EGO: Edging God Out
On Good Friday, we examined whether Jesus left us a will, a will bequeathing everything He had to us, which included the awesome presence of God. We established that Jesus actually did exactly that. John 17:24 (NKJV) Father, I desire that they also whom You gave Me may be with Me where I am, that they may behold My glory which You have given Me; for You loved Me before the foundation of the world.
On Easter morning, we continued on that theme, and studied the characteristics of that inheritance. We found that our inheritance was explained beautifully in 1 Peter 1:4 (NKJV) to an inheritance incorruptible and undefiled and that does not fade away, reserved in heaven for you. We also looked at some of the things we have to do to claim that inheritance and make it legally and fully ours. 1 Peter 1:13-16 (NKJV) 13 Therefore gird up the loins of your mind, be sober, and rest your hope fully upon the grace that is to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ; 14 as obedient children, not conforming yourselves to the former lusts, as in your ignorance; 15 but as He who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, 16 because it is written, “Be holy, for I am holy.”
So we have established that we have inherited the presence of God, the love of the Father through Jesus Christ, we have established that if we just gird up the loins of our heart and fully rest upon the Grace that has been brought upon us through Jesus Christ, we can enjoy the benefits of that inheritance. But what is the reality? Are we always able to just rest on that Grace and fully enjoy God’s presence, His love, His goodness? We know the answer isn’t it? Over the next few sermons, I am going to examine, along with you, some of the things that prevent us from actually enjoying the inheritance Jesus left us.
Today, let us start with Ego. None of us have it right? What is ego? Ego is defined in dictionary as “a person’s sense of self-esteem or self-importance”. That is a very harmless, isn’t it? The problem happens when this self-esteem or self-importance becomes a bit inflated. That is really what happens in everyone’s case. It starts in a harmless manner and then it slowly inflates. And then we see ourselves taking credit for things that happened in our lives. We start using the “I” and “me” statements more often in our conversations. See what I have achieved. Look at my success… etc. One of the extreme examples can be found in Isaiah 14:13-14 (NKJV) 13 For you have said in your heart: ‘I will ascend into heaven, I will exalt my throne above the stars of God; I will also sit on the mount of the congregation On the farthest sides of the north; 14 I will ascend above the heights of the clouds, I will be like the Most High.’ Just count the number of times that Satan is using the term “I” in these two verses. We should not be surprised, because even today the world teaches us that contentment can come only by satisfying the urges of the self.
But let us get back to the original question that we wanted to investigate. How does ego prevent us from enjoying the inheritance that Jesus left us by dying on the cross for us?
There is a book Lead Like Jesus, written by Ken Blanchard and Phil Hodges. In this book, the authors explain that ego does an EGO. What does that mean? Our ego, Edges God Out. So EGO becomes a short form for Edging God Out. Ken Blanchard and Phil Hodges explain three ways in which ego Edges God Out.
- As the object of our worship: I am sure that we longer bow down to idols. But are we really rid of the modern idols? It is interesting that the command not to replace God as the object of our worship is actually the book ends of the bible, it is there at the beginning, when the Ten Commandments were given. Exodus 20:3-5 (NKJV) 3 You shall have no other gods before Me. 4 “You shall not make for yourself a carved image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth; 5 you shall not bow down to them nor serve them. For I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and fourth generations of those who hate Me. And it is there right at the end Revelation 2:4 (NKJV) 4 Nevertheless I have this against you, that you have left your first love. Despite this command being so clear in the Bible there are multiple times when we Edge God Out as the object of our worship and start worshipping other things. Money, position, admiration, possessions, exercise, job.. the list could go on and on. So this is the first way that we Edge God Out of our hearts.
- As a source of my security and self-worth: This is when we put our trust in something other than the character and unconditional love of our God. When we begin to trust in our intellect, our personal contacts, our relationships, our possessions etc to get us through life, instead of trusting in God alone.
In the book of 2 Kings Chapter 5, there is the story of two lepers. It is a story of Naaman, who was a Syrian commander, but was a leper. Based on the advice of a servant girl in his house hold, he goes and meets Elisha for healing. Elisha’s prescription was rather simple, go and take a bath in the Jordan seven times. Naaman initially gets angry but is finally persuaded by his friends to try the prescription out and it works. God does a miracle and heals Naaman of leprosy. Naaman is very happy and wants to pay Elisha a great gift. You will read in the story that he did come prepared to pay a price, however hefty it was. But Elisha refuses to take any gifts from Naaman and sends him off. Naaman takes some soil from Elisha’s place so that he can worship Elisha’s God when he is back. Here we see a conversion story of one leper who saw the same miracle. However Gehazi, the servant of Elisha has a different agenda. He is very unhappy that his master let off the Syrian without taking any money. So he decides to take things into his own hands and runs after Naaman, tells a direct lie and collects a huge amount of money from him and hides it in the house. When Elisha asks Gehazi where he had been, he tells another lie to the master. Gehazi has seen the same miracle that Naaman has seen. It would have been a perfect time for him to give glory to the Lord, instead Gehazi decides to put his trust in the silver that Naaman was carrying with him. And we know the ultimate result. 2 Kings 5:26-27 (NKJV) 26 Then he said to him, “Did not my heart go with you when the man turned back from his chariot to meet you? Is it time to receive money and to receive clothing, olive groves and vineyards, sheep and oxen, male and female servants? 27 Therefore the leprosy of Naaman shall cling to you and your descendants forever.” And he went out from his presence leprous, as white as snow. We see here Naaman, who did not know the Lord at all, coming to trust the Lord , gets miraculously cured of leprosy . We also see Gehazi, who was always with Elisha and has seen many miracles that the Lord has done through Elisha, and yet trusting in his own intelligence and some silver for his security.
