Your Exalted Ego No Longer Lives, For You Have Been Crucified With The Humble Christ

Text: James 4:7-5:6

In the name of Jesus.  Amen.

What do we mean when we refer to a person’s ‘ego?’  Yes, the word ‘ego’: E-G-O – Ego.  The word ‘ego’ properly defined is a person’s sense of self-esteem or self-importance.  An ego is made up of what a person thinks and feels about himself or herself.  An ego is what distinguishes a person from others. 

Now, when a person defines himself or herself as separate from the outside world and then considers himself or herself as the center of the universe, they are considered to have a large ego.  For example, a big ego says, “I am better than you.”  An overly inflated ego compels one to be self-sufficient and it drives a person to make plans for ‘self.’  The magnified ego causes a person to fight for precious self, drives competition, and also leads to the destruction of others.  Technically, the word Ego in the language of Greek is, “I.”

In thinking about big egos—egomaniacs that is—it is easy for us to think of people like: Simon Cowell of American Idol, Donald Trump, Oprah, Barrack Obama, Kim Kardashian, Madonna, Paris Hilton, LeBron James, and so forth.  Just mentioning these names causes all of us to roll our eyes, for these celebrities and athletes definitely flaunt egocentric attitudes.  I’m sure we could add many more to this list.  However, though, to be totally fair each and every one of us is no different.  We also have an ego, even though it might be a bit tamer.  Some of us have larger egos than others, whereas others of us have quieter egos than other.  The reason why we all have an ego is that our egos are fueled by our sinful nature that continually bends ourselves inward.  That is right; our sinful nature calls out to us to live for ourselves, to do what we want, when we want to, and for whatever reason we want.  It cries out to us that we are super, special, and fantastic; that we are unlike everyone else, that the world, the region, the city, the work place, the school, 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 Epistle of James is tough on us that way.  It runs completely the opposite direction of where our inflated and self-centered egos point us.  More specifically, in James chapter 4 verse 7, we hear James calling you and me to submit ourselves to God.  You see, 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 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 ‘me, myself, and I.’  It means to 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 though.  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. 

So, my friends, with all of this said, 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 you are 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.  That is not how James rolls.  There is no room for mediocrity with James’ Epistle.  So how are you doing? 

The Epistle of James is definitely hard for us to swallow.  It sobers us up; it awakens us from our spiritual slumbering.  James sets forth some 51 commands for us to follow, eleven of which are 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 before us that 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 still remains though is that in our congregation—that is in you and me—we desire to do what is good and true, but when the rubber meets the road we simply do not do what is right.  It is as if we end up doing the exact opposite of what is right.

My friends, the point of fact is this, our egos—our sinful natures—stand in direct opposition to submitting to God.  Our egos and our desire to be self-sufficient cannot 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!  You see, it is no different with God.  According to our sinful natures we want to be the master and commander not of our own ship but of our own lives.  We do not want to let go of the steering wheel.  We insist and demand that we are capable of being self-sufficient before God.  We fight being submissive to others and we fight to have people submissive to our will.  We do not want to be controlled but want to control others.

This is not a problem unique to just us.  God’s people of every generation have been unfaithful to God’s will.  Simply look to the Old Testament and we see thousands of illustrations of people’s ego and the resistance of following God’s will. 

Keep in mind though, that James is not calling us to turn to grab ahold of our bootstraps and our egos to do more works to be forgiven, but instead He 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—our self-centered egos—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 does not believe the Gospel and will not.  Trying to get our ego to be humble and submit to God is like trying to put a square peg in a round hole.  It isn’t possible. 

Therefore, what needs to happen to us is that first and foremost we need forgiveness for not submitting to God.  Furthermore, we need our sinful nature along with all of its sin to be crucified.  Our ego needs to be put to death. 

. . .

My dear family of Zion Lutheran, 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’s will on your behalf.  You are forgiven completely, totally, and entirely by the Savior who submitted Himself to the penalty of your sin.  You are forgiven completely, totally, and entirely by the Savior that submitted Himself to death on a cross—your death.  You are forgiven by the Savior that submitted to the Father’s love for you. 

Blessed Baptized Saints, it is true!  You have been crucified with Christ.  It is no longer you—your ego—that lives, but it is Christ who lives in you.  And this life that you now live in the flesh, you live by faith in the Son of God, who loved you and gave Himself for you. 

Daily you and I are crucified in Christ. Our ego along with its desires of self-sufficiency, pride, self-importance and competition are daily put to death, as we are repented and gifted faith by the Holy Spirit through the Word. 

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 humbly went to the cross, we are humbled out of our pride. 

Because Jesus loved us on the cross, we are loved out of our apathy.

Because Jesus died, we are taken from death to life. 

Because Jesus was glad to die for you; you are esteemed out of our need to prove yourself.

Jesus, being completely obedient to the Father, has done everything for your salvation—you need not want, worry, or fear. 

May our prayer together as God’s beloved and redeemed be this: Lord God thank you for forgiving me.  Thank you Jesus for being obedient for me.  Thank you for submitting yourself to my sin, being made sin for me.  Please continually crucify my ego, causing me by your good grace to submit to you in all things. Continually crucify my ego so that I may serve my neighbor.  Create in me a clean heart and renew a right spirit within me! 

In the name of Jesus, who submitted Himself to the cross, Amen.

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