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On not taking yourself too seriously

I was recently asked why I made a virtue out of not taking onesself too seriously.  Here's my reply...

First of all, this truth needs to be held together with the other half of it:  Take God seriously.  Once I take God seriously - and by that I mean the trinitarian God of the Gospel - only then am I freed to get my eyes off myself.

Every human religion has humanity working before a watching God.  The true God works before a watching humanity - Isaiah 64:4.  In fact, as Isaiah says, that is the distinctive of the living God - He is the God of the gospel.  And this gospel is that the Father, Son and Holy Spirit take salvation entirely into their own hands and leave not one calorie of effort to be done by us.

Once we see the Son taking our humanity, empowered by the Spirit to live our life before the Father and then die the death we should die, all in our place and on our behalf, then we see that it's out of our hands.  Completely out of our hands.

Hence the punchline of so many of Paul's gospel explanations: "Where then is boasting??!"  (Rom 3:27; 4:2; 1 Cor 1:29,31; 3:21; Gal 6:14; Eph 2:9).  Boasting is essentially the definition of taking yourself too seriously.  And it's the opposite of joy!

The gospel means that we must get off centre-stage, sit in the audience and watch the living God work salvation for us.  And thus we take God seriously and we do not take ourselves seriously.  In fact the essence of faith is to transfer our focus entirely from self to Christ.

Before Paul came to faith he used to take himself very seriously.  He would spend his time building and making known his spiritual CV:  Circumcised on the 8th day, of the people of Israel... (Phil 3:5ff).  But when he came to see Christ as the gift of righteousness from God to be received by faith he counted that whole self-focused, CV-building, take-myself-very-seriously Pharisaism as dung!  Total crap! (Phil 3:8).  (And if we don't like those words maybe we need to lighten up and stop taking ourselves so seriously!)

Now he just wants to be found in Christ (Phil 3:9).  The old Paul is dead, crucified with Christ (Rom 6:3ff; Gal 2:20; 6:14).  And he entrusts every judgement about himself into Christ's hands:

I care very little if I am judged by you or by any human court; indeed, I do not even judge myself. My conscience is clear, but that does not make me innocent. It is the Lord who judges me. (1 Cor 4:3-4).

In the (half-remembered) words of Tim Keller, Paul is basically saying "I don't care what you think of me, I don't even care what I think of me."  Paul has been so liberated by Jesus from self-focus, he knows his life is hidden with Christ in God - that's where his true life is (Col 3:1-4).  And he refuses to be drawn back down into navel-gazing.

So that's what I basically mean when I say, Take God seriously, Don't take yourself seriously.  Be released by Jesus into happy dependence.  Then you can roar with laughter and not worry about what a goof you look. Then you can make fun of yourself and all your ridiculous self-salvation projects.  Then you can hold everything else lightly because you know that you yourself are gripped by the triune God.

I admit that this can all sound quite radical because we tend to think that spiritual people are very serious people.  And the more spiritual, the more serious.  Well that's true for every human religion.  But the gospel of Jesus is utterly different.  And it's the one power to liberate us from the slavery to self and truly release us into the joy of the Spirit.

0 thoughts on “On not taking yourself too seriously

  1. theoldadam

    To me, there is nothing quite so boring as a person obsessed with their own "spirituality".

    What does that even mean?

    No, you've got it exactly right, Glen.

    Where God is concerned, we need to move out of the center. That is where God, and what He has done, is doing, and will yet do, belong.

    Now in our jobs, at home, in our relationships with others...then we ought work on doing the best the can.
    (that probable goes without saying, but ....:D)

  2. suzy

    just stumbled across this blog post as i felt like God had been bringing the idea of not taking oneself too seriously to mind. i googled it and found this and have been very stirred and blessed by it, realizing once again, what Christianity is supppposed to feel like.

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