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Don’t You Know Who I Am?

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Last night in the news I caught a headline titled something like “Eltron Rocks Royal Tantrum.” It seems that Elton John, having just arrived at a concert venue where he was scheduled to sing before a live audience of tens of thousands and a televised audience in the millions, had his car stopped about fifty yards short of his dressing room. Because Princes William and Harry were at the conference (which was, I believe, in honor of their mother) the police had cordoned off the area and were not allowing anyone through. Not even Sir Elton. The diva was not pleased. Apparently he threw a bit of a tantrum and screamed at a police officer before commanding his chauffeur to simply drive around the officer. The officer quickly warned that such a move would result in an immediate arrest. So Elton John, in a huff, stormed the fifty yards to his dressing room. Celebrity tantrums are hardly newsworthy in my opinion, but one aspect of this one caught my attention. As he raged at the police officer John shouted some words which are breathtaking for their pride. “Don’t you know who I am?” he yelled.

“Don’t you know who I am?” I guess this is to say, “Don’t you know that I am famous? Don’t you know that I’m important? I’m the star of the show! And who are you? I matter more than the rest of these people and you’d better let me through!” It was amazing arrogance, amazing ego, on display.

Last night as my wife and I enjoyed our evening stroll around the neighborhood we were talking about how easy it is to be disingenuous when writing. It is easy to moralize a story or a situation without actually feeling or believing the moral. I have been guilty of this in the past, drawing a point from a story that I didn’t actually feel; drawing a lesson I did not actually learn. I’m sure you’ve heard sermon illustrations that were the same–they just did not ring true and were not convincing precisely because the illustration really meant nothing to the person using it. I’ve done this in my writing; you may have as well. But I can honestly say that when I read the story of Sir Elton I was brought up short. As I thought about the sheer arrogance of his question I realized that I can often approach God in the same way. When life is not going the way I want it to and when times are tough, I can approach God in such a way that I do not depend on grace, I do not plead grace, but instead plead myself. “God, don’t you know who I am? I’m the one who has done so much for you. Here, let me list a few of the things I’ve done recently and show you how you’ve rewarded me in the past. Don’t forget what I’ve done. Don’t forget who I am!”

My arrogance in approaching God with such expectation, expectation based not on His character but on my own, is really no different than what Elton John did. He did not plead for grace from the police officer, but rather pleaded his own merits. And, as with myself when I approach God through my own merits, Elton’s pleas got him nothing.

Grace is such a tricky thing. Grace is easy to understand, at least in theory. It’s easy to know that God has saved me by grace, having first predestined me by grace. It’s easy to know that He now preserves and sanctifies me through grace. But it is far more difficult to practice grace moment-by-moment and day-by-day. It is difficult to realize that even my best works, even the highest bit of merit I can offer God, counts for nothing. Even the best of men has no basis to approach God but the basis of grace. All our merit counts for nothing. Grace is all that matters. It is only through grace that we can approach God and say, “I know who You are!”

And wonder of wonders, we find then that graciously God listens and responds.

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