. I am second when I think about my rights in my marriage. I am second when I think about the needs with my roommate. I am second when we are trying to divide something, right? See who gets the bigger piece.
The article goes on and says that, “Humility,” this is very important, “does not require self-loathing or self-belittling, but it calls for us to dial back our normal tendency,” are you ready for this? “to overestimate our abilities and behaviors.” Now, I never do that and you never do that, but there are some people out there who overestimate their abilities and their behaviors. And you know I’m teasing. I love it. He gives, there are three characteristics of people that are genuinely humble. Number one, they have a reasonably accurate view of themselves – neither too high or neither too low. Pretty biblical.
Number two is they care more deeply or have a concern and notice other people. And then, number three, is humble people are teachable.
So, genuine humility is rooted in some characteristics and according to this scientific study, which, actually is pretty biblical, whether they know it or not, is that they have a pretty accurate view of themselves. In other words, I’m not the center of the world. Are you ready? I’m not the smartest person in the room. My opinions aren’t always the best. My perspective of what we ought to do or my decision isn’t necessarily better than others. But it doesn’t mean that I don’t have good thoughts and my decisions and my perspective can be very valid.
So they don’t think too high; they don’t think too low. The second one is they really consider the thoughts, the interests, and the feelings of others. Humble people are sensitive. Humble people notice the person that when everyone gets out and walks out of here, humble people see the people that no one said hi to. Humble people notice the needs of other people.
Genuinely humble people, I am always amazed that, maybe I’ll have a passing conversation with someone and a week later, two weeks later, get a note or get something in the mail. I was meeting with someone a long time ago, and they watched me fiddle with trying to recharge. You’ve got all these recharges and all this different stuff. Out of the blue, a week later, I get a package. There’s no name, there’s no note, there’s no anything. I don’t know what it is. I open the package and it’s one of these bars that has one, two, three, four, five where you can hook in your phone, everything else with the plug and you plug the thing in. I use it every day. Humility. Someone didn’t say a word, saw I had a need, and addressed the need.
And, third, and I think this is big. They are teachable. They realize they are on the journey too. How humble are you? For some of your personalities, I just want to say: please, please don’t go to, Oh, I came to church today. I’m a terrible person. Everything he’s talking about, that’s me. I’m an arrogant, terrible person. You know what? Guess where your focus is at this moment: it’s on you.
At the heart of not being humble is not thinking lowly of yourself, belittling yourself, condemning yourself. In fact, the second way to become more loving is: attack the root of the problem. And then I want you to write in the word: pride. Attack the root of the problem.
If you will, right underneath where you see verse 3, circle the words empty conceit. “Do nothing from selfish ambition or empty conceit.” Selfish ambition – selfishness is what we do. The root of the problem is why we do it. That’s empty conceit.
Or, I love, write this word down. I love this phrase. It’s an old, old, old version of King James. “Vain glory,” empty glory. You say, “Well, what is vain glory? What is empty conceit?”
Well, a good street name is pride, that that’s sort of, it’s a big word. Let me give you some very specific pictures of empty conceit. Empty conceit is: I’m better. I’m more important. I’m superior. I’m more intelligent. My time matters more than yours. My life matters more than you. I have greater value. I have greater worth.
Now, you may not say that outside in your head, but our behavior, our behavior just screams: vain glory! Did you like the way I said that? Glory! Right? It’s this: I’m the center of the world and I can clothe it with all kinds of Bible verses and I can actually, in a Christian way, do image management to try and project I’m humble. Which is at the empty conceit – the idea is: I want everyone to have this amazing opinion of me that I either want for myself or I actually think I have.
I made a list, because this got very convicting and I thought, Oh boy. I made a list of some ways that, when this happens in me, okay? This isn’t you. This is me. When these things happen in me, what I know is vain glory, empty conceit, pride is raising its ugly head.
And then I’m going to talk to you about how to go into training. And did you notice the violent words I have used? Declare war! Attack! In other words, you’ve got to get to the root of the problem. This isn’t about, “I think I’m going to try and be more loving and I’ll tell someone I forgive.”
No. This is hard stuff, root stuff. This is stuff that is so deeply in your psyche and in your soul and mine, that you have to declare war. I refuse, in light of what God has done for me, to be a selfish person. I am going to attack the root problem. And the root problem is in my thinking. I become the center of things, even subtly, because in my thinking I think I am better or I want to project that I’m better. In my thinking, my time and my money and what I do is more important. And it’s lethal. It destroys relationships. It’s unloving.
And, so, when these things happen in my life, what I know is pride, defensiveness, someone makes a comment to me and my – immediately – it could be my wife, it can be in a meeting, it could be one of my kids, it could be someone I don’t know very much. They say something or talk about something, and I hear myself, I’m defensive. Well, why? Because I’ve got to guard, I’ve got to prove, I’ve got to protect whatever they have said that hit a button inside.
