Thursday, March 6, 2014

Altar of Self


"Before destruction a man's heart is haughty, but humility comes before honor." 

-Proverbs 18:12

 Loud, proud, seen and heard is the culture of today. We live in a world surrounded by the "selfie." The latest of our lives, what we see and do has to be posted somewhere and seen. Opinions and beliefs on social media are spouted without a second thought. Our bodies are worked out to perfection, social media tweaked to show us in the most positive light and hobbies, classes, and clubs galore to serve our "interests".  Bragging about all the activities and achievements comes as easy as breathing. An altar is built and we are quick to offer up living for heaven in exchange for serving ourselves. Vanity, pride, and selfishness are developed and nurtured.

Serving ourselves feels really, really good at the time. It's easy, quick, painless. We buy into the world's view of happiness and try to find it ourselves. With various messages in culture coming at us such as "self love" and "discovering ones true self" we set off on a journey of "finding ourselves." We may find out a lot of useful things about ourselves and discover a talent or two but something is still missing. The heart yearns for the definition of who we are and whom we serve. The heart misses being refined by turning away from self (sin) and toward Christ.

The altar of self is vain and conceited.

Christ is not focused on His own vanity but rather how He loves and serves. The prudent person is not self seeking but Christ seeking. Opportunities for conceit and vanity are turned away, it is not a goal in life nor is it sought out.

"For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another."  Galations 5:13

The altar of self is loud and uncontrolled, the tongue cannot hold back. It says what it wants and doesn't care about the consequences to others.  Discretion is not used over one's tongue and thoughtfulness is left behind. Talk is valued over silence. We give "full vent" to ourselves never thinking if it is the wise choice.

Christ was controlled, never making a fool of Himself. He was wise and thoughtful with His words. The Bible places value on being quiet, self controlled and guarding our tongues. A wise person places ultimate value on thoughtfulness and values silence as well as talking. The prudent person uses discretion and knows when each is appropriate.

"Even a fool who keeps silent is considered wise; when he closes his lips, he is deemed intelligent." Proverbs 17:28

"A fool gives full vent to his spirit, but a wise man quietly holds it back." Proverbs 29:11

"When words are many, transgression is not lacking, but whoever restrains his lips is prudent."  Proverbs 10:19

The altar of self is focused on achieving the perfect earthly life. A better house, car, next gadget, acquiring the next material good is the focus of ones goals. The outer life is seemingly wonderful without any focus and goals for the inner life. Years are wasted chasing after this perfection, contentment is elusive at best. This is a very American idea of success.

Christ was focused on living His life for others, for us. Pursuing material possessions was never a focus or mentioned in Christ's ministry. Think of Christ trying to faithfully minister and lay Himself down for us while simultaneously trying to focus on his dream house and his new ipad. There is not one place where chasing after material possessions or an elusive "perfect life" as a goal on earth is mentioned. He focused on His heavenly kingdom, His place at the right hand of the Father. He had no goals for any possessions on this earth, only for the kingdom of God. How many lists and charts do we make of our goals that are self focused? Is there even one list of goals aimed for God? When we aim our goals off of ourselves and place them on Christ we find true freedom and joy. The self is a prison, Christ is freedom.

"And he said to them, “Take care, and be on your guard against all covetousness, for one's life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions." Luke 12:15

"But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation, into a snare, into many senseless and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction."  1 Timothy 6:9

The altar of self is rooted in pride. We want to mask our own sin and live a life running to cover it. The need for our own salvation and to repent of our sin is not seen. All of these things serve to fuel the pride, the temporary good feelings of satisfaction we will achieve. Pride leads us to believe we are "good enough on our own" and we are "good people." The deep need to follow Christ and surrender all is never acknowledged.

There was no self pride in Christ. He was humble, lowly, meek, a servant. Focused on God and His ministry. While we will never be Christ, His character is an example for us to follow. He was focused on love. There is no pride and selfishness in love. They cannot peacefully coexist in a Christ follower. All of our knowledge, achievements and possessions are fruitless if we do not pursue Christ and forsake the altar of self.

"When pride comes, then comes disgrace, but with the humble is wisdom." Proverbs 11:2

"Let another praise you, and not your own mouth; a stranger, and not your own lips." Proverbs 27:2

"But he gives more grace. Therefore it says, “God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble.” James 4:6

May our goals be to have more of Christ, and less of this world. While we may enjoy the fruits of our labor and the blessings God does bestow upon us, they should never take all of our focus, or become an idol. Focusing on our treasures stored up in heaven and not on what will eventually pass away leads us to God and the altar of self is left behind.

"Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I have become sounding brass or a clanging cymbal."1 Corinthians 13:1

"For all that is in the world—the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride in possessions—is not from the Father but is from the world." 1 John 2:16

"The more humble and obedient to God a man is, the more wise and at peace he will be in all that he does."  -Thomas a` Kempis

"For a small reward, a man will hurry away on a long journey; while for eternal life, many will hardly take a single step." Thomas a` Kempis

The mythological Narcissus (below) who fell in love with his own image and was doomed to die because he would not turn away from it.


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