How can we overcome self-centeredness? Part 4

“And I, if I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all peoples to Myself.” John 12:32

All human beings are born with a sin nature that wants its own way (cf. Isaiah 53:6). Like the child when being disciplined said to his father, “I’m not bad. I just want my own way.” All of us are self-centered creatures. We demand our own way. Life revolves around self. “It’s all about me!”

This is very evident as we approach our presidential elections in the USA. Our country is extremely polarized right now because individuals and political parties are demanding their own way. There is a lack of unity and cooperation with one another because of this sinful nature that insists on “my way or no way.”

We are learning how to overcome self-centeredness in our study of John 12:20-33. So far we have discovered that the way to overcome our self-centeredness is through…

– Seeking Jesus (John 12:20-22).

– Self-denying service to Christ (John 12:23-26).

– Surrendering to God’s control in prayer (John 12:27-30).

Today we will look at the fourth and final way to overcome self-centeredness in this passage. It is STAYING FOCUSED ON THE ONE WHO DEFEATED THE DEVIL AND DRAWS ALL PEOPLE TO HIMSELF (John 12:31-33). After God the Father spoke from heaven to affirm that He would glorify His name through His Son’s death, Jesus said, “Now is the judgment of this world; now the ruler of this world will be cast out.” (John 12:31). While the death of Christ makes all people savable (Romans 5:18; 2 Corinthians 5:15; 1 Timothy 2:6; 1 John 2:2), it also means those who reject Christ will be judged or condemned.

Jesus had said, “He who believes in Him is not condemned; but he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.” (John 3:18). Constable states, “The Jews thought they were judging Jesus when they decided to believe or disbelieve on Him. In reality, their decisions brought divine judgment on themselves. By crucifying Jesus, they were condemning themselves. Jesus was not saying that this would be the last judgment on the world. He meant that because of humankind’s rejection of Him, God was about to pass ‘judgment’ on the world for rejecting His Son (cf. Acts 17:30-31).” 1

Satan, “the ruler of this world will be cast out” (John 12:31b; cf. 14:30; 16:11; 2 Corinthians 4:4), because the cross will deprive him of power and influence. In the Garden of Eden, Adam and Eve were given the responsibility to rule the world on God’s behalf (cf. Genesis 1:26-28). Instead, they chose to sin against God (Genesis 3:1-6) and thereby granted rule of the world to Satan (see 2 Corinthians 4:4; Ephesians 2:2; 1 John 5:19). So the Son of God, Jesus Christ, became a Man without ceasing to be God (John 1:1, 14; Titus 2:13; I John 5:20), to defeat the devil. The cross guarantees the enemy’s defeat because Satan achieves victory through accusing sinners. But through the cross, Jesus Christ would deal with sin once and for all (see Colossians 2:13-15; Hebrews 7:26-27; 9:12; 10:10) so Satan can no longer successfully accuse or oppose those who believe in Jesus (Romans 8:31-39).2

Look in Hebrews 2:14-15: “14 Inasmuch then as the children have partaken of flesh and blood, He Himself likewise shared in the same, that through death He might destroy him who had the power of death, that is, the devil, 15 and release those who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage.” Satan’s power was destroyed, not Satan himself. He had the power of death and used peoples’ fear of death to enslave them to his will. But through the cross, Jesus defeated death and now His children can live for Him and face death with confidence! Satan opposes Jesus so much because he knows what Jesus’ death means. When Jesus said Satan would “be cast out” (John 12:31b), He is referring to His ultimate victory over Satan which, though still future, was initiated at the cross. This victory will be finalized when the devil is cast into his permanent home in the lake of fire where he “will be tormented day and night forever and ever.” (Revelation 20:10).

Satan often appeals to our self-centeredness to lead us away from God to serve his deceitful schemes which are opposed to the Lord. He did this in the Garden of Eden when he said to Eve,4bYou will not surely die. 5 For God knows that in the day you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” (Genesis 3:4b-5). God had told Adam, who told Eve, that they could eat from any tree in the garden except one – the tree of the knowledge of good and evil (Genesis 2:16-17a). God promised that if they ate from that tree they “shall surely die” (Genesis 2:17b).

