Enamored With Our Self

I love me graphic

Stan just stood there, staring at the edge of the lake with a gaze of uncertainty, almost to the point of daydreaming. “Hey, Stan!” he heard his friend shout, “The bus is coming just up the road.”

“Uh, yeah,” Stan replied, with some hesitancy. “I’ll be right there!” He reluctantly wandered back to the bus stop, his dream-like state having been interrupted like a burst balloon.

“Stan, what are you doing? Staring at yourself again?” his friend cynically called out. As Stan got on the bus, he happened to spot his reflection in a mirror. He just couldn’t seem to break himself away from the sight of himself.

“Let’s move it; I’ve got a schedule to keep!” the driver of the bus growled. Stan eventually managed to slip into a seat by a window, two seats down from his friend, who was now really beginning to wonder about him. By this time, the sun was almost gone for the day and the interior lights of the bus began to take on more prominence than the sunlight on the surface of the window, or even much of the activity outside the bus. Now Stan could see himself more clearly in the window’s glossy surface.

Harriet had gently warned him long ago about getting lost in his own reflection. She was always the guiding force in his life, or, at least, that was how he thought of her. That gently curling hair of auburn persuasion, those captivating azure eyes—it seemed like it was just weeks, not years, since he had first become enraptured with her comely looks and radiant disposition.

“We are now approaching the stop for Twelfth Avenue and Rey Street,” a computerized voice interrupted through the intercom of the bus.

Stan’s eyes were now attracted to the change in his reflection, due to the distortions of the window surface of this bus. After a brief stop, the bus jolted as it started to move forward again. Stan sat intrigued by the way his left ear seemed to detach itself as he moved his reflection back and forth over the irregularities of the window’s tinting.

“We are now approaching the stop for Materfell Street Station,” the computerized voice abruptly alerted again, a short time later. Stan was still sitting enamored with his own reflection when he felt some small objects pelting the side of his neck.

“Stan, you daydreamer, this is your stop!” his friend, who had now turned around in his seat, hollered out. Stan suddenly remembered that he and his friend had agreed earlier that they weren’t going to get off at the same stop. Stan was relieved at this crude interruption since the bright exterior lights now moving into view were making his reflection dissipate, and he prepared to leave the bus. While standing at the exit door as the bus came to a stop, Stan glanced in the direction of his friend, waved to him, and then saw his reflection staring back at him again from the mirror above his head. He completely missed the second step on his way out. The driver hurried down the steps with reluctant sympathy, and helped Stan get up from his painfully crumpled position straddled between the curb and the steps of the bus.

“Man, you can’t be doing this,” the driver barked. “You is gonna get killed!”

As the bus pulled away, Stan slowly made his way back to his apartment a few blocks away. In spite of all the clatter of activity stirring around him, he found himself thinking about Harriet again, and his friends, and his family. But his thoughts always seemed to somehow gravitate back to himself. He thought of the many hours he’d spent in front of mirrors fixated on his own appearance. Harriet had often finished long before he did whenever they were getting ready for a date. His meals at his parents’ place frequently needed to be reheated. His employers had regularly scolded him for focusing on himself more than their clients. It seemed like self was more important to Stan than anything or anyone else.

Being caught up with our selves has always been a part of mankind, ever since the fall of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden.

“And the Lord God commanded the man, saying, Of every tree of the garden thou mayest freely eat: But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die…And they were both naked, the man and his wife, and were not ashamed” (Genesis 2:16, 17, 25).

Prior to eating of the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, Adam and Eve were not aware of the appearance of their physical selves. They had no need to know how they looked, because being in the presence of their Heavenly Father was all they needed.

“And when the woman saw that the tree [of the knowledge of good and evil] was good for food, and that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree to be desired to make one wise, she took of the fruit thereof, and did eat, and gave also unto her husband with her; and he did eat. And the eyes of them both were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together, and made themselves aprons” (Genesis 3:6, 7).

When they disobeyed their heavenly Father, then sin had the legal right to enter and take its course in their lives. Since they did not ask their Father for forgiveness, and did not repent of what they had done, they took their eyes off of their Heavenly Father and suddenly became acutely aware of their own selves. Because of sin they no longer were in God’s presence, and He no longer provided a covering for them. They allowed pride and self-righteousness to take root, which eventually led to the conclusion that they had no need for God, hence the pitiful covering of fig leaves. Initially, they were fearful, but later on, they and their descendants became complacent and began to love themselves more than God their Father. This permitted evil to multiply exponentially.

“And God saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually” (Genesis 6:5).

When we become enamored with our self, we then feel like we no longer need God. As a result, God lets us go our own way. He allows us a chance to try to find our “real” self. He even allows us to love our self, though it grieves and hurts Him greatly. But when we come to the end, our end, we go right back to the very thing we were created from—the dust of the earth. In our condition of pride and love of our self, we think that we are something great, something superior to all creation (even of our own kind). Yet, in God’s eyes, we are really nothing. In the book of Job, God asked him, “Where wast thou when I laid the foundations of the earth? declare, if thou hast understanding” (Job 38:4). The heavenly Father was essentially saying that, if we think we are so great and wonderful, if we know so much and consider ourselves to be so superior, then where were we when He created everything, including us?

