Last Sunday, Joe White spoke at our church. The central theme of his talk could be extracted down to two words: I’m third. His stories demonstrated the impact of infusing this mentality into everything a person does.
All week, I contemplated the power of living a life as “I’m third” and how that would realign my perspective, improve my ability to love and forgive, and live more focused on God and others–not myself. And consequently, make me more satisfied and content.
A few days later, as I continued to make my way through the book of Romans, I reread a passage that has always convicted and inspired me. In two powerful verses, Paul takes the arrow and zings it to the center. “I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. 2 Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect” (Romans 12:1-2, ESV).
There’s a current movement called “I am Second” and it’s a great idea, but I think it comes up a little short. If we fail to put God first, we will struggle to put people before us. Because if it’s not first about Him, it will always boil down to being about us.
The Message speaks of placing our lives in God’s hands and gives us this vernacular:
So here’s what I want you to do, God helping you: Take your everyday, ordinary life—your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life—and place it before God as an offering. Embracing what God does for you is the best thing you can do for him. Don’t become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God. You’ll be changed from the inside out. Readily recognize what he wants from you, and quickly respond to it. Unlike the culture around you, always dragging you down to its level of immaturity, God brings the best out of you, develops well-formed maturity in you (emphasis mine).
Matthew Henry’s commentary has this to say: “The progress of sanctification, dying to sin more and more, and living to righteousness more and more, is the carrying on this renewing work, till it is perfected in glory. The great enemy to this renewal is, conformity to this world. Take heed of forming plans for happiness, as though it lay in the things of this world, which soon pass away. Do not fall in with the customs of those who walk in the lusts of the flesh, and mind earthly things”(Christianity.com emphasis mine).
Questions to contemplate:
- How adjusted to my culture am I? Have I adopted what God says is wrong because it’s just easier? Do I find myself being dragged along by the modern current or do I continue to swim upstream to the Wellspring of life?
- How much energy and time do I put into renewing my mind? Most everything I daily encounter will wash away what God says is true (about Him, about the world, about people, about myself, etc.); am I filling up my mind on the accurate identities of these entities or allowing the world to fill the void?
- How do I view happiness? Do I think that if I just get [fill in the blank] or do [fill in the blank], I will be satisfied? Where do I really believe (and actually act upon) my happiness rests?