Monday, June 23, 2008

Peter, Where's Your POSMA?

MESSAGE: Gone Fishin' (podcast)
SCRIPTURE: Luke 5.1-11

When I was in, I think 5th grade, my school brought a therapist, or counselor, or some kind of touchy feely person in to tell all us poor kids about POSMA. What the heck is POSMA? POSitive Mental Attitude. In other words: self-esteem and feeling good about yourself. This woman told us that we just need to believe in ourselves really, really hard and think really, really well of ourselves and everything in our lives will turn out ok. After all, it doesn't matter what anyone thinks about you, except you! Basically the whole message was very humanistic - the essence of your thoughts and emotions regarding yourself is all that counts. We even went through a bunch of ridiculous exercises, like the "Compliment Carwash," in which all the students lined up in two lines facing each other and then raised their hands to form an "A" frame, and then one student at a time went through the "car wash" and received compliments from all the other students, all in an attempt to bolster our POSMA.

Did it work? Well, here I sit, writing this blog, so you be the judge.

Channel 11 (NBC) sometimes plays some ridiculous ads (you know the ones, "The More You Know," with the catchy little jingle at the same time) that will often touch on the whole POSMA way of thinking, that usually make me want to put my boot through the TV screen. I recently saw one with the chick from Law & Order: SVU on it, and believe it or not, these words actually came out of her mouth: "We are all born knowing our one true love: ourselves." The first time I saw this PSA, I had to control my gag reflex.

Wow, that's a lot of maniacal raving about some seemingly insignificant things there Joel, don't you think? Maybe. I guess my POSMA is a bit low.

The truth is that the Bible speaks clearly against the whole idea of self-esteem, or POSMA, or whatever you want to call it. When the Bible identifies people who are in love with themselves, or who think they can soldier through any difficulty on their own by the power of positive thinking about themselves, it usually says that they are full of pride and thus, unable to see themselves in truth.

Luke 5.1-11 gives the perfect example of anti-POSMA: Peter. When he is confronted with the reality of the living God in his midst, his whole world collapses. He realizes how high, holy, and pure Jesus (God) is, and how low, slimy, sin-filled, and unworthy he is. And when he realizes this, he demands that Jesus leave his presence because he can't stand to be in the same boat as Jesus after this realization. Any good thoughts that Peter had about himself and his POSMA got flushed down the toilet when he realized who and what Jesus was. He responded to his realization thusly: "Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord!" But, of course Jesus doesn't listen to Peter, and he doesn't leave. Instead he says, "Do not be afraid." He comforts Peter in his right knowledge of the situation. Peter is saved, and begins to "fish for men."

Does this mean that we have to go around constantly thinking poorly of ourselves all the time and live our lives down in the dumps? Of course not. The world preaches POSMA by the humanistic system - believe in yourself, rely upon your strengths, you are good enough to accomplish anything you want. Jesus preaches POSMA by HIS system - don't believe in yourself, believe in me - rely upon my strength in your weakness, because my strength is perfect - you aren't good enough to accomplish anything you want, but I am. Thus, POSMA turns into a positive mental attitude about realizing what sinners we are, realizing the love of God for us, and trusting in Christ to forgive our sins, give us strength and power, and having the glory of God be our focus instead of the glory of self.

A couple weeks ago I was blessed with the opportunity to travel to our church's camp in Lansing, Iowa and lead a few staff training sessions before the camping season started. One of the first things I wanted to make clear to everyone that was down there, was that there was nothing that they were going to accomplish. Even if they were gifted for this ministry, even if they have years of experience, and even if they love being a camp counselor - they could not, and would not accomplish a thing. The only way that any lasting ministry would occur would be through the power of God. And I also stressed to them that God's strength will be made perfect in their weakness. I've been down to camp in the midst of the camping season, and I've seen the burnt-out counselors and staff. And I couldn't blame them. If I had to endure 3 months of ankle biters, hot weather, and 23 hour work days, I would be pretty wiped out too. And in these conditions, it would be easy to lose your worldly POSMA and think that you can't accomplish anything, because it's just too hard, you're not good enough, you don't have the necessary skills to accomplish any ministry goals, and you've got no strength left in you to do anything. And then you get depressed, because your lack of POSMA will surely influence the results of your ministry: kids won't be counseled, they might not get their questions answered, and they might not get saved. This line of thinking is totally faulty, of course. Because if we realize that there's nothing about us that can accomplish anything, then we're completely relying upon God to do the work, and there's no better worker than God.

Where's your POSMA? If it's placed in anyone or anything but Christ, you've got a long, depressing road ahead of you. Come to Jesus and, like Peter, say, "I am a sinful man!" And when you do that, you'll see what God is really capable of.

If you want to read more about the anti-biblical message of self-esteem, click here.

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