Summary: Do we know who we are? With all of our hang-ups, challenges, gifts, warts and all, “THIS IS US!” Understanding our identity is essential for our health.
This Is US!
Pt. 4 - Extras
“When I discover who I am, I’ll be free.” That was the declaration of the Ralph Ellison who was the author of the Invisible Man. Do you know who you are? If you do not, then it isn't Jesus' fault because He climbs a mountain, sits down and takes considerable time to tell us who we are supposed to be. He says this is us . . . blessed, square pegs & spotlights, and then grown ups! Jesus tells us about us! He continues this detailed explanation with what almost seems like a contradiction. In Matthew 5:16, in informing us that we are supposed to shine brightly He says, "Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good deeds and moral excellence, and recognize and honor and glorify your Father who is in heaven."
Now listen to verse 1 of Matthew 6. “Be very careful not to do your good deeds publicly, to be seen by men; otherwise you will have no reward prepared and awaiting you with your Father who is in heaven.
So, in one breath He says let men see your good works and then He almost immediately says just the opposite . . . Be careful not to do your good deeds publicly.
What is going on? I believe He is plumbing the depths of our human heart . . . He is dealing with our motives. Knowing our tendencies to be self absorbed, self serving and subject to succumb to pride listen to what He says after this "contradiction"!
“Be especially careful when you are trying to be good so that you don’t make a performance out of it. It might be good theater, but the God who made you won’t be applauding. “When you do something for someone else, don’t call attention to yourself. You’ve seen them in action, I’m sure—‘play actors’ I call them—treating prayer meeting and street corner alike as a stage, acting compassionate as long as someone is watching, playing to the crowds. They get applause, true, but that’s all they get. When you help someone out, don’t think about how it looks. Just do it—quietly and unobtrusively. That is the way your God, who conceived you in love, working behind the scenes, helps you out. Pray with simplicity “And when you come before God, don’t turn that into a theatrical production either. All these people making a regular show out of their prayers, hoping for stardom! Do you think God sits in a box seat? “Here’s what I want you to do: Find a quiet, secluded place so you won’t be tempted to role-play before God. Just be there as simply and honestly as you can manage. The focus will shift from you to God, and you will begin to sense his grace. “The world is full of so-called prayer warriors who are prayer-ignorant. They’re full of formulas and programs and advice, peddling techniques for getting what you want from God. Don’t fall for that nonsense. This is your Father you are dealing with, and he knows better than you what you need. With a God like this loving you, you can pray very simply. Like this: Our Father in heaven, Reveal who you are. Set the world right; Do what’s best—as above, so below. Keep us alive with three square meals. Keep us forgiven with you and forgiving others. Keep us safe from ourselves and the Devil. You’re in charge! You can do anything you want! You’re ablaze in beauty! Yes. Yes. Yes. “In prayer there is a connection between what God does and what you do. You can’t get forgiveness from God, for instance, without also forgiving others. If you refuse to do your part, you cut yourself off from God’s part. “When you practice some appetite-denying discipline to better concentrate on God, don’t make a production out of it. It might turn you into a small-time celebrity but it won’t make you a saint. If you ‘go into training’ inwardly, act normal outwardly. Shampoo and comb your hair, brush your teeth, wash your face. God doesn’t require attention-getting devices. He won’t overlook what you are doing; he’ll reward you well. (Message)
This is US . . . Extras!
Think for a moment about the huge movies that come out each year. The attention is always on the star right? It could be Denzel, Hugh Jackman, Emma Stone or Meryl Streep but the focus, billboards, trailers, and invitations to appear on the talk shows are reserved for the stars. The big names. The key roles. The recognizable. But very seldom does anyone pay any attention to the extras. They are the ones in the crowd scene with no names. Overlooked. Unknown. But absolutely essential to the success of the movie and the story being told. Without those people in the crowd scene the star can not command the screen, the plot is meaningless, the story is told but isn't as full or engaging. So Jesus, talking about us, says "This is US . . . Extras!" We are not the star. We are not the key player. We are not center of attention or the attraction. We have light, but we are not the light. Our good deeds are not to be done to make a name for us but rather for Him.