“This know also, that in the last days perilous times shall come. For men shall be lovers of their own selves…”
We get the word "narcissism" from Greek mythology. Narcissus was an extremely handsome young man. Echo fell desperately in love with him. He ignored her and broke her heart, yet she continued to love him. Their relationship was made nearly impossible because the gods had willed it that he could hear only the last two words of her conversation. Regularly he would misunderstand her. The end result was that Echo pined away to death. However, her "last two words" remain to this day as "echoes."
Nemesis, the goddess of retribution –who pays you back for your wrong doing –punished Narcissus for his neglect of Echo by causing him to fall in love with his own image which he saw mirrored in a pool of water. He could not attend to any of his needs other than the need to admire and love himself in the mirrored pool. As a result he dies and Nemesis turned him into the flower that we today call the narcissus!
The Word of God in Proverbs 16: 18 says, “Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall.” We are often blind to our own faults, and this is extremely dangerous for those of us in ministry positions within the church. It is a cancer to our ministry and sadly we have all witnessed dozens of pastors go down in defeat in a very public way due to their arrogance, pride, and enormous ego.
Left unchecked, our ministry will exist only for humanistic purposes and not for the purposes and will of God. I believe that the more we are flattered the more dangerous it can become. Flattery and criticism are complete opposites but can be equally damaging. You’ve heard it said that, “flattery can get you anywhere” and this almost true to an extent, flattery can also get you to place that you really don’t want to be. It can cause you to think more highly of yourself than you ought to—and this is the place in your ministry that you really don’t want to be. In these last days we want to be in a place where our mind, our heart, and our soul is constantly stayed on Jesus.
In and of ourselves we have absolutely nothing to brag or be prideful about. Look what Paul says in Galatians 6: 14, “But God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world is crucified unto me, and I unto the world.” The Cross is or should be the only boast of a minister or church leader. We have absolutely nothing else to feel proud about, not our oratorical abilities, not the size of our church and not our popularity among the masses, just the Cross of Jesus Christ.
As Paul lies in his cell realizing that his death was near. He is concerned about the future of the gospel. He knew that the evil of the times were on their way, and so he pens a couple of extremely vital and important letters to his “dearly beloved son”, his associate minister Timothy. At the time of this letter it was actually a crime to be a Christian and Paul sincerely hopes that Timothy may come and bring Mark also. –2 Timothy 4: 11
But if not, Paul discusses final matters with Timothy through this letter, and within this letter he reminds Timothy to know this also, “…that in the last days perilous times shall come.” And curiously (to me at least) he begins with the thought that, “…men shall be lovers of their own selves.” Being in love with your self includes the desire to promote your own well being at the expense of others. It is an excessive regard to always be on top and have an advantage over others; in short, it is selfishness, self-righteousness, and it is the self centered behavior known as narcissism.
Self-love makes us focus on our self rather than God
Jesus said, “If any man would come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me. For whosoever would save his life shall lose it: and whosoever shall lose his life for my sake shall find it.” –Matthew 16:24-25, sadly the denial of self is one of man’s most difficult problems. Self-denial consists in the voluntary renunciation of everything, which is inconsistent with the glory of God.
However, selfishness seems to constantly get in the way by making a man’s self his own center, the beginning and end of all that he does. We live in a day and an age where people only care about themselves. Men and women love themselves; the only thing they really care about is themselves. Paul says to Timothy one indicator that we are in living the last days will be this, men will only care about themselves and you need to know this.
I am aware of the fact that many people today are advocating that we are to “love ourselves” you often hear people say that, “so and so does not love himself enough, or that so and so needs to learn to love themselves.” This self-love has been promoted for some time (decades) in the secular field of psychology and has been advanced as the solution to all psychological and sociological problems of the world. I’ve even heard “self-love” preached behind a few pulpits. But this self-love philosophy is nowhere to be found in the Bible. To the contrary we will find just the opposite, that we are to “esteem others better than themselves” (Philippians 2:3) and “not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think” (Romans 12:3). If we endeavor to focus on God we will not have time to focus on our selves.
Self love sets us up to be a little god
Perhaps the most serious charge that can be placed upon the sin of self-love is the fact it sets us up to be like a god. It presents the feeling or thought that nothing else matters as much as our own pleasure. It seems to say to others that, “this is my world and you’re just living in it.” Here is the seriousness of having an over inflated ego, instead of us becoming or being more Christ-like in nature we become devil-like instead.
