United Church of God

Love Is Not Selfish: Agape Love Series - Part 7

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Love Is Not Selfish

Agape Love Series - Part 7

MP3 Audio (38.51 MB)


Love Is Not Selfish: Agape Love Series - Part 7

MP3 Audio (38.51 MB)

Four ways to help develop the unselfishness of agape love.


[Gary Petty] Our mother was preparing pancakes for her two little sons, Kevin who was 5, and Ryan who was 3. And the two boys began to argue over who gets the first pancake. And it got more and more intense as it's, "I get the first one." "No, I get the first one." And finally, the mother thinking, "This is a good chance to teach them something about the Bible." Said, "Now, you know, if Jesus was here right now, He would say, let my brother have the first pancake because I can wait." And Kevin looked at Ryan and said, "Good, you be Jesus." Now, the only reason we chuckle at that is because we could hear a child saying that. We also know why he would say it, because it's selfish. It's because all of us are selfish. All of us have selfishness in us, and we all wrestle with selfishness.

We've been going through every once in a while, this series that gets longer and longer and takes more and more time because I'm putting other sermons in between this series where we're covering agape in 1 Corinthians 13. Like next week, what I'm working on, I hope to be able to have done, I want to go through sort of the history of ancient Babylon, and looking at ancient Babylon, why in Revelation it says that the end time beast power will be Babylon. Why is that? What's the comparison between that ancient civilization and what's going to be happening at the end? So, we'll be, hopefully, looking at that next week. But I want to take some time here to go back. Okay, let's go back and pick up and keep going through these series of sermons we've been doing on agape in 1 Corinthians 13.

So far, we've looked at how agape is the very character of God, and that Paul says, "This is the kind of mind, this is the type of character that should be developed in every one of us." And so far, we've been going through how it suffers long. This love of God is kind. It does not envy. It is not proud. And it doesn't treat others rudely. Now, the next thing Paul says in 1 Corinthians 13 is that it does not seek its own, or as it is sometimes translated, it is not self-seeking. It's not selfish. The love of God is not selfish. God has specific reasons why He loves as part of His nature. We have difficulty with this because we're selfish. Now, here's what's difficult about being selfish. Every one of us have spiritual, physical, emotional, and mental social needs. and desires, and those of themselves are not selfish. The little story we just said, Kevin wanting to have the first pancake wasn't selfish, neither was Ryan wanting the first pancake selfish.

You know, maybe I'm really hungry. I really would like the first pancake. That is not wrong in itself. The moment they were arguing, the moment it came down to a contest, my need is greater than your need, at that moment, they were both selfish. Selfishness is an interesting term because if I started to ask what that meant, we'd all come up with some grand idea. It means only caring about yourself. I mean, that's true. But in the English language, when we talk about selfishness, there are a large number of terms we use to relate to different aspects of selfishness. I've only picked four. There's actually many more than this. I'll show you what I mean. How many times have you heard someone say, "Well, that person is self-centered"? Self-centered. Now, what that means, we all know self-centered people, they're so absorbed with their self, that's all they can think about. That's all they can talk about. That's all they're concerned with is themselves, and what's happening to them, and how they feel. They tend to see other people only in relationship, "What do you do for me?"

Now, self-absorbed people can be very emotional. Sometimes a very self-absorbed person is very emotional because that's all they can process. They're just processing their own feelings all the time. And so, they're really not processing other people's feelings, or their interactions with other people, or they can be really cold and calculating. A self-absorbed person can see life as a chess match in which they're just moving all of us pieces around so that they're always winning because everything's about them. We all have known them. And let's face it, I think every one of us can think of some time in your life when you've been a bit self-absorbed, self-centered.

Another term we'll use is self-willed. Now, this, you see, is a term that describes a stubborn person. They're stubborn and everything has to be my way. And if it's not my way, it's not good. And if you're not for me, you're against me. Now, I talked a little bit about this kind of stubbornness when we went through pride, how agape does not have pride, the wrong kind of pride. There's a right kind of pride and a wrong kind. But it is not that wrong kind of pride, a pride that Jesus described as people who look at others and disdain them because they thank God that I'm not like them. Then there's the self-indulgent. That's another term you'll hear. "Well, that's pretty self-indulgent." In other words, you take an action regardless of the consequences, regardless of the price, simply because it's what you want. You really don't care what it does to other people, or you really don't care sometimes of what the long-term effects are, your decision. It's just, I just want it, so I do it.

