G. We must restore incarnational living as a witness of the gospel to the world.
When Paul wrote, “Let this mind be in our that was also in Christ Jesus,” he was not promoting a narcissistic system of religion (Ph 2:5). He was reminding the Philippians that the One whom they claimed to follow “did not consider it robbery to be equal with God. But He made Himself of no reputation” (Ph 2:6,7). Incarnational living after the mind of Christ is about giving up, not getting something for our own pleasure.
A narcissist thinks everything is about him. When narcissism is brought into the family of God, the assembly often becomes an opportunity to show one’s self to the public. The preacher seeks to perform, and subsequently, receive all the compliments in the foyer at the end of the assembly. Those who have sought to draw people to a band, seek to perform in the band in order to make a theatrical performance before an audience. The instrumentalists in the band are often so narcissistic that they will turn up the speakers of their instruments in order to drown out those who are singing. They seek to be seen for their much playing on their instruments, regardless of the performance of the singers. A narcissistic audience goes to the assembly to get something out of the assembly. Many assemblies today have turned into an opportunity for performers to make their performances, not an occasion for worship together. Unfortunately, in too many cases worship has turned into entertainment session for performers and the opportunity for the audience to be mesmerized by cheerleading speakers.
We must not forget that narcissism in a society moves one into focusing on his or her feelings. As the far left liberalism of a society extracts any restrictions of law, feelings become the norm by which something is judged appealing, or right. Those churches that focus on the feelings of the people are growing. But those churches that focus on the “law” of the traditions of their religious heritage are dying away. Likewise, those churches that consider the word of God to be the final norm by which any faith should be judged are also giving way to those who want their feelings and less Bible. The result is that churches become social clubs where people go to feel good about the bad situation in which they live. The assembly becomes a momentary opportunity to forget one’s woes in the midst of a theatrical concert.
We must remember that whenever a group of people focus on themselves, they are not focusing on the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ. The Holy Spirit said this in the following words: “If you then were raised with Christ, seek those things that are above, where Christ is sitting at the right hand of God” (Cl 3:1). This is the only cure for a narcissistic emotional disorder in church assemblies. The preacher who can lift the hearts of the people with the gospel into the throne room of King Jesus is right on track.
The problem with any traits of narcissism are against the mental attitude about which Paul wrote to the Philippians: “Let this mind be in you that was also in Christ” (Ph 2:5). When one’s mind is filled with self, then gospel cannot penetrate one’s heart. The mind of Christ is about humbling ourselves under the mighty hand of God as the Son of God humbled Himself to come in our flesh in order to go to the cross (1 Pt 5:6). If our narcissistic religiosity is all that takes us to an assembly of saints, then we will be enabled to continue after the “closing prayer” with the same dysfunctional mind we had before the “opening prayer.” It is only the gospel mind of Christ that will deliver us from this fretful world in which we live. It is only the gospel that will give us the opportunity to count it with all joy when we must endure great trials (Js 1:2). Therefore, when the gospel of Jesus Christ is the center of attraction around the Lord’s Supper in our assembly, it is then that we walk away with a deeper sense of gratitude. It is then that we have discovered the cause and reason for our worship.
H. We must restore gospel definitions to our dictionary of biblical references.
For example, the word “preach” is used in the New Testament to refer to those who announce the good news to unbelievers. We preach the gospel to the lost, but we teach one another as the body of Christ. Believers have teachers before them, whereas unbelievers need preachers of the gospel to stand before them. “Discipleship” often infers that it is all about us, whereas being a disciple of Jesus means it is all about Him and others. A narcissistic generation likes the word “discipleship” because the word can be twisted to refer to our own needs. We seek classes on discipleship in order to better relate with one another. But this is not the focus in reference to being a disciple of Jesus. Being a disciple of Jesus means that we must let the mind of Christ be in us. And the mind of Christ can be summed up in one statement that was made by Jesus: “For the Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost” (Lk 19:10). Seeking the lost as a disciple (follower) of Christ means that we must be focused on others, especially the lost.
We too often use the word “fellowship” in reference to a food party. But New Testament fellowship is a reference to the common organic function of a body of believers who have all obeyed the gospel. We seek “relationships,” but this word that is not used in the New Testament should be defined with a gospel definition. Too often “relationships” are inwardly focused, but those living the gospel are outwardly focused on the lost. It is easy for social-club Christians to turn inward, forgetting that their responsibility as disciples of Jesus is to continue the commission of Jesus to go into all the world with the gospel (Mk 16:15,16).
[Next in series: Jan. 21]