I understand, most everyone strives to be the best they can be in their realm of being. To want to do our best with our talents is a good thing — if we realize who and what we are. When Isaiah describes Satan’s determination and pride of being, he quoted Satan’s attitude as saying, in Isaiah 14:14, I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will make myself like the Most High.” Satan is determined to be ruler over all things and have everyone look up to him — instead of to God. That is his goal and he is striving with all his might to attain it. His pride has convinced him that he can be mightier than his Creator — the LORD God Almighty. To attain his goal, he lies, deceives, destroys, and uses his imitations to create fear.
In turn, Satan tries to convince people that we too can be gods and rule over others, if we try hard enough. So, people feel we must strive to be better than others and we must become convinced in our minds that we are the best, in order to become the best. However, we do this, it is often in the manner that Satan prescribes, “By any means necessary” if you have lie, cheat, hurt feelings, manipulate, demand praise from others, reject and disapprove others, show intensed rage when questioned, calculate and connive or totally destroy someone else’s life in the process then so be it! Mind you, this is what the devil wants of you—but not God. This is one of the very reasons we need to focus solely and wholeheartedly on God; no one and nothing else will do.
Why is it important to keep your focus solely on God’s Will?
God is all knowing and all-powerful. He has the whole world and its entire people in His hand and He can do with them whatever He wants. He gives life and death as it pleases Him. Our lives belong to God! For that reason we shall be wise to focus on Him, so that we can learn from Him. When we focus on our selves we are inadvertently cheating our own selves of all that God has in store for us.
Why is it important to keep our focus solely on God, His Son, and our Savior? Because it is not about us! Here is a good question, why were we created? Look at us—dust. We are made up of the elements of the earth: hydrogen, oxygen, etc. We are composed of dirt. What could we possibly offer God Almighty? Solomon said that the heaven of heavens cannot contain God—He’s too big, too awesome, and too fantastic to be contained. We are like grasshoppers in His sight. Yet He loves us. Now I just wonder, what is it about a man that would cause him to fall in love with himself when he stands before such an awesome God? Absolutely nothing!
We were not created for ourselves; we were not created for our own pleasure. We were created for God's pleasure! God made you and I for Himself. And until you understand that, life isn’t going to make any sense. This is why we cannot waste precious time focusing on ourselves, engaging in the practice of self-love, because our primarily purpose in life is to praise and worship the Lord! There is nothing more and nothing less than that.
Jesus serves as a good example of how to focus on God. He said: “My food is to do the will of Him who sent me and to finish His work” –John 4:34, He also said in John 6:38 “For I have come down from heaven not to do my will but to do the will of him who sent me”. Jesus could do so many things, yet He chose to do only the activities that the Father wanted Him to do. Jesus had a mind and a will separate from the Father’s. He could will and act separately from God. In short, He had the opportunity to act upon His will rather than God the Father, but instead His entire focus was on God.
In Gethsemane He prayed, “Not My will but thine be done” –Matthew 26: 39. He actually willed something different than God; He willed that the cup be removed, for some way other than the cross to be chosen for our salvation. Satan even tried to tempt Him in the wilderness, the very same way he trying to tempt us today, to deny God and follow him. Guess what he tried to use? That’s right, material things, earthly things—Jesus told him unequivocally that “Man can’t live by bread alone” Jesus Christ always did what God willed—and He did so perfectly. Anytime we engage in the sin of self-love we are going directly against the will of God.
And so next Sunday morning or whenever you fellowship with the body of Christ, check your ego at the door. Because our over inflated egos has absolutely no place in the work of God. God purpose is never fulfilled by an exercise of man’s self-importance. That applies to us all… preachers, pastors musicians, singers, board members and saints.
It applies to those of us, who are concerned with the approval of others, constantly comparing yourself to others, blames others, know everything about everything, have a constant need for more and more, always knows what’s wrong with everybody else, always judgmental of others, and never willingly under any circumstance to say I am sorry. None of these things has any business in God’s house. What’s so wrong with bringing our egos to church with us?
Egos will tell you to ‘go’ when you are not yet ready to ‘go. They will interfere with obedience and submission, and they will hinder true revival. Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and he shall lift you up.
Finally, we should all follow the needed advice from James the brother of Jesus, “Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and he shall lift you up.”—James 4: 10, but do not expect to be lifted up if you should keep on refusing to check your ego at the door. Amen.