When Your Ego Gets in the Way of Following Jesus

Not every obstacle to following Jesus is found outside of ourselves. We do have an enemy named Satan, but the Lord limits the power that Satan has over us. Also, the world in which we live is rotten and fallen, but Jesus has already overcome the world. Most often, our greatest enemy is the one we see in the mirror every day. We must be aware that the person in the mirror has the unfathomable ability to consistently overestimate himself. This propensity to think more highly of one’s self than they ought is what is known as the ego.
 
God has a way of blowing up our ego whenever we find ourselves in a losing battle with it. Simon Peter is perhaps the greatest example of this. In Jesus’ farewell discourse (John 13-16) we see Peter’s ego in full living color. In this section of Scripture, Jesus was seeking to comfort His disciples by informing them of what was to come with His betrayal, arrest, and crucifixion. Peter’s ego would not let him hear the important message that Jesus was communicating. 
 
All Peter heard was that his teacher was about to leave him and go someplace where he could not follow. He asked Jesus, “Lord where are you going?” 
 
Jesus answered him, ‘Where I am going you cannot follow me now, but you will follow afterward.’
 
If Peter had listened to what Jesus said, then he would have heard an important detail. What was Jesus really saying? – That Peter could not follow Him to the cross and the grave, but afterward Peter would indeed be able to follow the resurrected Christ. Peter’s ego blinded him though. We know this because he followed Jesus’ response with the bold declaration: ‘Lord why can I not follow you now? I will lay down my life for you!’
 
Jesus answered Peter, ‘Will you lay down your life for me? Truly, truly, I say to you the rooster will not crow before you have denied me three times.’ (John 13:36-38)
 
And with that, Jesus destroyed Peter’s ego in one fail swoop. After his thrice denial of even knowing Jesus, Peter realized he was not as strong as he once thought. A river of shame and self-disappointment carried him away in despair. He was so upset with himself that in John 21 we see him giving up and returning to his old profession of commercial fishing. Simply put, Peter’s ego took him out of ministry for a season. We do read that Jesus restores Peter in John 21, but my point is that we should all learn from Peter’s mistake.
 
In any and every circumstance of our lives, the Lord Jesus wants to teach us something. He communicates with us daily. However, if we cannot (or will not) humble ourselves and check our egos, then we will miss what He wants us to learn. And in the worst cases, He will humble us Himself. Having Christ destroy your ego is not a pleasant experience.
 
I am a fan of positive self-talk, but we must be careful to find our positivity and strength in Christ and not ourselves. Apart from Christ, you are not smart, strong, courageous, or powerful. You will fall short of honoring the Lord every time you set out to do something apart from His direction and strength. Peter was well-intentioned, but the good thing he intended to do was not in the will of the Lord. Peter was not strong enough to subvert the will of God, nor would the Lord grant him the strength to do such a thing. He was bound to fail.
 
Whenever you overestimate your ability to do anything apart from Christ, you are bound to fail. Your strength comes from the Lord and not yourself. God will not provide you the resources to do anything that is outside of His will. If your ego leads you to attempt the feat anyway, then you may be in for a great amount of pain. Ours is a loving Heavenly Father who disciplines His children, and His discipline can be especially unpleasant. As difficult as it is to check your ego, it’s much easier than the pain that comes with the Lord’s discipline. 
 
The real tragedy, though, is not just experiencing the Father’s discipline. At least when we experience His discipline, we learn the lesson he wants to teach us in spite of ourselves. What’s truly sad in these cases is that our ego prevented us from learning the lesson the easy way—the way Christ intended us to learn it.