Hi, this is Pastor Ken, and these are my thoughts on a Thursday…Number One Is Looking Out For Me.

Human beings have long struggled with the urge to look out for number one a.k.a. thinking of ourselves first. In fact, the original failure of mankind was the result of this very compulsion. God created Adam and Eve, and the Bible tells us he placed them in a garden of perfection. They had everything they could ever need supplied for them by a good, good God who only desired what was best for them. The plan was that they would trust God to meet their every need and He would do so based on His love for them and their love for and complete trust in Him. Most of us recognize the story of their failure. The serpent, Satan, came and used deceit to convince them that God was holding out on them. Satan persuaded them to act out of selfishness and choose to take for themselves the one thing God had directed them to avoid. In that moment they were convinced God was not as good as He claimed to be and decided they needed to look out for themselves. Their spiritual enemy had succeeded at arguing the case that their selfishness was reasonable and therefore needed to be acted upon.

Satan’s playbook has not changed. He still seeks to convince us to be selfish. Almost everyone has some aversion to outright selfishness. Most people don’t like to be thought of as selfish and so try to operate in a way that downplays it’s existence in their lives. Interestingly, the few who seemingly don’t care if others find them selfish, are often the loudest about pointing out others selfishness, especially toward them. On one level or the other human beings don’t like selfishness. Why is that, and how then are we convinced to be so selfish? We don’t like selfishness because we have been created in the image and likeness of God. God is not selfish, He is selfless, and so in a sense selfishness goes against our created nature. If that is true, then how are we convinced to be selfish? I said last week that Satan is the father of all lies and the master of the plausible ones. In order to convince us we should not trust God to give us all we need and therefore look out for our own best interest, our enemy only needs to help us see that our selfishness is reasonable. He only has to show us that any responsible person would do the same thing given the same set of circumstances.

Jesus had to deal with this very problem. The other day I was reading an account in the book of Luke and this truth became glaringly obvious. In Luke 4 we read about Jesus’ time spent in the wilderness and the temptation He endured there for forty days. Verses 1-4 say: Then Jesus, being filled with the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan and was led by the Spirit into the wilderness, being tempted for forty days by the devil. And in those days He ate nothing, and afterward, when they had ended, He was hungry. And the devil said to Him, “If You are the Son of God, command this stone to become bread.” But Jesus answered him, saying, “It is written, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word of God.’ ”

This account is from the start of Jesus’ ministry. The word tells us that this happened after forty days of fasting! I have fasted before but never for forty days…not even close to it. I cannot even imagine the extent of the hunger Jesus must have experienced on that day. What I do know is that the devil used that extreme hunger as the basis for his attempt at a plausible lie. What Satan was suggesting (that Jesus turn some stones into bread so he could eat) was completely possible. Jesus was indeed hungry. The stones were present, and Jesus had the power to transform those stones into piping hot delicious bread. It would seem perfectly reasonable for him to do just that, perhaps even responsible. After all, the forty days of fasting had ended according to this scripture. Turning the stones to bread so that he could solve the problem of extreme hunger was both plausible and reasonable. It would have also been selfish. How? Look at the challenge posed by Satan. “If You are the Son of God, command this stone to become bread.” The challenge was Don’t wait for God’s supply, if you are who you say you are, then look out for yourself and get what you need.’  Essentially Satan was saying ‘it would be perfectly reasonable and responsible for you to be selfish in this moment and look out for yourself first, in this situation it’s what anyone would do if they were the Son of God.’ Jesus answer was “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word of God.” Jesus response essentially was, ‘My Father knows what I need and He will provide for me, I don’t need to look out for number one because Number One is looking out for me.’

There is another account from the end of Jesus’ ministry on earth where He was again tempted by a reasonable and some might say responsible remedy to an even greater difficulty than forty days without food. This one is recorded in Luke 23:33-39. They say; And when they had come to the place called Calvary, there they crucified Him, and the criminals, one on the right hand and the other on the left. Then Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they do.” And they divided His garments and cast lots. And the people stood looking on. But even the rulers with them sneered, saying, “He saved others; let Him save Himself if He is the Christ, the chosen of God.” The soldiers also mocked Him, coming and offering Him sour wine, and saying, “If You are the King of the Jews, save Yourself.” And an inscription also was written over Him in letters of Greek, Latin, and Hebrew: THIS IS THE KING OF THE JEWS. Then one of the criminals who were hanged blasphemed Him, saying, “If You are the Christ, save Yourself and us.”

Not once, not twice, but three times Jesus was tempted to be selfish and save himself from the agony He was enduring on the cross. First, it was the church leaders of the very religion that was supposed to worship Him who were sneering and making fun of Him as He hung, nailed to the cross through His hands and feet. They did not believe for a moment He could have saved Himself or they would not have been so brazen as to stand in such close proximity while antagonizing him. If they had believed, He was who He said He was, they would have stood in fear and trembling of what He could do to them if He did decide to come down from the cross. No, they were quite certain it was the nails holding Him there and not His incredible love for them.

Next, we read that the soldiers who had nailed him to the cross began to join in with those church leaders making fun of Jesus. We read that they mocked him, essentially by saying that any real king would have had an army at the ready to save Him. Instead, He chose to hang there and die for the actions of the filthy men who had excruciatingly driven spikes through his flesh, and who had earlier that day beaten him and enjoyed the sport of it. Their Creator chose to be murdered by His own creation for the express purpose of ensuring a way to spend eternity loving and blessing those very men.

Finally, even one of the two guilty men being justifiably crucified alongside Jesus began to question His Lordship and say that if He really was the Messiah then He should save not only Himself but them as well. The temptation from all three groups was the same, to be selfish, to think of Himself. After all, it would be responsible to remove Himself from the pain and agony He was enduring. It would be reasonable to show the created just WHO had created them! No one would blame Jesus for proving that all the things He had claimed about Himself were true…especially in light of His circumstances. But instead we go on to read in verse 46 that His response to the temptation for the most reasonable of selfishness was And when Jesus had cried out with a loud voice, He said, “Father into Your hands I commit my spirit,” Having said this, He breathed His last. Essentially, His answer was once again, ‘My Father knows what I need and He will provide for me, I don’t need to look out for number one because Number One is looking out for me.’

As Christ followers who desire to guide our lives by His example, it is important to have a new definition of Looking out for Number One, because Number One is looking out for us. When we come to understand that God is number One and we look to Him to supply all our needs, no matter how critical they may be, we are empowered to subdue selfishness and embody selflessness in every situation. In those times, we think our selfishness might be reasonable, and perhaps even responsible…Jesus’Pastor Ken Brown Jr example says no.

So now, choosing selflessness in every circumstance, to closer resemble your Lord and Savior Jesus Christ…Go Be Awesome!