Common New Year’s resolutions would be commitments to quit smoking, to stop drinking, to manage money more wisely, and to spend more time with family. By far, the most common New Year’s resolution is to lose weight, in conjunction with exercising more and eating more healthily. These are all good goals to set.
This year though I am making a new Year’s resolution you’ll probably not find in a top ten list anywhere. I’m going to quit ‘photobombing’ Jesus. As I have pondered the past year… for that matter the past few years, I have discovered that I have a repeatable tendency to try and photobomb Jesus. I say ‘try’ because Jesus can never actually be photobombed… but it seems I try just the same.
For those who aren’t familiar with the term ‘photobomb’, the dictionary’s definition is: “To spoil a photograph of (a person or thing) by unexpectedly appearing in the camera’s field of view as the picture is taken, typically as a prank or practical joke.” In other words, trying to take away the glory moment from the other person.
I photobomb Jesus when I serve God with mixed motives. When I hope lost people will be saved – but I want to be the evangelist God used, I photobomb Jesus. When I desire Christians to be encouraged – but I want to be the instrument of edification, I photobomb Jesus. When I want people to think God was awesome, that is of course a good thing. But when I want them to think that I was too – well that’s doing the photobomb thing again. Get the idea?
Having said that, it’s not a wrong thing to want to be part of what God is doing – we’re created for this purpose as Paul speaks to the church in Ephesus, “For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.” – Ephesians 2:10
Jesus even said that It’s not wrong to want people to see God glorified in your life. “In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.” – Matthew 5:16
If we need more convincing listen to Peter tell us that It’s actually a good thing to serve with the hope that people will be convicted of their sin and trust in Christ because of your good works being recognized. “Keep your conduct among the Gentiles honorable, so that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day of visitation.” – 1 Peter 2:12
So, it appears that God’s Word shows us that it’s wrong and even sinful if you don’t desire these things since that should be a part of a sanctified life. God being glorified through me is the height of my created purpose, but there’s a fine line between wanting God to use you for his glory and wanting everyone to know about it. We must pay careful attention to our hearts so we don’t seek to steal glory from Jesus.
What does that look like then? What does a photobomb look like in the realm of discipleship? Probably best to use examples in my own life since I’m the one making this particular New Year’s resolution.
I must admit that there have been times as a preacher where I’ve left a great Sunday service only to feel discouraged because I didn’t hear someone tell me, “That was the most amazing message I’ve ever heard.”
As I thought about why I felt that way, I realized that I was seeking satisfaction in my efforts. However, true useful servants are those who find their satisfaction in simply serving, even when no one affirms them, as long as Jesus gets the applause. Problem is that when I seek affirmation to be satisfied, not only will I not find my satisfaction realized, but I also end up stealing from Jesus.
And then adding insult to injury, I have found that photobombing Jesus for attention often leads to a depressed devotional life. As an example, when I become more concerned about my public performance than my private devotion I neglect my prayer life, because other things feel more pressing. Photobombers feel hurried out of the prayer closet because we value being before men more than before God.
Continuing on in my public transparency, I have seen where photobombing has presented occasions where I have become discouraged and even bitter when God has used others instead of me for what I thought were my goals.
Stepping into my role as ‘rookie’ lead pastor a few years ago, I knew that God was going to grow his church. What I didn’t expect was that numerical growth wasn’t going to happen in the specific location I was a part of. God had other plans which ultimately, I saw and gave him praise for, however during that time, another church down the road grew like nobody’s business.
Though I loved the pastor of that ‘other’ fellowship, I’ll admit that I became bitter. I felt discouraged because I felt that God had “overlooked” me. Hadn’t I spent enough time in prayer? I had even fasted; didn’t that count for something? I must say that this season was a good time to re-evaluate why I served Jesus.
Looking at John the Baptist, you quickly realize that he would never have been accused of photobombing. Crowds flocked to John, but he had one mission – to make Jesus known. “He must increase, but I must decrease.” John was content serving in the background so that Jesus could be seen more clearly.
Jesus said, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and the gospel’s will save it.’” – Mark 8:34-35
…And, “Whoever does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me.” – Matthew 10:38
When the Roman Empire crucified a criminal or captive, the victim was often forced to carry his cross part of the way to the crucifixion site, often through the heart of the city. The picture Jesus gives is of a man or woman, already condemned, required to carry the beam of his or her own cross to the place of execution.
Disciples from Galilee knew what this meant, since hundreds had been executed by this means in their region. The modern equivalent would be to walk down a hallway toward an electric chair. Death in this case is the obvious destination, and so the idea is that in this life of submission to Jesus, we are in reality in a death processional.
In other words, if we “deny ourselves”, and commit ourselves to death, we can no longer place any hope in this world. By “taking up our cross”, it is as if all our natural passions and desires are doomed, giving up any claim for our self and selfish wants and needs.
Paul said, “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. 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
What was Paul saying here? It’s only as we give everything up… only as we allow our self to be sacrificed are we able to be changed. Dead people don’t make very good photobombers.
My New Year’s resolution for 2018 then is to live a life that is dying to know Christ and then living to make him known in a photobomb free zone.
Jesus came to save photobombers like me from ourselves. In fact, he gave up his own glory and then died for all the times we steal God’s glory. He alone is worthy of praise in 2018 and into eternity.