Friday, June 21, 2013

Individualitis; Stop Paying Attention to Yourself!

Mobilise 2013 - Main Meeting 5 - Andrew Wilson from Mobilise on Vimeo.

First, Andrew Wilson makes a great point about individualitis. The suffix, -itis, indicates the inflammation of something. Hence, tendinitis is an inflammation of a tendon or appendicitis is the inflammation of the appendix. Individualitis is the figurative inflammation, or undue attention given to, the individual over and against a corporate body.

Andrew Wilson is right that we tend to focus too heavily on ourselves. Children are naturally like this. Maturity is the growth away from thinking the world revolves around us to understanding how we can be useful to a group of people. Our culture is filled with immature people. With that observation, I’m going to be perfectly immature and talk about his message as though it were all about me.

First, he lists a group of people and says that Nehemiah isn’t mentioned. Nehemiah isn’t any more important than anyone else in the list. The problem I see with this is that Nehemiah’s name is still the name of the book. It’s wonderful, on the other hand that people can be involved with each other to create something beyond any of them. Wilson mentions the builder of the Dung Gate as the least one of these. My issue with this is I wish I had something as significant as a Dung Gate to build. Some of us aren’t even as important as the guy that built the Dung Gate.

Second, when you live in a society filled with individualists and you are trying to be a corporatist – I say “corporatist” because there are so few of them that there really isn’t a word for it – you will be marginalized. Individualists compete against one another to achieve the places of great importance. If you don’t compete, but really try to work with other people, you will be used by them to advance their importance. So the only way to be useful to God is to compete for the position to be useful. Now some of you might balk at what I’m saying so far. If so, you are being idealistic rather than realistic.

I keep bringing up Desiring God because some of their recent articles fit with what I’m saying. I love Desiring God ministries and appreciate all they do. Nevertheless, here’s an article talking about Self-Preoccupation. The message fits with Andrew Wilson’s teaching above. This is often what I think people would accuse me of. Jon Bloom has three very practical things to do in the process of not being self-preoccupied.

1.  “Deny yourself by getting your eyes off yourself.”

This presupposes that I’m paying attention to my own eyes. There must be a point at which we remain self-aware. I understand the concept, but Paul also instructs Timothy to keep a watch on himself and promote himself 1 Tim 4:11-16. Where is the line to be drawn? If you are having trouble bringing Paul’s admonition to Timothy to bear because of undue competition in the world, then the admonition to follow Matthew 16:24-25 is inappropriate.

2.  “Look to Jesus and all that God promises to do for you through him.”
God is all in all. In a desire for God, we must desire to serve him in all things. While God gives us gifts by virtue of the Holy Spirit who is in all believers, he doesn’t promise to use every last one of us. Paul indicates that it is the general ideal in passages such as 1 Corinthians 12 and 14 (most people miss the fact that 1 Corinthians 13 is in the middle of the larger discourse regarding using gifts in the Body of Christ, but that’s another issue altogether). So we can look at what Jesus has done for us, but we cannot expect that he will absolutely use every last one of us for his glory. How many people have been martyred for their faith without so much as a testimony? I assure you that they are out there and that most of us haven’t heard anything about them. How were they used? I know that’s an extreme example, but there is a difference between what is ideally prescribed and what is practically ordained.

Which leads to the last point:

3.  Serve others.

Except as I have already stated, there is no promise that we will be able to do this despite our desire to do it. I know of many ministers who are grateful for the ministries that they are able to do and all the people that they are able to minister to. But I know of many individuals who have no hope for ministry because of some physical or mental condition, for example. Speaking for myself, I know of no one who can say that I ministered to them. But if God doesn’t want me to minister, then I’ll just have to live with the frustration of having wanted to.

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