Tag Archive | self-righteousness

Are We There Yet? — The Answer is “NO”

Since we never lived anywhere near any of our relatives, the extended road trip was a way of life for my family.  My sisters and I viewed such trips as a great adventure, particularly when my parents would drive through the night across I-70 (most likely to avoid paying for a hotel room).  The rhythmic thump as we crossed the breaks in the concrete lulled us to sleep in the back of the station wagon; as our parents tried valiantly to keep each other awake, we dreamed of playing canasta with our grandmother or romping with our aunt’s feisty dachshund.  Invariably, we would begin asking THE question long before our arrival at the destination was imminent:   ARE WE THERE YET?   The answer was always “no,” as the car was clearly still moving.  “How much longer?” was usually the next query.  Although our questions began with excitement, they invariably took on a tone of whining as the novelty of three or four days in the car wore off. 

Sometimes I wonder if I have begun to weary God with my incessant complaints about the road I am on.   However, I recently fell into a trap worse than merely complaining about the duration of the journey — the trap of assuming I had ARRIVED, when I definitely had NOT!  My mother warned me many times to beware of anyone who thinks he has a corner on the market, who thinks he knows everything, as that kind of self-assurance leads to self-importance and an unteachable heart.  Little did I realize, that this attitude of having “arrived” can creep into my thinking without my being aware of it.  While there’s nothing wrong with desiring to reach our spiritual goals, we must guard ourselves against assuming we have actually attained them.  As we learn and develop in our understanding of God and His ways, we often fall prey to thinking we know more than we actually do.  The danger in assuming we have arrived is that we will stop in our tracks in that area and automatically fall short of the goal God has for us!

The apostle Paul had much to say about races, roads, and destinations, as well as about our attitude en route.   In Romans 12:3, he admonishes everyone “not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think soberly, as God has dealt to each one a measure of faith.”  In Philippians 2:3 (Amplified), he exhorts us to “do nothing from factional motives [through contentiousness, strife, selfishness, or for unworthy ends] or prompted by conceit and empty arrogance.  Instead, in the true spirit of humility (lowliness of mind) let each regard the others as better than and superior to himself [thinking more highly of one another than you do of yourselves].”  That means that there is not a single person on earth who canNOT teach me something.  I have something to learn from everyone, no matter how much I think I know about the Bible, about Jesus, about ministry.  Moreover, as God trains us in His Kingdom ways and the application of His Word, His purpose is NOT for me to get fat on faith.   Instead, the idea is for HIS Presence in me to increase, and for ME to decrease (see John 3:30). 

In fact, God wants me to interact with everyone on a level playing field.  He desires for me to discount even the spiritual “qualifications” and giftings that may be quite legitimate, and even hard-won, in order to focus on Him and the power of His resurrection.  “Yet indeed I also count all things loss for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as rubbish, that I may gain Christ and be found in Him, not having my own righteousness, which is from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which is from God by faith, that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death, if by any means, I may attain to the resurrection from the dead.  NOT THAT I HAVE ALREADY ATTAINED OR AM ALREADY PERFECTED, but I press on, that I may lay hold of that for which Christ Jesus has also laid hold of me” (Philippians 2:8-12).  God wants us to continually offer up to Him the things we think we have learned, gained, or achieved, and focus on Him, that we may gain HIM and be found in HIM — yet we must NEVER consider ourselves to have ARRIVED in this regard this side of heaven.   If I view myself as knowledgeable or experienced in an area, I immediately become inaccessible for fresh truth and life in that area.  

In Hebrews 12, 1-2, Paul exhorts us to “strip off and throw aside every encumbrance (unnecessary weight) and that sin which so readily (deftly and cleverly) clings to and entangles us, and let us run with patient endurance and steady and active persistence the appointed course of the race that is set before us, looking away [from all that will distract] to Jesus, Who is the Leader and the Source of our faith [giving the first incentive for our belief] and is also its Finisher [bringing it to maturity and perfection].  He, for the joy [of obtaining the prize] that was set before Him, endured the cross, despising and ignoring the shame, and is now seated at the right hand of the throne of God” (Amplified).  Father, I ask You to help me lay aside every weight, every self-righteous attitude, every accomplishment, everything I think I know, and empower me to run the race set before me.  Help me look to YOU and not anyone or anything else.  Help me to remain teachable; help me to NEVER consider myself as having “arrived” and thereby fall short of the goal!  Empower me to enjoy the journey!


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Marketing Jesus: Does Anyone Really Want What I Have?

It seems to me that we Christians have done more damage to our cause than we realize.   I grieve when I remember the self-righteous arguments I have used on occasion to defend the opinions I was sure were correct!  I find myself wincing when the press portrays us all as Bible-thumping, angry, vindictive hate-mongers.  I realize, of course, that the press is capable of putting an unfavorable slant on the most well-intentioned behavior, but I also know that we often unwittingly contribute to our own bad press.

Do I want to be known just for the things I dislike — or do I want to be known for the things I applaud?   Do I want to be remembered only for the truth I proclaim, or also for the way I proclaim it?  John 1:14 describes Jesus as full of grace AND truth, not just one or the other.   My heart yearns to have grace, forgiveness, and compassion for people who do not share my convictions, even as that same heart longs to speak the truth to those same people.  This challenge is daunting, but not impossible.  The key is to ask the Holy Spirit how to say what we say, and to be quick to ask forgiveness when we say it wrong.   It is, in fact, possible to say the right thing the wrong way.

I have learned the hard way that loving people is more important than proving to them that I am right.   If I really, really, really DO know THE truth (who, by the way, the Bible says is actually a person — Jesus Himself; see John 14:6), then the truth will ultimately become evident.  God is perfectly capable of defending Himself.  I am not proposing that we never should speak about Jesus when challenged by others to defend our faith; I am merely suggesting that we ask God HOW we should express ourselves in order to demonstrate genuine love for others as we speak that truth.   I want people to WANT what they see in me,  instead of being repelled by my behavior.  I do not want anyone to reject Jesus because of the way I behave.

I am certainly imperfect, but I believe God is capable of revealing Himself in and through me to others whom He longs to draw to Himself.   He wants to do it HIS way, not my way,  and He doesn’t need me to condemn people when HIS plan is to save them!

I have also noticed that God doesn’t need me to dress Him up, make Him look cute, and market Him to other people like some kind of hip guy who caters to their every whim.   Unfortunately, there is far too much packaging and marketing of Jesus in our seeker-friendly American Christian culture.  We seem to get mired in one extreme or the other: either we blast people with condemnation and judgment, or we try to trick them into thinking Jesus is their cool personal guru who will help them get everything they want, when they want it.   Neither position is particularly attractive to unbelievers.   Our attempts to point out unrighteousness come across as self-important, and tricking people into swallowing a sugar-coated Jesus pill does not allow them to meet the actual Savior of their souls.

God help the Church in America!   Pray for us!   I desperately want people to know the God I serve.  I want people to see the real Jesus in me!  My heart longs for unbelievers to be thirsty for what I have — living water, springing up to eternal life (John 7:37-38).  I want to conduct myself in such a way that others will desire to experience for themselves that great mystery that has become (I hope!) evident in me:  Christ in me, the hope of glory!   (Colossians 1:27)  God help me, and God help us all in this regard.   May people actually want what we have!