Saturday, March 26, 2011

It's Not About Me

Oh, but how I wish it were sometimes...

"After this Jesus and his disciples went into the Judean countryside, and he remained there with them and was baptizing. John also was baptizing at Aenon near Salim, because water was plentiful there, and people were coming and being baptized (for John had not yet been put in prison).

Now a discussion arose between some of John’s disciples and a Jew over purification. And they came to John and said to him, "Rabbi, he who was with you across the Jordan, to whom you bore witness—look, he is baptizing, and all are going to him." John answered, "A person cannot receive even one thing unless it is given him from heaven. You yourselves bear me witness, that I said, 'I am not the Christ, but I have been sent before him.' The one who has the bride is the bridegroom. The friend of the bridegroom, who stands and hears him, rejoices greatly at the bridegroom’s voice. Therefore this joy of mine is now complete. He must increase, but I must decrease." - John 3:22-30 (ESV)

One reason that I know the Bible is divinely inspired and not merely based on the whims and thoughts of man is because the idea of life not being about us is simply not a human thought. It is natural for us to base our decisions on what we want, on what we think will work out best for us and what we believe will serve our ultimate good. We like to be the center of the story. And even if we have matured to the point where we no longer have to be the absolute center of the story, we still have a strong desire to influence the narrative so the story goes the way we think it should.

In the passage above, John the Baptist is expressing his joy that he gets to step aside. There is no sadness that he isn't the center of the story. In fact, he has known all along that the story wasn't about him and so he now has complete peace that the center of the larger story has arrived. John gladly says that his role in this story must now decrease as the role of Christ increases.

Does the story you are living in belong to you or God? The answer to that question will also reveal the main character. I have often been reluctant to put my story aside and join God in the story of His restoration of creation and the advancement of His Kingdom. That seems like a very odd hesitation as I type it now but at times it seemed much more normal to want to have my say as to how my life should unfold. After all, no one could possibly care more about me than me, right?

Do you have a desire to decrease so that the glory of God may increase? Your answer may very well rest on what you believe about your life and purpose here on earth. If you believe this is your home or that what you do here defines who you are then you will want to increase in importance and attempt to control your own destiny. If you believe your true home is an eternal destination in heaven and that this life is meant to be lived within the context of a relationship with the Creator of the universe then you will be more than satisfied to live your life in service to God and others around you.

Paul in 2 Corinthians 12 talks about a thorn in the flesh that God has given him in order to combat any spiritual pride he may be experiencing after seeing divine revelations. Paul does plead with God numerous times for this messenger of Satan to be removed. Yet, God assures Paul that His grace is sufficient in the midst of this trial of suffering as His power is made perfect in our weakness. Paul agrees and testifies, "For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong." It doesn't work the other way. God's weakness doesn't result in our strength although we often implicitly wish it would.

The toughest lesson for any human being to learn is that it isn't about them. As a Christian, I must die to self every day, which is to say that I must recommit my life to God and submit to His plans and His agenda rather than my own. It's far from easy and I do it far from perfectly. The good news is that the closer I walk with my Lord and the more sanctified I become through the working of the Holy Spirit, the more my desires and God's plans overlap. Then it becomes more natural.

As John Piper would say..."God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in Him." Find your satisfaction and joy in lifting God up rather than yourself.

I was listening to the seventh sermon in Matt Chandler's Habakkuk sermon series last weekend when I heard this...

"If God gave me the script to my life I wanted but didn't give me Himself...if we are looking at this eternally...isn't He cruel? Like if God gives me long life and a beautiful wife and great kids and tons of cash and fame and friends and joy but He doesn't give me Himself...isn't He cruel? And if He gives me nothing but blood and tears here but I have Him, hasn't He been merciful? The answer is yes. And that's why throughout the Scriptures, people who are undergoing horrific suffering are rejoicing."

Do you see why it's not about us? Because if it is ultimately about us there is no meaning beyond whatever we have found to replace God with on this planet. To supercede God's position with our own is to substitute the eternal for the temporal, the strong for the weak, the holy for the wicked, the perfect for the sinful, the right for the wrong, the hope for the hopeless. If I understand who I am and understand who God is, I won't want to be first in my life because I know God's plan for my life is better than anything I could dream up on my own. His beauty and magnificence begin to naturally take precedence when it comes to my thoughts and emotions.

"But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you." - Matthew 6:33 (ESV)

"When we become the centerpiece of our own story, life becomes a tragedy." - Pastor Tullian

"There's nothing that makes you more miserable (or less interesting) than self-absorption." - Tim Keller