Crucify My Ego Lord

Text:  James 4:7-5:6

What does it mean when we say, “That person has a big ego?”  The word ‘ego’ properly defined is a person’s sense of self-esteem or self-importance.  Ego is when a person thinks, feels and is willing to distinguish themselves from others.  When a person defines himself as separate from the outside world and considers himself or herself as the center of the universe, they have a large ego.  A big ego says, “I am better than you.”  A large ego compels us to be self-sufficient and it drives us to make plans for the unholy trinity of, “me, myself, and I.”  The ego causes us to fight for self, drives competitions and also leads to the destruction of others.  Technically, the word Ego in the language of Greek is, “I.”

Last night as I was preparing this sermon I decided to do a search on Google that is to search the internet, for the people who have big egos.  I typed in, “Who has the biggest ego in the world?”  In response to this my search yielded me people such as: Simon from the music competition American Idol, Donald Trump, Oprah, Barrack Obama, Kim Kardashian, Paris Hilton, Glenn Beck, Terrel Owens, and so forth.  Now I am sure that we could all role our eyes at these celebrities for the next 20 minutes and we could certainly add many more to this list.  However, though, to be totally fair each and every one of us also has an ego.  Some have larger egos than others.  The reason why we all have an ego is that our egos are fueled by our sinful nature that continually bends ourselves inward.  Our sinful nature calls out to us to live for ourselves, to do what we want, when we want and for whatever reason we want.  It cries out to us that we are special and that we are unlike everyone else, that the world, the region, the city, the work place, the church, and the family should revolve around us. 

Now, it is to no surprise to us that when we read our verses from the epistle of James that it rubs against our egos.  The message of James runs completely the opposite direction of where our ego points us.  More specifically, in verse 7 James is calling you and I to submit ourselves to God.  Verse 7 sets the tone for this entire portion of scripture.  James is calling each and every one of us to voluntarily place ourselves under the authority of God.  James is calling us to place ourselves under the leadership, direction and under the will of God’s Word.  To submit is to be put in subjection to God.  To submit is to be in the control of God and to yield to God’s Law.  But doesn’t this go completely against our ego?  Seriously, doesn’t this mean that we are to give up our ego entirely?  You see, what James is calling for is that you and I give up ourselves completely, totally and without hesitation or condition.  To submit to God means to deny yourself, to deny your ego, to deny “I” and take your will, desires, thoughts, words and actions, gifts and abilities—your entire being—and place all of it at the disposal of Almighty God. 

Not only is James calling us to submit to God, he is also calling Christians, like you and me, to come near to God.  He is not demanding a partial coming near, but one that is complete and final.  He is calling that you and I to approach God in humility, acknowledging our total unworthiness and helplessness. 

There are some implications to this submission too.  By placing ourselves underneath the authority and rule of God, this also means that you and I are to be a servant of all!  In submission to God we are to live in humility, humility that demands that we place ourselves in service to those around us.  In humility we are to serve our friends, fellow employees at work, our family and stranger with all that we have.  This is especially true in how we speak of others.  We are called to put the best construction on others for when we speak evil of another person we are showing a lack of love and a lack of humility.  When we speak evil of another, this is portraying an attitude that says that we are equal to God’s position of authority.

So, my friends, how are you doing with this?  How are you doing at submitting to God, walking in humility, and denying yourself?  Are you 50% there, maybe 60% there?  Also, how has your consistency been?  Keep in mind that James calls for complete submission.  He is not watering this submission idea down.  There is no room for mediocrity.  So how are you doing?  The Epistle of James is definitely hard to swallow.  James sets forth some 51 commands for us to follow, eleven of which on in our text today.  James is calling us to submission, he is calling us to turn from evil, and he is calling us to humility and service towards our neighbor.  For you and me we can agree that this is good, this is God’s will for you and me as Christians.  In other words, what James lays forth is good, there is no doubt about it that this is God’s perfect and holy will for you and me.  So, how is this going for you?  How are you doing at fulfilling this?  How are you doing at submitting?  How are you doing at being humble and serving others? 