Second, making excuses. My pride. I didn’t do it wrong! I didn’t mess up! It was them! It was late! It was the traffic. If they would have done this one time, I would have had it on time. It’s, you name it.
In fact, related to that one is when I hear myself blaming other people, I know that’s pride. In other words, don’t look at me and think it’s my fault. See, humility, you know what humility does? And it actually gains. It actually gains the credibility of people when you actually make a mistake, when you’re actually late, when you really blow it, when you don’t come through – it’s amazing what happens when you say: “Hey, I hope you all, I just apologize. That was a deadline. I didn’t hit it. I could give you a number of reasons. None of them really measure up other than I didn’t use my time wisely, I went down some bad paths in terms of how to solve this problem. I’d like to ask you guys to forgive me.”
You know what normally happens? Everyone in the room knows they do that too. But so often we blame, we make excuses.
In my marriage, for many years, I remember my wife saying this. She said it in the presence of a counselor, so it was very unpleasant. “Chip, you always have to have the last word.” Does that ring a bell? You always have to have the last word. And I had to go into training to realize: Why? Because down deep it’s: I’ve got to be right. I’ve got to declare. And it was all about these insecurities and this pride.
I remember evaluating things and especially some of you that are in business or if you have some leadership or strategic views of things and the challenge is if you’re really, pretty good at it, I remember a number of years ago, it’s probably a decade ago, I would hope it would be a little bit more, but honestly probably about a decade ago, when I realized when I evaluated things, I had this subtle view that when I looked at all the pieces and I aligned all the pieces, that my view was the truth. My view.
In other words: I’ve looked at this, I’ve looked at this, I’ve prayed about it, I’ve got it all together – my view of this situation is the truth.
And, boy, did I find out either I didn’t read the pieces right or I didn’t have all the pieces and I had a couple of experiences where I was so wrong! And, now, when I have a conversation where I have to confront someone and it’s really difficult and it’s really tender, I try to always preface it with something like this: “Now, I want you to know that I need to say a couple things that will be hard to hear. But here’s what you need to hear first: this is my perspective, not to be confused with the truth. I don’t know the reality. But what I want you to know and what I am responsible – this is my perspective and I would like you to take this perspective and would you weigh this before God to see what truth is in it?” Do you see the difference?
My list is actually longer, well, here’s one. I was perpetually late for almost everything for years. You know the guy that is dashing onto the plane in the old years, before there was all that security? Or the person who is rushing in and running out of the parking lot and coming in two minutes late or five minutes late? I was late, late, late, late, late.
And I tried hard and it really bugged my wife. And then I had a breakthrough. My problem was not being late. My problem wasn’t self-will. My problem wasn’t discipline. My problem was grandiosity. And when I saw that, it was so ugly, I changed. Some of you are saying, “So, what exactly is grandiosity?”
Grandiosity is thinking whatever you are doing is so important. And if I can say this kindly, we come here on a weekend to adore and give our very best to the Creator of the universe and the Savior that died upon a cross to pay for our sin and rose from the dead and has given us eternal life.
The grandiosity to come in five, ten, fifteen, twenty minutes late; the grandiosity of, during a song or during this time when I am teaching the very Word of God, you checking your email and having your phone open is arrogance. It’s just arrogance.
And, please, I always hear pastors say, “I don’t want you to feel guilty.” Actually, I want you to feel guilty. If you’re guilty, guilt is a really good thing. If there is genuine sorrow, you repent and you realize, Oh! I never thought about it that way. I’m not saying you thought of it intentionally. I’m just telling you what it is.
If this was a U2 concert, this place would be packed two hours and people would rush to get in. When you buy tickets to a movie, you don’t go a half hour late. See, we have a consumer mindset. There is a grandiosity and an arrogance.
And it needs to be changed. And so notice point number three is: choose to practice humility daily by putting others’ needs and interests ahead of your own. Don’t consider just your own interest, although the passage is clear, take them into account. But consider the interests of others as more important than your own.
“Where are we going to go to eat?” “Where would you like to go to eat?” Maybe this person has to get to work, it’s as important or more important than you!
What would happen? What would happen if we declared war on selfishness, if we said, “I’m going to attack the root of this problem, which is really my own pride, this empty conceit, this vain glory. And then, this week, I’m going to go into training. And I’m going to choose very specifically, in little, little things that will grow into bigger and bigger things. I am going to choose in my money to be generous. I’m going to choose in my time to be generous.” And we will talk about exactly how, very specifically, to put that in practice.
Ask yourself: Where does my money go? Loving toward God and others, or me? Where does my time go? Toward God and others, or me? Where does my energy go?
Father, I pray now as there are many, many, many relationships that are fractured. And it will require only one person to admit, at the heart of it, regardless of the other person, that pride and selfishness and arrogance is at the core and a repentance before You. And then the next steps of asking forgiveness and restitution and even reconciliation in some cases where it’s possible.
So, Lord, would You bring to mind, in this room, the people that need to get a call, a lunch, a coffee, a text, a letter, a note of apology so that we could love others the way you have loved us?