Now, it's interesting, people who think like this, and you've heard me use this term before, they're the ones who come up with the argument, "God loves me, God wants me to be happy, therefore, this action is what he wants me to do," even though the action is clearly condemned in the Bible. Because it's indulgent. It lets me get what I want and it receives God's permission to do so. And then, we talk about the self-righteous. Now, that term you'll see in the Bible. Self-righteous people are those who...they're so sure of their own knowledge, their own goodness, their own righteousness, their own faith, that they simply resist God because they lack humility before God.

Now, there's other terms, but just think of those four. And we all say, "Yeah, I know someone just like that." But here's the thing. Every one of us have had some time in our lives where we've been self-indulgent, we've been self-righteous, we've been selfish, we've been self-willed. We've all been these at different times. We all struggle with selfishness, this self-centeredness that God is not. And to have the love of God, we have to learn not to be that way. And here's the problem, selfishness feels so good because we're human, right? When you're cold and, you know, you put a coat on because you're really, really cold, to take that code off and give it to another person saying, "Oh, I can give it to them. They need it more than I do. But I'm now going to stand here and be cold," goes against how you feel because you feel I need to be warm. The feeling of needing to be warm is not wrong. It's what we do with that in interactions with other people.

Because what happens is, and this is why selfishness is one of the greatest forms of self-deception, we think, and every child thinks this, they live in their own little bubble, right? Little children live in their own little bubble. They're the center of the universe. Well, of course, they don't know there is a universe beyond them. If you're two years old, there's no universe beyond you. That's all you know. But as we get older, we're supposed to realize, "No, we're not the center of the universe." Unfortunately, we still struggle with that at times. "Everything is about me. I'm the center of the universe." There's a story, I'm going to tell here and we'll read a little bit of it, in the Bible that I think just shows this so well. It's not really the meaning of the story or the purpose of the story, but there's something said here that shows how we can become like this. It's about Haman. It's back in the Book of Esther where we have Esther forced beyond what she wanted to have to marry the King of Persia.

Now, this actually happened. And she married him not realizing God was going to save the Jewish people because of her. She had this enormous role to play in salvation history, which she would not have known at the time. It might have seemed unfair, it might have seemed like this isn't good for me, but she had this enormous role to play in what God was going to do in bringing about the Messiah. And here she was, married to the king, probably very young, probably mid to late teens, married to the king, taken away from her family, put in this palace, which may seem really exciting, but not if you're there when you really don't want to be there, right?

And there's this other story about Haman. Haman is a person who lives in his own bubble of self-importance. Everything is about him. Everything in life is about him. And he goes through the street with his entourage because he is part of the king's court. Okay? It's very important in the Persian government. If you read anything about ancient Persia, you'll know the court was nothing but intrigue, people moving around each other, maneuvering for power in the favor of the king because the king had ultimate power. In fact, he was a demigod. He was actually worshiped as someone who was basically divine. So, here's Haman, he's a player in this, in which everything is about him. And Esther's cousin, older cousin, had raised her because her mother and father died early in her life. And Esther now is the queen. And Mordecai, her cousin, has some interaction with the Persian court. And Haman hates Mordecai. He hates him because when he parades himself through the street with his entourage, everybody bows down to him, except for Mordecai. He just stands there. He refuses to bow down.

So, here's what happens where selfishness takes us. "I'm the center of the universe. You don't recognize me as the center of the universe. So, I'm going to have you killed. No, better yet, you're a Jew. I'm going to kill every Jew. That'll take care of this problem. And once again, I'll be the center of the universe." So, let's go to Esther because I just want to read a comment that's made here. Esther 6. So, what happens is the king finds out that Mordecai has been a good servant to the government. And so, he's talking with his advisors on how should we honor this man, this Mordecai. And what happens is. verse 4, someone had walked into the edges of the court there.

Esther 6:4-5 "So, the king said, ‘Who is in the court?’ Now, Haman had just entered the outer court of the king's palace to suggest that the king hang Mordecai on the gallows that he prepared for him. And this king's servant said to him, ‘Haman is there standing in the court.’" Now, think about what he's come in here to do. "And he says, ‘Let him come in.’ So, Haman came in and the king asked him, ‘What shall be done for the man who the king delights to honor?’"

He says, "Have Haman come in. He's one of my advisors. What should I do for someone I really want to pay the highest honor to?" And then, notice.