So what does Satan do? He tells Eve that she will not die. The devil says there is no penalty to sin. And all of us have believed that lie ever since. Satan tells Eve (and us) that God just told her that because He is selfish. He does not want anyone to be like Him and take His place. Satan explains, God “knows that in the day you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” Satan is saying, “God doesn’t want anyone to become like Him by knowing good and evil… He doesn’t want you to reach your full potential. If you obey God, you will be limited and unfulfilled.” But Satan knew no one could be like God. How did he know? Because he tried it himself and got kicked out of heaven (cf. Isaiah 14:12-15)!

Jesus then says, “And I, if I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all peoples to Myself.” (John 12:32). The words “lifted up”refer to Christ’s crucifixion (cf. John 3:14; 8:28; 12:33). Why? Because He must be lifted up on the cross to draw “all”(the word “peoples” is not in the Greek) to Himself. This refers to “all”people, not just Jews, but all people including the Greeks or Gentiles. Jesus’ love is not exclusive. This drawing or pulling is universal regardless of one’s past, nationality, political party, or skin color.

Because of the cross, God does the drawing work that impacts every individual in some way. No one can come to Christ in faith apart from God’s drawing (cf. John 6:44). Jesus does not tell us how long God will draw people to Himself. He may draw them for a brief time or thirty years (cf. Acts 13:46; Romans 1:18-32). That this drawing can be resisted is seen in the life of Judas.3 Judas said “no” to God’s intense drawing for over three years but Judas rejected that drawing and never believed in Christ (cf. 6:64, 70-71; 13:10-11; 17:12). 

John 12:32 does not mean all people will be saved, but that all people will be impacted by the cross in some way and have an opportunity to believe in Christ. But it is still each person’s choice to believe in Christ. John informs us, “This He said, signifying by what death He would die.” (John 12:33). Crucifixion was the kind of death Jesus was destined to die.

The January 10, 2006 Daily Bread reads, “Towering above New York Harbor is the Statue of Liberty. That stately lady, with freedom’s torch held high, has beckoned millions of people who were choking from the stifling air of tyranny or oppression. They’ve been drawn to what that monument symbolizes – freedom. Inscribed on Lady Liberty’s pedestal are these words by Emma Lazarus from her poem ‘The New Colossus’:

            “Give me your tired, your poor,

            Your huddled masses

            yearning to breathe free,

            The wretched refuse

            of your teeming shore;

            Send these, the homeless,

            tempest-tossed, to me:

            I lift my lamp beside the golden door.

“A different monument towers over history, offering spiritual freedom to enslaved peoples everywhere. It’s the cross where Jesus hung 2,000 years ago. At first the scene repels us. Then we see the sinless Son of God dying in our place for our sins. From the cross we hear the words ‘Father, forgive them’ (Luke 23:34) and ‘It is finished!’ (John 19:30). As we trust in Christ as our Savior, the heavy burden of guilt rolls from our sin-weary souls. We are free for all eternity.” 4

Remember Mrs. Lot’s philosophy – “There’s no need to take God seriously”? That could have been etched on her salt-block tombstone. When you have a chance, lick some salt today and ask yourself, “What are some things in my life that God has asked me to leave behind? Things that keep me from following Christ?” 5 After receiving Christ by believing in Him alone for His eternal freedom (John 1:12), you can begin to experience freedom from sin’s bondage in your Christian life by purposing in your heart not to be like Mrs. Lot. You can daily overcome self-centeredness through …

– Seeking Jesus (John 12:20-22).

– Self-denying service to Christ (John 12:23-26).

– Surrendering to God’s control in prayer (John 12:27-30).

– Staying focused on the One who defeated the devil and draws all people to Himself (John 12:31-33).

When you do, you can experience the quality of Christ’s life now (John 12:24-25b; cf. John 8:31-36; 10:10) and be honored by the Father in the future (John 12:25b-26; cf. Matthew 19:29-30; Mark 10:29-30; Luke 18:29-30; John 4:36; 12:25; Romans 2:7; Galatians 6:7-9; I Timothy 6:12, 19). Only Jesus can unite all people everywhere because only He can transform our selfish, sinful hearts into selfless, loving hearts. Let’s stay focused on Him – the Prince of Peace.

