The War Between Faith and Ego

We joined a Bible study about a month ago. It meets on Sunday during the first service, so we go to that, then head on in to the second service. The leader is on vacation now, so I was asked to speak this Sunday. I think it’s primarily because I’m unemployed and have the time to develop a lesson, but I knew almost instantly what I’d talk about: taking your value from how God thinks of you instead of how you think of yourself.

Almost as soon as I accepted the invitation, however, my ego started creeping in, filling my head with visions of my speech being so enjoyed that people talked to the pastor about it, then he talked to me and invited me to share the message with the congregation and BOOM! my speaking career is born. I would love to speak to people all around the country and tell them how much they’re worth to God and how they don’t have to earn their value anymore. I’d love to help them overcome their slavery to their jobs, relationships, grudges, etc. But there’s a part of me that I can’t seem to get rid of that insists I should get some sort of glory for this.

I’ve been fighting these thoughts all week, praying for God to take my ego away from me. This morning, I asked why it was so hard, and He told me, “Because you feed your ego all day. How much time do you spend with Me?” I hadn’t thought about it like that before, but in all the games I play, I try to win so I can enjoy a victory or reward. When I work out, it’s more about Leah finding me attractive than it is about being in shape so I can live a longer, fuller life. When I post on Facebook, I check to see how many likes I’ve gotten. I had become so used to doing these things that I didn’t even consider how much my ego was involved with them.

I’ve been feeding my ego so much that I don’t even realize I’m doing it anymore. Meanwhile, my faith and my relationship with God have been getting by on the one light meal a day of Bible-reading and prayer time, plus the more substantial meal that it enjoys Sunday morning.

Whenever a new situation comes up, I often judge it based on my moral view of myself. “I can’t believe they did that!” “What’s going through their heads?” Sometimes, I realize why they’re probably doing what they’re doing and pray for them, but it’s not nearly as often as it should be. In my deceptive, selfish, incorrigible heart, I’d rather feel good about myself than help others. And I feed that part of me more than I feed my faith, more than I grow my relationship with God.

I need to no longer care what becomes of my lesson on Sunday, whether it’s rejected by everyone or is used by God to change lives. I need to no longer care whether any of you fine people follow my blog or like my posts. I need to speak Sunday and blog here because I love God and because I love others and want to help them. Feeding my ego is a waste of everyone’s time, whether what I do is done well or poorly.

I’m going to, with God’s help, leave my ego behind. It’s an awfully heavy thing to carry around anyway, after all that eating.

Our Greatest Enemy, Part 5

I saved the most important part of this series for last. Our pride gets in the way of our relationship with our Father. When we don’t forgive, we keep God from forgiving us because we’re not believing in Jesus’ sacrifice to wash away our sins. When we don’t share our burdens because of pride, He still knows our burdens, but we’ve kept the weight of them to ourselves. When we sin, we put a block between us and Him; there’s still a relationship, but it’s not nearly as clear or close as it could be.

We also keep ourselves from wanting to know God better. Our pride will tell us that we’re fine without Him, or that we know enough about Him already. It will tell us that we’re close enough to God that we don’t have to seek Him out today.

As someone who’s given in to this line of reasoning, I know that it’s very easy to miss a Bible study on a given day. The next day, I might try to make up for it by reading more of the Bible, but then I’ve made reading the Bible a chore and one that I’m willing to skip when it suits me. It’s no longer a relationship, but a requirement that I don’t mind ignoring.

The reason behind my skipping is usually a combination of wanting to do something else more and telling myself I know enough about God. After all, I’ve read the Bible at least five times through by now. I’ve been in church most of the Sundays of my life and often on Wednesdays. I feel I know the Bible fairly well…

But I don’t know its Author well enough. Even though the Bible tells us about God, it doesn’t put us in a relationship with Him. And all relationships require maintenance. We’ve all had close friends that have drifted apart. I had some very close friendships in college with people that I haven’t really spoken to in years. We still share memories and we’d be glad to catch up for lunch if we found ourselves in the same town, but the relationship has dwindled.

You’re not going to jeopardize your salvation by not doing your devotions or praying for a day. You can, however, let your relationship with Him degrade if you tell yourself that you don’t need to pursue Him. And you can never know Him well enough. He is infinite, meaning there are infinite things to know, infinite sides of Him to see, infinite wisdom to glean from Him.

