Monday, February 15, 2010

Take Your Ego to the Woodshed

When God called Moses to demand release of the Israelites from Egyptian captivity, Moses felt inadequate and unqualified. He asked, "Who am I to do such a thing?"

Now, when I ask this question of God, I usually ask in false humility. What I really want is God to reassure me of my qualifications and giftedness. What I really want is God to pump up my self-esteem, to inflate my already in-danger-of-popping ego. I am really saying, "Please remind me how awesome I am so that I'll be confident enough to do this."
And I fully expect God to respond, "Jared, you're good enough, smart enough, and doggone it, people like you."

This not what God said to Moses. In fact, he really didn't even answer the question "Who is Moses?" He answered the question "Who is God?"
The answer, of course, is God.
But Moses said to God, "Who am I, that I should go to Pharaoh and bring the Israelites out of Egypt?"

And God said, "I will be with you. And this will be the sign to you that it is I who have sent you: When you have brought the people out of Egypt, you will worship God on this mountain."

-- Exodus 3:11-12

"Who am I?"

"Never mind who you are. You're right; you're a nobody. But you are called. I will be with you. And the sign of your success will not be a gold watch and a plaque and a place in Superduper Church Magazine's 100 Most Awesomest Churches and Pastors with Mad Leadership Skills, but worship of me."


Moses' "oh" consisted of more questions.
Moses said to the LORD, "O Lord, I have never been eloquent, neither in the past nor since you have spoken to your servant. I am slow of speech and tongue."

The LORD said to him, "Who gave man his mouth? Who makes him deaf or mute? Who gives him sight or makes him blind? Is it not I, the LORD ? Now go; I will help you speak and will teach you what to say."

-- Exodus 4:10-12

You've likely heard the dictum "God doesn't call the qualified, he qualifies the called."

This is why God uses shepherds, fig farmers, youngest sons, prostitutes, widows, etc.
This is why he uses sinners. Not so that they will realize their potential. Not so that they will finally see how inherently awesome they are. Not so they can live their best life now or become a better you (a better them?). Not so, as a church radio ad I heard this morning promised, God can bring out the best in them.

God uses sinners so that he will get the glory and so that he will get the glory in the vivid, repeating imagery of turning ashes to beauty.

God made man out of dirt. We -- you and I -- are dirt.

We only need to read a little bit of Paul to see how little he cares about human credentials and qualifications. And Paul actually had them.

The gospel is not the power to save because of our knowledge, our techniques, our systems, our innovations, our preaching style, our music style, our creativity, our conferences, our degrees, our viral marketing, our evaluations and efficiency, or our selves. None of those things is bad, but we make all of them idols so easily. They take so much effort, and yet we make them idols so effortlessly.

"Who are we? We're awesome!"

But the gospel is the power to save because of Jesus' work. Because God is with the gospel.

Take your ego out to the woodshed, then, every day. And don't just whup it. Put a gun to its head and blow its brains out.

For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and him crucified.
-- 1 Corinthians 2:2


Wenatchee the Hatchet said...

I recall a conversation years ago where a fellow insisted that what Moses displayed was false humility. Sure, but scripture can seem curiously silent about the reason for that false humility. Did Moses want the Lord to affirm his value? Did Moses want assurances from God that God would deliver? Did Moses simply not want the job and try to come up with every excuse possible to not do it? My own understanding is that the absence of a fuller explanation of Moses' motive for not wanting to go allows us to sense our own disinterest in responding to the Lord. Mark Driscoll once preached (long ago, like a decade ago) that Moses' reluctance amounted to the "I don't give a damn" reason to not go. Moses had fled for his life and didn't want to go back to the place where he was probably still a wanted man and now was quite old. That the ego can manifest in so many outward signs of humility and piety makes it a rascal. The best reasons can often betray the worst motives, as T. S. Eliot once remarked in one of his poems.

Joel Burdeaux said...

Thank you, Jared. Thank you.

Lorraine said...

Oh Wow! What an awesome message that we ALL need to hear and heed. God is God! it matters not a whit who I am, but that I am His! Going to share this one a bunch!

In Christ,

Rob said...

Thanks, Jared. Awesome.

Doug said...

Thanks. Such a good reminder. There's such freedom in letting it be about Jesus. Such freedom. Keep writing.

kinleyw said...

Very thoughts Jared...
Reminded me of a verse I just read yesterday...

I Cor 1:31 - Therefore, as it is written: "Let him who boasts boast in the Lord."

Taken from Jer 9:24 - but let him who boasts boast about this: that he understands and knows me, that I am the Lord, who exercises kindness, justice and righteousness on earth, for in these I delight," declares the Lord.