Esther 6:6-8 "Now Haman thought in his heart, ‘Whom would the king delight to honor more than me?’ Haman answered the king, ‘For the man whom the king delights to honor, let a royal robe be brought, which the king has worn, and a horse on which the king has ridden, which is a royal crest placed on his head.’"

Now, you have to understand, I want the clothes of a man who's a semi-god. I want the horse ridden by a man who is a semi-god. Everybody's going to bow to that. No matter where I go, everybody will bow. Everybody will honor me. Everybody will think I'm special.

Esther 6:9 "Then let this robe and horse be delivered to the hand of the one, the king's most noble princes, that he may array the man whom the king delights to honor. Then parade him on horseback through the city square, and proclaim before him, 'That shall be done to the man whom the king delights to honor.'"

The King says, "Great idea." And he is shocked as he runs out and says, "Get Mordecai." Now, what's interesting about this, if you read the rest of the story, Haman doesn't take this well. He doesn't like not being the center of his own little world. He ends up betraying the king, and he ends up being hung on the gallows. But this idea, he walks into the king and all these advisors, he has no idea what they're talking about, none. And when they says what should they do, he gives a response based on, "Boy, am I going to be famous? Boy, am I going to be blessed?" Boy, that is the ultimate in how blind we can become through selfishness. But it's so hard to battle because we all have desires and needs. We want to do things in our lives. We don't want to be poor, right? We don't want to be hungry. We want to be comfortable. We want to be loved by other people. And yet sometimes, life isn't working out that way. But that's what I need, that's what I want.

So, how do we grow in not being so self-serving? Serving self. Now, as I've said before as we go through agape, I can't give you...here's the 10 steps to do. Write down these 10 steps, do them every day, and you will stop being selfish. Because selfishness has to be changed from the inside out. So, it's not just like, you know, wear your clothes this way, talk this way, do this, do this, and you won't be selfish anymore. That's not how it works. But there are things we can do to begin to understand how we can be changed so that agape becomes part of us, and we begin to deal with this selfishness because selfishness is at the core of most relationship problems. I don't care who you're dealing with, with 1 or both people or 3 people or 20 people. First thing, "It's all good. I'll do this every day, and I will no longer be selfish." We'll do this every day, and you'll start to grow towards not being someone. Because the first thing you do is you must seek God's love. You must seek something you don't have. I can't have agape. I can only have it designed in me through the power of God. You can't simply have agape. It is developed in you through the power of God.

Now, we participate in that. There's things we have to do. But our first understanding is I don't have it. "Oh, yes, I have God's Spirit. I decided one day I'd have it. I decided one day I'd be converted, I decided one day I would have agape." No, that's not how this works. "But if I can get the right self-help book, I'll have agape." You might get a good self-help book that'll tell you how to like people or maybe love people a little better, but it won't be what Paul is talking about. He's talking about having the mind of Christ developed in us. And so, we have to go ask for this.

We have to ask God, "Help me to be this way. Help me not to be so selfish." There's a problem with that. If he answers that problem, or that prayer, you're in for some rough times because we like our selfishness. It defines who we are. Breaking outside that bubble where we're not so selfish actually makes us a whole lot happier, a whole lot happier. This is a fascinating statement. I am always amazed. I never can get enough of reading the New Testament, especially, and finding a phrase and thinking, "Wow, I've read that 100 times, but I really, really did not totally understand it," or, "I did, but just on a surface way." Let's go to 2 Corinthians 5. It's one of those simple statements that I really started thinking about when preparing this sermon. 2 Corinthians 5. Paul is talking about being reconciled to God through Christ.

2 Corinthians 5:15 He says, "For the love of Christ compels us."

Now, that's very interesting. So, here's the five points, five steps to what I'm going to tell you to do. No, he says, "You must be compelled, not taught, not guided. You must be compelled, you must be driven, you must be motivated." The love of Christ, the agape of Christ compels us. So, it shows you we can't do this ourselves. Now, we have our part to play. But you can't do it, I can't do it, unless we ask God to do it, to do it in us, so that we can participate, so that we can follow, so that we can be compelled. And you all know what it's like to want to do something and be compelled by God to do something else. And there's that little battle going on inside.

And God said, "Don't do that," "But I want to." "Don't do that," "I want to." And you watch little kids do that, right? You see them struggle. "They told me not to take that piece of candy and stand and stare at it." I've actually seen children do that. Stand and stare at a piece of candy or a piece of cake. Now, you don't touch that. You can't have that till after we eat. You know, they stare at it. Like somehow if I stare, it'll levitate off, come over, and just force my mouth open, and I'll have to eat it. I'll have no choice. We must be compelled. So, let's go back to this now.