Think about how great He is for a moment. For those of you who have accepted the challenge of praising Him for just five minutes a day (How’s that going, by the way? Have you noticed results? I’d love to hear your stories.), I have another challenge: add in five minutes of thinking about how awesome He is. Whether you consider the vastness of His power in creating the Universe, the amazing detail of His handiwork visible in the DNA of the smallest bacteria, or how He’s been there in your life, think about how powerful and incredible He is, especially when compared to you. Your pride will melt as you draw closer to Him.

Our Greatest Enemy, Part 4

Pride leads inexorably to sin. I would argue that it is the cause of our sin, or at least, a necessary ingredient. If God exists, then He is above us. If He is above us, then it’s His word, law, and opinion that matter and not ours. If that’s true, then we have no right to defy Him in anything and no reason to expect to escape all consequences. Yet we still sin because we believe in our hearts that we can get away with it, or that we deserve what we want and know better than God if He disagrees with us, or that He’s just wrong and His rules are outdated. (I hear that last one a lot with pre-marital sex.)

All of these views are caused by our pride, by believing that we’re either craftier or smarter than God. It sounds ridiculous to say, “I know more about my future than the God who created everything and exists outside of time, allowing Him to see all of it at once. I also have more authority over morality than the just and holy Judge of all Creation.” It’s what we’re saying in our hearts, though.

We wouldn’t sin if we had a proper fear of God and real humility. Submission to His will is the goal we should be striving for. It’s not going to happen if we think our will is more important than His.

Our Greatest Enemy, Part 1

Many of us seem to think our greatest enemy is the Devil. Some think it’s their nemesis in real life. A few think it’s time that has turned against them. In reality, our greatest enemy is none of these. It’s our pride.

Satan can’t do anything to you that God doesn’t allow Him to do. Job makes that very clear; God tells Satan how far he can go and he has no choice but to obey. He can’t make us sin. He can’t do anything to us without God’s permission. Likewise, others can’t force you into things or do things to you that God didn’t allow. He won’t control their actions, but He does have power over the effects of their actions and has decided to allow them. And He controls time as well, so that He could give you 15 more years as He gave Hezekiah or take you today.

One thing He has chosen not to control is your free will, and the greatest impediment to choosing Him with that will is your pride. Pride affects many areas of our lives, but I want to focus on four major ones: forgiveness, not sharing our burdens, sins, and not pursuing God.

Before we get to these four areas, though, we should look at where our pride comes from. I think it can be traced back to the Garden of Eden. The serpent told Adam and Eve they weren’t good enough and that God was holding out on them. They let pride sneak in and tell them they should be in on all of God’s secrets. They wouldn’t have had this pride, though, if they believed they were good enough already and that God was truly loving and holy. They doubted their worth and His goodness, which are the two necessary ingredients for pride.

Pride is not really being full of yourself so much as it is seeking to fill yourself. When we’re proud, we may have a lot of good things going on in our lives. It’s not enough to have these things, though; those around us must be aware how that we have them. We could also tell ourselves that we deserve what we don’t have or that whatever power we believe in – whether God, the Universe (which seems to be just a way to say God without the implications of moral judgment), or whatever else – wants us to have it. We tell ourselves that we know better than God and that His will matters less than our will.

You can also have abundant humility, which is pride sneaking in subtly. There are people who are proud of their humility, not realizing the irony of their situation.

True confidence has no need for pride or false humility. We’re more valuable than any number of accomplishments could ever make us, but we also recognize how little we deserve it. We’re not humble because that’s holy and right, but because we honestly recognize how great God is compared to us.

I’m not suggesting finding a middle ground between pride and false humility; I’m suggesting living with both an extreme view of your self-worth and an extreme humility at the same time. The result won’t even be a middle ground, but a higher ground, to where pride, even pride in your confidence, doesn’t exist. If you can remember that you are valuable enough to God that He would sacrifice His Son for you and that you are completely and utterly worthless without Him and doomed to Hell without His sacrifice, there will be no way for pride to rule your life. You will have both more value than you’ve been seeking and so much humility that you dare not dream of deserving what you’ve been given.