You are the Problem…and You are the Solution
The biggest challenge we face in serving the Lord is us. Yes, us.
It is not Satan though he certainly plays a part. It is not our family, our work, our enemies or our friends, though they can also present impediments to our pursuit of holiness. Their impact on our lives in most ways is a product of our decisions.
David was tempted by Bathsheba. It was his choice to continue looking at her as she bathed and then choose to pursue her. If we honestly look at life and its daily struggles, we see the constant in the challenges. It is us. It is our desires, our choices and our priorities that lead directly to our predicaments. It is as simple as the law of sowing and reaping. Our choices lead to predictable results.
We have a big “me” problem if we are like every other person who set out to follow Jesus.
It is not God, it’s us…each one of us individually chose to not follow God.
This may be hard to hear but moving from denial from acceptance is the first step in facing any challenge. There comes a time to admit we have a big problem. Now is that time. There is a whole world without Jesus headed to eternal destruction. They need people like us to point them to Jesus. That only happens when we can see Jesus yourself. We are called to shine like the stars among a wicked and crooked generation. This only happens when there is a sharp contrast between us and the world.
Are we willing?
It all starts by understanding what we are fighting against…ourselves.
Love as You Love Yourself
Jesus says we are to love others as we love ourselves. This is taken as an encouragement to love yourself more by many. Some use it to justify spending more time on themselves. “If I just love myself more, then I will be able to love others better”, is the rationale. Yet, this is not what Jesus is saying.
The premise is everyone loves themselves too much already. We are constantly thinking about us; our feelings, our needs, our…everything. People are naturally obsessed with ourselves. We think about us first. We take in what the world has to offer through the lens of us.
We all funnel life through ourselves. We judge things according to our feelings. Self-involvement dictates the majority of what we do every day. This has been our way since we were a baby when the entirety of life revolved on getting needs met. Many tears are shed when there is delayed gratification of those needs. “Mine, mine, mine” is one of the favorite phrases of early life. We are born focused on self and it doesn’t get much better with age. There is a reason the majority of advertising in media today appeals to the sensual. The things that feel, taste, sound and seem good to our senses are best sellers. What feels good and self likes are what we buy.
This is supposed to change when we begin to follow Christ. We transform from one who serves the self to a slave of Christ. The old natural man is gone replaced by a new man who seeks to do God’s will. It is a wonderful concept. We can get just as trapped by the love of self as a nonbeliever in attempting to live this out.
We take the beauty and truth of God and funnel it through ourselves. Christianity changes from following Jesus to seeking out what we like, who we love, who we hate and what part of the Christian culture entertains us. We lose meaning as a result. We can be doctrinally sound yet sift the Kingdom of God through our feelings. It is like ordering off the “a la carte” menu from a restaurant. We decide on a little of this and that to make our Christian life rather than what God wants for us.
This looks like seeking out the church with the moving worship but little substance. It manifests in avoiding or altering the Bible verses that upset us. We participate in fellowship and service activities to please us only rather than Jesus who saved us. Our own language betrays our focus – that did not move me, I am not feeling it, I conquered my sin (not Jesus). The TV preachers and many other churches aid and abet us. We ant entertainment without challenges. They give us smoke, lasers, glitter and sermons about how we can be better people. All appeal to the monster of self.
It may feel great to focus on self as a Christian. It results in completely missing out on the glory of real discipleship. That is only present in looking at and listening to Jesus as Master and Lord and following Him…not us.
On the Mount of Transfiguration
Self-centered Christianity rears its ugly head wherever there are people. It’s even in the Bible. Peter is an amazing man of God. He is the first to clearly declare Jesus as Christ and Son of God in the Gospels. Jesus goes so far as tell him that his confession is a blessing from the Father. It is a wonderful moment.
Yet, shortly after when Jesus lays out the plan of redemption to his disciples – Jesus’ betrayal and death – Peter’s ego rises up. “This is not acceptable to me. I am not feeling it Jesus“, Peter objects in essence.
Peter does not like the plan God laid out before the foundation of the world so he scolds Jesus. Peter loves his feelings and opinion more than he loves God’s plan.
This pattern continues through the following days. Peter, James, and John are taken to the mountaintop to see the revealed glory of God at the Transfiguration. Jesus allows His glory to shine through and the disciples are given a preview of the Second Coming. It is one of the most amazing moments of the Gospels.
4 Peter said to Jesus, “Lord, it is good for us to be here. If you wish, I will put up three shelters—one for you, one for Moses and one for Elijah.”
His focus is revealed through his statements – self. Jesus is glorified and Peter is stuck thinking all about himself and what he should do. “But what should I do here” seems to be his biggest concern.
Self-focus does this to us. We can have God working glorious things all around us and totally miss them cause we want it to be about us.
God’s response to Peter is clear and definitive. Peter is reminded it is not about you!
Then a voice from the cloud said, “This is my Son, my Chosen One. Listen to him.”
The Father speaks audibly from His Shekinah cloud of Glory. It is the same cloud that passed over Moses on Mt. Sinai and filled the Temple during its dedication. And what is the message to Peter?
Shush you! Stop talking, stop focusing on yourself, this is my Son. He is the focus. Listen to Him, not what is rattling around in your self-involved brain. Jesus responded in a very similar way when Peter tries to rebuke Him over the Cross:
But Jesus turned and said to Peter, “Get behind Me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to Me. For you do not have in mind the things of God, but the things of men.”
Peter’s mind is not on the things of God. It is squarely on his own mind. Peter wants what Peter wants, not God’s plan. The scary conclusion from Jesus’ statement is when we do the same we are acting like the enemy we claim to despise – Satan. Putting self above God is straight from the Devil!
Get behind me, Satan!
Jesus never leaves us without solutions to our spiritual stumbling blocks. The good news is the same person who is our biggest stumbling block is also our way out – US. We can decide to follow Jesus as Lord and Savior in a way that honors Him and brings holiness to us. Jesus provides the formula that is simple to understand but takes a lifetime to implement:
Then Jesus said to His disciples, “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me. Matthew 16:24
It starts with a denial of self. Life is not about what we want but what Jesus wants. The word translated as denial in the original language indicates a complete and total disowning. It is like a parent giving up a child for adoption. It is the same word Peter and Jesus both used when Peter swears to God that he does not know Jesus on the night before the Crucifixion.
I swear I do not know that man!
This is our challenge then. The person we used to be before Jesus still lurks in us. He may be exerting a lot of influence in our lives today. We may be pursuing the same goals, ease, comfort, pleasure and desires we did as before we began following Jesus. Our call is to completely and irrevocably disown that person – every last bit of it. “I am no longer that man. He is dead! I will no longer be led by him”, is our cry. Burn the old man to the ground.
It is then and only then we can move on to the next step of taking up our cross, just like Jesus and truly follow Him.
Have you said goodbye to the old man? Are you still working on the goals, dreams, and desires of someone long dead? Are you free of a worldly dead man’s burden on you?
If not, today is the day. Clearly and emphatically disown that old man and all his selfishness and sensuality. Deny yourself, then take up your cross and follow Jesus.
Your life in Jesus will blossom as a result.