Prayer: Father God, I am so thankful to live in America which was birthed to provide freedom for those who were oppressed. But because of human self-centeredness, that freedom is often limited and redefined to serve one’s selfish interests. There is a much greater freedom that is offered to the world today through Jesus Christ. This freedom that Jesus offers is spiritual,  eternal, and absolutely free to anyone who receives it by faith in Christ alone because His sacrifice on the cross paid for it in full (John John 3:16; 19:30). No politician or government can grant this spiritual freedom. Only Jesus can. Please use me to share this good news of Jesus with the entire world so they can be set free from the penalty of sin (eternal death) and Satan’s counterfeit kingdom of darkness! And Lord, please grant me the desire and the power to abide in Your Word daily so Your truth can set me free from the bondage of self-centeredness that can so easily cripple my walk with You. In the liberating name of Jesus Christ I pray. Amen.


1. Dr. Tom Constable, Notes on John, 2015 Edition, pg. 223.

2. Dr. Tony Evans, The Tony Evans Bible Commentary (B&H Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.), pg. 1796.

3. Dr. Robert Wilkin, “The Gospel According to John,” The Grace New Testament Commentary, Vol. 1: Matthew – Acts (Denton, TX: Grace Evangelical Society, 2010), pp. 396, 434,435.


5. Charles R. Swindoll, Growing Strong in the Seasons of Life (Portland: Multanomah Press, 1983), pp. 438-439.

How can I overcome my sinful addictions? – Part 4

“Jesus said to them, ‘If God were your Father, you would love Me, for I proceeded forth and came from God; nor have I come of Myself, but He sent Me.’ ” John 8:42

We will look at a second reason why we are hindered from overcoming our addictions. It is because of SATANIC LIES (John 8:37-44). We observed last time thatJesus’ audience was comprised of believers (“many believed in Him… those Jews who believed Him” – John 8:30b-31a) and unbelievers (“you do not believe Me… why do you not believe Me?” – John 8:44-45). While Jesus spoke to the believers about abiding in His Word to be set free from bondage to sin (John 8:31-32), the unbelievers listened in and were offended that Jesus spoke of being set free from bondage since they were descendants of Abraham (John 8:33).

Jesus then said to these unbelievers, “ ‘37 I know that you are Abraham’s descendants, but you seek to kill Me, because My word has no place in you. 38 I speak what I have seen with My Father, and you do what you have seen with your father.’ 39 They answered and said to Him, ‘Abraham is our father.’ Jesus said to them, ‘If you were Abraham’s children, you would do the works of Abraham. 40 But now you seek to kill Me, a Man who has told you the truth which I heard from God. Abraham did not do this. 41 You do the deeds of your father.’ Then they said to Him, ‘We were not born of fornication; we have one Father—God.’ ” (John 8:37-41). Jesus acknowledged that these people were physical descendants of Abraham, but they were not spiritual descendants. These unbelieving Jews had no room in their hearts for Jesus’ word because they have a different father than Jesus’ Father in heaven (John 8:37-38). When they said Abraham was their father, Jesus said if that were true, they would “do the works of Abraham” (John 8:39). But instead of behaving like Abraham who embraced the truth (cf. Genesis 15:4-6; 18:1-22), they sought to kill Jesus because He told them “the truth” which He “heard from God” the Father (John 8:40). When Christ accused them of doing “the deeds” of their father (John 8:41a; cf. 8:44), He was implying that they had a different spiritual father than God or Abraham.

Then these unbelievers made reference to what they thought was Jesus’ illegitimate  birth, “We were not born of fornication” (John 8:41b). While claiming that God was their “Father” (John 8:41c), they were also taking a jab at Jesus by saying His mother was pregnant before she was married (cf. Matthew 1:18). I find that many Muslims have this same view of Jesus’ birth that they use to justify their rejection of Christ.

