Wednesday, March 20, 2019

Take a Spiritual 'Selfie" This Lent!

Dear Friends,

Mental health professionals are concerned about a self-obsessed generation raised on the idea that they are special and who are fueling the “selfie” phenomenon. (a selfie is when you use your phone to take a photo of yourself) A clinical psychologist recently said, “If someone is obsessed with taking selfies, it is most likely because the individual is self-absorbed and narcissistic.” Selfies have become an early warning sign of Narcissistic Personality Disorder which involves a preoccupation with self and how one is perceived by others. Many who struggle with this disorder are obsessed with receiving recognition and gratification from one’s physical appearance and they are driven to create the “perfect” selfie to post on social media. Sadly, their self-worth and “celebrity status” among friends is determined by the amount of “likes” received.

Wherever we go these days, we see people taking photos of themselves. It is often annoying or inappropriate. Who can forget the photo of Michelle Obama’s icy glare when her husband was goofing around and taking selfies during Nelson Mandela’s memorial service? And one time a church pastor even took a selfie of himself and some church friends after a service that he put in an AMEN Corner that he wrote about “selfies.” Really! What’s up with that guy...

But unlike sharing the perfect selfie today that makes you look hot, cute or handsome, the Apostle Paul shared a “selfie” with the world that wasn’t very pretty. Paul’s selfie is authentically raw and deeply honest. He throws off all pretense and admits that he is “all too human, a slave to sin.” He confesses, “I want to do good but I don’t. I don’t want to do what is wrong, but I do it anyway.”  Romans 7:14-25 NLT Paul knows that he is “in Christ” and is no longer defined by his sins but deeply rooted within is his struggle with sin. It’s as if Paul is saying, “I’ve been following Jesus for twenty five years and I’m still messing up.” I don’t know if you can relate to that... I sure can. 

We are in our season of Lent that has evolved into a trite “giving up chocolate or ice cream” type of fast but in the ancient church it was so much more than that. It was a period of soul-searching and self-examination. It was not a guilt trip, but a spiritual time of remorseful repentance that is healing and life-changing. 

Paul was not probing into his struggles with sin in order to emotionally beat himself up. But he knew that there’s power in the unfiltered assessment of life. Paul shows us that when we take off our mask of awesomeness and take a raw and unfiltered spiritual selfie, we set our “self” aside and invite the healing power of Christ to come within. Paul said, “..I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ can work through me.” 2 Corinthians 12:9b 

Use this time during Lent to take a “spiritual selfie.”  An internal review of where you are doing well and where you might be missing the mark. Ask God to reveal even the slightest and seemingly innocuous sins that are offensive to Him. Use this time to ask the Holy Spirit to help you clear out what’s getting between you and God in order to allow more room for Him in your life. 

It’s only when we take that authentic spiritual selfie that we can see all our warts and blemishes. And that’s when we can truly come to love and appreciate the grace of God. It’s when we show our ugly spiritual selfie to God that He reaches out and gathers us in His arms. So now there is no condemnation for those who belong to Christ Jesus. And because you belong to Him, the power of the life-giving Spirit has freed you from the power of sin that leads to death. Romans 8:1-2 NLT

Sin no longer has a choke-hold on us. Through Christ Jesus, we are freed from the power of sin but never from the struggle with sin in this earthly life. It’s still a battle. And, we can choose righteousness or we can yield to evil. There is a Native American story about a conversation between a Cherokee grandfather and his grandson. The grandfather said, “There is a battle between the two wolves inside us all. One is evil. It is anger, jealously, greed, resentment, inferiority, lies and ego. The other wolf is good. It is joy, peace, love, hope, humility, kindness, empathy and truth.” The little boy thought about it for a minute and asked, “Grandfather, which wolf wins?” The wise old man looked at his grandson and replied, “Whichever one you feed.”

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