Milton has carefully marked, in his Satan,

 the intense selfishness

which would rather reign in hell

than serve in heaven.

~ Samuel Taylor Coleridge

03-19-04 © gremlin, courtesy of iStockphoto

Coleridge speaks of John Milton’s classic, Paradise Lost. The angel who was a worship leader in heaven fell from his position because of selfish pride.

2013 was the year of the selfie, but humanity is (and has always been) selfish by nature – following Lucifer’s lead in Eden and ever since. Just as it was in Bethlehem, we see this throughout Christ’s life … and in those who claim to follow Him now.

  • We see those closest to Jesus were selfish in the New Testament.

The Gospel writers portray the disciples as jockeying for positions in God’s kingdom. Everyone wanted to be first. It’s like they were warming up their singing voices by proclaiming: me, me, me.

  • We see selfishness in Gethsemane.

None of the disciples could stay awake even though the Lord pleaded with them to intercede for Him. Even as He agonized to the point of sweating blood, none remained with Him in prayer.

When the soldiers arrested their Messiah, it was each man for himself. They ran as far away from their Savior as they could.

  • We see selfishness in His Passion.

The high priests wanted Him dead so that He wouldn’t threaten their illegal activities. With Jesus out of the way, they’d remain little gods over their enterprise and over the religion they had feigned as the source of their righteousness.

And the formerly bold Peter had to eat his words of not denying the Messiah when he did just that for fearing a servant girl’s identification of him as a follower of Jesus.

  • We see selfishness as Christ agonized on Calvary.

Just as the Bethlehemites turned a deaf ear to Mary’s screaming with birth pangs, the people in Jerusalem did the same to the Suffering Servant’s agony.

If you want to understand the excruciating anguish that Jesus suffered, then I invite you to read Crushed: a Physician Analyzes the Agony of Jesus. This book describes the how, what, and why of Christ’s sacrifice to redeem us.

His anguish wasn’t silent or invisible. Everyone in the city that day heard and saw the brutal torture. But His followers remained mum.

  • Many are still running from Christ.

At a time, when people have come under attack for their Christian worldviews, now is not a time for silence. For those who would rather live in subjection to anti-Christian rhetoric and pressures here are choosing to succumb to the one who’d rather reign in hell than serve in heaven.

  • The selfless face fiery ordeals.

It’s time we wake up to realize Milton’s devil is alive and well on planet Earth. The true global warming’s coming from the fanning of hell’s flames all around us.

Those who take a stand will be tested by the fire. Take it from Peter who knew of what he wrote:

 

I beg you not to be unduly alarmed at the fiery ordeals which come to test your faith, as though this were some abnormal experience. You should be glad, because it means that you are called to share Christ’s sufferings…

If you are reproached for being Christ’s followers, that is a great privilege, for you can be sure that God’s Spirit of glory is resting upon you…

If he suffers as a Christian he has nothing to be ashamed of and may glorify God in Christ’s name.

~ 1 Peter 4:12-16, Phillips