Who Do You Want to Be?

In this third part of our series, God Moved into the Neighborhood, we take a look at the fact that Jesus came to see us become our truest, God-created selves.  In a world that encourages us to be true to ourselves, this advice only makes sense if we know to which self we are seeking to be true.  Read (or listen) on to learn more…

 

Who Do You Want to Be?

If you spend much time listening closely to modern pop music you will quickly come to discover that one of the banner themes of this age is: Be True to Yourself.  For example, singer Katy Perry has a song called “Firework” that was on Billboard’s Top 40 chart for almost a year including some time at the number 1 spot.  At least part of the reason for this success, I would argue, is that the song taps into a longing in the human spirit to be more than we currently are.  Now, I happen to think this is an entirely Biblical idea.  We are called by guys like Paul and Peter and John to become fully reflective of the image of Christ which is far greater than any image we can produce on our own.  Perry, however, isn’t thinking in these terms.  Listen to some of the lyrics: “Do you ever feel like a plastic bag drifting through the wind, wanting to start again?  Do you ever feel, feel so paper thin, like a house of cards, one blow from caving in? . . . Do you know that there’s still a chance for you ‘cause there’s a spark in you?  You just gotta ignite the light and let it shine. . . .You don’t have to feel like a waste of space.  You’re original, cannot be replaced.  If you only knew what the future holds.  After a hurricane comes a rainbow.  Maybe the reason why all the doors are closed [is] so you could open one that leads you to the perfect road.” Read the rest…

Morning Musings: Proverbs 25:6-7

“Do not put yourself forward in the king’s presence or stand in the place of the great, for it is better to be told, ‘Come up here,’ than to be put lower in the presence of a noble.”  (ESV)

We live in the day of the self-made, internet-created celebrity.  YouTube has been the source of numerous stars today.  So have Instagram and Snapchat.  To become such a person you must promote yourself.  Relentlessly.  You must be constantly on the lookout for opportunities to get other people to pay attention to you.  And, if you have the right blend of talent, gumption, and luck, you can make a lot of money this way.

And yet, what is ultimately the fruit of such an endeavor?  Given the stories about or often the character of such folks, it’s not good.  We live in a celebrity-worshiping culture.  We are constantly on the lookout for people to elevate to celebrity status in order to give them our devotion.  In doing so, we not only debase our own lives, but also the lives of the people being worshiped.

Still, many recognize this celebrity worship and crave it.  They crave it and so they do whatever they can to gain it for themselves.  Yet again, what good does this do?  Wisdom and observation would again answer: Very little.

What Solomon calls for here is a much better way: Do your best where you are and let it be recognized naturally.  Let your godly character be the thing everyone notices about you first and foremost.  Become known as a person who can be depended upon when things get tough.  Produce work that lifts people up and points away from you to God.

If you are advancing yourself and your image, you just may get the acclaim you seek, but there is a very good chance it will come at the expense of your soul.  And with that sold away, when the acclaim departs (for self-sought acclaim nearly always departs much sooner than we expect it to) what will you have left?  Instead, glorify God in all things and let the chips fall where they may.  He will receive the acclaim now, and you will receive acclaim from Him when the time is right.  That will be a fame that won’t fade.

Digging in Deeper: Proverbs 24:29

“Do not say, ‘I will do to him as he has done to me; I will pay the man back for what he has done.'”  (ESV)

Do you want to know what one of the most natural expressions to come out of the mouths of humans is?  The very one the writer of this proverb tells us not to say.  This declaration of human justice is totally natural.  It does not need to be taught at all.  And, it begins to manifest itself from a pretty young age. Read the rest…

Morning Musings: Jeremiah 22:3

“Thus says the Lord: Do justice and righteousness, and deliver from the hand of the oppressor him who has been robbed.  And do no wrong or violence to the resident alien, the fatherless, and the widow, nor shed innocent blood in this place.”  (ESV – Read the chapter)

Over and over again in the prophets we see that God’s chief concern for the people was not that they got religion right, but that they got justice right.  He complained about their offerings and sacrifices not because they weren’t done strictly according to the guidelines set out in the law, but because they pursued them without the accompanying set of behaviors (namely, a generous pursuit of justice for the least, last, and lost in their midst). Read the rest…

Digging in Deeper: Jeremiah 10:23

“I know, O Lord, that the way of man is not in himself, that it is not in man who walks to direct his steps.”  (ESV – Read the chapter)

The piece of advice which perhaps best captures the spirit of our age is this: Follow your heart.  We are told over and over today to do this.  We see it on kids’ shows of every kind.  We see it in movies and in books and in magazines.  We hear it in popular music.  It is everywhere we look.

In most cases, it sounds like great advice too.  If you aren’t sure about the path you need to take to get from where you are to where you want to go, just look inside and choose the route that best resonates with who you know you are.  Follow your heart.  After all, who knows the shape of your desires better than you do?  Who is more suited to see them come to reality than you are?

Yet the tough truth is that this is awful advice.  It’s terrible.  It will lead us to nowhere but heartache and hardship.  The Scriptures tell us why again and again.  On our own, we don’t know the best way to go.  There is a way that seems right to people, but it’s end is death.  Or, as Jeremiah puts it here, the way of man is not in himself.  It is not in us to direct our steps.  If we try, we only set ourselves up for trouble.

Better is to trust in the ways of the Lord.  Let Him be the one who guides your steps.  Let His ways be the ones you follow most closely.  Let His Word be the path to which you commit your feet.  His way won’t always be the easiest, but it will always be the right way.

When Lisa and I lived in Colorado, we had the opportunity to drive to the top of Pike’s Peak several times.  It was unfailingly a stunningly beautiful drive.  But, the path to the top of the mountain was 19 miles of weaving back and forth, tight turns, and switchbacks.  It took upwards of two hours to get to the top.  When you looked at a map of the route it seemed crazy to weave all over the mountain in order to get there.  Why not just drive straight to the top?  Or, when coming down, why not just head off the side and roll?  Because that path would have been impossible.  It may have been shorter in theory, but in actuality the pitfalls and cliffs along the way would have wound up taking several times longer…if you were even able to navigate it.

If we take a path other than the path of God, if won’t get us where we want to go.  If we look inside for our direction and drive, we will find only a stalled engine and an unreliable map.  There are two paths you can take from here to there: God’s path or all the others.  Take the one that will get you where you really want to go.