The reason this reminder needs to be constantly spoken is because humans are terribly narcissistic creatures. That's more than a diagnosis of a psychological disorder from a big, heavy book. No, it is sadly the way of the sinful creature; it is the way of us all. We gladly stoop down to join Narcissus at the edge of his pool, but quickly forget he is there, because all that consumes our narrow vision is the unholy trinity staring back at us with loving admiration: me, myself, and I. Yes, before smartphones, Facebook, blogs, Twitter, and Instagram, the Narcissian puddle has long contained the selfie. We will forever be captivated by our self.
The fruit of this condition is that we love to make ourselves the subjects and objects of all of our conversation in almost any way we can. And of course, the Christian is not immune to this. Too often the zealous, well-intentioned Christian can unwittingly talk about himself so much that he talks Jesus right out of the conversation. Like the seminary professor warned, the Christian easily wanders off into talking about his own faith, rather than his Christ.
Of course, it's not usually obvious. There aren't Christians running around blatantly saying we should stop talking about Jesus so that we can talk more about ourselves (although, there are probably some out there somewhere). No, usually it's far, far more subtle than that. It's couched in language that sounds Christ-centered and probably even mentions him quite a bit, but which, upon further examination, is all about us; language about how to reach the lost, for example. It's hidden in the 5 steps to becoming an effective church or more committed Christ follower. Our narcissism is glossed over and glammed up with new and exciting "movements"; never-before-tried initiatives; strategic plans involving new, more meaningful worship "experiences" that will relevantly appeal to the masses. Our self-obsession is given voice in songs that talk all about how much we love to tell the story, or about how much we just want to praise God, but which never actually get around to doing either.
Before we know it, we have snapped more theological selfies than we know what to do with, none of which contain Jesus. Or if He is there, He has faded into the blurry background. There's only room for one in the Narcissian puddle, after all, and if Jesus will make an appearance, it will be no more than a ripple in the water; nothing more than the circle-shaped border that frames the center-most, affection-worthy object in the pond: me.
Yes, our narcissistic sin is to love the Christ follower more than the Christ followed.
So what is to be done? How is the situation to be remedied? Of course, it would be foolish to point to you or me as the solution. It would be utterly counterproductive to give you a list of ways to prevent your narcissism, although this seems to be the way of much popular American Christianity (e.g., "Your Best Life Now" by Joel Osteen, "Purpose-Driven Life" by Rick Warren, "Becoming a Contagious Christian" by Bill Hybels, the latest from Beth Moore, this from Joyce Meyer, and even this from within my own LCMS, just to name a few). But how does directing you to focus upon yourself help you fix the problem of focusing upon yourself? Answer: it doesn't. That would be like telling Narcissus that if he wanted to stop gazing at himself in the pond (which he doesn't), he should just move his head over a bit. Of course, his reflection will come right along with him, and he will probably be even more enamored with the new perspective he's gained just by slightly tilting his head. No, only one solution for this problem will do:
Narcissus must die.
And what better thing to facilitate his death than the pool of water into which he gazes? Yes, he must drown. Someone must cast him headlong into his own reflection and hold him beneath the surface until all he can do is fill his lungs with the water that once held his affection. Narcissus must die.
Indeed, so must you. Your sinful, wicked, self-infatuated self must be drowned and killed.
And that's exactly what Christ does in the blessed waters of your baptism. Christ comes and plunges you under the surface of the water in order to kill the wretched sinner at whom you so fondly and proudly gaze. But He doesn't leave you there. No, God kills so that He can make alive once more. And when Christ speaks His Word of promise, even the water of the Narcissian puddle becomes a life-giving water, full of grace. The water that brings death, is also that which raises the dead. The water that buries you in the tomb with Jesus, is also the water that raises you with Him on Easter morning, all because he proclaims it to be so (Romans 6:3-11). And once the self-aggrandizing, monolithically selfish, utterly self-worshiping sinner is sufficiently lifeless, Christ graciously lifts you out again. He raises your lifeless body out of the water, and with His Word of promise gives you life again. After all, even the dead can't ignore the, "Get up!" of Christ's creative Word (John 11). And so you rise forgiven, free from sin, a new creation, with your eyes fixed no longer upon yourself, but only upon your life-giving Lord. He becomes the object of your attention. He silences all of your pathetic cries, "Look at me! Look at me!" He puts an end to all of your self-help initiatives and Christ-follower betterment programs. He robs you of all of your boasting and leaves you with but one message to speak: "Behold Christ, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world. For while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. God made Him who knew no sin, to be sin for us, in order that we would become the righteousness of God. Repent and believe the Gospel."
Would you know the perfect and saving love of God? Then look not to His followers nor to their faith.
Look only to His crucified and risen Christ.