Discovering Your Civilization
civ·i·li·za·tion: a type of culture or society developed at a particular time and place.
The bottom line: you and I are always being civilized or civilizing others into the culture of some kind of kingdom.
The Characteristics of the Civilization of Self
Self-focus. The little kingdom is a kingdom of self. It is driven by personal desire and need. Its eyes are always inward, and its rules are determined by what is best for me. It squeezes all of my relationships and activities into the contours of my felt needs and personal treasures. Even though I may not know I am doing it, I will enter every forum of my life with a “what’s in it for me” posture.
Self-righteousness. Self-righteousness blinds me to the realities of who I am and tends to make me much more aware of the sin of others than my own. I will be angry with others, not because they sin, but because in their sin they get in the way of what I am convinced I need. Since no one is more influential in my life than me, and because no one talks to me more than I do, what I say to myself about myself is very important.
Self-satisfaction. The big question of the little kingdom is, “Am I satisfied with my life?” . . . The big question of the little kingdom is not, “Is God honored by my life?” Nor is it, “By his grace, have I lived up to his purpose and according to his design?” . . . No, the little kingdom only asks one question: “Am I satisfied with myself and my life?” If I am satisfied with me, then all is well in the kingdom of one. Whom are you seeking to satisfy?
Self-reliance. To the degree that I have convinced myself that I am righteous, I free myself of the need for God and others. In the kingdom of one, I live for my own purpose and by my own strength. The kingdom of one is about being strong and in control. The kingdom of one is never a kingdom of spiritual weakness, neediness, and grace. Do you live in humble daily community with God and others, admitting your need and seeking help?
Self-rule. The highest law in the little kingdom is the law of self. It makes sense that when I am living for self I become a law unto myself. I make up the standards by which I evaluate me and judge others. The highest will of the kingdom of one is the will of self. In this kingdom, what I have determined I need will always become the highest moral value. I determine what I wish to experience. In this kingdom I love me and have a wonderful plan for my life.
But Wait, There Is a Warrior!
On the cross Christ broke the power of the little kingdom. (See Romans 6:1—14.) As God’s children we no longer live under the domination of the little kingdom. We have been freed from our imprisonment to ourselves. Once we were only able to desire, think, speak, and act in a self-focused way, but now grace has broken that slavery and welcomed us to a new and better way of living.
On the cross Christ paid the debt for every selfish desire, thought, word, or deed to which you will ever give yourself. You no longer have to be afraid to own up to your selfishness. You do not have to whitewash your thoughts and motives. You do not have to cover your sin by blaming others or by self-atoning logic. You do not have to give yourself to acts of penance (selfatonement) that make you feel better about yourself.
On the cross Christ purchased power for you to obey. Although the power of the little kingdom over your heart has been broken, the presence of little kingdom thoughts and desires still remains. So, the cross has purchased daily power for you. Paul says, “And having disarmed the powers and authorities, he made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross” (Colossians 2:15). You can stand and say, “No!” to the self-focused agenda of the little kingdom.
The cross of Christ guarantees that some day your kingdom conflict will be over. There is a time of peace coming, and it will last forever! There will be a day when you are no longer tricked and tempted by an evil and deceitful enemy. There will be a day when your life will no longer be a battleground. There will be a day when you will no longer have to confess your failure or plead for help.
Come Join Us in our Quest for More
Adapted from A Quest For More. Excerpt may not be reproduced without the express written permission of New Growth Press. To purchase this and other resources, please visit www.newgrowthpress.com.
© 2008 by Paul David Tripp. Used by permission of New Growth Press. All rights reserved.