2 Corinthians 5:14 "For the love of Christ..." It's the love of Christ that compels us, compels us because we judge thus. "If one died for all, then all died." He goes back to what we covered about six weeks ago when I talked about we're buried with him in baptism. Man, we died. And we can't let the zombie keep coming back, okay? He says, "Then all died, and He died for all." Now, listen to this next statement, this whole phrase, "That those who live should live no longer for themselves, but for Him who died for them and rose again."

When we break out of the bubble of I only live for myself, who do we live for? Well, for God our Father, and to the one that makes it possible for us to have that relationship. We live for Christ. That's where we find our meaning. That's where we find our purpose, and that's where we find how we make our decisions. Now, this doesn't mean you give up your own personality. It doesn't mean that we all have to go live in a monastery, be celibate, eat nothing but hard bread and water and sleep on a bed of nails and sing Gregorian chants, okay? That's not what that means. I actually like Gregorian chants, but that's neither here nor there. How many of you have ever heard a Gregorian chant? I knew Rod Kelly would have. That's amazing. I knew you would raise your hand. Anyways, I won't explain what it is. If you want to, go on YouTube and type in. Of course, they're always in Latin, so I have no idea what they're saying.

It doesn't mean that's what we do. We don't have to go live in a monastery. God didn't say give up what it is to be human. He said, "But break out the restrictions of living only for yourself. Live for God and live for others." The amazing thing is when we learn to live for God and live for others, we have less stress and more happiness. But it doesn't seem like that makes sense. I must live for myself. Now, you must take care of yourself. There's a balance to this. I mean, you're not supposed to be self-loathing. In fact, once we receive God's Spirit, we're supposed to understand our true value, because our value is given to us by God. We're supposed to be self-loving. In fact, that's why the command is love your neighbor as yourself. "The problem is I love myself." "No, love your neighbor as yourself." "That much? No, no, not that much because that means I'm going to be spending a huge amount of my time, and effort, and resources, and energy loving other people. Okay, I'll do that with my friends." We'll look at that in a minute.

"Surely, He didn't mean that." "Yeah, he does." That's the second of the greatest commandments. So, being not self-seeking doesn't mean not taking care of yourself, not having your own hobbies or desires or, like I said, your personality. Everybody has different work we do. Everybody has different personalities. Extroverts and introverts are going to express this slightly different. That's not the point. The point is, is that in order to understand what it means in your life, you have to go ask God for it. And then, we have to say, "Help me not to live for myself, but to live for Christ, and how that applies to how I live for everybody else." That's the first step.

The second step is that we have to learn to actually desire the spiritual and physical betterment of others, even though when that means sacrificing of our own time and energy and resources or comfort. "Well, I don't want to sacrifice my this particular weekend to go do something to help somebody else, or I don't want to do that." Now, there's times you can't, there's times you shouldn't. Because once again, we need to balance all this. We're talking about an approach to life that says, "I don't live for myself, I live for the one who died for me. And therefore, He shows me how the love of God is carried out in my relationship with other people."

Luke 14. Now, the story here is what's very interesting. I'll give you the back story to what's happening here. Jesus is invited to a party. And I don't mean the type of party that put it in modern terms where you and a few friends are getting together, you're going to watch a basketball game and eat some pizza, okay? This is the party. Everybody who's everybody is there. This is a party that has lots of food and lots of expensive wine. I mean, put it in the first century, they've got lamb chops, okay? And they've got wine, and they have the best bread, and they have all this food there, and they have all these people there. And he tells them a parable. I'm not going to go through the parable. You know, they're, "Oh, good, we invited Jesus, the teacher," and, you know, you always like the rabbi to get up and give a nice parable for everybody, and everybody, "Oh, wow, that was deep, that was good." So, He gets up, and He gives a parable.

After He gives the parable, He turns to the man who gave the party. And that's what's interesting here.

Luke 14:12 "And so, He said to him who had invited Him," You know, next time you give a dinner, "He says, ‘when you give a dinner or a supper, do not ask your friends, your brothers, your relatives, nor rich neighbors, lest they also invite you back, and you be repaid. But when you give a feast, invite the poor, the maim, the lame, the blind, and you will be blessed because they cannot repay you for you shall be repaid at the resurrection of the just.'"

