Creating The Cult Of Self

Text: 2 Peter 1:16-21

In the name of Jesus. Amen.

Throughout every generation and on every continent, people have had thoughts and spoken about higher powers. For example, the ancient Egyptians, Babylonians, and Greeks had many inscriptions and religious buildings to worship and honor their gods. 

Now, if you examine all of these ancient religious cults, you will find that there are some elements of truth to them. That is to say; most of them show that mankind is inferior and that a ‘so-called’ deity is supreme, which means that mankind needs help and assistance from these ‘so-called’ deities. Again, there is ‘some’ truth to these ancient cults, mankind being in trouble and needing help from the outside.  However, there is much more fiction, speculation, and romance than truth.  You see, many of these false gods are nothing more than glorified humans plagued with human deficiencies.  And the other parts of these cults sound so dreamy and wild that one might think they were from the mind of a person tripped out drugs.  The point being, these cults, and fake deities are romanticized fictions coming from nothing more than the invented stories of mankind.  They are founded upon fables (heathen myths) that were cleverly devised by human minds and passed down from generation to generation. 

Today in the twenty-first century, we find that there is nothing new under the sun.  The religious beliefs of many contemporary people rest upon a foundation that is no better than these ancient fabricated religions. Indeed, much of what passes for Christianity these days is built upon human guesswork and personal opinions.  Sadly, poll after poll shows us that our beliefs, as American Christians, are confused, paganized, and conflicting with what the Bible teaches.  When asked about Christianity, it is almost as if American Christians either guess or make it up as they go along.  But why is this the case? 

Consider for a moment the Bible.  The Bible tells us about the history of mankind’s beginning, fall into sin, salvation, and final restoration. Furthermore, the Bible teaches us about the central character in this world – the Lord God.  Indeed, the Bible tells us that the Lord as the central character is not contained in history, as if He is just another mythological character in the story of life.  But instead, the Bible teaches us that all of history is in the Creator’s hands.  But this is not how we often read the Bible.  You see, we behave and think the same way as the world when we reduce the Bible and the Lord into one small part of the vastness of history. Going the way of the world, we make history bigger than the Bible and consequently God small.  But there is more.  We Christians make things worse.  We Christians reduce God and the Biblical story even more by inserting them into our personal lives. Instead of God being the main authority and central actor of the world’s history that we are a part of, we reduce the Lord to a mere supporting role in ‘our’ personal story. Simply stated, instead of us living, moving, and having our being within the God of the entire universe (who holds the past, present, and future), we make God live, move, and exist within our tiny world. And keep in mind, in our tiny world God must play by our rules.[1]  

Let me say this as plainly as possible: we Americans have this profound tendency to hijack the Lord and the Biblical story and reduce them to the point where we can fit them into our personal lives – where our personal opinions and personal self-desires rule!  As a result, the Bible no longer interprets us, but we interpret the Bible according to our assumptions. 

Now, this leads to a very dangerous place.  You see, once God and His Word – the Bible – are under the banner of our individualistic lives and our individualistic spirituality, we have created a cult.  Yes, we have created the ‘cult of self.’ And with the ‘cult of self,’ we reign supreme with our thoughts, dreams, and opinions.

Dear friends, there are some very disturbing ramifications of this cult of self that we must take note of – it makes everything backward.  In other words, when individual thoughts, dreams, and opinions become the ultimate authority, the church then becomes subservient not to Christ but the individual in the pew.  That is to say; when the church becomes hostage to the individual, the church must bow to the needs, wants, and wishes of the individual.  Instead of pulling people out of their tiny worlds into God’s Word, everything in the church must be reduced to accommodate the individual’s world.  Alas, God is put into a box, the Word is restricted; and the preferences, opinions, and wants of the individual in the pew rule.  

For example, if the music of the church does not entertain the individual’s musical tastes, the music must change, so the individual is amused.

If the theology of the church offends the individual’s feelings, the theology must change, so the individual’s feelings are soothed.

If the priorities of the church clash with the individual’s agenda, the church must change course to align itself with the individual.

If the Scriptures do not agree with what the preacher thinks, the Scriptures must be twisted to comply with the thoughts of the preacher. 

And on, and on, and on. 

Bluntly stated; when we disregard the Lord’s Word and uphold our personalized thoughts, we stand by the cult of self.  And going the way of the ‘cult of self’ is no different than what those ancient people did.  Once our thoughts, dreams, and opinions become the source of our spirituality, we have essentially abandoned Christianity and gone the way of making up heathen myths.  We have become fable makers. 

You, who have ears, hear this!  The Christian faith rests neither on the myths of mankind nor upon the personal opinions of mankind.  The Bible does not care about what you think or what you feel, for more often than not your thoughts and feelings are twisted with sin.  Your thoughts and feelings need to be crucified unto Christ, not honored or revered. 

O Lord have mercy; Christ have mercy; Lord have mercy on you and me too. 

Dear Baptized Saints, the Gospel, on the other hand, is about Jesus.  The Gospel, which is preached to you from the Apostles, was not produced with their fingers, nor invented by their imaginations, nor taken from clever false myths of old. That is, the Apostles do not preach the nothings of men, but proclaim to you in the Bible what they learned with their own eyes and ears, namely what they witnessed and received from Jesus.[2]

Indeed, the Christian faith is not an idea or a philosophy. It is not an opinion or a fad.  And it is certainly not a fable or mythological legend! But rather, the Christian faith is rooted in real time, in real places, with real people, in real history.  It is founded upon Jesus!  In Christianity, we have facts and the testimony of eyewitnesses who learned from Jesus and witnessed everything about Jesus. We hear this from Peter in the Epistle reading,

“We did not follow cleverly devised myths when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of his Majesty.”

Yes, Peter was an eyewitness of the Majesty of Jesus.  That Majesty being the day when Jesus shinned on a mountain with brilliant splendor with Moses and Elijah.  Furthermore, Peter was an eyewitness of the glorious Jesus who went from that glorious mountain to Jerusalem where He suffered, died, and rose again. 

And so, dear Baptized Saints, since the Christian faith is founded upon, based upon, and sourced in the living, historical, and risen Jesus Christ, you have sure confidence. 

Confidence that the cult of self is no longer central, but you have been crucified with Christ so that you might live by faith in the Son of God who loves you and gave himself for you. 

Confidence that there is nothing that can reach back into time and space to prevent Jesus from going to the cross – for you. 

Confidence that there is nothing that can go back in time and space to keep Jesus from rising from the dead – for your justification. 

Confidence that Christ would have to be shoved back into the grave to make the Christian faith into a myth. 

Confidence that Christ would have to be prevented from going to the cross to give any credibility to mankind’s speculations, desires, and agendas. 

Confidence that Christ would have to be kicked off His heavenly throne and stripped of glory to be hijacked into the cult of self. 

Baptized Saints, Christ died for your sins, exactly as Scripture tells it; He was buried; He was raised from the dead on the third day, again exactly as Scripture says; He presented himself alive to Peter, then to the 12 Apostles, and later to more than five hundred of his followers all at the same time . . .  He then spent time with James and the rest of those he commissioned to represent him.[2] 

In the name of Jesus. Amen. 

[1] John Wright, Telling God's Story: Narrative Preaching for Christian Formation (IVP Academy: 2007), passim. 
[2] Johann Spangenberg, The Christian Year of Grace: The Chief Parts of Scripture Explained in Questions and Answers, tr. Matthew Carver (St. Louis, MO: Concordia Publishing House, 2014), 84.
[3] See 1 Corinthians 15:3-7. 

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