When God created mankind, he assigned to them an ambitious goal. Do you remember what he said to Adam and Eve?
Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth. (Genesis 1:28)
Talk about life goals! Just imagine the first couple waking up each day in the garden to revisit their ten-year plan. “Okay, Eve, let’s do a bit of pruning today over in the apple orchard and we’ll chip away at our job to SUBDUE THE WHOLE EARTH!” Just think about it: Adam and Eve started out with a massive, global goal: to spend all their time and talents to rule the earth for the glory of God.
But one day it all changed. Quickly. Satan slithered into the garden in the form of a snake. He deceived Adam and Eve into seeking their own glory rather than God’s. At that moment the glorious ambition to use God’s gifts for God’s glory shriveled beyond recognition.
Replacing it was self-confined glory. Adam and Eve were now on a quest for glory apart from God, driven by a hunger to now subdue each other. Detached from God, their love dwindled and their souls shrank. Their goals for glory became no bigger than themselves. Man became his own quest—a life expedition to move self to the center of his motivations.
Glory Turned Downward
That’s what the Bible calls sin—the universal human drive to disregard God’s moral law and live independently of him. Sin happens when we outwardly transgress the law, but it also happens when we disobey in our hearts, even if we obey with our actions.
Sin is rebellion in the soul. It blinds us. It drives us. It distorts the truth of God and undermines our essential dependence on him. It seduces us to crave things that deface God’s holiness and assault his glory. Ultimately, sin moves self to the center of our desires and dreams. Rather than promoting God’s order and glory, we become relentless self-promoters. It’s a condition that shrinks the soul.
Can you relate to that?
I can. I have often struggled with the wrong kinds of ambition. I call them “Davebitions.” I guess you might say I’m a Davebitious guy. I assume that my family would work much better if they all majored in Daveology. In fact, many of life’s misunderstandings could be cleared up by more Daveological insights. Overall the world would be a better place if we could just celebrate an annual Davetoberfest.
I guess you can call me a Daveaholic. There, I’ve said it. I feel so much better.
Now, before you judge me and let yourself off the hook, think about this. The reason I’m a Daveaholic is not due to my temperament or because I was deprived of something as a child. I didn’t get this from my environment. I got it from my ancestors—Adam and Eve. And since we all share the same ancestors, you got it too. The problem—the reason we’re all engaged in a quest for self-confined glory—is sin.
Glory Turned Inward
The early church used a fascinating visual to describe the self-preoccupying nature of sin: incurvatus in se. It means we “curve in on ourselves.” In the service of self, our desires boomerang. When a hardwired desire for glory is infected with incurvatus in se, noble ambitions collapse. The quest for self-glory rules the day—as it did that day in Eden. In our desire to be great, we actually shrink ourselves.
Since this is a common tendency for us all, how do we recognize it, and how do we deal with it?
In Psalm 139, after extolling the greatness of God and marveling at his work of both creating and preserving, David prays,
Search me, O God, and know my heart!
Try me and know my anxious thoughts!
And see if there be any grievous way in me,
and lead me in the way everlasting! (Psalm 139:23–24)
Have you ever noticed how ashamed we feel when facing our misdirected attempts at glory? David gets it. But it doesn’t prevent him from inviting God into his mess.
Like David, we need to ask God to do open-heart surgery. We can ask Him to expose the sinful ambitions that drive us each day. We can invite God’s examination of our grievous motivation knowing that God is not shocked or surprised by what is there. He already knows. And the ugliness revealed is already covered over by what Christ accomplished upon the cross.
The more we see Christ and savor what he has done, the easier it becomes to submit to his purifying purpose–to realign our ambitions back to their original design in the garden: to fill the earth with his glory.
Tenacious Tuesday Questions
Who has been at the center thus far today? What does the answer say about the object of your glory-drive? Don’t be embarrassed. God already knows the answer. Invite him to search you so you know yourself. Ask him to lead you in the way everlasting.
Lord God, please search my heart. Please expose any hidden works of darkness; any misguided grabs for self-glory. Help me acknowledge my own inner selfishness. And please lead me in your righteous and everlasting path of life which is grounded upon the finished work of your glorious Son.