He says, "Next time you throw a big party like this..." Now, you can imagine, "Wait a minute, wait a minute. I got some poor neighbors here. I know there's a lame man that lives down the street." Remember, they're all Jews, by the way. These are all worshipers of God. But you wouldn't invite them. They're sort of less worshipers of God. He said, "Next time you have a supper, here's what I'd like to see you do. Do a big spread like this with some music and all the decorations. Wonderful. But I want you to bring all the poor people in the neighborhood." And he's like, "Do you know how much work that is?" No, I'm making up what he is, but I can imagine what he's going through his head. "You know how much work that is? You know how much money this shindig cost me? And you know how long it's going to take to clean up this stuff? Besides, some of those people smell bad." And Jesus said, "If you really want to understand, go invite them." You and I have to be careful that we don't... It's good. We as a congregation should have close friends, and you're going to spend more time with those close friends. Jesus spent more time with even some of the disciples than the others. It's obvious that He had a very close relationship with Mary, Martha, and Lazarus, right?

I imagine when you look at the story, Martha was a pretty good cook. Probably He was like, "Great," when Martha said, "Would you come by Wednesday night?" Well, they would have said Wednesday. "Would you come by and let's...I'm going to have dinner." Mary's going to be there, Lazarus, the few friends. They would eat, they would talk. It would be a wonderful evening. But you know, the next evening, He probably wasn't there. The next evening, He was down at the local dive with a couple prostitutes teaching them the gospel. Because remember, He was accused of hanging out with sinners and being a drunkard Himself. You know, every night He wasn't with the people He wanted to be with, He was with people who needed Him because of what he had to bring. "So, I don't have anything to bring." Is God in you? I don't mean in you like in the Hindu sense. Is God's spirit in you? Yes, you have something to give. You were called by God. Is God's Spirit in you? Is that just a personal thing where, "Okay, good, it's me and God now." Is that all this is about? Is that all this is about?

Matthew 5. And I read this in the Bible study we did. I think it was last month, one of the Bible studies on... We'll go through the discipleship on those Wednesday night Bible studies. And we went through the Sermon on the Mount, and I read this, and how difficult this is...the concept is almost beyond us. We have to think about this. We say, "Okay, God, help me have this kind of unselfish love." Okay, well, let's go read this. See, this is in verse 46.

Matthew 5:46-48 He says, "For if you love those who love you, what reward have you? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? Do not the people who work for the Roman government who we consider dirt in our society...?" You know, which is what that would have meant. He says, "Don't they love their children when a tax collector goes home?" How about this? When a Roman soldier goes home and opens the door and all the little kids come running up, 'Daddy, daddy, daddy,' doesn't he truly love them? Of course, he does. And do they not love him? Yes, they do." He said, "And if that's all we do, how are we better than anybody else?" He said, "And if you greet your brethren only, why do you not do more than the others? For not even the tax collectors do so, or do not even the tax collectors do so. Therefore, you shall be perfect, just as your Father in heaven is perfect."

He says, "You know what? God even answers the prayer of a sinner sometimes." God is there. He said, "So, should not we treat those people right?" Now, He didn't say go party with the sinners, okay? That's not what He's saying, or participate in their sins. That's not what He's saying. We have to come out of the world. But the point He's making is, how do you treat people every moment of the day? This comes down to how you live life with other people. whether they're in the church, out of the church, whether you're family or not family. Because the opposite of selfishness is giving to others simply because you want to give to them. And that may be that coworker that you have a really hard time getting along with, who isn't a very nice person. And yet you treat them a certain way. Once again, you may not have a close relationship because you can't, but you treat them a certain way. You know why? Because this isn't about them who they are, it's about who you are. This isn't about who you are or I am...no, or I mean, they are, it's about who you are, who I am. It's us. Are we, the children of God, are we the disciples of Jesus Christ? That's who we are.

That should determine our action, not them. "Man, have I failed in that 100 times?" Well, at least this year. That our reaction isn't based on who they are, our reaction is based on who I am as a child of God. And therefore, I react the way Christ would react. Sometimes He reacted angry. There's no wrong in reacting angry if you do it right. Problem is we very seldom do. And most of the time, many times we're not angry for the right reason. We're angry because we're being selfish. So, responding because of who we are. Do we have that identity? I mean, many times we are responding because we are, which is just we're being selfish at the moment, or we're being carnal at that moment. But we should be learning to think through our prayers. Help me be what I'm supposed to be in every moment. I mean, we break this down to how we treat each other as husband and wife, how we treat our children, how we treat... I mean, how do I react? How do I react to that person? Because of who that person is at that moment, or who I am?

