The Bare Soul
March 6, 2011
Jeremiah 45:5 - "But you, are you seeking great things for yourself? Do not seek them; for behold, I am going to bring disaster on all flesh," declares the LORD, "but I will give your life to you as booty in all the places where you may go."
Nineteenth-century humanist writer William Hazlitt once said, "No really great man ever thought himself so." Even an atheist such as Hazlitt understood the simplicity of what makes someone great. The greatest Man who ever lived was someone who definitely knew who He was upon this earth. However, He also knew who He wasn't. Jesus Christ, even though God in all respects, chose not to regard Himself equal to God while He lived His life on earth. Instead, He chose to empty Himself and take on the life of a servant for all mankind (Philippians 2:5-7). Greatness, as understood in a man, will always be measured by the degree of humility one possesses. Without the sacrifice of self, there can be no true greatness. Ironically, anyone who seeks great things for themselves will never grasp what they seek. Only as one chooses to give themselves for others will the aforementioned find their respective place of greatness. Unfortunately, many judge greatness by outward recognition from others. They gauge their so-called success by the accolades they might garner. Once again, the benchmark is Jesus and how he emptied Himself and lived for others. He looked only to the Father and for His approval, rather than the empty praises of men.
What many don't realize is that in order to find God's greatness for their lives, one must seek little for themselves and much for God. Many abort God's goodness and His desires when they contradict His will and claim to know what will make them great in His kingdom. They argue they are working to build God's kingdom, but they are more correctly building their own little fiefdoms irrespective of the Lord. These attempt to leverage the power of God in their lives for their own ends, remaining shallow without much depth to show for their selfish efforts. They have refused to allow the Holy Spirit to dig a deep foundation in their lives by submitting to Him in humility (Matthew 7:24-27). As Jesus states in the parable of the two foundations, the criteria to live as a great man or woman of God is both hearing and acting upon God's word. As we die to self, God is then allowed to go a little deeper and to dig out the self-absorption that plagues us all. The stability of a man or woman who allows God to dig out self is sometimes not so apparent on the surface. However, there is a strength that prevents them from being moved by what anyone might say or do, both negative and positive. Their concept of greatness has been divorced from themselves and instead has been transfixed on the greatness of what God has done in their lives.
To seek greatness invites disaster, according to our lead verse. Those who build foundations upon the sands of pride and self-assertion are destined for destruction. Jesus' disciples allow us to understand through the Gospels how it is possible to be close to the Lord, hearing His words daily, but not acting upon them. In one particular instance, they manifested their shallowness and their relative "smallness" by seeking greatness for themselves. James and John were part of the Lord's inner circle, yet they had not received the word implanted which was able to save their souls (James 1:21). When the sons of Zebedee came before the Lord and sought preferred seating in Christ's kingdom, they revealed their hearts and their own "kingdom building" rather than seeking Christ's will (Mark 10:35-37). The disciples scorned James and John for their self-seeking. Jesus' response was a gentle reproof, stating ... whoever wishes to become great among you shall be your servant (Mark 10:43). This paradoxical statement must have flabbergasted the disciples! However, Jesus continued to model the attitude of a servant right up until the night before His death when He abased Himself by washing the disciples feet. A rabbi in ancient Palestine would never think to do such a thing. Yet, here was the most complete Man who ever lived doing just that! Jesus not only gave His disciples a lesson in greatness through servitude, but everyone who would read His example of humility in John 13. By seeking God's glory, Christ tells us that our flesh will die each time we submit to the Father's will regarding His greatness for our lives. If we will but "have this attitude in ourselves that was also in Christ Jesus", then God's disaster will not find us on that day when He judges all flesh. Beloved, it is hard to judge a dead man! And, if we are living dead to ourselves and to our sinful flesh, then we have already pronounced disaster to our own flesh (Jeremiah 45:5). As Jeremiah the prophet further states in our lead verse, we will then find our lives as "booty" because we have lost our sinful lives for Christ's sake (Matthew 16:25).
The door to greatness is not one that many feel comfortable entering. And, it shouldn't feel comfortable. If it does, then we have entered through a door of pride and our self-serving greatness will undoubtedly make us smaller than we would ever desire. However, if we seek God's greatness and to increase His glory upon this earth, a peculiar thing begins to occur. God will have begun His excavation within our souls to rid us of the last vestiges of our old sinful nature. He will then begin to backfill within us the peace and serenity of His presence that ensures us we have begun to partake of Him in a whole new way. Once a man or a woman is totally surrendered to God as a servant for all, there is no telling where their greatness will end. And most ironically, they will be shocked and dismayed that anyone would ever think of them in such a manner. They have entered into that sublime place of greatness through their smallness of stature, by not ingratiating themselves to their flesh and its desire to be a "somebody". However, before God, they will powerfully tower before their Maker as a servant for His good pleasure. May we all find this place of greatness, in humility before the Great King.
Heavenly Father, thank You for Jesus' example. Help us to get small so we can live in greatness before You. No matter what the world says, we don't care. We desire to spend our lives on You and to live as spiritual giants through humble service to You. Help us to be like Your Son. In Jesus' Name, Amen.
Your Barefoot Servant,
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