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March 13, 2014

How's Your Ego? Gospel-Humbled

Have you ever heard anyone say, "I don't care what you think about me. I don't care what others think about me." That statement would be great if it were coming from the same place that it comes from the apostle Paul. For us, it comes from hurt and pride; for Paul, it comes from a place where his identity is really not tied to what people think about him. How do I know this is the case with Paul? Well, look at what he says in 1 Corinthians 4:1-4.

1 This, then, is how you ought to regard us: as servants of Christ and as those entrusted with the mysteries God has revealed. 2 Now it is required that those who have been given a trust must prove faithful. 3 I care very little if I am judged by you or by any human court; indeed, I do not even judge myself. 4 My conscience is clear, but that does not make me innocent. It is the Lord who judges me.

Paul's self-worth, his self-regard, is not based upon anyone's verdict or evaluation of him. He doesn't even go by self-evaluation. He says the one evaluation he pays attention to is the Lord's. The Corinthian believers were making comparisons - who's better Paul or Apollos - and Paul deflects this by redirecting the real issue - don't let others judge you and don't judge yourself. Let the Lord judge you. Let the Lord evaluate you and give the verdict. Paul, this incredible man of spiritual stature who speaks of being the chief of sinners, did not even judge himself. Seems a little confusing doesn't it.

Timothy Keller makes this observation about Paul in his booklet entitled, The Freedom of Self Forgetfulness.

His (Paul) sins and his identity are not connected. He refused to play that game. He does not see a sin and let it destroy his sense of identity. He will make no connection. Neither does he see an accomplishment and congratulate himself. He sees all kinds of sins in himself - and all kinds of accomplishments too - but refuses to connect them with himself or his identity. So although he knows himself to be chief of sinners that fact is not going to stop him from doing things that he is called to do.

Paul's ego is not puffed up or deflated. He is not a self-obsessed person, but he does have a humble self-awareness, not just of himself but also and more importantly of the gospel. He is not about thinking more or less of himself, but thinking more about the gospel. Paul is not a self-hating or self-loving person. He is what C.S. Lewis calls a gospel-humbled person. Paul's ego is being solidly filled by the good news of the gospel. Paul says I live my life by the opinion of one, the Lord Jesus Christ, who loves me and gave his life for me. Here is the verdict of Christ - "Therefore there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus" and "you are my beloved child in whom I am well pleased." May we live and lead out of that.

Our egos need to be filled with the solid and sure good news of the gospel. The court has been adjourned, the verdict pronounced and we humbly accept this incredible reality of love, grace, mercy and acceptance and forget about our self-esteem and esteem the Christ who gives us true life.

Grace and peace,

Tim