Featured in the October, 2015 Issue of the Ashburn Baptist News
There is a strange inner illness which is so widespread that everyone of us has been afflicted at some time.
This illness is the cause of numerous physical ailments and most of our problems. This is the affliction that disrupts family life, generates interpersonal problems at work, and breaks up marriages.
This is the sickness that keeps more people from church services and Bible classes than all headaches, colds and flu combined. This illness leaves doctors baffled and never has been cured by any medication. It shortens the lives of all who are afflicted.
This mysterious inner illness is self-indulgence. It is the exact opposite of what is commanded in Matthew 22:37. Instead of loving God with all our heart, we love ourselves more than anyone else, including God. Self-indulgence is that constant giving-in to those lower inner urges. It is that inner weakness which blinds us to truth, duty and responsible living.
Self-indulgence is that pleasant, soft, comfortable pillow in which we bury our faces until we suffocate ourselves. Self-indulgence is simply being self-centered instead of God-centered. There is an overblown sense of self-importance, even self-worship.
There is a seeking for self-glory when Jesus said, “I seek not My own glory” (John 8:50). There is self-will when we should be praying, “Thy will be done” (Matthew 6:10). There is self-pleasing when we should follow Christi’s example, who said, “I do always those things that please Him” (John 8:29).
Self-indulgence includes self-flattery, self-absorption, self-admiration, and self-applause. As problems from self-indulgence multiply, self-pity follows. Thinking becomes confused as there is self-contentment, self-delusion and perhaps even self-destruction, because selfishness is an inner blindness which blots out the sun of hope from the sky of life.
While some are enslaved by self-indulgence, no one can boast complete freedom.
Some symptoms of the illness are wasting money with resulting financial problems, squandering time, obesity, smoking, drinking, TV addiction, loafing, unwillingness to make commitments which may interfere with easy, soft self-indulgent living.
Self-indulgence chooses the smooth road even when it’s the wrong one, and looks for the easy way instead of the right way.
The self-indulgent person usually stays up a little late and stays in bed a little longer. He eats between meals but diets at mealtime, feeling sorry for himself that he cannot eat “like other people can.” He may smoke and can “quit any time he wants to”, but self-indulgence never wants to.
He drinks but, of course, is never a “problem drinker” because he can handle his booze. He fears involvements because they interfere with his self-pleasing, and if in some “thoughtless” moment he makes a commitment to marriage, to a noble project, or to the Lord’s church, he soon fabricates all kinds of foolish excuses for not keeping the commitment.
Self-indulgence abhors schedules, budgets, rules, discipline and duties because they all make war on a soft, self-satisfied, easy-going, me-first lifestyle.
People who have managed by the grace of God to be relatively free from self-indulgence and dare speak out against it are promptly labeled legalists, Puritans, and holier-than-thou spiritual tyrants. Self is exceedingly sensitive and may respond viciously when attacked or withdraw to a place of safety.
The self-indulgent individual is always unhappy because no one shares his passion for self-pleasing and because he is wildly out of the will of God.
The cross is the only cure for this disease. Paul struggled with self and finally stated, “I am crucified with Christ, nevertheless I live. Yet, not I, but Christ liveth in me and the life which I now live in the flesh, I live by the faith of the Son of God who loved me and gave Himself for me” (Galatians 2:20).
This does not mean the end of our lives, but the beginning. It means the crucifixion of our selfishness, our self-indulgence, so that we are free to center our lives in our Savior and to live for Him so that we may reach our full potential as God intended. Paul says, “They that are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts” (Galatians 5:24).
Through Christ alone are we saved, from our selfishness, our self-delusion, our self-destruction, our rotten sinfulness, so that we may devote our lives to Jesus who loved us and gave Himself for us. ²