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Western culture has developed a society of praise and worship. But not of God. Rather, it has developed a society of self-worship, of “self-esteem,” quite literally.
Western culture has developed a society of praise and worship. But not of God.Tweet
If you’ve ever watched a commercial or seen an advertisement, you’ve certainly been exposed to the West’s narcissistic ideologies. In the simplest of promotional media, you’ll find the phrase “you deserve” time and time again. The word “you” is ever-present in the marketing industry. And why? Because it sells. More than that, it feeds our constant hunger for more spotlight, recognition, honor, and praise.
On social media, we set up ourselves as idols, as imagined (and sometimes real) leaders. Through various platforms, we can build ourselves up by presenting pictures of ourselves in our best light. We can post pictures of our awards and achievements so others can leave their comments of acclamation. Or, we just put up photos of ourselves so others can tell us how awesome we look.
As seniors in high school, we’ve got to get senior pictures of ourselves and we have to get our own photographer and post pictures of ourselves. No one else, just us. And, we’ll pay hundreds of dollars for it.
We put up inspirational quotes and listen to motivational speakers, their words peppered with phrases like “you can do it!” and “you’ve got this!” Statements like “only you can change you” and “you do you” spring up everywhere. In these words there may be hints of truth, but their undertones are more and more inwardly focused at your supposed intrinsic personal ability and awesomeness. Within them, there exist dangerous implications.
Often, we live the opposite of how we’re called to live. In my last post, I talked about being holy. We feed our desire to be liked by not being holy. We wear the same clothes as everyone, we adopt the same language, we make the same jokes, we do the same things, we attend the dances, we gossip and “roast” others meanly. Instead of being satisfied in Christ, we try to satisfy ourselves with likes and comments on our latest post. I falter here plenty.
I’ll sometimes find myself going through Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, and Twitter. I reason I need to do this or that but I need sleep so I’ll wait on it, or something like that; but I’ll still go on social media. Or, I know I should be focusing on prayer or reading God’s Word instead, and I’ll get frustrated with myself. At times, I’ll throw my phone out of frustration. I should be content in Christ. I shouldn’t be searching for fulfillment in these things. I should be taking “every thought captive to obey Christ” (2 Corinthians 10:5, ESV). I should be praying. I should be getting to bed earlier. But, I’m feeling empty or tired or whatever else, and I just check social media in the hopes I’ll get some sort of “pick me up” from it. I often don’t. It’s not the right place to go.
We worship ourselves by surrounding ourselves with things like this. Our parents can pay for a section in the yearbook where they praise us. We can use the “YOLO” app on Snapchat to receive people’s compliments. In school, if we have a grade point average above 3.0, we get brought before a room full of people and celebrated, and for what? Doing what we’re supposed to?
We wear letterman jackets that display all of our different achievements. We literally clothe ourselves in something that’s supposed to publically display how great we are. Attention for us. Glory for us.
Quite on the contrary, in Micah 6:6-8, we see what God wants of us.
“With what shall I come before the LORD, and bow myself before God on high? Shall I come before him with burnt offerings, with calves a year old? Will the LORD be pleased with thousands of rams, with ten thousands of rivers of oil? Shall I give my firstborn for my transgression, the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul?” He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the LORD require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?ESV
Just this week, I got an email telling me about an academic awards night, where it’s supposed to be a night celebrating me, an evening all about me. Why? These narcissistic ideologies plague our culture.
It’s evident in our churches too. We complain, and complain, and complain. “I don’t like this song, the message went too long, the offering time music was boring.” It’s seen in our youth groups: more food, more games, more free stuff, all to get people to come back, to please people’s flesh it seems so that they come the next week too. And I’m guilty. Don’t get me wrong there, I am guilty. But what if we just worshipped God? What if we just fellowshiped with other believers? What if we just listened to the Words of God and the wisdom of a pastor? How would this country look if we, the “Christians” did these things?
Even the Youversion Bible app, probably the most widely used Bible app out there, caters to the desires we chase after through social media. The app has streaks, achievements, and awards, frequently celebrating your accomplishments. You can “like” people’s highlights, bookmarks, etc. It seems to be becoming more and more like a social media platform. What if we just read the Scriptures for their own inherent value?
On Twitter and Instagram, we have “followers.” Are we even worthy of being followed though? How are we leading people? It sounds like we’re trying to make ourselves a god and have people follow us, worship us. Just think about it: we go on an app and try to get people to “follow” us. Then, we put up images of ourselves in the hopes that they will like or even comment some sort of compliment on it. They’re praising us based on a picture we put up of ourselves. It’s almost like erecting an idol.
And, yeah, I have Instagram, Snapchat, Twitter, and Facebook. I’ve got ‘em. But what do we do with them? Do we worship God and encourage others to do so, or do we try to get others to worship us?
Paul urges Timothy,
So flee youthful passions and pursue righteousness, faith, love, and peace, along with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart.2 Timothy 2:22, ESV
Instead, we often run after our “youthful passions.” We love praise, and honor, and people liking us, and all that stuff. I’ve struggled with that a good deal myself. In fact, a few years ago I was on my youth group worship team, singing almost every Wednesday night in front of everyone. I loved doing music, playing instruments, the whole shabang. Then, I felt like God was calling me to lay it down. It sucked, for sure. But it was a pride issue with me and just something God didn’t want me spending time doing I think.
The time we spend reflects the things we worship, sure. Even more than that, our heart in those things reflect the things we worship. What lengths we’ll go to for those things reflect the things we worship.
Does church or sports come first? Theatre rehearsal or youth group? Homework or prayer? Sleep, or reading the Holy Word of God?
Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you.1 Peter 5:6-7, ESV
Be humble. Get rid of whatever is hindering your relationship with God. Don’t try to reason your way out of it. Just listen to God.
Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.Hebrews 12:1-2, ESV
So, what does your lifestyle show that you’re worshipping? God, or yourself? Don’t give into our society’s self-esteem culture where you need to feel good about yourself. I’ll tell you what you need: you need to fear the Living God. In fact, it’s the beginning of wisdom (Proverbs 9:10). Jesus said,
And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell.Matthew 10:28, ESV
Therefore, fear the Lord. But, if you are one of the redeemed, take heart: your sins are forgiven, and Jesus became sin for you. His righteousness now stands in your place, it is your righteousness. You, the child of God, are God’s righteousness.
For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.2 Corinthians 5:21, ESV
Worship the Lord, but remember there is forgiveness when we sin. But, repent, and turn away from it that you shall no longer dishonor the Name of our God.
“Now therefore fear the Lord and serve him in sincerity and in faithfulness. Put away the gods that your fathers served beyond the River and in Egypt, and serve the Lord. And if it is evil in your eyes to serve the Lord, choose this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your fathers served in the region beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you dwell. But as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.”Joshua 24:12-15, ESV