It's not easy. It's not easy at all. You know, sometimes this has to be my concern in any moment is for the benefit of that person, what is God's benefit for that person? I said, "Well, what about God's benefit for me?" Okay, wait a minute. You do God's benefit for others and God will take care of giving you benefits. God will take care of you. We have to have that faith. God will take care of me because I'm doing a benefit to that person as a representative of Jesus Christ, as a disciple of Jesus Christ. I'm doing that. We could get into it. Sometimes that can be being tough. But once again, why are you doing it? You're doing it for that person's benefit. I tell people, "God bless me greatly." Being married to my wife is the easiest thing I've ever done. Even when we've had arguments, especially, you know, they're an early...sometimes in your stage of marriage, you have arguments, and they never last long. It just wasn't worth it. We're just, "Nah, we're happy to be together." And it's just I look back and think, "Man alive." This was the greatest blessing I ever had because we've been able to work out anything. Just because, I don't know, God did something.

I don't know if I've been her greatest blessing, but she's been my greatest blessing, I can tell you that. You know, we live in a society...I didn't mean to get off on that, we live in a society where sometimes we just throw money at things. We feel good about throwing money at things. You know, I'll say something about Victor Kubik here, I think it's interesting. I watch what's happening in Ukraine, and I just hurt for those people. But what can I do? You know, I think every day he calls people in Ukraine he knows. He just calls them in the church, out of the church. I don't think any of them are in the church. It's our church. Some of them are Sabbath keepers, some of them aren't. It doesn't matter, I don't even know who he calls. But he's calling people all the time, relatives, "Are you okay? What's happening there?" He's calling them. He's reaching out to them. I'm like, "Man." I know I can't do it because I don't know any of this, I can't do anything. It's frustrating.

We can't change what's going on, but could we help one person's life? That's what God's given you an opportunity to do by giving you His Spirit. Every day there may be one person or something simple may change their life in the future. It may change their life now. It may make no change at all, but it doesn't matter because you did it because, "Well, it's what I do, it's what I do." It has to be personal. Throwing money in it, now, we should donate money to things. We all should do that, to help people. We have third tithe, we all probably donate to different charities and so forth, but that's not agape, or it can be an expression of agape, but agape really breaks down into what am I doing with a person right now? What am I doing with that person? How am I helping this person? And in the church is where it starts. We keep going through all this as we went through all these sermons of agape. It's amazing, how Paul starts always with the church. It starts with the church. It doesn't stop there. We just take, "Well, I'm selfish. So, I've expanded myself out. So, I'm only selfish in this group." Eventually, it's who we are. It's who we are. We are Christians, Christ-like, followers of Christ, that's what it means. And that's who we are. We just act this way.

In fact, that brings us to point number three, is that you can't seek approval because of this service, because of this giving up of time or resources, of giving up maybe some time you'd rather do something else. And sometimes in juggling these things, it gets difficult. Sometimes you give up time with your friends because your wife needs you more, or you give up time with something else because your children need you more. And there are times when your wife and children give up something because somebody else needs you more. Now, that's using a male as an example. You can reverse that. Female's the same thing, right? Sometimes somebody else needs you so much, you might say, "I know we were planning something tonight, but she's having a breakdown, I have to be there." And you know what? My man's going to say, "I'm disappointed, but I understand." He should.

We understand what we're doing because we're always out, we're moving as much as we can outside our bubble, or breaking outside of it so that God can use us as His children to interact with other people. As introverts, extroverts, whatever your personality is, it doesn't matter. God doesn't expect everybody to be an extreme extrovert. I don't know. We're all extreme extroverts. No one would ever listen to anybody talk. So, I'm glad not everybody's an extreme extrovert, right? Matthew 25. Matthew 25:41. Sermon on the Mount...I mean, I'm sorry, the Olivet Prophecy. And I'm not going to go through all of this, I just want to make a point with this parable. There's five parables in Matthew 24, 25, which are the Olivet Prophecy.

