Success is not:
Having a very good wing event
Dying a martyr’s death for the sake of Christ in a brutal way in an unreached place
Having daily devotions
Praying for an hour a day
Writing books which impact thousands or millions for the cause of Christ
Pastoring a church where the attendance is six times larger than the town you grew up in
Ministering in a place where you will be forgotten
Leading the most dynamic small group in Oak Manor
Being liked or perceived as a nice guy by the people I see frequently
Being known by people at The Master’s College
Being an RA
Getting three hours of sleep because I was at the emergency room with someone all night
Reading a book on humility
Writing a book on humility
Being hated by the world because I’m obnoxious for the gospel
Enforcing the dress code
Being percieved as an “up and comer”
Going to every chapel and taking good notes
Embarking on a great humanitarian crusade
Having a worn-out, heavily-underlined Bible
All of the above can be evidences of a successful life. However, in and of themselves, they are not successful. The Lord looks at and cares about the heart. Many of these will and must spring out of a heart which passionately beats to know the Lord more deeply. However, there is only one true measure of success as God defines it.
Ministering worthy of the glory of God wherever He has placed you with whatever responsibilities He has given you out of a desire to glorify Him and love Him with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength.
AND YOU SHALL LOVE THE LORD YOUR GOD WITH ALL YOUR HEART, AND WITH ALL YOUR SOUL,
AND WITH ALL YOUR MIND, AND WITH ALL YOUR STRENGTH.
I had no idea this post would be written when I published the previous post on humility. I had intended to sit down and write a post about perfection and the process of sanctification tonight. Instead, the Lord provided an object lesson and a chance to practice humility. Eventually I’ll write the post I had planned, but it can wait.
I’m hideously incompetent at car repair. I can change the oil, add windshield wiper fluid, and know not to take off the radiator cap when the car is hot. Beyond that, don’t call me for help. Today, that became very apparent. At least I wasn’t alone.
Several friends from Oak Manor and I went to see 3:10 to Yuma this afternoon, which is a very manly shoot ’em up sort of movie. Our testosterone high was shattered very quickly by something known as a flat tire. More truthfully, it wasn’t the tire which brought us back to earth, but our own ineptness. Imagine six college age men standing around a car in the local Quiznos parking lot, trying ineptly to change a tire. Every time we tried to use the lug nut wrench, the wheel would spin around, robbing the wrench of all power.
Out of the Quiznos store walks an eighteen year old female employee and shouts across the parking lot, “Lower the jack! Get the lug nuts started with the wheel on the ground, then raise the car up.” You know, that made a lot of sense. Friction really works when you use it right. She then proceeded to tell the driver all about driving with a donut on. (Turns out that’s what the spare is called.) Our egos were greatly damaged. No man should ever have to take advice from a girl on how to fix his car.
It takes a lot of grace to be humble in such a situation and graciously accept instruction. It made me think. God uses the most unlikely of people to often make the most significant contributions to my spiritual growth. Thankfully, the grace of God kept me from snapping back a harsh “I know” to her–Especially because she probably was an unbeliever. The battle between grace and pride is an ongoing, daily occurance. When I wake up in the morning, my pride attacks me with a vengance, for it does not sleep. It is always alert and always ready to destroy my witness to others and veil my relationship with my Savior. A good test of humility comes during embarrasing situations. Do I act in humility when all I want to do is save face? Does the grace of God in my life overcome my own desire to look like I have it all together?
This semester I’m taking the class Pastoral Ministries, taught by Rick Holland (college pastor at Grace Community Church). One of the books for the class is Humility: True Greatness by C.J. Mahaney. I’ve read this book before, and God has used it to radically transform my thinking over the last year. Ordinarily, I wouldn’t post just a long string of quotes, but this book is worth taking the time both for me to post and for you to read. The theme of this book is simple: No matter our station in life, pride is our greatest enemy and humility is our greatest friend. Nothing will divide churches, friendships, marriages, and ministries faster than pride. Pride is the ultimate offense to God, and is nothing more than me telling God, “I deserve the glory for everything You have done.” I’m about halfway through the 175 page book, and here are the highlights thus far.
“Amazingly, Humility sometimes attracts the world’s notice. But here’s something even more astonishing: Humility gets God’s attention.”
“This is the promise of humility. God is personally and providentially supportive of the humble. And the grace He extends to the humble is indescribably rich.”
“Humility is honestly assessing ourselves in light of God’s holiness and our sinfulness.”
“So many human ventures, so many grand designs of mankind, have been undermined because humility is lacing on the part of those involved…Our motivation for rooting out pride must go beyond a knowledge of its pitfalls and perils. Our pursuit should be driven by the amazing promise that humility holds out to us: God gives grace to the humble!”
“Pride seems to have a strange and sure way of ignoring logic altogether. Can you relate? The sad fact is that none of us are immune to the logic-defying, blinding effects of pride. Though it shows up in different forms and to differing degrees, it infects us all. The real issue here is not if pride exists in your heart; it’s where pride exists and how pride is being expressed in your life.”
“Why does God hate pride so passionately? Pride is when sinful human beings aspire to the status and position of God and refuse to acknowledge their dependence upon Him.”
“Pride takes innumerable forms but only has one end: self-glorification. That’s the motive and ultimate purpose of pride—to rob God of legitimate glory and to pursue self-glorification, contending for supremacy with Him. The proud person seeks to glorify himself and not God, thereby attempting in effect to deprive God of something only He is worthy to receive.”
