We are making progress with our laws. Today we have reached the fifth law of spiritual success.
This is a law that will require some of you to learn a whole new way of thinking and feeling. You may need to throw out your old way of looking at the world.
Over 500 years ago, Polish mathematician and astronomer Nicolaus Copernicus had to discard the old ways of thinking in order to make his scientific breakthrough.
Copernicus did not build on Ptolemy’s theory that our earth is the centre of the universe. He tossed that view out and declared that the sun is the centre of the universe.
Later on Newton came along and brought a new way of thinking about the universe. Over time everyone got used to Newton’s way of thinking and it became accepted as truth – until Einstein introduced a new way of thinking.
The frameworks we use for thinking about issues are the source of our attitudes, our behaviour, and the way we relate to others. Our desires colour our view of the world.
In 1962 the Harvard professor Thomas Kuhn invented an expression to describe this switch in the way we view things. He called it a ‘paradigm shift’.
The paradigm I should like to examine today is your motives.
Why do you do what you do? Examine your motives. Are you motivated by a desire for success, recognition, security, love, peace, wealth, power, influence, fame? Or does some other desire motivate you? Are your motives good enough? How many of them are selfish? And how many are sacrificial?
A successful writer called Arthur Gordon lost his zeal for writing. It became a chore that brought no reward. He got no pleasure from his writing any more. When Arthur looked into his own motives he says he found that if one’s motives are wrong nothing can be made right. It makes no difference if you are a postman, a taxi driver, a hairdresser, a housewife, or an insurance salesman. Whatever! As long as you feel you are serving others you do your job well. When you are concerned with helping yourself, you do it less well – a law as inescapable as gravity.
That was Arthur Gordon’s paradigm shift. It was the moment when he realised that life is not about serving yourself. Life is all about serving others.
As Christians, we have to serve someone. Family, friends, neighbours – anyone. If we don’t, we start to shrivel inside. Life becomes tasteless.
The reason is simple. God didn’t create us to live for ourselves. God created us in his image, in the image of the trinity. When I first began to understand this, my paradigm was dramatically shifted. I had always been preoccupied with truth. I thought truth was the essential reality, and Christianity was best because it had the best truth. Now I see that truth merely describes reality.
In the trinity, the father loves the son and gives him everything. The son always does what pleases the father. The Holy Spirit shows us the father and the son. He does not glorify himself. From the trinity we learn that the essence of reality is relationship.
And therefore the essence of our existence is our relationships. And we also learn from the trinity that the essential character of our relationships should be concern for others. Just as in the trinity each person is concerned about the other two.
Relationship is the most important thing in life. Relationship should be fundamentally about concern for others. As important as truth may be, it takes a back seat to the ultimate reality of relationship.
Truth, says C.S.Lewis, is always about something. That ‘something’ is reality.
Now how do your life motives look? How do your motives compare with the ultimate motives of God? God is always motivated by concern for others, and this is encapsulated in the trinity.
If you are motivated in something by self-interest, you have sinful motives. You are unrighteous.
You may call that normal, or natural. But in fact you can only say it is normal or natural in terms of this sinful world, because when you look at sinless God there is no such motivation in the trinity.
If you are motivated to prove that you can do something, your motivation is wrong. Do you want attention, recognition, approval?
The fifth law of spiritual success is ‘Give yourself to others’.
We are not to compete against others. We are to serve them. We are not to strive to win, but to always help others do better.
James 2:8 declares: “It is good when you obey the royal law as found in the Scriptures: ‘Love your neighbour as yourself’.”
Paul said the same thing in our reading this morning from Romans 13. And of course Jesus made a point of it in Matthew 22:37.
Jesus is commanding us to love our neighbours. He is commanding us to want the best for others. He is telling us we should want others to succeed, to be happy, to be healthy, and so on.
Our new paradigm tells us to be concerned for others first. Concerned that they have enough healthy food to eat, wherever in the world they live. Concerned that they are free to worship, as we are free to worship. And so on down a long list of our concerns for ourselves. It is not wrong to desire organic food, or nice furniture, for yourself; but you must also desire these things for everyone else. You want to have clean drinking water, you should want the same thing for all other people. What will you do to get clean drinking water for yourself? Will you do as much to get clean drinking water for others?
Our purpose for living is loving involvement in a relationship with God, and a loving involvement in a relationship with others. Jesus explains this attitude in John 13:34 – “So now I am giving you a new commandment: Love each other. Just as I have loved you, you should love each other.”
We cannot be more like Jesus than when we do this.
I hope you begin to see that all life, all creation, all purpose and meaning, is bound up in this fifth rule of spiritual success. The reality of the universe is relationship. It is physical relationship and it is spiritual relationship. And when we talk about spiritual relationship we are talking about concern for others. Life is about putting others first, or at least on an equal level with ourselves. Never about putting ourselves first or higher. And that is love.
Love is what I want to examine next week as we continue to look at the fifth law of spiritual success: Give yourself to others.