We live in a culture of self-love, to put it simply, a culture that is consumed with self-love, ego-building, self-esteem, feeling good about yourself, thinking you’re important, thinking you’re valuable, thinking you’re a hero, thinking you’ve achieved something, thinking you’re worthy of honor. We’re drowning in awards for everything imaginable and unimaginable.
Parents are consumed with boosting the egos of their children with every imaginable means, as well as boosting their own sense of self-value. This is the generation of self-lovers.
And just by way of reminder, in 2 Timothy chapter 3 the apostle Paul classified “love of self” as a sin. In fact, a dominating sin. In one of his familiar lists of iniquities, there are numbers of them in his letters, he begins the list of iniquities in 2 Timothy chapter 3 with “lovers of self,” and then “lovers of money,” and then goes through the rest of his list. This describes deceivers, unbelievers, those outside the Kingdom of God, those who do not know the truth. Self-love is at the top of the list in terms of normal human attitude. Sinners are consumed with pride. They’re consumed with themselves. We have made that into THE prominent, dominant virtue in our society.
So here we are with the gospel, going to a generation of people who are not only proud but they’ve turned pride into the virtue of all virtues, who are in love with themselves and who seek to fulfill every whim and every desire and every ambition and every dream and every hope, who seek to be everything that they can be, who seek to set value on all that they are and all that they say and all that they do. And we confront that culture with the gospel and at the heart of the gospel is this opening, “So you want to follow Jesus, do you? You want to enter the Kingdom of God? You want your sins forgiven. You want eternal heaven. Then deny yourself and take up your cross and fully submit to Him.” You can’t even get to the submitting part unless you can get past the cross part, and you can’t get there if you can’t get past the part about denying yourself.
– John MacArthur
taken from: The Gospel: Self-Love or Self-Hate?, sermon from Luke 9:23-25 delivered on November 17, 2002.