Given the narcissism epidemic plaguing our nation, it was with a measure of fear that I plead with the saints at Immanuel on Sunday to recognize God’s love and delight in His people. I did not want to exacerbate the tendency on our part to hold an inflated view of self.
It was worth the risk.
There is no denying the clear and breathtaking testimony of Scripture when it comes to God’s love and delight in His people. For example, we know that “the steadfast love of the Lord is from everlasting to everlasting on those who fear Him” (Psalm 103:17) and that He has loved us with an “everlasting love” (Jer. 31:3). Moreover, the Bible assures us that “as the bridegroom rejoices over the bride, so shall your God rejoice over you” (Isaiah 62:5). And this delight on God’s part is so intense that it actually moves Him to song:
The LORD your God is in your midst, a mighty one who will save; he will rejoice over you with gladness; he will quiet you by his love; he will exult over you with loud singing (Zeph. 3:17).
What protects this teaching from contributing to the narcissism epidemic in our culture? How can we herald this great news without fear of contributing to an inflated view of self? The answer has everything to do with God’s love for and delight in His Son.
Consider Mark 1:9-11:
In those days Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan. And when he came up out of the water, immediately he saw the heavens being torn open and the Spirit descending on him like a dove. And a voice came from heaven, “You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.”
The baptism of Jesus points us to His role as our great sin-bearer. And by the heavens opening and the Spirit descending we see Jesus commissioned for service, a service of salvation. Finally, we see Jesus as the “beloved” Son of God, the One with whom the Father is “well pleased.”
The foundation of God’s love and delight in us is His love and delight in His Son. In other words, if we are in Christ by faith the same love and pleasure the Father has for the Son is ours. And this is why we boast not in self, but in the Lord. It is a love and delight soaked in the blood of the Lamb.
The gospel is great news for narcissists like me because the worship of self will only lead to eternal ruin (not to mention manifold expressions of temporal misery). Indeed, the gospel sounds the death knell of narcissism because the gospel heralds the death of self. The apostle Paul knew this which is why he sang, “I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me” (Gal. 2:20).
What manner of love is this? Divine. And it demands my soul, my life, my all.