Today is my birthday. I have been so humbled by the phone calls, text messages, emails, and Facebook comments wishing me a happy day. The Lord has blessed me with a wonderful family and great friends. But what am I to personally make of my birthday? How “important” of a day is this?
It seems that when it comes to the issue of “self” we find spiritual extremes in our churches, in our media, and in our literature. The one extreme, and probably the more dominant, places too great of an emphasis on me. It’s all about my success, my happiness, my worth, my wealth, and my health. You know, my best life now. The other extreme denies self to the point of neglecting too see ourselves as a purposed created being by God. I’m glad I’m alive. And I have to assume that my sovereign God has some good purpose in mind for my existence, a purpose not designed to glorify myself, but to glorify Him.
So I am calling for all of us to approach ourselves with balance. On the one hand, much of what we learn from Christ and from the apostles is how to die to self and live for others. As hard as we may try, it is very difficult to truly have a heart for the well-being of others as a priority when our thoughts are dominated by self. This is why we are repeatedly reminded that we “have been crucified with Christ” (Gal. 2:20) and that we “have died” (Colossians 3:3). In other words, when we come to Christ in faith, we discover that the world does not revolve around us and our sinful desires. Rather, it revolves around God and His perfect love. Our life journey then is dedicated to moving farther away from a self-centered, prideful position to a God-fearing, Christ-like, sacrificial position. It is a work in progress and sometimes we take steps backwards.
On the other hand, we do well to reflect on the way God sees us. Ephesians 2:10 powerful speaks of each human as a “masterpiece” of God’s creation, designed for good works. Although God could have designed any means he wanted to promote His cause, he chose humans. 2nd Corinthians 5:20 is an astounding verse that reveals how God makes his “appeal” for Christ through us. We are the ambassadors for Christ Jesus. There is great significance in that and we shouldn’t forget it. In addition, God has set the way of humans to enter into relationships, as described in Genesis 2. Those interactions with others, both romantically and friendly, serve a great purpose. Let’s not forget that Paul understands marriage as the very picture of the gospel. In this way, my wife considers my birthday to be a fairly big deal. I consider it as important in that without me being born, there would be no life with Andi. My kids, hopefully, will feel the same way one day.
So, is my birthday important in that it allows me to wallow in my own greatness and place myself at the center of the universe? No. And if I step backwards into those places, then I need a great big dose of humility to wake me up. Is my birthday important in that God saw fit to raise me up to good works and make an appeal for Christ Jesus? Yes. But in both instances, it is ultimately about God, not about Philip. Thus, we need to all be appreciative of what God has given us, starting with our life and the ability to relate to Jesus Christ.
I’m glad I was born. I have worth. Now, let me deny that in any way that lifts me up and let me use it to lift up someone else. Soli Deo Gloria!