What these unbelieving Jews and many Muslims today do not understand is that God is Jesus’ Father. “Jesus said to them, ‘If God were your Father, you would love Me, for I proceeded forth and came from God; nor have I come of Myself, but He sent Me.’ ” (John 8:42). Jesus refuted their accusation that He was born illegitimately because His birth was supernatural (“I proceeded forth and came from God”), not immoral! Moreover, Jesus also denied that God was their Father. The phrase “If God were your Father…” is a second class condition in the Greek language which means it is contrary to fact. It would be translated, “If God were your Father [and He is not], you would love Me…” Christ’s point is if they were God’s true children they would love Him instead of trying to kill Him, and they would acknowledge that God “sent” Him.

Christ then says, “Why do you not understand My speech? Because you are not able to listen to My word.” (John 8:43). Even though Jesus’ message is clear and true about His identity and origin, these unbelieving Jews could “not understand” Him. They were “not able to listen” to Jesus’ message because they had hardened their hearts toward Christ (cf. John 5:40; 7:17). Why? Jesus explains: “You are of your father the devil, and the desires of your father you want to do. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaks a lie, he speaks from his own resources, for he is a liar and the father of it.” (John 8:44). When Jesus spoke, these men wanted to kill Him because their father, the devil, has been a murderer and a liar from the beginning. These men were enslaved to sin because they were in denial about their relationship to Satan. The devil had lied to these leaders about the identity of Jesus and these leaders believed his lies which kept them from believing in Christ. This is at the heart of all who reject Jesus Christ. They have been deceived by the father of lies – Satan himself (cf. 2 Corinthians 4:4; 11:3-4).

Addictions are much more than some chemical dependency or deep psychological need. Underneath the addiction there is an invisible kingdom that governs and controls human behavior. Jesus lived continuously in this awareness that the invisible control center of the earth was where the great issues of life were settled. He points out that there is a hateful dictator (the devil) working behind the scenes; a murderer who wants to destroy human beings, and his process is to deceive them, to lie to them, to make them think and believe a lie. That is what happened to these men and it can happen to you and to me. We can believe Satan’s lies that appeal to our pride and ego so that we are no longer capable of understanding and recognizing truth when we hear it from God.

Look with me now at three lies Satan uses to keep us in bondage to sin. Turn to Genesis 3. The first people God ever made were perfect and they lived in a perfect environment, the garden of Eden. Genesis 3:1-7:

The first lie: “Has God indeed said…?” (Genesis 3:1). Satan attacks God’s Word as untrustworthy. Satan keeps us in bondage to sin by telling us God’s Word cannot be trusted. When God’s Word says to forgive others (Ephesians 4:32), Satan says, “Don’t let them off the hook. Make them pay.” But unforgiveness hurts you more than anyone else. When God’s Word says “he who believes in the Son has everlasting life” (John 3:36a), Satan says, “Jesus is not God’s Son. He is merely a prophet or good moral teacher.” If I can’t believe God in Genesis 3:3 how can I believe Him in Revelation 3:3? If I can’t believe God in Genesis, how do I know I can trust Him with my eternal destiny?

The second lie: “You will not surely die.” (Genesis 3:4). Satan attacks the concept of objective truth. God says every sin has a penalty, but Satan says, “That’s not true. It is okay to sin. You will feel better.” Initially you may feel better. But in the end, you will be more miserable and empty than you ever imagined. We live in a world that no longer believes in objective truth. Nothing is certain anymore. You believe what you want to believe and I’ll believe what I want to believe. People are more concerned about feelings than they are truth. That is why fake news is so common today.

The third lie: “You will be like God.” (Genesis 3:5). Satan confuses our concept of God and our designed role.Satan told Eve that the only reason God did not want her to eat from the tree in the middle of the garden was because God was selfish. “God doesn’t want anyone to become like Him by knowing good and evil. He doesn’t want you to reach your full potential. If you obey God you will be limited and unfulfilled.” But Satan knew no one could be like God. How did he know? Because he tried it himself and got kicked out of heaven (cf. Isaiah 14:12-15; Ezekiel 28:11-19)!

Once Satan got Eve to focus on the one tree she couldn’t eat from rather than the hundreds she could enjoy, she lost sight of God’s goodness and plunged herself, her family, and the rest of the world into sin.

