By: Colin Luoma, Monmouth Site Pastor
“The more you make life about you, the more miserable you will be, ” echoed the words of an admired pastor.
“Well, that’s a helpful thought,” I murmured, but I didn’t realize the gravity of what was just said. He continued on saying the most miserable, unhappy, and discontent people in the world are those that make life all about themselves.
Our Resonate staff has a collection of values and habits that we commit to live out every day. By far my favorite value says, “we take our job seriously, but not ourselves.” People who don’t take themselves but take their God, other people, and their calling seriously are the best. Sometimes I take myself too seriously, and I’m the guy who no one wants to be around.
Think about the people you enjoy being around the most. They probably don’t complain very often. They probably ask great questions and listen well. They probably like to laugh and bring joy into a room. They aren’t easily offended. They probably work hard in the shadows, and are able to rest and trust God. They probably aren’t afraid to be vulnerable. They probably pray more than they worry. They probably make heroes of others instead of trying to be the hero.
The point isn’t to be just the person everyone likes. Once you make that your main motivation, the attention is back on you. Even as I’m writing this there is a darkness in me that thinks, “How can I write the coolest blog so people think I’m awesome?” So instead of writing for God’s glory and the flourishing of our church, I’m now making it all about me. If I’m being who I want to be, I can write this blog without thinking about myself, finish it with joy and trust in God to speak.
False humility looks like staying quiet when you really should speak. One of the greatest lies I’ve ever believed is the quieter you are, the more humble you are. It’s sometimes the quietest people are the most prideful. When you are overly humble and harsh on yourself, aren’t you actually making it all about you?
C.S. Lewis says, “True humility isn’t about thinking less of yourself, but thinking of yourself, less.” He’s right, you know. True humility isn’t about making self-sabotaging comments until people feel bad for you. True humility is simply not making it about you at all. Sometimes true humility means speaking up when the passivity in you wants to stay quiet. I submit to you that is true Christian freedom--to be freed from yourself.
In 1st Corinthians 3:21 - 4:4 Paul writes,
“So let no one boast in men. For all things are yours, whether Paul or Apollos or Cephas or the world or life or death or the present or the future—all are yours, and you are Christ's, and Christ is God's. This is how one should regard us, as servants of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God. Moreover, it is required of stewards that they be found faithful. But with me it is a very small thing that I should be judged by you or by any human court. In fact, I do not even judge myself. For I am not aware of anything against myself, but I am not thereby acquitted. It is the Lord who judges me.”
Paul is a savage. He straight didn't care what people thought of him. Can you image a life that is freed from the slavery of the fear of man? Oh, how I long for this. In this passage we see that because of Christ, we are not our own God. Therefore, we can “forget” about ourselves to focus on Christ and others.
We need freedom from “self”. We would never say, “I’m obsessed with myself,” but we’re who we think about all the time! One time I heard an older guy say, “in my 20’s I worried about what everyone thought of me, in my 30’s I stopped caring what people thought about me, and in my 40’s I realized that no one was ever thinking about me because everyone was thinking about themselves.”
In Tim Keller’s book called The Freedom of Self-Forgetfulness he says, “Paul’s ego isn’t puffed up, it’s filled up. Do you realize it is only in the Gospel that you get the verdict before the performance?” The Gospel tells us the only approval that matters is God’s. In Christ, He has approved of us and filled us with this love so that we aren’t dependent on things or people to puff our ego.
Here are two heart postures to have in order to take your life seriously, but not yourself:
Realize that “I’m the problem.”
Once I heard a pastor talk about marriage stating, “the day my marriage changed was the day I realized I was the problem.” What would it look like for you to approach every relationship or situation with the heart posture of, “How am I the problem?,” instead of “How did I get wronged?” Paul says in 1 Timothy 1:15 that he is the chief of all sinners. He doesn’t say other people are the chief sinners and he’s in the right. We need to imitate Paul in this way as he imitates Christ.
Live in God-based Confidence.
A friend of mine who’s a pastor once told me that when we are overly-humble and self-deprecate, we show everyone who our God is. That’ll make you repent from false humility real quick. As a Christian, the glorious news of the Gospel is that you and your life aren’t your own anymore. You were purchased at the high cost of the blood of Christ. Therefore, be confident because of who your God is, not who you are. That’s humble confidence. Let’s not forget the supreme example of our God who didn’t “consider equality with God something to be grasped” (Phil. 2:6) and considered others rather himself.
The real power of not taking yourself seriously is when we receive what Christ has done for us in His life, death, and resurrection and reflect it to the world. True joy isn’t just taking our eyes off of ourselves, but it’s repositioning our gaze on Jesus.