Matthew 25:31-40 "Jesus said, ‘When the Son of Man comes in His glory and all the holy angels with Him, He will sit on the throne of His glory, and all the nations will be gathered before Him, and He will separate them one from another, as a shepherd divides his sheep from the goats. And He will set the sheep on his right hand and the goats on his left. Then the kings will say to those on His right hand, 'Come, you blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world, for I was hungry.' Christ says, 'I was hungry, and you gave Me food. I was thirsty and you gave Me drink. I was a stranger and you took Me in. I was naked and you clothed Me. I was sick and you visited Me, and I was in prison and you came to Me.’" And, of course, what they say back is, "The righteous will answer, Lord, 'When did we see You hungry and feed You and thirsty and give You a drink? When were You a stranger to us? When did You need clothing? When were You sick? When were You in prison? When did we do all this to You?'" And the kings answer and say to them, verse 40, "Surely, I say to you, inasmuch as you did this to one of the least of these, my brethren, you did it to Me."

I find it interesting they didn't even know they were doing it. The spiritual maturity here in this parable of these people is that they don't even know they're doing this, it's just what they do. They just walk through life helping people. They walk through life doing things for people, not for recognition, not because they're getting some kind of, oh, good, brownie points with God. They do it just for the person in that moment. Sometimes they do it for a stranger's smile, knowing that for one moment maybe you brought a little light into that person's life. And you may walk away and forget about it. When that person six hours later says to a friend, "This person made me feel so good today," well, that's not the gospel. No, but it's agape. "Yeah, but I didn't tell him about the Sabbath." That's okay. If God's going to bring him there, maybe he'll bring it back to you. I don't know.

But the point is if we have this approach to life, this is who we are. You say, "I'm not a really friendly person." Okay, well, you don't have to smile at everybody, just don't growl at them. No, what I mean is we can always do something for somebody. We don't have to be, you know, "Oh, I'm going to smile at everybody," and, no, you don't have to do that. I just use that as an example. Maybe yours is just making sure you've been worried about your neighbor because she's been sick and you call her just to make sure she's okay, or you're in an apartment complex and there's a woman there that, you know, has a child and no husband, and you find out she doesn't have any food, so you take her some food. You just do it because, well, that's what you do. It's who we are. We have to stop. We have to stop letting people control us by us reacting to them by who they are. Instead, our reactions are based on who we are. Who are we? We are those who do not serve themselves but serve the one who died for us. That's who we are.

My last point. This comes down to understanding the need of being in the Bible in order to have agape developed in us. It takes prayer and it takes being in the scriptures looking for the very scriptures we're going through today. Looking for scriptures that help us understand how to get out of the bubble of selfishness, still be balanced. I mean, yeah, we still need to eat. We still need to take care of our jobs. We need to take care of our families. We need to interact with our kids. We need to interact with our friends. That's all part of life. But also, realizing you walk through life every day with opportunities given by God to maybe bring a little His light, not our light, His light into somebody else's life. It does change things, by the way, when you go someplace and think, "Maybe today, maybe here, right now, God, can I shed some of Your light?"

James 3, our last scripture. James 3. James is so pragmatic, but I have to admit, this little section is almost like Paul. He gets into this big concept, and then he breaks it down into little parts. He says in verse 13.

James 3:13 "Who is wise and understanding among you?"

Wisdom is very important in the Bible because wisdom is always based on God. Wisdom is based on knowledge and understanding and application. It takes three things to be wise, knowledge, understanding, and application. And these are all based on God. And the scripture is supposed to be our book of teaching of how to have those things.

James 3:13 He says, "Let him show by good conduct that his works are done in the meekness of wisdom."

So, if we have this understanding, this knowledge, this understanding, this application, then it produces works. It always produces something.

James 3:14 He says, "But if you have bitter envy and self-seeking in your hearts, do not boast and lie against the truth."

Now, remember, James isn't talking to the world. The Book of James was a letter written to the churches at large. It's not a specific church like so many of Paul's letters. This is written to the church at large. This was supposed to go to everybody. And he's telling the church here that if they have bitter envy and selfishness, selfishness will produce envy. Why? Because you got something I want. I was supposed to get, "Whoa, okay, okay, you took the first pancake, so I'm the good person. But then we both got two pancakes, and there was one left, and you got that one too. So, you got three pancakes, I only got two. See, it does no good to do the right thing. Next time I'm not going to be like Jesus, I'm just going to grab the first pancake." Envy. And you can hear a kid thinking that. No, you can see a bunch of guys sitting around looking at pancakes and thinking that, right? Just go to camp. I love being with the little guys at camp. Pretty much they're so transparent. The little girls are like, "Oh, they are so complicated." The guys are like, "Yeah." It's like, "How did you know I was going to do that?" Yeah, yeah, how did I know? It's like, "Your brain isn't that complicated, boy."

