It’s All About me
I’d like to begin with a question this morning—one that is increasingly relevant with each
passing week in our nation: What’s wrong with the world?
A journalist for the Times once asked this same question of some famous authors. One of them,
a Christian named GK Chesterton, responded like this: “Dear sir, I am. Yours, GK Chesterton.”
How different would the world be if we removed the log from our own eye before removing
the sawdust from someone else’s? Undoubtedly, our national conversation would be very
different. For one, it would be… a conversation. Instead, we have a shouting match, where
millions of people are talking over each other, down to each other, and past each other.
Today, we’re in the third week of a series called, “Tell Yourself the Truth” – combatting the lies
we tell ourselves with the truth God tells us about ourselves.
This week’s “lie” is “It’s all about me.” You might call it, “the me-centered Gospel.” It’s a Gospel that says, “My feelings, and my opinions, and my needs, and my dreams matter most—more than yours, and even more than God’s.” No one says this out-loud, of course, nor do we consciously think it. But it lurks beneath
the surface, driving much of our attitude and behavior. Every sin or injustice you’ve ever seen,
or allowed, or perpetrated has been the result of a me-centered Gospel. Every sin or injustice
would be instantly undone if Christ became the axis upon which our lives spun.
We’ll be in 1 Thessalonians 4:9-12 today, which is the Apostle Paul’s first letter to the church in
Thessalonica. I’m reading from the New International Version:
9 Now about your love for one another we do not need to write to you, for you yourselves have
been taught by God to love each other. 10 And in fact, you do love all of God’s family throughout
Macedonia. Yet we urge you, brothers and sisters, to do so more and more, 11 and to make it
your ambition to lead a quiet life: You should mind your own business and work with your
hands, just as we told you, 12 so that your daily life may win the respect of outsiders and so that
you will not be dependent on anybody.
Our central point this morning is that Christ doesn’t remove our ambition; He transforms it.
Christ doesn’t remove our ambition; He transforms it.
The part I want us to zero-in on is in verse 11: “make it your ambition to live a quiet life.” —isn’t
that the strangest wording? Ambition is a loud word. It screams for attention—“look at me, I’m
a big deal!” But Paul says, “make it your ambition to live a QUIET life”. To live a quiet life means
to have deep inner peace, which manifests as minding your own business (instead of stirring up
drama), and working hard with your hands (instead of being a restless “busybody”).
This verse has always challenged me because I’m an ambitious person. That’s not necessarily a
problem; it just depends on what we’re ambitious for. The world says, “Make it your ambition
to write a best-selling novel,” or “to increase your influence,” or “to succeed in business.” Why?
Because if we leave a big splash, it shows that we’re a big deal. It’s the me-centered Gospel.
Unfortunately, being a Christian doesn’t make us immune to the me-centered Gospel. Too
often, what I find myself doing is translating my ambition into prayers for God to help me fulfill
my hopes and dreams. It’s not that God doesn’t want to answer those prayers. But it’s a matter
of priority. If my heart is set more on God fulfilling my dreams than on me fulfilling His, I’ve
effectively turned God into my own personal genie. Instead of me existing to serve Him, I act
and pray as though He exists to serve me. It’s the me-centered Gospel with a religious veneer.
So what are you ambitious for? To make a splash, or to live a quiet life? The way we know we’re
living the me-centered Gospel is not by whom we claim to worship, but by what actually drives
us. There’s so much pressure in our world today to be extraordinary. But what if you just lived
an average life of doing your day job and quietly loving others—would it really be a waste? No,
I’ll tell you what’s a waste: living to make a splash that will only be forgotten. What we need to
do is to tell ourselves the truth: Forgettable in the eyes of the world is memorable in the eyes of
God. And memorable in the eyes of the world is forgettable in the eyes of God. It’s like that old,
famous, uncomfortable quote: “Preach the Gospel, die, and be forgotten.”
That quote is from an 18 th century German Aristocrat named Count Zinzendorf—but he’d be
happy for you to forget it. He left behind his big opportunity in politics so he could expend his
vast resources to support refugees, slaves, and missionaries. Zinzendorf won’t be remembered
by historians, but he’s forever remembered in the halls of heaven. He was ambitious for a quiet
life of preaching and living the God-centered Gospel. Christ doesn’t remove our ambition; He
You say, “How does this happen?” Through the work of the Holy Spirit. Let’s come back to the
passage. Verse 8 tells us that the Holy Spirit was teaching the Thessalonians sexual purity. And
then in verse 9, he says they were “taught by God” to love one another. In fact, they were so
“taught by God” to love, that they didn’t even need human teachers, Paul says! From there,
Paul goes on to talk about ambition for a quiet life, minding our own business, and working
with our hands—all of which he sees as an expression of brotherly love, which the Holy Spirit
teaches. In short, the Holy Spirit transforms our ambitions by teaching us to love one another.
