8/29/2010

A LITTLE LESS OF ME

Let me be a little kinder
Let me be a little blinder
To the faults of those around me
Let me praise a little more
Let me be when I am weary
Just a little bit more cherry
Think a little more of others
And a little less of me
(Recorded by Glen Campbell in 1965)

During the first year of our marriage Sue and I had a disagreement and neither of us was willing to yield any ground. Being young and na├»ve and having a traditional view of marriage, I went to prayer asking God to help her understand that she must submit to my God-ordained leadership. As I prayed in this manner, Paul’s exhortation for husbands to love their wives as Christ loved the Church suddenly stood before me with the words and gave Himself for her highlighted in bold letters (Eph. 5:25). I then heard the Holy Spirit say, “The problem is that you are not willing to let go of yourself.”

Finding Life by Losing Our Life

When I heard this message from the Lord I knew that my “I” or ego was standing in the way of resolution and peace. There had to be a little less (probably a whole lot less) of me in that situation and in the relationship in general. As I obeyed the Lord and “let go of myself” in that situation, it proved to be a life-changing experience. I began to learn the truth of what Jesus said in Mk. 8:35, Whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake and the gospel’s will save it (Mk. 8:35).

I was learning that “a little less of me” was to be, not a one-time thing, but a way of life. This did not mean that I was to be a doormat for other people, but that I could no longer live my life—my Christian life--from self-serving motives. I was learning what true Christianity is all about.

The Character of True Christianity

True Christianity is not about you or me, but about Christ, as Paul so succinctly delineates in Galatians 2:20 where he says, I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me (NKJV).

Interestingly, the Greek word for “I” is ego. What Paul is saying here is that his “I” or ego has been crucified with Christ and the “I” or ego is no longer the center of his life. Christ is now at the center of his life. Christ has replaced the “I” or ego as his reason and purpose for living, and it is no longer about Paul; it is now all about Jesus. Even the phrase, I live by faith in the Son of God, expresses this reality for Paul. It is in the genitive case and literally reads, I live by the faith of the Son of God. For Paul, even faith is no longer centered in himself but in Christ, and he lives by the faith of the Son of God.

It seems obvious that the North American church has not learned to live and walk in Galatians 2:20. It is still about us—our faith, our testimony, our ministry, our miracle, our revival, our church, etc., etc. I am convinced that it is this “I” or ego centered approach to Christianity that is holding back genuine Spiritual awakening in our nation. The Spirit of God is grieved when it is about us, and only superficially about Him. This was made very real to me by an experience I had a number of years ago.

We Grieve the Holy Spirit When It’s About Us

I had just preached in the Sunday evening service of a NE Texas church and was on my way home to the DFW area. As I drove along the dark two-lane highway, I noticed that I felt troubled in my spirit. My mind questioned, “Why?” “I should be happy and joyful,” I thought. “It was a good meeting.” Indeed, people seemed to be stirred by the message and a number responded to the invitation and some were weeping. “So why is my spirit so unsettled,” I asked as I drove along in the night.

Suddenly I heard the Holy Spirit speak on the inside of me, “You talked too much about yourself tonight.” I knew immediately what He meant. My message that night had been made up of personal stories of God’s blessing in my life and of miracle answers to prayer I had seen. I had not preached the word. Although it had sounded spiritual and had stirred some people’s emotions, it was too much about me. I had grieved the Holy Spirit by talking too much about myself and not enough about Jesus and His word.

Less of Me • More of Jesus

This experience sensitized me to the importance of keeping the focus on Jesus and His word. It made me realize that we can talk about miracles and answers to prayer and yet grieve the Holy Spirit if the message or testimony is really centered in “me” and not in Him. I realized in a new and fresh way that there must be “less of me” and more of Jesus in every area of my life, as John the Baptist so aptly stated in John 3:30.

Sometime after baptizing Jesus in the Jordan, someone came to John and informed him that the crowds were now giving their attention to Jesus rather than to him. John replied, He must increase, but I must decrease. We too must decrease so that He can increase in all areas of our lives. It is not easy, but it is only as we let go of our “self” for His sake that we will find our true self in Him.

In the 13th century, Francis of Assisi must have been struggling with “a little less of me” when he wrote:
O Divine Master,
Grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled as to console;
To be understood as to understand;
To be loved as to love.
For it is in giving that we receive;
It is in pardoning that we are pardoned;
And it is in dying that we are born to eternal life
.
(Prayer of Francis of Assisi)