RSS

Monthly Archives: January 2014

It’s Not About Me: Part 1

Sometimes I imagine myself as the star in a movie about my life. I’m the main character in a novel of adventure and romance. I’m the heroine, the protagonist, the leading lady. No one can steal my spotlight, because this life is my story.

The funny thing is … God thinks this way too.

If you study the Bible closely, you’ll realize the primary goal of missions is not about saving people. Salvation and redemption are secondary motives that contribute to the first, which, believe it or not, is about God. The Great Commission commands us to spread the gospel so that God may be known and worshiped. God wants everyone in the world to hear about him and praise his name. 

When I first heard that God’s highest priority is his own glory, I rebelled. My immediate thought was, God’s a narcissist. I admit it: the idea repulsed me.

But God isn’t the narcissist. I am. 

I didn’t want to hear that God’s primary objective isn’t about me. In my mind, Jesus was entirely loving and selfless for my sake. Jesus died to save me, right? Days before his crucifixion, though, Jesus declared, “But for this purpose I have come to this hour. Father, glorify your name.” And a voice from heaven answered him, “I have glorified it, and I will glorify it again” (John 12:27-8). Jesus was on a public relations campaign, amping up the masses to praise God. By his death and resurrection, he planned to honor God and show off his Father’s greatness. This is what he was all about. He didn’t come for my sake, but for the Lord’s. Jesus knew what I didn’t: life isn’t about me.

Mt2abpFmUTQCMax Lucado makes this case in his aptly titled book “It’s Not About Me.” He references how people used to believe the sun, stars, and planets all revolved around the earth. When Copernicus disagreed, no one wanted to listen. Lucado argues that our self-centered nature has not progressed much since. We admit we are not at the center literally, but our lives would say it’s figuratively true. “Could a Copernican shift be in order?” Lucado writes. “Perhaps our place is not at the center of the universe. God does not exist to make a big deal out of us. We exist to make a big deal out of him. It’s not about you. It’s not about me. It’s all about him.” 

We are not the sun in God’s universe; his son is. Jesus is the star of the show. The rest of us are supporting roles. To resist taking center-stage, Lucado recommends less navel-gazing and more looking upwards. The universe is a massive expanse of solar systems and celestial bodies, and here we are, just pinpricks on an orbiting rock somewhere in space. If staring into the night sky has a self-diminishing effect, how much more does meditating on the greatness of God?

God is powerful where we are weak. He created the universe and maintains it. He exists outside of time and is unchanging; we are time-bound and fickle. God’s love saves us when we cannot save ourselves. His love is limitless; ours runs short. The appropriate response to such greatness, like when meeting a mighty monarch, is to bow down and praise him. “Declare his glory among the nations, his marvelous works among all the peoples! For great is the Lord, and greatly to be praised, and he is to be feared above all gods” (1 Chronicles 16:24-25). 

If life isn’t about me, then how does that change the way I live? Lucado compares our role to the moon. We have no light of our own, but we reflect the light of the son. Everything that we say, do, and are–it’s all for God. “Whatever you do, do all to the glory of God” (1 Corinthians 10:31). Our message should proclaim him. Our salvation should praise him. Our body should honor him. Our struggles should magnify him. Our successes should exalt him. Lucado details in his book how each of these life areas can and should bring God glory. 

Lucado writes, “May God rescue us from self-centered thinking. May we have no higher goal than to see someone think more highly of our Father, our King.”

Jesus’ job on earth was for God’s glory. Just before his arrest, trial, and crucifixion, he prayed, “I glorified you on earth, having accomplished the work that you gave me to do” (John 17:4). If Jesus lived for God’s glory, and died for it, then why should I do any differently? If I claim to follow Christ, then I must live and even die as he did. My problems become insignificant, just tiny threads in the greater tapestry. My life is a subplot in God’s story. I am less than a single brushstroke in his masterpiece. I exist to serve his pattern, his plot, his vision.

Note: “It’s Not About Me” gave me so much food for thought that it can’t be fit in a single blog post. Keep watch for another post coming soon. I will zoom in on the idea that even our struggles are meant to glorify God. How does this work and what does it mean for how I bear my suffering?

Advertisements
 
1 Comment

Posted by on January 23, 2014 in Books

 

Tags: , , , , ,

Why Christianity is Exclusive

This morning a Scientologist began to explain to me the basic teachings of his religion. When I told him I believe in God and Jesus, he assured me that Scientology has no conflict with any religion people want to choose and that it in fact works together with other religions.

