When I was a boy, I thought as a boy, and so dreamed that one day I would be a professional athlete. When I was a teenager, I thought as a teenager, and so dreamed that one day I would be a rock star. When I was a young man, I thought as a young man, and so dreamed of writing the great American novel. Now that I am older, I have put away these foolish dreams. But what now amuses me about these dreams is not that I had them, but how I “sanctified” them.
What did these dreams have in common? Each would have made me well-known, well-off, and, perhaps within certain boundaries, well-respected. But that, of course, had nothing to do with my motivations. God knows my heart, and He knows that I wanted those things only for His sake. Think of all I could do for the kingdom if I scored the winning touchdown at the Super Bowl. “Hey R.C., you’ve just won the Super Bowl. Now what are you going to go?” I’d reply: “I’m going into the end zone, where everyone can see me, to thank the Man Upstairs!” As a rock star, I would work the crowd into a worshiping frenzy, then, with great subtlety, sing about how empty life is if you don’t serve somebody. The great American novel would only be a showcase for my profundity and art, which, if you looked deeply enough, would really be about Jesus.
It is a good thing to want to do great things for the Lord. It is right and true to have a zeal for the building of His kingdom. What is folly is thinking that the path there lies in making your way in the world. The way to glory is not through the theology of glory, but through the theology of the cross. We build the kingdom not by being Christian power-brokers, but by being broken.
We have bought into that myth. Though we are grown, we are still babes in understanding. We still don’t know our hearts, and our propensity for sanctifying our sin. The only thing real in the myth of influence is the devil behind the scenes pulling our strings. It is he who offers us the kingdoms of the world without the need to take up the cross. Jesus, too, promises that we will inherit the earth, but only if we die to ourselves. He will not share His glory with another. If we would live coram Deo, before the face of God, we must live, and die, as Jesus did.