Forget This Post

“I need to be made willing to be forgotten.”
–R.Murray McCheyne

This quote has been jarring my heart for the past few days. In the past I read it with a great deal of stupidity. I read it as if it was sort of tongue in cheek. As if McCheyne is saying, “If I really want to be made great…then I need to be made willing to be forgotten”. The way to greatness is to not really pursue it. And so if you want to secretly pursue greatness the way to do it is to pursue humility and in the end you’ll be made great.

Oddly enough that philosophy is probably correct. Scripture is clear that the way to be made great is to become the servant of all. To be exalted by God you don’t pursue exaltation you pursue humility.

But here is where I have been dumb. Those aren’t tongue in cheek statements. The idol of greatness needs to topple not just pursued through godly means. If I’m still pursuing my name being great—even if I’m trying to do it through sneaking in the back door of humility—all I will ever muster is mock humility and self-forgetfulness.

Help From David Murray

As I was praying through what the Lord was doing in my soul I remembered an article that David Murray had written back in June about leaving a legacy. It was a great article encouraging us to not live for a legacy. Looking back I think this article was used by the Lord to pry His sandal into the door of this heart idol of mine.

One of the statements that David made in that post was this: “most of us have ordinary ministries, and our ministries will die with us.” That stings. And not because I want to be useful to the Lord. That stings because I want to be remembered. I want to be a difference maker. Often not for the sake of actually making a difference but so that I can park in the space that says “Difference Maker”.

I read Murray’s article again and another statement floored me. “I’d rather my children know Christ than people know who David Murray is a hundred years from now.” That statement pierced my soul. In my head and in my heart I really do believe that same thing. Or at least I want to. But when reality sets in the truth is that I’m probably more passionate about being remembered as a great dad than actually being one.

David is living the same thing that McCheyne said over 150 years ago, “I need to be made willing to be forgotten”.

Forgotten But Useful

This is not a call to be lazy. It is a call to pursue usefulness and let the Lord decide our legacy. I am learning now that this is not a tongue in cheek promise. As if I faithfully plod along and pursue usefulness that someday he’ll make me a nice legacy. I am learning now that this is a fool’s pursuit. My aim is Christ and being made useful as a servant to Him.

Useful means that he decides the rhythm of my ministry. It means that my chief aim, which is already mine, is to be remembered by God and to make my life ambition to make sure that He is the remembered one and not me. As Zack Eswine reminds us that is a good thing. “Being remembered by him means we no longer fear being forgotten by the world”. (Sensing Jesus, 19)

One of my favorite quotes is now taking on new life, “No man can bear witness to Christ and to himself at the same time. No man can give the impression that he himself is clever and that Christ is mighty to save.” Pointing to Jesus isn’t a backdoor way of robbing glory and making myself an exalted preacher. Pointing to Jesus is the end in itself. Period.

Lord Jesus, forgive me of foolishness. Forgive me of attempting to rob you of glory. Forgive me for all of the times that I expected You to quote me. I have been a fool. Thank you for grace. Thank you for patience. Thank you for exposing this idol in my heart. I pray as McCheyne did some 150 years, “make me willing to be forgotten”. You will be remembered. And this is my greatest good.

Comments

          • says

            The practical outworkings of it (see Jim Pemberton’s comments). Being willing to be forgotten doesn’t necessarily mean insisting on being forgotten. I see this principle not as being anti-PR, so much as being anti-‘PR is the first priority’ (and ‘PR is the first priority’ seems to be the principle that worldly self-promotion is run on). It’s about giving up the idea of being in control of how you’re perceived. That doesn’t mean you never respond to mis-perceptions of yourself. It does mean you neither insist on controlling how you’re perceived, nor let how you’re perceived control you.

            I think there is plenty of room for discussion on how this works out practically, how you check yourself for whether or not you’re following it, and how you pursue necessary PR without crossing the line, at the least.

          • says

            Ben, PR (and any kind of purposeful networking in general) is probably the thing that I am gifted in the least. Every time I try it it turns out badly. Even the sales fund raisers we had in grade school, I was the one kid who never sold anything – even to my own parents. I could probably benefit from even the smallest amount of discussion in the context of being Biblical and humble about it.

