The LORD your God is a consuming fire, a jealous God.
— Deuteronomy 4:24
Last week, a close friend called to tell me that he had just heard a really destructive rumor about me. Because he knows me, he didn’t believe it when he heard it, and he told the person who shared it with him to immediately squash it. But he wanted to let me know what was circulating about me. The rumor was patently false. I suspect it was a case of mistaken identity, that maybe I had been confused with somebody else.
But do you know what I immediately felt? Shame. In the pit of my stomach. Isn’t that weird? I mean, I didn’t do anything to cause this rumor. And it’s easily proven wrong by my life. But I still felt ashamed of something I didn’t do. Of something I didn’t even do! What is that? Where does that shame come from?
As the day progressed, I found myself consumed by the rumor. Why had it started? Who was saying it? How many people had believed it? How badly had it tarnished my reputation? Obsessing over the rumor ruined my joy that day. I wanted to celebrate some accomplishments, but I couldn’t. I wanted to enjoy time with my family in the evening, but I couldn’t. All I could do was worry about what others thought about me. That fear stole from me.
I had to come face to face with the truth. The enemy of my soul wants to steal from me. Satan wants me to be consumed by what others think about me so that I forget what God thinks about me. So that I neglect what God has called me to. So that I lose sight of what he is doing in and through me. On Sunday, we learned that, if we are not ready to be criticized for our obedience to God, we are not ready to be used by God. We must find freedom from fear of man and learn to live for an audience of one. If we are not being consumed by God, we will become consumed by others’ opinions.
The truth is that no matter how hard I try to live uprightly, I am going to be judged by others. Sometimes it will be because of my own poor choices, failures and mistakes. Sometimes it will be because the world is a place broken by sin and ruled over by a murderous prince who wants to destroy me (2 Cor. 4:4; Eph. 2:2; John 12:31). This prince, Satan, is a liar and the father of lies (John 8:44). But I am no longer under his rule (Col. 1:13). By the power of Christ in me, I can become consumed by what God thinks about me. This is the quickest, surest way to forget what others think about me.
My God is a jealous God. He does not want me to become obsessed with others’ opinions of me. He desires my full focus. I am a wayward person. I so quickly make others’ judgments my idol. Lord, please help me to persevere in being consumed by you alone! Amen.