In today’s culture, individuality is the glory of the high achievers. But when we go to the Scriptures, we find that God’s ways are not man’s.
In God’s view, “I did it MY way” describes the down side of any life.
The sure way to fail.
It was the signature song of actor and singer Frank Sinatra who rose to fame in the 1940s and 50s. Self-satisfied as he neared the close of his life, he viewed himself as a victor mainly because he refused to compromise his individualism. His main point of satisfaction was that “I did it MY way.” As his song said it,
“Yes, there were times, I’m sure you knew,
When I bit off more than I could chew,
But… I faced it all, and I stood tall,
And did it MY way.”
From God’s viewpoint, he took pride in what he should have been ashamed of.
“I did it—MY way.” The phrase sounds so modern that we tend to think it came only recently. But think back to what happened with Adam and Eve in the garden. An allegory written to describe the almost universal experience, it comes to us as an early warning of what NOT to do. Yes, they also showed their individualism, but individualism and obedience to God do NOT go together. Let’s read the account.
Genesis 2:15–17 15Then the Lord God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to tend and keep it. 16And the Lord God commanded the man, saying, “Of every tree of the garden you may freely eat; 17but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.”
There is the law clearly put as stated by “the Lord God”: “You may” and “You shall not.”
Just in passing, notice the type of tree—sure confirmation that this is allegory:
17…of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.”
Not a variety that grows in our natural gardens!
Now, next chapter: Enter the serpent, and here we get an inside view of Eve’s heart.
Genesis 3:1–7 1Now the serpent was more cunning than any beast of the field which the Lord God had made. And he said to the woman, “Has God indeed said, ‘You shall not eat of every tree of the garden’?”
With the serpent came temptation, a further reflection from Eve’s own thoughts. She repeats (to herself) the command of God in gentle terms, first the “yes you may” followed by the “no.”
2And the woman said to the serpent, “We may eat the fruit of the trees of the garden;
Lots of good, allowable trees from which to choose fruit. But…
3but of the fruit of the tree which is in the midst of the garden, God has said, ‘You shall not eat it, nor shall you touch it, lest you die.’ ”
Hear that: The command: Don’t eat of it.
AND don’t touch.
If Eve had been wise, she would have moved far enough away from the tree so that it was out of reach. But apparently she didn’t feel that way about it. She was curious. Perhaps she was thinking already, “I wonder… I might like to do it MY way!”
The serpent kept on talking—in Eve’s own mind.
4Then the serpent said to the woman, “You will not surely die. 5For God knows that in the day you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”
Ah! The serpent as much as says, “The warning isn’t that dreadful…You’ll not surely die. You may even get good from it.”
Oh! Thou sounds good, doesn’t it?
The serpent is sly and subtle and sweet. “God knows what you like,” he says. “He knows how you feel. You deserve to try it. It’s right there in front of you!”
5For God knows that in the day you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”
The serpent (Eve’s own thoughts still talking) IS enticing. “You eat that fruit and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” It was getting better. More appealing.
Now Eve was feeling encouraged to at least TASTE the forbidden fruit. Maybe… just maybe it would be good to try it.
Doesn’t it sound modern? God knows our nature! He knows how we are tempted.
So instead of being warned and getting away from the tree with the forbidden fruit, Eve was slowly getting closer to it.
6So when the woman saw [recognized, perceived, understood] that the tree was good for food, that it was pleasant to the eyes,…
The tree was “good for food”—yummm! It looked enticing! More than even this, it was …
[it was] a tree desirable to make one wise
Who doesn’t want wisdom! Here is another cue to tell us it is an allegory… No tree in our garden makes “wise”!
So, decision made! She says to herself, “I’m doing it MY way.” And she moves even CLOSER to the temptation.
Genesis 3:6 6So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree desirable to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate.
First transgression: she took… and ate. Then she did even worse: she led Adam into sin.
She also gave to her husband with her, and he ate.
It is a serious thing to do wrong ourselves. It is even worse to lead another person into sin.
7Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves coverings.
Immediate pleasure!—They did it THEIR way, and felt good about it.
Sin does bring pleasure. Some of the fruit tastes really good.
But after the indulgence comes the disgrace. “Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they knew that they were naked.” They knew they were transgressing.
What does the proverb say about bread of deceit and the awful “afterward”?
Proverbs 20:17 17Bread gained by deceit is sweet to a man, But afterward his mouth will be filled with gravel.
