"We are kingdom-oriented people. We always live in the service of one of two kingdoms. We live in the service of the small, personal happiness agenda of the kingdom of self, or we live in service of the huge, origin-to-destiny agenda of the kingdom of God. When we live for the kingdom of self, our decisions, thoughts, plans, actions, and words are directed by personal desire. We know what we want, where we want it, why we want it, how we want it, when we want it, and who we would prefer to deliver it. Our relationships are shaped by an infrastructure of subtle expectations and silent demands. We know what we want from people and how to get it from them. We seek to surround ourselves with people who will serve our kingdom purposes, and we evaluate them not from the perspectives of the laws of God's kingdom but from the perspective of the laws of our kingdom."
~ Paul David Tripp What Did You Expect??
"The kingdom of self," those very words made me cringe as I read them. Sometimes it is the words of a wise friend and sometimes it is a passage from a book that causes you to face yourself head on and see a truth about who you are. In some cases you see your weakness but just choose not to give them the attention you ought. As I read Mr. Tripp's words I was forced to stop, to be still, and to listen to the truth that has been gently whispered to me over and over in more urgently the last few months. I say that I love the Lord, that I love others, but are my thoughts and actions really reflecting that?
Have you ever had thoughts about others that sounded something like this, "I love them, I'm there for them, I sacrifice for them, but they don't do anything for me"? "Whoa, wait a minute," you think. "Did I just think that?" Be honest, thoughts of pride and self-centeredness are a part of every life, but that does not excuse us. That does not give us the freedom to continue walking in sin.
We each must be equipped with the knowledge that we will struggle with the kingdom of self, because as children of God we know that we are called to build not our own individual kingdom's, but to build His. That our actions and words should be a reflection of the Father's love in us.
I was challenged to examine my relationships with family and friends, and even the casual passer by-er. What do my actions, words, heart attitudes towards others reflect? Myself or God? Am I surrounding myself with people who will serve to meet my agenda and build my own little self-centered kingdom? Or am I seeking to love as Christ loved, to serve as He served, to be self-less and filled with grace?
Each day we face choices. We can choose to do those things which make us feel good, big, and important, or we can choose to seek the Lord and His strength to do those things that will probably be harder and will require sacrifice at times but will also bring Him the most glory. We can live to build our own little kingdoms, or we can live to build His.
How do you love? Why do you serve? What are your heart motives? These are questions I continue to ask myself, and pray I never cease to ask myself. We are sinners by nature, but we are not bound by sin. Christ died to give us a better way. In Him, we can love and live more like He loves, more live He lived (in His time on earth). In Him we can die to self and live for our Maker. In Him we have hope.