And there are many other places where the Bible warns us about this. Psalm 146:3 (NKJV) tells us not to put our trust in powerful people. 3 Do not put your trust in princes, Nor in a son of man, in whom there is no help. Jeremiah 17:5-6 (NKJV) is even more direct and clear. 5 Thus says the LORD: “Cursed is the man who trusts in man And makes flesh his strength, Whose heart departs from the LORD. 6 For he shall be like a shrub in the desert, And shall not see when good comes, But shall inhabit the parched places in the wilderness, In a salt land which is not inhabited. And the Lord immediately provides the solution in Jeremiah 17:7-8 (NKJV) 7 “Blessed is the man who trusts in the LORD, And whose hope is the LORD. 8 For he shall be like a tree planted by the waters, Which spreads out its roots by the river, And will not fear when heat comes; But its leaf will be green, And will not be anxious in the year of drought, Nor will cease from yielding fruit. This is the second way we Edge God out with our ego.
- As my audience, my ultimate authority and my judge: The third way we Edge God out our hearts is by playing to the wrong audience, rather than to God. By becoming people pleasers than God pleasers. We start valuing others opinions more than God’s. Jesus explains the hypocrisy of the Pharisees in Matthew 23:5-7 (NKJV) 5 But all their works they do to be seen by men. They make their phylacteries broad and enlarge the borders of their garments. 6 They love the best places at feasts, the best seats in the synagogues, 7 greetings in the marketplaces, and to be called by men, ‘Rabbi, Rabbi.’
Another way of Edging God out as our audience is by giving priority to our self will above that of the will of God. In 1 Samuel Chapter 15, God tells King Saul , to go and annihilate the Amalekites. However Saul falls prey to the people pleasing ways and as described in 1 Samuel 15:9 (NKJV) 9 But Saul and the people spared Agag and the best of the sheep, the oxen, the fatlings, the lambs, and all that was good, and were unwilling to utterly destroy them. But everything despised and worthless, that they utterly destroyed. Samuel comes to know about this and questions Saul. Saul first hides the complete truth, but when Samuel confronts him with evidence, 1 Samuel 15:14 (NKJV) But Samuel said, “What then is this bleating of the sheep in my ears, and the lowing of the oxen which I hear?”, then Saul agrees but justifies his action. 1 Samuel 15:15 (NKJV) 15 And Saul said, “They have brought them from the Amalekites; for the people spared the best of the sheep and the oxen, to sacrifice to the LORD your God; and the rest we have utterly destroyed.” This is the third way that we Edge God Out when we have ego issues.
So let us summarize. We have been given a great inheritance through Jesus Christ and what He did on the Cross and the empty tomb. But our ego can really prevent us from enjoying the inheritance fully, because our ego will completely Edge God Out from our hearts and life. There is only one way to prevent that, and that is through another EGO, ie, Exalting God Only. Keep God alone as the object our worship, Exalt God alone as the source of our security and self-worth and Exalt God alone as the omniscient audience and judge of our life decisions. Jesus himself knew this and practiced this while on this earth. John 5:19-20 (NKJV) 19 Then Jesus answered and said to them, “Most assuredly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of Himself, but what He sees the Father do; for whatever He does, the Son also does in like manner. 20 For the Father loves the Son, and shows Him all things that He Himself does; and He will show Him greater works than these, that you may marvel. Again in John 5:30 (NKJV) 30 I can of Myself do nothing. As I hear, I judge; and My judgment is righteous, because I do not seek My own will but the will of the Father who sent Me.
Shall we examine our hearts this morning and see all the ego issues that prevent us from worshipping our God, enjoying His presence, Enjoying His love, and seek Jesus’ help to let our hearts Exalt God Only?
Let us pray
Benediction: 2 Thessalonians 2:16-17 (NKJV) 16 Now may our Lord Jesus Christ Himself, and our God and Father, who has loved us and given us everlasting consolation and good hope by grace,
17 comfort your hearts and establish you in every good word and work.