It is pretty evident that anytime that God’s will is laid out for us, we can agree with it and recognize that it is good.  We may also glean some great insights of what living the Christian life looks like, things that we have not understood before.  Furthermore, I would highly doubt that anyone here today would not agree with the idea of submitting to God and the idea of speaking honorably about our neighbor.  As a church we are blessed with the fact that we can with great unity confess that God’s will is right, good and true.  The problem that arises though in our congregation is that we desire to do what is good and true, but then when the rubber meets the road, we simply do not do what is right and what is commanded of us.  It is as if we end up doing the exact opposite of what we desire to do and what is right.

My friends, our egos stand in direct opposition to submitting to God.  Our egos and our desire to be self-sufficient can’t stand the idea of being underneath someone else.  If you doubt this just try the following.  Next time you are in a group of people, announce to them that you are the most important person in the group and that you demand that they all follow your will and your desires.  Watch what happens!  J  It is no different with God.  We want to be the master and commander not of our own ship but of our own lives.  We don’t want to let go of the steering wheel and demand that we are capable of being self-sufficient.  We fight being submissive to others and fight to have people submissive to our will.  We don’t want to be controlled but want to control others.

God’s people of every generation have been unfaithful to His will, this is not new.  Simply look to the Old Testament and we see thousands of illustrations of people’s ego and the resistance of following God’s will.  Now, in our text for today James is not calling us to turn to ourselves and our own ego to do more works to be forgiven, but instead calls us to return to the Lord in repentance.  I have said this before and I will say it again, our sinful nature does not need to be reformed.  The goal in the Christian life is not to get the sinful nature to behave better or to be more submissive. The goal in the Christian life is not to get our ego to be more humble or to submit to God.   Our ego, that is our sinful nature, will not submit and cannot submit to God.  Our sinful nature doesn’t believe the Gospel and won’t.  Trying to get our ego to be humble and submit to God is like trying to put a square peg in a round hole.  What needs to happen to us is that first and foremost we need forgiveness for not submitting to God.  We need our sinful nature along with all of its sin to be crucified.  Our ego needs to be put to death. 

Therefore, hear the Gospel.  You and I who rebel and fail to submit to God have been forgiven by the Christ, who submitted perfectly to the Father on our behalf.  You and I are forgiven by a Savior who submitted Himself to the penalty of sin [our sin] which is death [our death] on a cross. 

Secondly, hear the good news in Galatians 2:20 that you and I, “…have been crucified with Christ.  It is no longer I [ego] who live, but it is Christ who lives in me.  And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.”  My friends, we are daily crucified in Christ. Our ego along with its desires of self-sufficiency, pride, self-importance and competition are daily put to death in the cross of Jesus.  We can confess as a prayer today, “Lord God thank you for forgiving me.  Thank you Jesus for being obedient for me and Lord please continually crucify my ego so that I may submit to you.  Lord God continually crucify my ego so that I may serve my neighbor.  Lord God daily create in me a clean heart and renew a right spirit within me!” 

My friends in the Gospel, we have confidence not based on our own performance on how well we submit, but we have confidence in the Savior that submitted for us.  Because Jesus had to die for us, we are humbled out of our pride.  Because Jesus was glad to die for us, we are loved out of our need to prove ourselves.  Jesus, being completely obedient to the Father, has done everything for your salvation.  Given such a great Savior—why should you not freely, joyfully and with all of your heart and with an eager will submit to God to receive more and more grace?  We can submit because Jesus submitted to our death and condemnation. 

By faith we no longer live, for we live in Christ praising God’s precious will and serving our neighbor.

Sources: The Advent of Humility (Keller) ~ Sermon Studies on the Epistles: Series B (NWP) ~ LSB (CPH)