“Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord”- 1 Corinthians 1:31 (ESV)
I recently took my two boys to see the new Lego Batman Movie. It was a fantastic way to spend a night out with my “dudes” (their words).
The film was a great mix of kid-friendly features (I mean, what genius marketing to combine Legos and superheroes, two foolproof attractions for boys, into one overpriced film!) and snarky, adult-friendly humor. As the name suggests, Batman sits at the center of movie’s storyline, soundly defeating every would-be evildoer that comes his way and saving the good people of Gotham City, over and over and over again.
He does a lot of good, and everyone in turn thinks he is great- most of all, Batman himself. From an opening sequence where he saves Gotham while singing and rapping an anthem (to himself) called “Who’s The (Bat)Man,” it is clear throughout the movie that the Dark Knight’s “drug of choice” is the undying adulation to which (in his mind) his heroics have entitled him. It is, in short, the fuel that keeps him going day after day, year after year, in the superhero life.
Now aside from a providing a couple hours of laughs, this obviously over-the-top character got me thinking- How often do we live our lives, especially in relationship to God, in much the same way? To be more specific, how often do we do the “godly things” we do as a means to inflate our own egos, make an impression on others, and most dangerously and deceptively of all, entitle God to love and accept us? How often do we set ourselves up as the hero of our own life and faith? Perhaps we’ve learned how to dress it up a bit more subtly than Batman, but I’m concerned that for too many of us (including myself!), the heart is far too much the same.
In his letter to the church at Corinth, Paul warns us of this universal temptation to “make much of ourselves”- and often to use God to do it! He exhorts the Corinthians in 2:1-5…
“And I, when I came to you, brothers, did not come proclaiming to you the testimony of God with lofty speech or wisdom. For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified. And I was with you in weakness and in fear and much trembling, and my speech and my message were not in plausible words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and power, so that your faith might not rest in the wisdom of men but in the power of God.”
So against the backdrop of Batman’s self-glorifying antics and Paul’s Holy Spirit-inspired warning, here’s a question for all of us to consider carefully today- Who is the “hero” of your faith? That is, when others interact with you, hearing your speech and observing your actions, whose “glory” do they see and hear most on display? Is it you, or is it “Jesus Christ and Him crucified”? Here are a few questions to help you “keep it real” on this…
- When you speak of your salvation, is your focus on God’s gracious provision or on your work in “getting your life right”?
- When you speak of your growth in Christian maturity, is your focus on God’s power to transform or your efforts to “become a better person”?
- When you do something good or godly, are you immediately tempted to tell someone about it (or to make it more timely, to post something about on social media for everyone to see)? If so, why? What are you seeking to gain?
- When you read the Bible, do you read primarily with yourself in mind, or with God in mind? In other words, who is at the “center of the story”?
- When you share your faith with others, is your focus on everything they need to do, or on everything that God has done on their behalf?
I want to take care here not to be misunderstood in what I am saying. I am not contending that we have no personal responsibility in following Jesus, or that it is always wrong to share of our successes and victories on that journey. After all, the Bible does tell us in Matthew 5:16 to “let our light shine before men,” but let’s take care to read the reason we are to do so- “so that others might see our good works and praise our Father who is in heaven.” In other words, it should always come back to Him- His grace, His power, His glory. Jesus alone is worthy to be the “hero” of our lives!