“You and I hate nothing to the degree that God hates pride. His hatred for pride is pure, and His hatred is holy…God’s opposition to pride is an immediate and constant activity. The proud will not indefinitely escape discipline.”
(Speaking of Mark 10, where James and John approach Jesus and ask to be placed at positions of honor) “The prideful desires of their hearts are on full display. There’s nothing subtle about their request. They’re not asking for faith to endure His suffering. They’re not asking for the privilege of supporting Him in and through His suffering. They want to be famous, pure and simple…In their pride-dominated hearts, Jesus is just a means to their end of personal exaltation.”
“Jesus does not categorically criticize or forbid the desire and ambition to be great. Instead, He clearly redirects that ambition, redefines it, and purifies it: ‘But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be slave of all.’ Mk. 10:43-44”
“In true humility, our own service to others is always both an effect of His unique sacrifice and the evidence of it. His sacrifice alone makes it possible for us to achieve and experience true greatness in God’s eyes…Ultimately our Christian service exists only to draw attention to this source—to our crucified and risen Lord who gave himself as a ransom for us all.”
“Reflect on the wonder of the cross of Christ. I believe this will be the most important habit and practice for you as well. To be truly serious and deliberate in mortifying pride and cultivating greatness, you must each day survey the wondrous cross on which the Prince of Glory died.”
American Christianity is something distinctly American, not necessarily biblical. A true Christian walk cuts across all societal expectations. In reality, true biblical Christianity is antithetical to everything the world says and everything welling up from within my own heart. Because of this, biblical Christianity is uncomfortable to practice because it forces me outside of my expectations for myself and my own comfort zone. It is also uncomfortable to be around because it zealously and uncompromisingly seeks to have others walk according to biblical Christianity. The call to be a Christian is the call to abandon my own expectations regarding what a Christian ought to look like because my expectations are ultimately half-baked.
In Chapel on Friday, Dr. Mark Tatlock posed the question “What does it look like to live out the kingdom of God?” This is a topic the RAs/SLS Staff has been studying in detail for the last four weeks. Tat’s message in Chapel was merely a summary of four weeks of material, but it was rich in the mercy and grace of God and made me think.
The call to be a Christian is a call to die. This phrase is so overused that it really has lost much of its impact. In America the “death” we die consists of being thought foolish by our neighbors, friends, family. In the Bible, the “death” spoken of consists of much more. Read Hebrews 11 or the book of Acts. Men and women have been fed to the lions in front of crowds rejoicing over the gruesome slaughterer of Christians. Why were these men and women willing to do this? Because they understood what a call to die entails.
According to Jesus, the holy life and the forgiven life are the same thing. I cannot accept Christ now and then fully surrender to Him when it is convenient for me. No, you are either all in or all out. Salvation is a blue pill/red pill decision. You are either sold-out for Christ—whatever that may entail—or damned to hell. Take your pick. Tat called American Christianity “In-N-Out Theology.” So often we look at the menu of the Christian life and pick what we like based on taste and price. Jesus Christ presents the exact opposite: “In-Or-Out Theology.” You are all in or all out. Take your pick.
Everything begins with total surrender. Without total surrender, the Christian life will not make sense, for only those who have taken that leap of faith and renounced all claim to their lives can understand what it means to be free. This is completely antithetical to any conventional human wisdom. But the Bible says freedom is found in surrender. Matthew 6 lays this principle out, climaxing in verse 25. Because you are focused on my kingdom, because you have sold everything to buy the treasure, because you have ceased to serve mammon, because you are serving me rather than men and their opinions, do not be worried of life, clothing, food, the things of this world. Commit to me and I will take care of you.
Without completely surrendering to the Savior, I am completely consumed by my needs. My life consists of trying to protect and provide for myself. Jesus Christ says He will take care of everything I live my life for as an unbeliever, freeing me up to do so much more than care for myself. I have time and energy for things other than trying to protect myself because Jesus Christ is protecting me. His protection is not necessarily physical (Heb 11), but I am utterly incapable of protecting myself physically either.
The cost of joining this kingdom is everything. There is no such thing as a half-hearted pursuit of Christ. The cost of establishing the kingdom was so high that nothing could ever merit entrance into the kingdom. Jesus Christ demands your life. Selling everything to gain entrance into the kingdom is worth it because of the splendor of the King. Praise God for His mercy and grace which takes men and unveils their eyes to see how much better the kingdom is than life itself. Never ever forget that the only reason men are inside the kingdom is because the King was willing to sacrifice His Son for people who-to their own destruction-didn’t want to come into the kingdom.
These are the stakes of the Christian life. History tells us the potential cost of being a Christian in the past. The world around us confirms that the cost has not decreased in 2,000 years. Accepting Christ and renouncing all control over your life means one thing: You’ve wagered your life for the cause of Christ. Nothing less will do.
I suppose this post is pretty intense. It is simply a different vantage point looking upon the glory of salvation. I’ve talked and written much about the glory and joy of salvation. Of how it is the incredible act of a loving God to rescue men from destruction–men who neither know the coming destruction nor care to escape it. God’s love is spectacular. Salvation restructures every priority I have so that I might live in line with God’s created purpose for mankind. Salvation allows me to glorify God by praising Him for His goodness and mercy. A subplot within the overarching theme of salvation is the cost of salvation from a human vantagepoint. That is what this post is about.