We live in a culture of self-love, to put it simply, a culture that is consumed with self-love, ego-building, self-esteem, feeling good about yourself, thinking you’re important, thinking you’re valuable, thinking you’re a hero, thinking you’ve achieved something, thinking you’re worthy of honor. We’re drowning in awards for everything imaginable and unimaginable.
Parents are consumed with boosting the egos of their children with every imaginable means, as well as boosting their own sense of self-value. This is the generation of self-lovers.
And just by way of reminder, in 2 Timothy chapter 3 the apostle Paul classified “love of self” as a sin. In fact, a dominating sin. In one of his familiar lists of iniquities, there are numbers of them in his letters, he begins the list of iniquities in 2 Timothy chapter 3 with “lovers of self,” and then “lovers of money,” and then goes through the rest of his list. This describes deceivers, unbelievers, those outside the Kingdom of God, those who do not know the truth. Self-love is at the top of the list in terms of normal human attitude. Sinners are consumed with pride. They’re consumed with themselves. We have made that into THE prominent, dominant virtue in our society.
So here we are with the gospel, going to a generation of people who are not only proud but they’ve turned pride into the virtue of all virtues, who are in love with themselves and who seek to fulfill every whim and every desire and every ambition and every dream and every hope, who seek to be everything that they can be, who seek to set value on all that they are and all that they say and all that they do. And we confront that culture with the gospel and at the heart of the gospel is this opening, “So you want to follow Jesus, do you? You want to enter the Kingdom of God? You want your sins forgiven. You want eternal heaven. Then deny yourself and take up your cross and fully submit to Him.” You can’t even get to the submitting part unless you can get past the cross part, and you can’t get there if you can’t get past the part about denying yourself.
- Dr. John MacArthur excerpt from: The Gospel: Self-Love or Self-Hate?, sermon from Luke 9:23-25 delivered on November 17, 2002.
What will it cost to be a true Christian? "it will cost him his self-righteousness. He must cast away all pride and high thoughts, and conceit of his own goodness. He must be content to go to heaven as a poor sinner, saved only by free grace, and owing all to the merit and righteousness of another." - J. C. Ryle
"...we are possessed with extreme blind love for ourselves, when we are involved in the darkness of our sins, and think not that there is so much filth in us. The light of the Lord alone can open our eyes to behold the filthiness which lies hid in our flesh. He only then is imbued with the principles of Christian philosophy, who has well learnt to be really displeased with himself, and to be confounded with shame for his own wretchedness. He shows at last still more plainly from what was to follow, how much they ought to have been ashamed, that is, when they came to understand that they had been standing on the very precipice of death, and had been nigh destruction; yea, that they would have already entered the gates of death, had they not been reclaimed by God’s mercy.” John Calvin (1509-1564) from: Commentaries on the Epistle of Paul the Apostle to the Romans.