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Saturday, November 10, 2012

Ego-centric?

Some of us have no problem pointing out the insincere action of others, but let them point out one of ours and watch out!  That's meddling!  There is one bumper sticker which absolutely drives me nuts, not so much because the message is incorrect, but because so many people see it as a way of excusing bad behavior.  Wonder what that sticker says?  "Christians aren't perfect, just forgiven!"  Yep, you got it!  I think some of our friends in this wide world in which we drive see this as an excuse for our continued behavior, more than reading the underlying truth within the saying.  Yet, if we look closely at scripture, we see Paul saying just about the same thing, but just with more words.

Have some of you noticed that we are not yet perfect? (No great surprise, right?) And are you ready to make the accusation that since people like me, who go through Christ in order to get things right with God, aren’t perfectly virtuous, Christ must therefore be an accessory to sin? The accusation is frivolous. If I was “trying to be good,” I would be rebuilding the same old barn that I tore down. I would be acting as a charlatan.  (Galations 2:7-8 MSG)

Paul says it well - we go through Christ in or the get things right with God - but we aren't perfectly virtuous in all our behavior yet.  We have a ways to go, huh?  We don't always rise to the occasion as it applies to being morally excellent and upright in our behavior.  For some, this is all the proof they need to accuse us of our walk not matching our talk.

The truth is, none of us "in Christ" believers are at the point of perfection yet.  We have been "made" perfect through Christ, but it is in the day-to-day walking out of our salvation (called sanctification) where we see each imperfection become less and less of a pattern in our lives.  One day, we see permanent and lasting change in areas of previous struggle.  It didn't come all at once, but in what seemed like tiny and tedious steps.  Most of the time, obedience is nothing more than a series of very small steps!

Paul goes on to say, "My ego is no longer central. It is no longer important that I appear righteous before you or have your good opinion, and I am no longer driven to impress God. Christ lives in me."  (vs. 20)  Perhaps the bumper sticker would more accurately read, "My ego gets in the way of me being all I say".  Looking again at what Paul writes to the Galations, he is speaking to them because they have been questioning the reality of the salvation experience - because there is still evidence of old actions in this new life.  Paul's emphasis on this point should give us a moment of pause.  It is not a new issue for believers to say one thing, and do another.

Why?  Our ego may no longer be central, but it is still definitely alive!  As long as my ego is active, I am subject to the "performance" of my ego.  I don't know about yours, but mine liked to cover faults, avoid being discovered for who I really was, and always presented an "all-together" image.  I don't know about you, but I came to a place where this just didn't work for me anymore!  I found it too burdensome to live this way.  I found myself "siding" with Paul - comfortable admitting my imperfect state, but confident in also admitting that my ego is being shifted into a submissive role in my life - not totally there yet, but shifting nonetheless.  

It is this "ego-shift" which really is the focus here.  We aren't perfect - but as long as our "ego" is central, Christ cannot be.  Make the shift from ego to Christ and life begins to change.  To understand our ego, we just need to think of it as what gives us our thinking, feeling, and willing.  Ego is the sum total of what we think, how we feel, and what we will to do.  Now, put this into our context of scripture today and you will see Paul is telling us there is some "deconstructing" going on.  Ego is learning to think differently, feelings are becoming less relied upon, and our wills are beginning to match up with the choices God would have us make.  Not instantly - but incrementally.

Yep, we aren't perfect - but we are headed in the right direction if ego is no longer central in our choices and actions!  In the meantime, we need a whole lot of forgiveness for each time "ego" gets stuff wrong.  Just sayin!