God created us to love Him, not our self. He wants us to put Him first in our lives. He placed within us a free will so that we could choose Him and love Him of our own accord. He will never force us to love Him. When He put forth the commandment in the Garden of Eden to not eat of the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, He did this not to tempt or tease man, but rather to test or try us in our love for Him. He loves us, and He wants us to make the effort to love Him in return. He wants us to stop loving our self, and to love Him instead.

There is one detail, though, that we dare not miss. We can’t just freely come before God because He is holy, and He absolutely will not allow any sin to come before Him, including self-love, pride, etc. But the good news for us is that God made a way for anyone who really desires to, to come to Him. His Son, Jesus Christ, is the way.

Jesus freely left His Father and came to this earth as a sinless human being. He fulfilled all of the requirements for the cleansing of sin that God His Father had laid out hundreds of years prior to His arrival. These requirements couldn’t be completely fulfilled by sinful man himself. But the ultimate requirement was for Him to sacrifice His life on the cross (even though He was totally innocent of any wrongdoing whatsoever) for the sake of every man, woman and child who ever lived, or is living now, or has yet to be born. He paid the horrible price for sin (that we all actually owed and deserved because of our sins) which is death.

When He shed His blood at the cross, it symbolically covered our sins. Now all we have to do is acknowledge to God that we have sinned, and be willing to turn completely from our sinful ways. Then we need to accept and believe in faith that the sacrifice and shed blood of Jesus at the cross was made in order to cover and cleanse us of our sins. Finally, we need to surrender our life to Him completely, and let Him come in and clean us up from our sinful ways.

For more information on the way to God click here.

–James Pangburn

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Does God Play Favorites?

 

acorns showing partiality

“…Peter opened his mouth and said: “In truth I perceive that God shows no partiality. But in every nation whoever fears Him and works righteousness is accepted by Him” (Acts 10:34-35).

“For the Lord your God is God of gods, and Lord of lords, a great God, a mighty, and a terrible, which regardeth not persons [does not consider one over the other]” (Deuteronomy 10:17).

Did you ever have that one person (or group of people) in your life who seemed to be treated better than everyone else, someone who often left you in teeth-gritting anger? It would seem like, no matter how hard you tried, you could never get the special recognition you felt you deserved—whether at work, at school, or even at home. There seems to have always been that one person or group who got all the extra favors. When I was much younger and going to school, there was almost always a person there who could have his way with the teacher no matter what he did or did not do. People like that were always doing something extra that was ordinarily unnecessary. But, in their case, it would get them special favors or attention from the teacher. The annoying part was that most of us in the class (especially me) could not do the things that they did and get special favors.

Later in my life, when I had been working at a job for some time, some coworkers were allowed to do many things that were against company policies, which were obviously not permissible for me or others to do. I remember one who, many times, would only do half of the required work, and then would chat endlessly with customers, or go take an extra-long smoke break. Was he ever reprimanded? Of course not! He probably could have gone so far as to ask the boss if he (the coworker, not the boss) could leave early, and the boss would let him!

These examples only concern school and work, but favoritism can also be found in all facets of life, all over the world, among all types of people, in all age groups. Some people are regarded as superior because they are of a certain race or skin color. Some are automatically considered superior because of the higher caste that they were born into. Others are favored for their wealth and all that goes with it. Some who have a commanding or persuasive personality will often coerce others into favoring them. Quite a few are favored because of their advanced education. Others gain favor because they have convinced almost everyone that they know everything (even when they don’t). Many are favored due to their taste in fashion. Then there are people who are favored due to their political status or position. Ironically, some are favored because they don’t have any status or position in life at all!

Thankfully, God does not show favoritism—ever. He can’t be partial to any one person or group of people and still love everyone unconditionally.

Some may argue that God sends many people to Hell; therefore, He must like some people more than others. Actually, it is sin that God hates. When a person chooses to sin, never confesses his error, and refuses to repent, that is what will cause him to go to Hell. God loves the sinner, but He never condones the sin he commits. God does not want anyone to go to Hell; it is repeated or continual rejection of Him that results in this final judgment. “The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering [patient] to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9 emphasis mine).

When God brings to light various qualities (both positive and negative) in a particular person, He does this as an example for all to see what they should do or not do. There are times when our deeds speak louder than our words. God never intended for that particular person to be favored over another, just his deeds. “And the Lord said unto Satan, Hast thou considered my servant Job, that there is none like him in the earth, a perfect [blameless] and an upright man, one that feareth God, and escheweth [abstains from] evil” (Job 1:8)? In this Old Testament verse, God was uplifting Job’s righteousness to Satan, not Job himself. We are all sinners, worthy of death, in God’s eyes.

In our own futile wisdom, we think that if we try hard enough, and make ourselves right enough in God’s eyes, He will like us better than someone else, and will want us to sit at His side in Heaven. This is called self-righteousness, and God never honors it. In fact, He abhors it, because it makes the creation think it is equal to, or greater than, the Creator.