It is the price of individualism, doing it “MY” way instead of God’s way.
Do we realize Adam and Eve are you and me? They represent those who know the law of God and are accountable to obey it. No way to cover their open sin—their spiritual nakedness—from God. What shame! They had sinned openly before God.
Think about two young priests, sons of Aaron, called Nadab and Abihu. On the VERY FIRST day of their service.
Leviticus 10:1–2 1Then Nadab and Abihu, the sons of Aaron, each took his censer and put fire in it, put incense on it, and offered profane fire before the Lord, which He had not commanded them. 2So fire went out from the Lord and devoured them, and they died before the Lord.
They offered profane fire. They did it THEIR way, and it cost them their lives! And right in front of the whole congregation of Israel! God meant what He said: You do it MY way, or you die.
It happened. Serious lesson learned.
Jesus made the same point, comparing man’s way and God’s. We can’t do it MY way AND God’s way.
Luke 16:13–16 13“No servant can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will be loyal to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon.”
It’s either pleasing God or self. Either “I did it MY way” or “I GAVE UP my way.”
14Now the Pharisees, who were lovers of money, also heard all these things, and they derided Him. 15And He said to them, “You are those who justify yourselves before men, but God knows your hearts. For what is highly esteemed among men is an abomination in the sight of God.
There is the key: God knows your hearts. He isn’t guessing, He knows! We either do it HIS way or OUR way.
And do we remember how far apart are God’s ways and ours? It is a passage we want never to forget:
Isaiah 55:6–9 6Seek the Lord while He may be found, Call upon Him while He is near. 7Let the wicked forsake his way, And the unrighteous man his thoughts; Let him return to the Lord, And He will have mercy on him; And to our God, For He will abundantly pardon. 8“For My thoughts are not your thoughts, Nor are your ways My ways,” says the Lord. 9“For as the heavens are higher than the earth, So are My ways higher than your ways, And My thoughts than your thoughts.
That is a contrast we want never to forget. How high are the heavens above the earth? That is a distance beyond our measuring—or even fathoming!
Paul gave another reason why we can’t do it “MY” way and succeed with God; why we can’t be individuals and keep our own opinions. We don’t have a “right” to them because why?
1 Corinthians 6:19–20 19Or do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and you are not your own? 20For you were bought at a price; therefore glorify God in your body and in your spirit, which are God’s.
What does Paul mean, “You are bought with a price”? We can’t say, “I’m doing it MY way.” This is where God’s way and our natural way divide. We naturally want to own ourselves, make our own decisions, be individuals. But when we sell out to God, we no longer hold the “rights” to “MY” way and “MY” opinion and “MY” honor. We have given that up. The word “price” may mean “honor” – the honor goes to God, not to ourselves, hence the last phrase: “Therefore glorify God in your body and in your spirit, which are God’s.
We do not “own” ourselves, hence must be showing honor to our owner.
This is what Jesus told the Rich Young Ruler he had to do: give up his first right to his wealth. He couldn’t do it.
What is the basic problem with “MY” way?
Proverbs 21:2 2Every way of a man is right in his own eyes, But the Lord weighs the hearts.
An even stronger passage is this proverb:
Proverbs 12:15 15The way of a fool is right in his own eyes, But he who heeds counsel is wise.
God calls us “fools” if we hold to our own way, if we’re proud to say, “I did it MY way.” This ego-centered philosophy and spirit is NOT God’s way.
What does giving up our individualism translate to? It is something we can practice many ways, the basic principle is the same. It is being, as in Ezekiel’s vision, a spoke in a wheel, going where the wheel goes. Or belonging to the unity of the body of Christ, the Church, not an individual but part of the unit.
Ephesians 4:12–13 12for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ, 13till we all come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ;
History is covered with the wreckage of those who went their own way, against God’s. Whether it be a case of setting up our own post beside the Lord’s post, or putting our standard of right and wrong beside His, or making our own rules for the game of life, the result is always the same when we go against God. It will be our ruin.
When we put forward our own opinion, very often we are taking the credit for ourselves and are not glorifying God. The command is simple:
2 Corinthians 10:17–18 17But “he who glories, let him glory in the Lord.” 18For not he who commends himself is approved, but whom the Lord commends.
When we stand at Judgment, we will want to be able to say to Christ,
I let go MY way. I did it—YOUR way!