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Are You Dying to Succeed?

Nobody wants to die! I think this might be the biggest struggle for Christian leadership in our narcissistic, self-centered culture. We lead people to seek a Father who let his Son die to bring forth life! We follow a Savior who died to self: “Not my will … but Your will, Father.” We worship a God whose ways are so counterintuitive that the religious leaders of Jesus’ day were spiritually blinded by their own self-preserving vision of how God should work. And most all of us think we’re immune to the same disease! That’s a problem.

We all get deceived! Peter was deceived by his own vision of what he expected Messiah to do. Jesus rebuked him, “Get behind me Satan!” Years later, Peter was blind to his actions, and Paul had to correct his self-absorbed old ways (Gal 2:11-14). Yet, I find that most Christian leaders rarely consider the thought, “I, too, may be self-deceived, spiritually blind in some area!” The thought rarely crosses our minds.

And lest you think I’m being judgmental, let me just say—I’m absolutely convinced I have spiritual blind spots. I would tell you what they are … but I don’t know!

Sometimes, my wife tries to point out my blind spots to me, but she’s always wrong about them—so I’m still not sure! Sometimes, my closest staff try to hint at what’s wrong, but they never fully understand! (You get the point?)

Identify anyone with a problem, and you’ll be identifying someone who resists the suggestion that he has a problem. That’s self-deception—our very human inability to see that one has a problem.

As Christian leaders, it’s easy to spot in marriages we counsel, in staff relationships that cause us grief, in other organizations—yet, we rarely consider we may have the same problem!

God wants to put to death our own self-justifying ways that gain identity or security in how we lead or how things go or how others behave or how life should look. We all have a false self that resists dying and finds all sorts of subterranean paths of escaping death. This is because we’ve counted on this false image of self to give us life, identity, security, love … in place of God—but we don’t realize it until we feel its life threatened! Then we fight like hell to keep it alive!

But here’s what I keep learning the hard way—God loves us too much to leave us in the dark.

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John Burke is lead pastor of Gateway Church in Austin, Texas, and author of No Perfect People Allowed (Zondervan).