In his immortal “Invictus” (unconquered in Latin), 19th Century British poet William Ernest Henley declared, “I am the master of my fate: “I am the captain of my soul,” in response to his painful battle with tuberculosis, which had rendered him an amputee.
Obviously, Henley’s poetic mantra had more to do with his state of mind than his ability to dictate the terms of his plight. Nevertheless, such an indomitable attitude is praised in our culture today as a hallmark of the human spirit. This mindset boasts about determined—if not defiant— self-reliance and individualism.
You only have to look to our nation’s capital to see this persona on full display where The Washington Football Team made history September 16th even before defeating the New York Giants in dramatic fashion 30-29.
That’s because the Washington, DC-based NFL franchise celebrated its first “Pride Night Out” including a pregame celebration and reserved stadium seating for its prideful lot to cheer on the Gay Men’s Chorus of Washington as well as the LGBTQ marching band, DC’s Different Drummers.
About fives miles west of FedExField, Congress is hell-bent on codifying society’s endorsement and celebration of sexual immorality with the passage of the so-called Equality Act while stigmatizing Biblically-principled opponents of the LGBTQ-driven legislation which discriminates against joy-filled Christians.
PRIDE < JOY
Scripture teaches that a prideful heart is incompatible with the joy of the Lord? 1 John 2:16 states: “For all that is in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—is not of the Father but is of the world.” Yet, “the joy of the Lord is your strength,” declares the Old Testament Prophet Nehemiah (Nehemiah 8:10).
In our pride, we think we are god— you know “master of my fate” and “captain of my soul”— while we futilely try to out-smart, out-maneuver, out-virtue, out-run, even out-live the consequences of our transgressions against a Holy and Righteous God. Pursuing this path only leaves us outside of God’s fellowship and purpose for our lives. James 4:6 declares that, “God resists the proud, But gives grace to the humble.”
Consequently, personal fortitude, intelligence, wealth, power or prestige will not earn you a reprieve from God’s judgment. Only someone with a repentant and contrite heart will be spared God’s righteous wrath.
Jesus reminds us in Matthew 6:24: “No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money.”
FROM DEATH TO LIFE
The implications of Jesus’ Lordship or authority over your life demands that you reject pride or “put off the old self” and redefine your identity in Christ, like Paul writes about in Colossians 3: 5-10: “Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry. 6 On account of these the wrath of God is coming 7 In these you too once walked, when you were living in them. 8 But now you must put them all away: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and obscene talk from your mouth. 9 Do not lie to one another, seeing that you have put off the old self with its practices 10 and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator.”
Putting to death your old life is the exact opposite of coming out to glory in your shame. But as you do this, the true meaning and purpose of your new life comes into focus. Conversely, however, today’s worldly wisdom exhorts you to chase your dreams, trust your instincts, follow your heart, pursue your truth and do whatever makes you happy and fulfilled. Meanwhile, the Old Testament Prophet Jeremiah warns that our prideful hearts aren’t trustworthy, but instead are deceitfully wicked above all else (Jeremiah 17:9).
So, how is this working out for the greatest nation in the history of civilization? Why do we see an opioid epidemic, burgeoning suicide rate, consumer debt crisis, the dissolution of marriage and the family, the end of civility and escalating violence? The answer is because the culture’s way of thinking is guided by counterfeit truths, deceptive motives, and vain ambition. The vanity of human wisdom will inevitably leave you physically, emotionally, financially, intellectually and more importantly spiritually bankrupt.
RENEW YOUR MIND
Only by renewing your mind according to God’s Word, The Holy Bible, can you accurately discern the difference between so-called human wisdom and Godly wisdom. The Old Testament prophet Isaiah describes such Heavenly wisdom in Isaiah 55:8-9: “For My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways My ways, declares the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways and My thoughts than your thoughts.”
How wise is God? The Psalmist declares that God knows your thoughts and what you are going to do or say before you do or say it. He has numbered your days from the first to the last. He has created you for good works that He prepared for you while you were in your mother’s womb (Ephesians 2:10).
How big is God? Before the foundation of the world, the Father, Son and Holy Spirit were present as God spoke the world into existence, the book of Genesis declares. He tells the sun when to rise and set. He holds Earth suspended in space at just the precise distance from the sun so that the planet doesn’t ice over or burst into flames. The ocean tides advance and recede at God’s command.
Still need convincing that God’s ways are better than yours? The wisest and wealthiest man in Scripture warns of the vanity of human wisdom. In Ecclesiastes 2:17, King Solomon writes: “So I hated life, because what is done under the sun was grievous to me, for all is vanity and a striving after wind.”
DON’T BE A WISE GUY
And yet, in modern times “striving after the wind” has become its own commercialized industry. In a world of 24/7 broadcast news, incessant political commentary and debate, talk shows, infomercials, traffic and weather updates and streaming movies and music on demand, human wisdom blows like the wind in every direction.
Undoubtedly, there is no shortage of communication streams competing for our attention. Whether we’re tethered to our wireless devices posting and trolling social media accounts, digital gaming or surfing the Internet for knowledge about what’s trending, self-diagnosing our latest malady, planning our next excursion, or researching investment strategies, the digital information age has unleashed an endless barrage of contradictory messages and confusing noise.
But 1 Corinthians 3:18-20 issues a sobering warning about the wisdom of this world:
“Let no one deceive himself. If anyone among you thinks that he is wise in this age, let him become a fool that he may become wise. 19 For the wisdom of this world is folly with God. For it is written, “He catches the wise in their craftiness,”20 and again, “The Lord knows the thoughts of the wise, that they are futile.”
If the COVID-19 pandemic has taught us anything, it’s that we are not the master of our fate. And death is no respecter of persons. According to Johns Hopkins University data, as of mid-September, 1 in 500 Americans have died from the coronavirus since the first infection was reported in the United States. And on average, more than 1,800 new COVID-19 deaths are being reported daily in the U.S. This ongoing pandemic increasingly reminds us of our mortality and the reality that one day we all must give an account to God for what we did with His love, grace, mercy, salvation and wisdom.
So, isn’t it about time that Christians stop following the culture’s stinking thinking or me-first mentality? Don’t be deceived and seduced by an “American Dream” obsessed with personal preferences, prominence, and possessions. Instead of allowing the culture to shape you into its mold by conforming to this worldly humanistic mindset, Christ-followers are called to pursue God’s will above their own.
Proverbs 19:21 provides the eternal wisdom we would do well to heed. “Many are the plans in the mind of a man, but it is the purpose of the Lord that will stand.” Whoever wants to be great, Jesus said, must be a servant like Him. Yes, following Christ is counter-culture, anti-instinctive, and defies popular opinion and conventional thinking. But this is the mind of Christ. This is His way to experience life, liberty and joy everlasting.