Today’s inspirational insight: We are asked to practice love and not unselfishness.

In public/motivational speaking lessons, we are encouraged to always be less negative while portraying negative messages or information. This does not reduce the negativity or the exact meaning of the information, but alters the perception of the message to the audience (I mean, audience may not severely get the deeper negativity in the speech). This is so helpful. Well, let me explain; For example, if you are asked to talk about someone or something that is bad, it is better to say, “it is not good” rather than saying, ‘it is bad’. ‘It is bad’ and ‘it is not good’ sound differently, but carry the same meaning. Remember, audience will finally act on the information depending on their perception and believe me, people exposed differently to the above two sentences will automatically have different perceptions.

In our insight today, we want to look at how the virtue of unselfishness or self-denial may mimic the works of the virtue of love and in the end bring no rewards of Joy. For those who read my writings, we all know that our joy, our delight and happiness is the true worship of our God (In other words, God is only glorified if we find delight, joy and happiness in Him, not if we suffer, cry, and get pain for Him). Back to our point, unselfishness is the deeper negativity here and love is the deeper positivism. While the person practicing unselfishness is ultimately practicing some works of love, the person practicing love is far more ahead doing all the works of faith in their completion. What am I saying?

C. S Lewis in the sermon, the weight of glory, says something of our message today, “The negative ideal of Unselfishness carries with it the suggestion not primarily of securing good things for others, but of going without them ourselves, as if our abstinence and not their happiness was the important point”. In other words, when we embark on being unselfish, we do not care about the happiness of others as long as we are suffering the pain, we think we are paying the cost by ‘not having’ (unselfish) yet this can only be complete if our ‘not having’ results in some kind of joy and happiness to others and ourselves. For example, a person fasting and praying may think he is doing a good sacrifice and thus a good virtue in itself, but does that pain make sense if it cannot bring success to another being? No.

So the concept of unselfishness is more misleading. God’s message is not about your abstinence and self-denial, the message is love. Your self-denial or sacrifice is not a virtue in itself, it is only complete if it leads to something else, to joy and happiness. So we should not tell people to make sacrifices, feel pain and self-deny themselves pleasure as a way of pleasing God, that is not enough. It is enough and complete if our self-denial and sacrifice leads to something much better, bringing us much happiness and relief of pain. John Piper cites C.S Lewis again, “The New Testament has lots to say about self denial, but not about self-denial as an end in itself. We are told to deny ourselves and to take up our crosses in order that we may follow Christ; and nearly every description of what we shall ultimately find if we do so contains an appeal to desire”

What is the point today? Unselfishness is not what we are told to do, but love. We are not to deny ourselves any pleasure or happiness or treasure as a means of showing devotion to God, this can only make sense if it ends up in something else, in us being more happier and joyful than before. In other words, when we punish ourselves by not eating, by not dancing, or avoiding sex, we do not glorify God, He does not buy our pain and sacrifices, He buys our happiness and delight in Him. So be careful with pastors and advisers who encourage you to live a life of self-denial, sacrifice and dryness with no pleasures and luxuries, that is not a pay that God looks at, it can only matter if doing so brings you more pleasure, luxury, joy, and happiness than before. It is not ‘i do not care about him or her, what I know is that I myself do not have it’ (unselfishness), it is ‘i care that she does not have it or she gets it as long as she would be happier than before’. That is the power of grace over the observance of law.
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