Jesus Explodes the Myth of Self-Fulfillment

What do people want from life?

So many ways to answer that question. A family. A sense of safety and stability. A general sense of happiness and well-being. Financial prosperity. But surely a Christian would answer that question differently than a non-Christian.


Maybe not.

In their book Good Faith, David Kinnaman and Gabe Lyons asked the question of the purpose of life. According to their survey results, most Americans believe the purpose of life is to find fulfillment by discovering yourself and pursuing whatever makes you happy:

84% of Americans believe “enjoying yourself is the highest goal of life.” When asked the question, “How do you enjoy yourself and find fulfillment?” 86% say “pursue the things you desire most.” 91% of Americans affirm: “To find yourself look within yourself.”

You see the progression? The purpose of life is personal enjoyment. And the pathway to personal enjoyment is through personal fulfillment. To get there, you simply find the things you desire most, and you find them by looking inside yourself. Extrapolate that out a bit more and you find that the prevailing opinion regarding “truth” is found in each one of us. If we want to know what’s true, we need to look inside ourselves and then follow our hearts. Personal fulfillment will soon follow.

That’s probably not shocking. We know that we live in a world that defines truth personally and situationally, but it does bring us back to the first of this post – surely a Christian would respond differently. Except most don’t. Again, according to Kinnaman and Lyons:

66% of church-going Christians agreed that the highest goal of life is “enjoying yourself.” 72% said you should pursue the things you desire most, and 76% agreed that looking within yourself is the way to find yourself.

And that’s where we have a problem, because if most of us really believe that we can find ourselves and personal fulfillment within ourselves, it means that at some level, we don’t think our hearts are corrupt and sinful. Not really.

Oh sure – we might make some mistakes now and then, but in the end, we can trust our gut. But that’s not what the Bible says. The Bible tells us that our “guts” will lie to us, and therefore looking within ourselves will only lead us to a false sense of reality. So says the prophet Jeremiah:

“The heart is more deceitful than anything else, and incurable—who can understand it?” (Jer. 17:9).

No, friends, we are not to be trusted. And if that’s true, then the whole idea that we can find personal fulfillment by just doing what we enjoy the most is a myth. Jesus was clear on this point when He defined discipleship at its most basic level:

Then he said to them all, “If anyone wants to follow after me, let him deny himself, take up his cross daily, and follow me” (Luke 9:23).

The road of following Jesus is fundamentally about self-denial. But lest we think that Jesus is anti-personal fulfillment, we need only keep reading to what He said next:

“For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life because of me will save it.”

Jesus is not saying that self-denial is the end; He’s saying that it’s the beginning. Jesus is not anti-self-fulfillment – He just knows that true fulfillment only comes on the other side of self-denial.

We would do well to look to see where we are trusting our own hearts. If we are, then our hearts will lead us astray. Don’t trust in yourself; trust in Jesus because He knows that only through Him can we have new hearts. With new desires. And a whole new self that is, in reality, our true selves. But this only comes through walking the road of self-denial:

“Your real, new self will not come as long as you are looking for it. It will come when you are looking for him” – CS Lewis.

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