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October 6, 2023

Things have changed a lot in 300 years. Obviously. But maybe more than we realize, especially when it comes to how the way we think has been shaped. It starts with expressive individualism. That is the idea that what is inside me, what I think, how I feel is most important and the most substantive source of truth.

We now call this shift in 18th century Europe the Enlightenment. There is a dramatic shift that occurred in this time in the way human beings began to think. Philosophers at the time began to say that culture was the source of hardship and brokenness. In order to break free from the oppression of the past, we must turn inward. Once we tap into ourselves, we will truly be free. This time period began to slough off commonly held values, cultural morals, and religious principles. One author summarizes philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche’s thinking:

Freed from the burden of being creatures of God, human beings must rise to the challenge of self-creation, of being whoever they choose to be. Put perhaps even more bluntly: Be whoever or whatever works for you. You should feel no obligation to conform to the standards or criteria of anyone else.

This is where we find ourselves a few centuries later. Our culture has radically been shaped by it. The self (me, my feelings, my wants, my dreams) is the highest priority.

This isn’t a brand-new concept. Jesus had to push against this 2000 years ago. Long before the Enlightenment, the “self” was a powerful motivator. I see it play out in Mark chapter 10. Take a quick read through that chapter. It’s full of this sort of thing.

  • The Pharisees want Jesus to condone the easy divorce culture. If they want out of a marriage because they aren’t happy, they want Jesus to tell them it’s ok.

  • The disciples rebuke people for bringing children to Jesus. They aren’t worth Jesus’s attention and time. They aren’t as important as the disciples view themselves to be.

  • Jesus teaches on the difficulty of entering the Kingdom of God. Self-reliance on wealth and position as a symbol of God’s blessing is highlighted as a cultural value of the day.

  • The disciples continue to be astonished and afraid that the merits and importance of self don’t seem to be valued by Jesus or enough to be worthy of God’s Kingdom.

  • The disciples argue about which one of them will be placed in position of power and authority when Jesus takes his throne.

  • Self, self, me, my, mine…

Consistently Jesus must turn the tables on the narrative of self-centered thinking. It’s not about you. It’s not about what you think is important. It’s not about what you do or how much you can accumulate for yourself. It’s not about your merit or your hard work. It’s not about your identity-grabbing or self-promotion. Expressive individualism won’t get you anywhere in the Kingdom of God. (On an aside, it won’t get you anywhere in the world, either. With a solid 40-year decline in the number of American adults who say they are happy, it appears that the more we focus on self to define and guide us, the less fulfilled we really are).

In Mark 10, Jesus is constantly pointing to the position Jesus-followers should take. Love God deeply. Love others selflessly. It’s all about God, first, and others, second. Your self-reliance will kill you. Literally. Humility, love, generosity, servanthood, and God-reliance are the only way to experience the fullest life. These should shape your values, your thinking, your decision-making, and your worship!

That’s what I love about how Mark 10 ends. A blind man shouts to Jesus from the roadside as he passes by him. And Jesus invites the man to come to him! It’s a beautiful invitation. The man realizes that his self is broken. He’s blind and he wants to see. Jesus is the only one who can fulfill and heal him. This man’s humble faith is juxtaposed in Mark 10 with the arrogance of the Pharisees, the greed of the rich man, and the self-promotion of the disciples.

We need a continual re-shaping of our attitudes, relationships, priorities, and thinking. Ask Jesus to show you what needs renovated in your heart. Ask him to do that work this week.

It's not about you. Jesus’s truth smacks culture upside the head. It’s never been about you. Lose yourself, and you’ll find God through faith. Love God with ever-deepening devotion and serve others with ever-increasing compassion and love… and you’ll find yourself. Full and secure.

Because of Him,


Nathan Hinkle

Lead Pastor

White Oak Christian Church


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