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Playing King of the Mountain with God

I’m willing to bet, you and I have something in common. Many days it feels like I’m playing king of the mountain with Jesus.

The words King and Lord rolled off my tongue so effortlessly in worship, prayer and with other Christians. But in practice, in the simple everyday things of life, I often act like I’m co-king at least. Of course I want his glory to be made known and his will be done “on earth as it is in heaven” – and mine as well, far too often.

I truly do love God. I’m eternally grateful to him and long for his friendship and wisdom. He’s my Savior and the Creator of the Universe, for heaven’s sake! I need him. So, I’d never actually think of tossing him off “my mountain.” But, I often live as though I preferred he stay on his side – close enough for me to call when needed. I often act as though he was the one who I preferred stayed in the cleft – just out of eyesight, while I grazed fat on his grace. Based on my behavior some days, I must think there’s room enough at the top for both of us.

He doesn’t.

Now, tell me we have nothing in common.

If that’s true of you as well, occasionally, why is it we’d even dare play this deadly game with God in the first place? (I’ll get to that later.) And, we’re not only playing king of the mountain with God, but consciously or unconsciously, we’re doing it all day long with others as well.

And playing is a good word for it.

Shakespeare once wrote, “All the world’s a stage. And men and women, merely players…”

We’re all actors.

Every morning we wake up, put on our makeup and costumes and go out trying to convince the world we’re more spiritual, happy, together, and less scared than we know ourselves to be. And we hope like mad no one discovers we’re not.

We’re constantly, even if unconsciously competing with others, in our own families, churches, and even on the Internet for the lead roles. Is Facebook and Instagram the new stage? How many friends or followers do you have? We secretly long for the limelight, and the admiration that comes with it and all the while feigning humility. Some days I deserve an Emmy.

Once upon a time There was a time, 35 years ago, when I wasn’t even ashamed of my ambition to be the central character in my play. I resonated instantly with Don Miller who wrote in Blue Like Jazz, “Life was a story about me because I was in every scene. In fact, I was the only one in every scene. If somebody walked into my scene, it would frustrate me because they were disrupting the general theme of the play, namely my comfort and glory.”

My wife, my family and friends were all incredibly dear to me. I truly loved them, but they served primarily as my audience and supporting actors. I had all the brilliant dialogue and clever lines.

Then Jesus showed up.

And, just like the scene in the temple when Jesus drove out the moneychangers, he drove me off stage, shut down the show and rewrote my part and the play re-opened under new management.

“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, they are a new creation. The old has gone, the new has come!” 2 Corinthians 5:17.

I’ve lived in the joy of that stunning reality for over 35 years now. When I first came to faith, it was almost an out-of-body experience watching the Holy Spirit slowly transform this new Clare De Graaf, out of the old Clare, month after month.

But, I had a surprise waiting for me as I matured spiritually. My “old man” apparently wasn’t entirely dead! He kept showing up at my front door like an old fraternity brother who still can’t believe I drank the Jesus Kool-Aid, tempting me to climb back on stage again. And I did. (And sadly, still do far too often.)

And I’ve been an elder for close to 20 years now, and I meet with, what appear to be, spiritually mature believers, who are sinning shamefully. If I wanted to make a million dollars, I’d produce a new reality show, Christians Behaving Badly. There’s another whole group of Christians who claim Christ is their king, but it’s clear he’s not. Their careers, the pursuit of pleasure, or just plain indifference to the priority of God, the Bible and godliness in their lives, screams they’re happy to have God be king from 10:00- 11:15am on Sundays and when they’re a serious jam they can’t fix, otherwise, pass the crown over!

So, here’s the question I began asking myself. Why is it, even serious Christians would risk playing this deadly game of king of the mountain with God, by not allowing him complete rule and reign of their lives? Here are some possibilities (and perhaps more as I write):

1.  We don’t really believe God when he warns us about the consequences of sinful behavior. We think we can beat the odds. 2.  We don’t think God can touch us any longer, because we’ve been saved. 3.  We think our circumstances give us an excuse – a “hall pass” on obeying certain teachings of the Bible. 4.  His commands just don’t make sense to us in modern times. 5.  The rewards he promises us for faithfulness seem too distant and uncertain. 6.  Christians “rank” sin, and we feel ours are generally less serious than the sins of others.

So, over the next month, I plan to blog on a number of these deadly excuses I’ve heard Christians use (or have harbored thoughts about, myself). If you have any ideas of your own, why would we risk disobeying God, please share them with us.

How following Jesus works in real life.

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