This has been a tough week for self-concept. We’ve begun to understand how thoroughly self-idolatry creeps into so many nooks and crannies of our identity. And perhaps most difficult is the realization that self-idolatry colors the souls of everyone. This is a good time to close with a hopeful note from Paul’s letter to the Ephesians.
In this epistle, Paul writes to folks who know a thing or two about idols, about serving idols—even about taking advantage of idol-worshipers! To these people, he writes these encouraging words: “I pray that, according to the riches of his glory, he may grant that you may be strengthened in your inner being with power through his Spirit, and that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith, as you are being rooted and grounded in love.”
These words offer a doxology (a praise hymn) and a benediction (good words for living):
• Thinking of God’s glory as the primary source for our own, smaller significance.
• Gaining strength for our inner being—the place where self-idolatry tries to insinuate itself permanently.
• Being rooted and grounded—sturdy words that plant us firmly in a good place.
Each of these ideas reassures us that we continue to grow in faith throughout our lives. We are not permanently condemned to a self-image that destroys itself in ultimate futility. We serve the will of God, not our own, and are infused with God’s love.
Most grievous faults? Self-idolatry? Mea culpas? Rites of confession? Still necessary ideas to consider; but with God’s grace, they’re not as tough to swallow. Good news!
Loving One, I am glad to find my identity in you. Amen.
The Bible is filled with the stories of imperfect people. David is a classic case. In Second Samuel he commits adultery, tries to cover it up, and then plots a murder. How can this be the same man who penned this week’s psalm, which decries the foolishness of people who act in a godless way? Like us, David was a fallen person who needed God’s extravagant mercy. In Ephesians we read of this same extravagance given through Christ, whose power can do what we cannot—namely redeem all of us who are also foolish and fallen. The Gospel author demonstrates the power of Jesus through what he describes as “signs,” which Jesus performed not primarily to amaze the onlookers but rather to point them to his identity as the Son of God.
• Read 2 Samuel 11:1-15. How often do you consider the ramifications of your decisions and actions on the wider body?
• Read Psalm 14. How frequently do you find yourself envisioning a life free of constraints? What does that life look like?
• Read Ephesians 3:14-21. How does “being rooted and grounded in love” manifest itself in your life?
• Read John 6:1-21. When have you tried to force God into a mold of your own making to serve your needs?
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