To become

As the modern evangelical voice of reason, draped in right-wing politics, becomes faint to the ears of our evolving culture, the discussion of moral rightness has ironically increased across the board. You see,  those on the right have not cornered the market of claims to what is morally right. The voice from the left has a large bullhorn as well.  Each side believes they are “right” about the issues of the day, and are equally passionate about it. When you consider the post-modern crockpot of relative truth, you end up with a “toxic stew” to borrow language from Apple CEO Tim Cook. 

From a biblical viewpoint, the Genesis 3 account, where the very character of God was first questioned in Eden, has proven at the surface as an overwhelming Satanic success. The Serpent was the first post-modern if you will with questions of “Did God actually say” and “you will not surely die” as he lured them into moving their worship elsewhere. Up until that time, Adam and Eve worshipped only God. They worshipped him by simply fulfilling his purposes for them in cultivating the creation, enjoying creation, and simply enjoying Him.  

We know from other scriptural texts that Lucifer, as the serpent was first called, desired to be worshipped above all, even his own Creator.  This unholy desire got him “kicked out” of heaven and banished to the earth, if you will. So it’s no surprise that he had designs of his own to thwart the worship of God by the viceroys God had created in the form of man and woman. Described as “crafty” and “subtle”, the Serpent set out to divert the eyes of the first married couple away from their Source of Life and it began with his own claims of what was “right”.  Following were lies about the goodness of God and the character of God, which meant, so he reasoned,  they could take their eyes off of the Creator and become what they wanted to be. 

Isn’t that still the prevalent message of the age we live in now? You can become what you want to be by simply turning your attention to whatever it is you deem necessary to accomplish the goal. The result of this philosophy is that you simply become what you worship. This profound truth is something I’ve heard recently and has impacted the way I think about the life I’ve been given. We all worship (turn our gaze toward) the Creator, or we worship ourselves. Self-worship means seeking the approval of others, our own comfort, and the search for purpose and meaning. These play out in the careers we choose, the relationships we form, the causes we champion, the hobbies we engage in, the religious activities we commit to, the foods we eat, the material possessions we acquire, and the entertainment we occupy ourselves with. We are trying to replace God as our life source with things and people in creation that can not fill the demands. That’s why we are all guilty of trying to experience so many things in life. It’s because we view this life, of which we have no idea how long it will last, as the opportunity to find fulfillment. 

The idea for “You become what you worship” was something I recently read in the following Desiring God blog which was about how our smart phones are changing us. I recommend reading it and considering what you really want to become not only in this life, but in the life here-after. Biblical Christianity has often been castrated of it’s power as it has been reduced to the heaven or hell question. Frankly, no one wants to go to hell so I find this gospel reduction rather unhelpful, and even dangerous. But when you begin to see that this whole world and it’s inhabitants have meaning in purpose as worshippers of Someone who is infinitely Good, Just, and Right, then the question of what you do with your life is much closer to Jesus’ question “what does it profit a man who gains the whole world but loses his own soul”.  The soul is not some glowing orb locked in a briefcase (Pulp Fiction reference), but it is your very being. It’s that invisible person hidden in the cocoon. It is what you eventually will be, and there is no turning back at that point. You and I are being formed into something so beautiful mortal minds cannot comprehend it. Image bearers! It doesn’t look pretty for any of us at the moment as we are more larval than lovely. But we were created to be Image Bearers of the most High and Holy God, which can only happen when the mirrors of our souls are pointed straight at him in endless worship. 

In Eden, the mirrors were knocked off-axis resulting in a fractured universe. Since then, all of mankind is inherently unable to bear the image of the Creator as he is unwilling to do so. We can only reflect brokenness because that’s all we can see.  Those glass shards disperse rays of light in a million directions and we spend our lives chasing down every one of them. Solomon called them vanities. Thankfully, our Creator put the plan of restoration and redemption in place immediately with the promise of the Serpent’s crushed head and his endless lies. At first glance, it seems the human experiment was just that. It would seem that God’s attempt to make man in his likeness was a failure, but his designs were not frustrated by our fragmented natures. There was a Man, the promised Seed, who maintained the pristine reflection as the incarnated Deity that he was and still is.  He redeemed broken mirrors and remade them into Holy reflections.  He bruised his heel while becoming sin for us, and crushed the Serpent’s head in order that we might become the Image Bearers we were always meant to be.

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Identity

4671-tree-water It's been 2 years since I stepped down as worship leader of our last church and I have to say it's been the absolute best thing God has done in our lives.  God has revealed the idols in my heart and needless to say is chipping them away.  It is indeed a slow and painful process because I put a lot of years of hard work in to building them.  John Calvin gets credit for one of the best observations ever made in post canon theology. He said, "The human heart is a factory of idols…Everyone of us is, from his mother's womb, expert in inventing idols."

The idols I have created are far too many to name, but I will let you in on one of them.  One of my biggest idols has been identity seeking. Before I was in ministry, I developed a pattern of moving from job to job.  I would be content for 2 or 3 years until I realized it wasn't fulfilling enough.  Instead of sticking it out and enduring the trials I was facing which usually centered around my relationships with superiors, I opted for lateral movement hoping something would click inside and I would settle down.  After being laid off from a company after 8 years of employ, I bounced around some more all the while thinking that my musical gifts had to be the ticket to escaping this volatile existence.  I thought that once I became a vocational worship leader that my heart would be filled, that my identity would be fulfilled. Many good folks along the way were enablers to maintaining the sheen of this idol.  Anytime someone complimented something I did or a song I performed, my idol was being polished. It wasn't their intent, but I was more than willing to let them.  I wish I could say my motivation behind serving in the church has always been to lead people to Christ, but mostly it has been done to lead people to myself. 

As a worship leader, I soon realized the frustration in securing my idenity through my career.  The biggest problem in finding your identity in anything other than Christ is that there is always opposition. There is no clear path to finding yourself in this world or anything in this world apart from Jesus.  You discover the opposition comes from other identity seekers like the people you work with and those you work for. The evolutionary theory almost seems plausible as the larger egos win out in a spiritual survivor of the fittest. 

I struggled mightily behind the scenes trying to reconcile my identity with the self-image I created. Thankfully the fork in the road arrived prior to the breaking point. Through wise counsel, I took the honest path which seemed to lead through the forest of uncertainty, while the disingenious path looked clear and comfortable. Now, here I am 2 years later and not where I expected to be. In fact, I would have fought this path tooth and nail 5 years ago.

Someone asked me recently if I enjoyed my job.  I told him that I don't enjoy what I do,  but I have more joy in the midst of what I'm doing if that makes any sense.  I want a life like that tree in Psalms, the one planted by the stream.  Though it's leaves wither, the tree never dies. It flourishes in all seasons. That's my desire, to not only weather the conditions of each seasonal turn, but to flourish in fruit-bearing joy. That is the identiy I long for.