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Selfie Denial


Egotists are always social misfits. In pastors and minsiters it's downright offensive. There's just something out of place when arrogance or pridefulness ooze from the pores of someone who's called to model the humility of Christ. Even unbelievers, more attuned to the stardom of pop culture, sense something amiss when Christ's character is co-oped by someone totally at home at center stage under the bright lights. Talk about a disconnect!

There's been a good bit of talk about pastoral models these days. Some of the more modern progressives want to up-date the Scriptural images of a pastor-leader. In many circles the shepherd, thought by most historians and Bible teachers to be the most frequent bibilcal illusion to pastoral leadership, is archaic, out-of-date, and dismissed by people living in these advanced times. It's true, most of us no longer live on farms, very few of us have ever shepherded anything more that a savings account or cold one, and the idea of leading and looking after sheep is foregin to techies and nerds. Of course, so are many of the other references Jesus used to communicate spiritual truth to the simple folk of the first century---wineskins, giving to Caesar, going the second mile, denari, grain cakes, Samaritans, and salt, and hundreds more. Yet, most children know about Mary and the Little Lambs, the black sheep in the family, Baa Baa Black Sheep, wool being pulled over our eyes, and a good bit of more modern literature dealing with sheep. I mean, being a billionarie is totally alien to me too. But, I think I can appreciate it.

All of that aside, we cannot discount the humility of Christ and his expectation that those who follow him exemplify that spirit as well. When Jesus washed the disciples feet on their final night together he went to great lengths to explain what he was doing and why. He said it without a flinch. And, there's no asterisk beside it in my Bible. "For I have given you an example, that you should also do just as I have done to you" (John 13:15). Jesus knew the fulfillment of the commission he gave them depended on their strong servant leadership, conditioned by visible selfie-denial.

A culture in love with the red carpet struggles with this element of his character. We all know there must be some comfort at center stage, under the lights, in those who proclaim and teach his word. I'm a high "relator" (see Strengths Finder 2.0 by Tom Rath to know more about personal strength discovery and development), As a result I'm very comfortable in front of people and usually connect with them pretty well. And, it would be easy to slip over into that prideful mode unless guards are in place to prevent it. What are they?

(1) Study the total depravity of man as often as I can. This Bible truth reminds me of his grace and my unworthiness to serve him.

(2) My wife is the assistant Holy Spirit in my life. I do not mean anything irreverent in saying that, but only to note that when I'm getting a little too big for my brithces, she will tell me.

(3) There are a couple of accountability partners who will jerk a knot in me if they sense any hot shot tendencies in me. They are to be trusted. And, feared.

(4) Be constantly aware of strengths and weaknesses. None of us is the whole enchilada. Knowing our need for others is a good lesson plan for avoiding haughtiness.

(5) Check my belief system often. For me, it goes like this: theology, thee-ology, and me-ology. He's supposed to be first, others are in line ahead of me, and there I am, Mr. Selfie-denial. That is, if everything is as it should be.

In this area, pretense is another trip-wire. I'm often reminded of something Golda Meir, former Prime Minister of Israel, is reported to have said to one of her cabinet members. She said, "Don't be so humble. You're not that great". Ain't it the truth. Faking humility is worse that being totally awed with me-myself-and-I.

This isn't advanced theology or ethics 401. Jesus said, "If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me" (Luke 9:23). This means we should have learned the humility thing long ago, in our first steps as believers.

Because selfie-denial is step one. It should he keenly obvious in those who follow him.

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