    • Christiane says

      “Pointing to Jesus is the end in itself. Period.”
      this is a reflection worthy of the coming Lenten season, Mike

      “God descends to the humble
      as waters flow down from the hills into the valleys.”
      (St. John of Kronstadt)

  1. says

    Seems to me this dovetails with what I referred to the other day as the foolish pattern of wanting to look right more than to do right, and the wise pattern of wanting to do right more than to look right. This extends ‘looking right’ into the future. If indeed “Doing right is primary, looking right is secondary (and may be optional)” is true, then it applies to being remembered, too. Being remembered (at least positively) is essentially ‘looking right’ in the future. If you’re not willing to face the possibility of ‘looking right’ in the future, then you may not actually be putting doing right first.

  2. Dave Miller says

    You made a joke of it, Mike, but the fact that a post like this gets relatively small play compared to ones like I posted this morning is a symptom of our problem, in my humble but correct opinion.

    • says

      You are correct, Dave.

      We assume that correct theology should lead to correct Christian behavior, but when a discussion of who’s theologically correct is markedly preferred over what’s essentially a discussion of practical holiness, it raises questions about why the theological correctness is being pursued in the first place(not that there aren’t ways of twisting the pursuit of practical holiness, but I don’t get the impression that that is typically our problem nowadays). Am I the only one who thinks that at times the pursuit of what we see as “contending for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints” can mask our own sense of self-righteousness and boastful pride in being the group that got it right?

  3. Randall Cofield says

    “I need to be made willing to be forgotten.”

    I think one moment in the glorious presence of Lord Jesus will imprint this truth upon our glorified minds for eternity.

    • Christiane says

      ‘FROM THE FEAR OF BEING FORGOTTEN,
      DELIVER ME, JESUS’

      For most of us, trying to be a ‘little’ person requires strength from Christ Himself.
      We pray for Him to hear us and deliver us from the prison of pride:

      “O Jesus meek and humble of heart, Hear me.
      From the desire of being esteemed, Deliver, me, Jesus.
      From the desire of being loved, Deliver me, Jesus.
      From the desire of being extolled, Deliver me, Jesus.
      From the desire of being honored, Deliver me, Jesus.
      From the desire of being praised, Deliver me, Jesus.
      From the desire of being preferred to others, Deliver me Jesus.
      From the desire of being consulted, Deliver me, Jesus.
      From the desire of being approved, Deliver me, Jesus.
      From the fear of being humiliated, Deliver me, Jesus.
      From the fear of being despised, Deliver me, Jesus.
      From the fear of suffering rebukes, Deliver me, Jesus.
      From the fear of being calumniated, Deliver, me, Jesus.
      From the fear of being forgotten, Deliver me, Jesus.
      From the fear of being ridiculed, Deliver me, Jesus.
      From the fear of being wronged, Deliver me, Jesus. . . . ”
      (M. del Val)

  4. says

    Ok, all you theologues out there, I had a thought. Tell me if it is heresy or truth or (most likely) just speculation.

    One question people have had through the years is whether we will have individual identities in heaven. Will I see my wife of 35 years and know her as my wife. I’ve always assumed that I would.

    However, is it possible that the principle of this post would apply in that situation. When we are before the throne and giving glory to God, our sense of personal identity will become meaningless. We may have individual existence, but that will be so consumed by the glory of God that our individualism will become less important to us as we join with other believers.

    Too esoteric? New-agey? I don’t know. It was just a thought I had as I read through the comments here.

    • Mike Bergman says

      I think when you look at things like the parable of the rich man and lazarus, and the souls of the martyrs crying out for justice in revelation, and the fact that even from the beginning, pre-sin God created us to be individuals (albeit corporate individuals)… and our destiny is to rule with Christ over a new creation, etc.

      I think its clear we’re going to maintain our individual identities and they’ll be important in the context of being consumed by the glory of God.

      Otherwise, why such an emphasis on the hope of the resurrected body (a mark of individual nature)?

      • Christiane says

        this, from Job 19:
        “25 For I know that My Redeemer liveth, and that He shall stand at the latter day upon the earth:

        26 And though after my skin worms destroy this body, yet in my flesh shall I see God:

        27 Whom I shall see for myself, and mine eyes shall behold, and not another . . . “

        • Jon says

          That’s my favorite O.T. passage. It’s gloriously inspiring and very fit for a funeral service.

    • Dave Miller says

      Mike #1 (Bergman),

      I guess what I’m theorizing is probably more in line with what Mike #2 (Leake) said.

