Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Don't get wasted is Ash Wednesday. Funny thing is that, as I was driving into work this morning I realized that, though I have been a Christian for the vast majority of my life, I have absolutely NO idea what the significance of this day is. So, I endeavored to find out. I called a buddy of mine, Andrew Arndt, who is the Associate Pastor at Sanctuary Church in Tulsa to try to get some clarity on this whole deal. It was enlightening to say the least.

We all die. There it is, plain and simple. No one likes to think about that, nor do we like to confront the realities of our mortality, but the truth is the truth- we will all kick the bucket at some point (Thank you Jack Nicholson and Morgan Freeman). At the point of that death, the Bible indicates that we will stand before a Holy God and face judgment for how our lives were lived while on the earth. Therefore, the crux of Ash Wednesday is summed up in this passage from Genesis 3:19

"for dust you are
and to dust you will return.”

But, more than that, the question that it begs (as Andrew so graciously pointed out) is, what did we do with those passing moments we had on this earth? What did we do with the gift of God called life while we were living it? Now, I'm not talking about adhering to some moralistic code of ethics. I'm not talking solely about whether or not we were nice to our siblings, or gave money to the homeless guy, or kicked the neighbor's stupid dog for barking in the middle of the night for absolutely no reason and keeping half the neighborhood awake on the eve of one of the most important nights of your young life (what- too specific?). No, I am talking about the things that matter- the eternal things.

A rather popular quote within Christianity is "only what is done for God will last." How true. If it is true that God is eternal and His plan for humanity has been playing out for His glory and our good since before time began, then wouldn't it make sense that anything we try to do outside of that plan and outside of a devotion to Him would be utterly futile? Wouldn't it make sense that whatever we do apart from Him would ultimately be destined for failure in the eternal sense? But where does that leave us?

I propose this- that a life submitted to the purposes of God is worth more than all the "success" and accolades that humanity can bestow upon us. I submit that there is a purpose to which each of us has been called and that it is a part of a bigger purpose for the glory of God in the story of mankind. I submit that all of our dreams and ambitions, our talents and ideas, our hopes and our vision, when rightly given over to the God that gave them all to us in the first place, can be a part of something amazing. Now, I dare not define "amazing" in the sense that the rest of humanity does. Yes, for some that will mean accolades and esteem, with their names being lauded and shouted from rooftops (proverbial or real). But, there are still countless others who will live their lives in relative silence, without the world ever knowing their names, or what they did to advance the cause of Christ. But what makes either of these positions better or worse? Nothing but our perception.

We, in our prideful and narcissistic states, long for recognition. We want to be the ones that are known, the ones that are lifted up, the ones whose impact is seen as "making a difference" in someone's life. But, beyond our own selfish ambition, the question that begs is why? We have become so good at masking our selfish hearts within seeming altruistic intentions, believing that if we fool enough people into believing that we just want "the betterment of humanity" and the "glorification of God" by our ambitions, then we have done something for the kingdom. But God doesn't need our ambition, he needs our submission.

Paul in Philippians 2:17 says "Yet even if I am being poured out like an offering as part of the sacrifice and service I offer for your faith, I rejoice, and I share my joy with all of you." There is no ambition here, no pride gilded in tarnished altruism, no desire for the glorification of self. Paul is quite simply desiring to be whatever God would have him to be so that some might be saved. Where is that in my life?

Where is my desire to simply be a conduit for the glory of God to be revealed? Where is my desire to simply be a part of the story of God's power and plan in humanity, regardless of how my part in that story plays out? Where is my desire to simply be "poured out" upon whomever and whatever He chooses? Have I become so guilty of setting sights on things below that the things above lose their luster? Have I become so ensconced in this world (which is but a vapor) that its picket fences, comfortable living, and recognition are all that matter? Am I wasting my life in the pursuit of that which will bring moments of fleeting fancy while on this earth, but leave no one with an impact that will last into their eternity?

John Ortberg by way of Andrew sad something that will probably resonate with me for quite some time. In the pursuit of God's glory and purpose in our lives, it should be our purpose and our chief aim to "be poured out and not wasted." May that ever be my prayer.

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