Ego won't leave me alone. He lurks in the neglected corners of my heart. Out of the shadows, he whispers just loud enough to make sure he gets my attention. He’ll say things like, “You’re so good at ministry. Look at the scope of your leadership!" Or, "Your influence is growing. You're doing such a great job leading your team.”
TICKLING THE EARS
Ego likes to remind me of where I was a few years ago and how I’ve risen like a phoenix from the ashes in such a short time. He tells me my theology is solid and my leadership is gracious. He points out how helpful my preaching has been and how I’m just really hitting it out of the park. He tickles my ears by telling me exactly what I want to hear. Sometimes he doesn’t have to come up with his own material. He just reminds me of when so-and-so said this or that and then embellishes it to get me to think I’m really a big deal.
I like it when he does this, of course. Ego helps me feel valued, appreciated, successful, and important. I have a love-hate relationship with this little monster inside of me. The danger is that I enjoy having Ego around. I love the way he puffs me up but I hate that I believe him.
I know the scriptures speak of God hating the proud and how God will bring to nothing all those who raise themselves up against him. So I have to keep Ego in check. But doing so is difficult.
For the pilgrims who sung the Psalms of Ascent on their way towards the Holy Land, there could be a smug, self-congratulatory feeling upon reaching the temple in Jerusalem after the arduous journey. Arriving with the throngs to worship, feast, and celebrate could feel like a big deal. Like they had arrived in more than just the literal sense.
Much like those making the pilgrimage to Rome in Martin Luther’s day climbed the Sacred Steps to receive the plenary indulgences awaiting them at the top, the Hebrew pilgrims could bask in their own religious success. With their close friend Ego crouching in the corridors of their hearts, they could hear him whisper, “You did it! You’re so great. God must really love you now. Way to go!”
But pride has no place in worship. Worshiping God leaves no place for spiritual victory laps or trophy ceremonies. The final Psalm of Ascent puts Ego in his place and commands a way of living that shuts down the pilgrims' pride. The Psalmist declares,
“Now bless the Lord, all you servants of the Lord” (Ps. 134:1).
We get to the top, we feel the accomplishment of our spiritual journeys, and we hear, “Give glory to God! Praise him, you servant! Worship and exalt him in the holy place—not yourself!” We bless the Lord because, if we don't, we end up listening to Ego and blessing ourselves. That makes Ego the enemy, as one author recently put it.
EGO IS THE ENEMY
Ego is the enemy because he steals the spotlight intended for God and redirects our worship from the Lord to ourselves. This is why Jesus said, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me" (Lk. 9:23). The cross crushes Ego.
Blessing God—not ourselves—must be the attitude and posture of our whole lives. The Psalms of Ascent end with a reminder that it God who got us to the top. Psalm 134 reminds us that though we have begun leaving the lives we knew and receiving the blessing of God, it is not a result of our own accomplishments.
God did it. So he receives the glory. And when he receives the glory, we receive the blessing: “May the Lord, Maker of heaven and earth, bless you from Zion.”
What a way to conclude one year and embrace a new one! Let's praise and exalt God for his grace in working through us in 2018. In the last year, you may have lost weight, read the whole Bible, purchased a home, or learned to forgive. But let's not forget that blessings like these come from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth. We stand firm in our faith because of God, not our own self-righteousness. We get to “Zion” because of the blood shed by his son, Jesus, whose righteousness is imputed to us, and whose Spirit works to transform us into his image.
So we give glory and thanks and honor and worship to God. And yet, he pours out more blessings, as we've learned here at Gospel-Centered Discipleship during the last year.
GCD'S BLESSINGS IN 2018
As we've seen, all our accomplishments are a grace from God, and so we here at GCD give thanks to God for his kindness to us. As we abide in him, he makes us prosper and bear fruit. He graciously gives us the bandwidth to write and communicate the goodness of his mercy and grace. Before 2018 draws to a close, we want to take a look back at everything God has done through our work over the last twelve months—not to stroke our Ego, but to glorify God.
In October, we held our first ever Writers' Intensive in Louisville to foster a live environment for Christian writers and editors to learn in community about producing good, true, and beautiful content. At the Intensive, we heard from authors Jonathan Dodson, Hannah Anderson, and Mike Cosper. Our aim in the year ahead is to bring events and training like this to more of you around the country.
This was a year of huge growth for our readership and community. In 2018, we published two books and saw our site traffic grow by 50% to an average of 20,000 page views per month. That's thanks to God's blessing, first and foremost, and to you, our faithful readers. Page views are great, but they're not everything. Around here, we pray for God to increase our traffic inasmuch as what we're publishing brings him glory. I believe our growth this year is the result of publishing God-glorifying articles like "The Big God Behind Your 'Small' Ministry," and "'I Don’t Know How You Do It': God’s Grace for Foster Parents," and books like Walk With Me: Learning to Love and Follow Jesus and That Word Above All Earthly Powers.
We publish books and articles to help make, mature, and multiply disciples of Jesus—not ourselves or anyone else. That makes Ego our enemy. We cannot magnify God and ourselves at the same time. We praise God for his grace in 2018 and look forward to another year of glorifying him.
Jeremy Writebol is the Executive Director of GCD. He is the husband of Stephanie and father of Allison and Ethan. He serves as the lead campus pastor of Woodside Bible Church in Plymouth, MI. He is also an author and contributor to several GCD Books including everPresent and Make, Mature, Multiply. He writes personally at jwritebol.net. You can read all of Jeremy’s articles for GCD here.