God does not want competition with Himself, or among us. What He really does want is for us to love Him and submit ourselves to Him. When self-righteousness is active, then we are competing among ourselves and favoritism becomes prevalent. When Lucifer, the closest angel to God, (before he sinned against Him and became what we know as the Devil, or Satan) pursued favoritism and self-righteousness, God struck him down out of Heaven permanently. Therefore, how much better can we expect to fare with God if we are cultivating favoritism here on Earth in our own lives? God sees us as one people, not as greater and lesser individuals. Therefore, we can’t look at each other as being either superior or inferior, especially when the standard we base this favoritism on concerns the very individuals and society we exalt or debase. Our standard has to be God’s Son, Jesus Christ. He is the only One that we are to exalt and show favor to. Man will always fail us, no matter how much favor we may show to him, but Jesus will never fail us. Let’s look to Him for our righteousness and not ourselves. Let Him be our favorite and no one else.

–James Pangburn

Fine Castles Are Not Made With Wet Sand

sandcastle with wave

When I was a child, my family preferred to go to the beach whenever possible for vacations—not so much for the sun or to swim, but more to take in the refreshing air and relaxing sounds of the surf. I never cared to go swimming, never wanted to ride on the waves, or even to go wading in water higher than my waist. This is mostly due to one small detail—not being able to swim! My particular fondness was building sandcastles. I enjoyed creating grand structures in the sand, particularly in forming them dangerously close to the water’s edge. I doubt that any king would have wanted to reside in the ‘castles’ that I formed though! In fact, I think he would be in a constant state of fear, considering how close these ‘fortresses’ would be to the incoming waves.

I would naturally build some kind of retaining wall, perhaps even two or three, to help protect the ‘castle’ that would eventually rise up from the sand. (I’m using the word ‘castle’ loosely here, since the end result of my endeavors only vaguely resembled anything a self-respecting monarch would live in!) I have found that, no matter how carefully I would take handfuls of dripping wet sand and try to construct something with them, when I finished almost nothing resembling a building remained. It did not matter how hard or how fast I tried to use the sand. The mixture would soon just dissolve into the sand around it, if not first swept away by an incoming wave.

“But God, who is rich in mercy, for his great love wherewith he loved us, even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us [made us alive] together with Christ, (by grace ye are saved;) and hath raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus: that in the ages to come he might [show] the exceeding riches of his grace in his kindness toward us through Christ Jesus. For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast” (Ephesians 2:4-9).

Have you ever thought about the fact that our own works we do for God are much like building fine castles with handfuls of wet sand? They ultimately prove to be futile, without any lasting merit. It doesn’t matter how much work we do on our own to try to make ourselves right before God. In His eyes, these efforts are worth nothing more than a pile of wet sand. If we decide that we are going to clean ourselves up before we come to Him, we are just wasting our time.

beach with person

At the beginning of each new calendar year, we have lots of great ambitions to lose pounds and pounds of weight, read numerous books, fix everything broken in our home or vehicle, visit places all over the world, maybe even clean up our lives and make ourselves right with God, as well as with everyone else. Yet, after just a few months (or even a few days), these great ambitions soon fizzle out. We find ourselves in the end not much better than we were the year before. Why does this happen? because we do it all by our own strength and effort. To put it bluntly, God does not need our help (or even us, for that matter). Whenever we try to do God’s work for Him, or try to help Him with His work, we are doing it without Him. Yet it is only by the grace of God that we can even be here today.

What is God’s grace? Many views and explanations have been put forth. But, in a nutshell, His grace is His perfect love (something we, as finite beings, can’t truly understand) and favor for us that makes Him willing to overlook our faults and shortfalls, even though we don’t really deserve anything but death eternally in Hell. Grace is continuously flowing from Him, but that does not mean that it automatically flows over or covers us. We need to first accept it, and then to be obedient to His commandments and His will.

We can only do this by accepting the sacrifice that His Son, Jesus Christ, made on the cross over two thousand years ago for our sins as our own, done for every man, woman and child who ever lived.

There is nothing we can do by ourselves to earn His grace or favor. No human being, or even the angels above, can earn His favor.

We need to come humbly before Him instead and yield our lives to Him. We need to turn completely in the opposite direction in our sinful ways, willing to totally forsake them. We can’t remain in their shadow  and also be successful with Him.

At the same time, this needs to be a continual effort. Whether you accepted Christ and became a believer decades ago, or only just recently, you need to come humbly before God, our Heavenly Father, daily, and yield to Him. For many, the act of surrender is considered a one-time event. But God expects it every day. “And he said to them all, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me” (Luke 9:23 emphasis mine).

This is not some type of asceticism, but rather, not allowing our old sinful self to continue to control us. If we are not surrendering ourself to God every day, we are operating on our own plan. Then all our efforts become just futile works, not worth much more than elaborate castles built of piles of wet sand. This ultimately will lead us to boasting about our works, thereby leaving God out of the picture.

Don’t try to please God with your own works, thereby nullifying the finished and complete work of Jesus at the cross. Yield to God instead, and trust Him do all of the works for you.