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The High Cost Of Success
Being successful in the Christian life is not something like being successful in the life of the world. Succeeding as a Christian is exactly what the word implies. That is becoming Christlike. Any other measure we rely on other than Christ-likeness is a deadly delusion. The problem we face as we develop the character and nature of Christ is that it often brings social and financial success. The fatal result that often follows is that little by little we can allow these false measures of what success is to replace the simple and charming nature of our wonderful Lord.
2 Cor. 10:12 a.m
12 For we dare not make ourselves according to the number, or compare ourselves with some who commend themselves;
Possessions, positions and titles almost universally feed our pride. However, the qualities of Christ-likeness often bring these things to us in ever-increasing measures, especially in the Church world. The only true cure for this potentially destructive cycle is for the dear Holy Spirit to reveal in us the full depravity of our flesh and flesh man. We see this blessed revelation of the Holy Spirit in the Apostle Paul’s assessment of himself. He begins his ministry by saying: “I am the least of the Apostles.” Serving the Lord in the capacity of a famous Apostle for many years he could say: “I am the least of the saints”, and towards the end of his life he cried out: “I am the chief of sinners”. Now my friend, that is what I call biblical success.
These gradually humiliating declarations of the Apostle were not the cry of false humility. No, it was a true result of the activity of the Holy Spirit in his life. The path to true self-worth lies fully and completely in seeing ourselves as the Father sees us. Ultimately it is through the life and work of his beloved, “Son in whom He is well pleased.”
Finally to walk in this truth is to stop the deadly measuring system in which the Church is walking today. The so-called spirit of success and competition, of measurement and interference only brings death to the security of the Father’s love and approval.
It is quite easy to see how much we have fallen into the false measurement system by how we respond to either praise or criticism. When we dwell in the love of the Father and trust only in his Christ-forming process, we are neither wounded by the critical tongue nor swayed by the praises of men.
44 How can you believe, who receive honor from one another, and do not seek the honor that comes from God alone?
Do you think it could be possible that the Lord would allow criticism in our life, so that we would learn to know how little we live in His standard of approval through His Son rather than the approval of man? Indeed, we see almost all Old Testament characters experience severe criticism and rejection as they began to follow the Lord in their destiny. Joseph, Moses, and David are prime examples of this pattern. Rejection for many believers becomes the true test of how much the character and nature of Jesus Christ has been formed in us. How we respond to criticism and rejection is a true measure of our Christ-like growth. It is indeed a sad thing to know that most of us become defensive and even sometimes abrasive when faced with unfair criticism.
Let us not pass this test of criticism too quickly. Because when we are able to wisely face correction that comes to us through righteous means, and quickly willingly make the changes required by the Holy Spirit and at the same time distinguish the difference between unjust judgment, we are indeed on the right path.
Do we get our feelings hurt easily? Do we feel discouraged when others speak ill of us? If this is true, then it is clear that we have not learned to trust our identity in Jesus Christ as much as we need to. We will know that the Holy Spirit has done His complete work in us when we are no longer defensive or touchy when faced with correction or criticism. You might say, “But it’s natural to get our feelings hurt and it’s natural to get defensive.” Yes, it is, but we are not called to live by the natural man, we are called to live a supernatural life in Christ.
A few days ago I experienced one of the most life changing moments in my 42 years of ministry. It happened when I asked the Lord. This is what I asked. I said, “Lord, why do I feel and experience a much greater degree of your presence when I failed you and came in repentance and brokenness before you?” The answer is of course very simple, “We recognize our helpless and hopeless situation to such an extent that we know that Christ does not help us, that we are lost”. In other words we are truly humbled. However, that’s not what changed me. What brought me into this life changing experience was when the Lord said, “Son, what you don’t understand is that when you seek to serve me with what you think is best, that is the same as bringing me your worst sin – your best and your worst are still completely unacceptable to my justice.” Do you see it? What the Lord said to me, what matters is not what you consider your good points; no, your identity and your value is entirely in my estimation of you in Christ. When I said, “This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased,” I said that of all my children, if they trust only in the finished work of my Son. All your other offerings to me, whether they are your greatest gifts, sacrifice, service or even supposed anointing, are offensive to me if they are not brought by the sacrifice of my Beloved Son.”
Heavenly Father, thank you for helping us to see how often we value the praises of people more than the truth of who we are in you. We now became aware of a path that led us into dissatisfaction and frustration. As one of your servants said, “The ledge of men’s praises is a delicate and dangerous place to stand upon.” Consider the same men who wanted to crown Jesus king one day wanted to crucify him the next!
Father, when you said: “Blessed are the poor in spirit, because theirs is the kingdom of heaven”, you did teach us that your kingdom is based on humility. Teach us to receive those lessons which are designed to teach us humility. However, with that humility should be godly boldness based on the finished work of Christ.
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