I don’t know much about Scientology, but I do know Christianity does not cooperate with other religions. People accuse Christianity of being exclusive, and I will openly admit the Bible rejects any way to God and eternal life except through Jesus. Christianity refuses to give ground to any religion that does not accept Jesus as the only God and Savior. Many religions include parts of truth, but without Jesus, Christianity teaches that these religions cannot give life. In the end, they lead people to death. 

“Jesus answered, ‘I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6).

I am unashamed to hold to Christ even more tightly because of his exclusivity. He is as exclusive as the captain of a ship offering rescue to someone adrift in the ocean.

The castaway clutches a floating piece of wood rather than trying to swim on his own and drowning before he can reach land. Yet the wood alone is not able to save him. It offers no protection against starvation, dehydration, freezing, or shark attacks. In the middle of the ocean, it would take a miracle for the wood to carry the man to safe land before he died. The wood only gives the man hope to survive long enough for rescue.

Credit: Adrian Pingstone, commons.wikimedia.org

Then a ship comes by, and the captain finds the castaway in the water. The sailors on board wave their arms in the air and shout that his rescue is there. But the castaway refuses to listen, clutching even tighter to his wood. “He’s delirious!” the sailors cry. They wonder how long he must have been adrift to not recognize his need of rescue. They say to each other, “Perhaps dehydration and exposure to the elements have already destroyed his mind.”

Next the captain of the ship comes out on the deck and throws a lifeline to the castaway. “Grab a hold of this!” he urges. The sailors shout, “Take it! Take it!” If only the man would exchange the wood for the rope, then the captain promises to pull him to safety. “If you don’t take the line, you’ll die!”

“Don’t be so exclusive!” the man responds with a parched voice. His throat is cracked and his stomach sick from gulping sea water when waves came over his head. But he hangs onto the wood with the meager strength he can muster. Pulling his body further onto the wood, he says, “You have your way, and I have mine. Why should your truth be better than mine?”

With exasperation, the captain says back, “Because yours leads to death, while mine gives life!”

Now is that an exclusive statement? Sure it is. But it is also true. Christianity is exclusive to other attempts at rescue, like the wood. Christianity insists there is no other way to life. Yet there is good news in all this. Christ is inclusive when it comes to who he offers to rescue. He didn’t start a country club where only the privileged can apply for membership. Like the captain, he wants to save those adrift, and he reaches out to the whole world. Christ threw the lifeline so that all a castaway needs to do is grab on and not let go.

“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16).

 
Leave a comment

Posted by on January 13, 2014 in Other thoughts

 

Tags: , , , , , ,

Meant to Desire

ID-10080832

Credit: “Woman Holding Hands Up” by gameanna at freedigitalphotos.net

Somewhere along my Christian life, I got into my head that God is all anyone ever needs. But my problem is I still want other things than God. Sometimes it feels like he isn’t enough. And that’s a hard thing to admit. It feels like to do so means I’m denying God. Is it okay with God to want anything besides him? Or does it mean being wrongfully discontent and distracted from true fulfillment?

In his book DesireJohn Eldredge suggests a different idea. God designed us to desire. God wants us to desire. And God never meant to be our only desire.

Think about when life was exactly as God meant it to be. In the beginning of Genesis, God creates and then calls good all that he creates (Gen. 1:31). And you know what? God created man with the need for food. God’s creation was perfectly good just as he made it, but Adam still needed to eat, and God’s spirit alone wasn’t going to fill Adam’s stomach. God instead gave his image-bearer external sources for sustenance (Gen. 1:29). Did you get that? God was the provider, but the provision was outside of God. That wasn’t a result of the Fall; God meant it to be so.

You might be surprised that the first time God calls anything not good has nothing to do with sin. In Genesis 2:18, God says, “It is not good for the man to be alone.” Remember, man is still sinless at this point, but something was “not good.” God’s work was not finished. Adam needed a companion. Yes, he walked with God, and God could have “tweaked” his design. So what did God choose? He gave Adam someone else to talk to. Again, that all happened before sin entered the equation.

What does this tell me? My heart isn’t wrong for its desires. I’m not messed up for having needs God does not fill. I don’t need to repent for all I want and purge my heart. The solution isn’t to run away into the wilderness so that I can live off of God alone. God may tell me to fast for a time, but he will never say, “If you eat, you do not have enough faith, because you should be fully satisfied in me.”

God gives food, but he is not food itself. God provides, but he doesn’t become everything you need. Rather, he wants you to tell him your desires. Imagine that. You can actually go to God and talk with him about your heart. Then together, you can decide which desires are healthy and which are “not good.” God created you with a unique heart for a reason, and he offers you full life by first awakening your heart.

 
1 Comment

Posted by on January 2, 2014 in Other thoughts

 

Tags: , , ,