And he says, "Do not boast and lie against the truth." That word boast literally is arrogant. Do not be arrogant against the truth. Now, he's talking to the church. How can we be arrogant and actually be arrogant against the truth is because our wisdom is not based on this humility before God. Our wisdom is based on me. It says self-service, self-seeking.

James 3:15-16 He says, "For where envy and self-seeking exist, confusion and everything are there, or every evil thing are there." In fact, let's go back to the verse before. He says, "This wisdom does not descend from above, but is earthly, sensual, demonic." There's actually a satanic influence in this. "For where envy and self-seeking exist, confusion and everything are there."

And I could tell you from experience, I'm going to get another little confession on my part, when my life is filled with confusion, almost invariably, it's because I'm being selfish. Not relying on God. Not, "Okay, God, what's the answer here? What should we do? What do I do?" It's, you know, I'm being selfish. And so, everything's all confused.

So, whenever we're selfish, our lives became more and more confused. Now, I mean, life gets busy, you're running from thing to thing, that's normal. But you know what I mean by confusion. Where you go to bed every night and wonder sometimes, you know, believe me, I've had...you think, "Well, no one's ever felt this way." I won't tell you how many times I've heard people say over the last 40 years. Sometimes I go to bed at night, and I think, "What am I doing? What is my life all about? What's happening to me? I'm just confused." Yeah? Well, let's start working through this. Why? Is God confused? No? Then we've got to figure out why you're confused. He says, "Wherever this is, this self-seeking, there's confusion and every evil thing is there." In other words, the more selfish we get, the easier it is to sin because we will find an excuse when we're being selfish. We will find an excuse to sin.

James 3:17 "But the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, willing to yield, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality and without hypocrisy."

Wow, that's like the list that Paul makes. In fact, that's an entire sermon right there. No, that's an entire series of sermons right there. That's an entire series of sermons as each one of those words means something and each one of those words or phrases can be expanded out and shown what the scripture means through all that. And you know what you end up when you put all that together, it's what Paul calls agape. Peter doesn't use that term in the way Paul does, but he comes to the same conclusions in his own James way, the way that he writes, the way that he thinks. God's inspiring him and it's coming out through him. And he ends up with a list that if you take this and you compare it to 1 Corinthians 13, you say, "Well, look at the similarities, but there are subtle differences."

Biblical wisdom is learning how to use the Bible to balance your life and all these things. You must, yes, legitimately take care of your own spiritual needs, your physical needs. You have to, your family, your job, those things you have to take care of. And there has to be time for serving others and whatever opportunity that's given to you. And even if that just is that obnoxious neighbor that you have to go over and help because the guy can't change his tire. I laugh at that, but last week, I could not. I had a flat tire coming back from Jackson. Well, here I'm going to tell them the story. That's okay. I'll give you three more minutes, and Mr. Jones could be mad at me. I'm coming back from Jackson. I have a marriage after the Sabbath, Saturday night. I have a marriage rehearsal to go through. I'm getting back from Jackson. I get a flat tire. I go out. I can't get those lug nuts off. I try and try and try. And I figured, "You know what? We're near a town. I'm just going to call AAA." We get free roadside service. "And they'll bring up somebody and take those off in a second."

So, I called, and they said, "Oh, yeah, that's no problem. I'll send somebody out." Hours went by, and nobody came. I said, "I'm going to be late." So, I went out, and I beat those things off. And Kim said, "I knew you could do it once you got mad." And I got in the car and I thought, "My knuckles hurt." I always keep a rubber mallet in there. I didn't have it in there. So, that's my... I don't know why I told you that. Well, I do know why. Your neighbor needs his lug nuts off, okay? So, you got to go take them off, you go help him do it, right? Take a rubber mallet, don't use your fist, okay? My knuckles were sore for two days. But go help your neighbor, even if he is an obnoxious neighbor. Why? Not because of who he is, it's because of who you are. That's what you do because it's who you are.

Agape is the mind of God. I see Mr. Keller is downstairs, he'll say, "You didn't end on time because you told that silly little story." And all of you need to go tell him, "His silly little story was just fine." We can't work this up ourselves. How can you work up the mind of Christ? You can't. The mind of Christ is developed in you. You don't receive it through osmosis either. It's developed in you through the power of God's Spirit. Ask God to help you have agape. Ask God to help you understand daily who you can help today, who you can serve today in the church, outside the church, and then watch those opportunities happen.