I just think that’s profound—that the Holy Spirit teaches us, independently of the ministry of
other human beings. Undoubtedly, he uses humans also, but even prior to that, He’s already at
work. It’d be easy to pass right over that, but it’s something that God spent thousands of years
working toward. Let me explain.
We’ll start with Moses. God used Moses to deliver Israel from their Egyptian oppressors, and
shortly afterward, He formed them into a nation with laws. Israel’s laws were spelled out in the
first few books of the Bible, and they included the Ten Commandments, written on tablets of
stone. Sometimes these laws were collectively referred to as, “The Old Covenant.” If Israel kept
the laws, they would be blessed. But if they did not keep the laws, they’d be cursed.
Unfortunately, Israel didn’t keep the laws. But rather than cursing His own people to the extent
the law demanded, Jesus was cursed in their place. The Law of Moses said, “Cursed is anyone
who hangs on a tree”; so God sent His Son to hang on a tree and absorb Israel’s curse, thereby
fulfilling the Old Covenant, and then blessing the whole world with a new one. A better one.
This “New Covenant” was God’s multi-thousand-year project for improving upon a covenant
that told us what to do outwardly without empowering us inwardly. A good example comes
from Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., who famously said that new laws cannot make a man love me,
but it can stop him from lynching me. The beauty of the New Covenant is that it actually CAN
make a person love you. It’s not just external punishment; it’s internal transformation. That’s
what it means when Thessalonians says, “you have been taught by God.” The law that was once
foreign and external—like Moses’ tablets of stone—has become our native language, like part
of our DNA. The New Covenant is God re-programming us to live for Him.
Does this mean we’ll live it out automatically? Of course not. Have you ever had a computer
crash before? Just because it’s programmed to run smoothly, doesn’t mean it will. It has to
cooperate with the owner. And it’s the same with us. God is our Owner—it’s not about us.
Insofar as we walk in friendship with Him, the Holy Spirit teaches us love, transforms our
ambitions, and helps us to operate in accordance with our new spiritual DNA. Are you walking
closely in friendship with Jesus this morning?
Now, allow me to offer a practical illustration of what this might look like.
John Perkins is a 90-year-old pastor and Civil Rights activist. In his book, One Blood, he talks
about the sins of black anger and white indifference. His brother Clyde fought in World War II,
came home, and he was murdered because of his race. As a black man, John felt such a raging
fire over the tragedies he and his people had suffered. He said he wanted to wear it like a
badge of honor to whip the white man with and play the victim card. But Jesus wouldn’t let
him. The Holy Spirit taught him differently. Almost immediately after finding Jesus at the age of
twenty-seven, he says God challenged his prejudice. One of the ways He did so was through the
hands of the white nurses who bandaged his wounds after he was beaten in the streets of
Mississippi. He says they were symbolic for the people who beat him. He wanted to hate all
white people, but God used their compassion to break down the wall of anger, distrust, and
bitterness. Today, Reverend Perkins has been used by God perhaps as much as any living
person to bring about reconciliation between whites and blacks. But he couldn’t become part of
the solution until he realized he was part of the problem.
And it’s the same for us. None of us can be part of the solution until we realize we are part of
the problem. For John Perkins, the issue was “black anger.” And for much of the white
evangelical church, it’s white indifference. Now, I’m going to be honest with you guys. I’m
afraid to say that out-loud. I’m afraid I’ll be labeled as a virtue-signaller who’s been
brainwashed by media and the radical left. I do think the media thrives on inflaming our
tensions. But they’re not the ones who “re-programmed” me. That, I can only attribute to the
work of the Holy Spirit, who transformed my ambition and taught me love. If we want to be
taught by God, we have to be teachable. The Scripture says His thoughts are different than our
thoughts, which means that sometimes His thoughts will disagree with ours. If the Holy Spirit
only tells me things I already agree with, I’m probably not listening to the Holy Spirit. If I agree
100% of the time with everyone in my tribe or political affiliation, I’m probably not being taught
by God. Being teachable means we posture ourselves to receive from the Holy Spirit, even if it’s
not what we want to hear. Instead of asking yourself, “Am I a hate-filled racist,” ask God
whether you’re doing all you can for the sake of reconciliation. The greatest commandment is
not “Don’t hate,” but “Love.” Jesus loved us so much that He died for reconciliation between
races, and then He appointed us to be ministers of reconciliation. We’re commissioned to be
peacemakers. Reconciliation is written on our hearts. Now it’s up to us to live out our new
“programming” with a foot-washing, cross-dying love that shouts to the world, “It’s all about
Him.” If we want to change the world, we have to let God change us—through the quiet work
of the Holy Spirit.