The devil wants us to think that if we sin we will become more like God, knowing good and evil. That somehow sinning makes us more godly, more in control of our lives and therefore more like God. Nothing could be farther from the truth. Sin separates us from God and makes us out of control and headed for destruction.

If we are going to overcome addictions, we must come out of denial and realize that we are no match for “the ruler of this world” (John 12:31; 14:30; 16:11). We cannot overcome Satan and his lies in our own strength. He is much too strong and wise for us. We need a DELIVERER named Jesus Christ who alone can overcome the power of the devil and his lies. Satan is no match for Christ.

Prayer: Lord God, all of us to some degree have been deceived about ourselves, our world, and the god of this world. We have been tricked into believing lies about You as well. Much of my battle with addictions can be traced to Satan’s kingdom rather than to chemical imbalance or psychological need. My bondage to sin begins with my denial of what is true, including Satan’s existence and deception. The devil uses lies to keep people enslaved to sin and unable to discover the truth of Jesus’ identity. This is at the heart of all who reject Jesus Christ. They have been deceived by the father of lies. Lord, I pray that You will bring a great awakening to this lost world so all may see their need for our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ. I now invite the Holy Spirit to guide me into all truth so that any deception that has kept me in bondage to sin can be exposed and replaced with Your truth. Use me, I pray, to advance Your gospel of truth so people may discover the freedom only Jesus can give from bondage to sin and shame. In Jesus’ name I pray. Amen.

I am sheltered by God’s Word from my antagonists

23 Princes also sit and speak against me, but Your servant meditates on Your statutes. 24 Your testimonies also are my delight and my counselors.” Psalm 119:23-24

This morning I woke up to an onslaught of lies that attacked my character and standing before God. Voices that said, “You are a loser.” “You can’t do anything right.” “You are pathetic.” “You are all alone and unloved.” “You are worthless.” Who needs enemies when you wake up to this kind of self-hatred and self-condemnation?

This has been a pattern throughout much of my life. I know where these lies come from. They have been attached to wounds in my past by the father of lies, Satan himself (John 6:44). Throughout my life I have unconsciously sought approval from men who are unable to accept, affirm, or appreciate me. But God is teaching me to seek out godly and available men who are channels of God’s love and grace towards me.

Instead of obsessing on a barrage of lies this morning, I got out of bed and sat at my new desk to focus on God’s Word. I was drawn to Psalm 119:23-24 where the Psalmist writes, “Princes also sit and speak against me, but Your servant meditates on Your statutes” (119:23). Instead of focusing on the antagonism of “princes,” the Psalmist “meditates” on God’s “statutes” or “testimonies.” The word “statutes” (choq) refers to boundaries established by God in His Word. And the word “testimonies” (siach) refers to God’s witness or testimony from the Scriptures.

When the Psalmist speaks of God’s Word as his “delight” (shaashuim), he is referring to that which he “desires or bends toward” much like a house plant that bends toward the rays of sunshine coming through a window to receive its nutrients. Instead of leaning toward the life-taking words of his antagonists, he bends toward the life-giving nourishment of God’s Word. God’s Word was also like his “counselors” (etsah) in that it gave him guidance and wisdom he would need as a “servant” of the Lord.  

God reminded me this morning that what I focus on is a choice. I can either focus on the lies of my antagonists which deplete me of life and nourishment, or I can focus on God’s truth which gives me life and love throughout my day. I choose to turn to God’s life-giving Word which defines who I am:

– In Christ I am a winner (Ephes. 2:5-6).

– I am loved and cherished by God (Psalm 27:10).

– In Christ I am good enough (2 Cor. 5:21).

– I am loved by Jesus just as I am (Rom. 5:6, 8).

– I can do what is right through Christ who strengthens me (Phil. 4:13).

Will you join me in doing this?

Prayer: Precious Lord God, when I am overwhelmed with lies that degrade and shame me, please help me lean towards Your truth and focus on what it says about You, myself, and this broken world in which I live. I am so familiar with lies that degrade and shame me. Please grant me the resolve to become much more intimate with Your truth which comforts, guides, nurtures, and loves me. In Jesus’ name. Amen.