      As you say, we will have our identities, but perhaps our individuality and sense of identity will mean less than it does to us now.

      Like the way my laptop seems bright until I take it out into the sun, then I can hardly see it at all. Personality and identity are so important now, but will fade in the presence of the Glory.

      Again, it’s just a thought.

      And, like most things about heaven, it’s all just speculation. We can only imagine. I should write a song about that. “I can only imagine….”

    • says

      I think the Bible bears out that we will keep our identity. However, it’s not because we volleyed to keep our identity, but rather because we were willing to lose it. As a result we will be glorified with Christ.

  5. Dale Pugh says

    “However, is it possible that the principle of this post would apply in that situation. When we are before the throne and giving glory to God, our sense of personal identity will become meaningless. We may have individual existence, but that will be so consumed by the glory of God that our individualism will become less important to us as we join with other believers.”
    I wouldn’t consider myself a “theologue,” but your statement here would be my take on it. When Jesus says (Matt. 22) that there will be no marriage at the resurrection he also states that we will be like the angels. What is the role of the angels in heaven? Worship. Obedience. Each angel has it’s own identity, as far as I can tell from the biblical descriptions, but the basic function of the angels is to offer worship to God and to accomplish His purposes.
    At funerals there is so much talk spent on who the dead person is now visiting with, that he or she is now with gramps, or how sure we are that Aunt Sadie met the deceased at the Pearly Gates. All of that seems to me to be utter nonsense from a biblical perspective. God–His glory, His majesty, His presence, His power–this is the wonder of heaven. It isn’t about us. It’s about Him.
    Will we know others when we get to heaven? Will we be able to relate to one another? I see no reason why we shouldn’t. That just isn’t the point of heaven, in my opinion.
    Maybe someone else has a better explanation…..

  6. Keith says

    I guess our death to self must be just as real as His death on the cross.

    Excellent post Mike Leake.

    First time commenter, Dave. I have almost posted many many times.

    I will be thinking about this for a while.

  7. says

    I’ve often wondered how to pursue usefulness without self-promotion in a world where most people, including Christians, pursue usefulness through self-promotion.

    • says

      There is a book that I’m currently working my way through called Embracing Obscurity that is really good. I think Dave Miller did a tremendous job writing it.

      • says

        I’ll have to pick up a copy, although I suspect it addresses the heart rather than the practical. For example, how did the anonymous author sell the book to the publisher? The publisher must know the author and have an idea that he or she produces quality material. The author must have also thought that the material was good enough to approach the publisher with the text. That’s self-promotion on at least one level.

        Nevertheless, I doubt anything would get accomplished if we all sat around and waited for opportunity to present itself without anyone knowing our availability, passions, skills, etc. so that we couldn’t take credit for it. Just as soon as one says, “Can I try doing that?” or “I think I might be able to do this,” someone else will either judge them for self-promoting or try to compete against them for the position. I’ve seen it happen on the smallest levels. So I have trouble knowing where to draw the line.

        • says

          I’m with you, Jim. As a new and aspiring author (I even cringe with those words) it’s been difficult drawing that line. Obviously, when I write something I want people to read it. Even this “Forget this Post”. I really don’t want people to forget this post because I think it is very helpful to the church.

          At the end of the day the battle that I face…the question that I ask…am I trying to get my name in lights or for more people to put Jesus’ name in lights. Sometimes I sinfully fail at that.

  8. says

    To any one who has studied history, forgetting one’s self is not a problem. Why? Cause sooner or later, you will be forgotten, and the proof is history. In 2-3 generations, your name is pretty much a thing of the past. Beyond that only a few notables remain. Five hundred to a thousand years, personalities become very spotty indeed. All our striving about being somebody doesn’t amount to a hill of beans.Self effacement is a biblical teaching, but a practice seldom success in this life. Only after one dies does self-effacement really begin to work.

    I will give you an example. What was the name of the General who would have won the Civil War in about two years? He used Lee’s strategy at Chancellorsville in a battle out West during the first year of the war and almost succeeded in destroying a Confederate Army (If only he had had a Jackson). Then another question: Who was the General of the South that Grant truly feared and he feared no other? Have fun.

  9. Jon says

    Yes, we talk about self-effacement but we don’t really practice it. C. S. LEwis held pride to be the first and worst sin. Christianity in the West has had a very prideful character at times. But humility is the greatest virtue!