I was listening to the radio on my way to work this morning, and a popular song came on the radio. I started singing along as it is quite catchy and the theme of the song is strong, but I stumbled over one of the lines of the pre-chorus, and was quickly appalled at what I had just sung:
We are Your church.
We are the hope on earth.
Rend Collective’s “Build Your Kingdom Here” spends the entire song asking God to change the world, to bring the Kingdom on Earth, to do a mighty work, and then it throws in that strange phrase that is unfathomably out of place in the song.
Is it just nuance? Does the author mean that we are the instruments that God uses to make a difference and bring hope to the world? I truly hope so. But the problem is quite simply the fact that that is not what it says.
There is a large, Christian non-profit organization known around the world that has adopted the mission statement, “we want to answer the prayers of children”. Again, we can argue nuance and the heart behind the statement (perhaps more easily in this case), but let us consider what we are actually saying.
God has established the Church on Earth as His body. Jesus Christ is the head, and each of us has a unique gifting and role to fulfill within the local body. Some of us are mouths, some of us are feet, some of us are hands, and some of us – as Paul says – are parts less honorable and less presentable (1 Cor 12)! God chooses to use the Church to be His mouthpiece for taking the Gospel to the world, for pushing believers on to maturity and to worship Him.
We, as the Church, however – apart from God – are nothing. Paul says that if Jesus was not the Savior, we are the most pitiable people in the world (1 Cor 15.19). Apart from God we are all spiritually dead (Eph 2.1). We are not righteous, we do not seek after God, and we do no good on our own (Rom 3.10-11). And when God brings us to Spiritual life, we are servants or slaves of God. We are made into new creatures, we are set to walk in His ways, to His service, unto His glory. In-and-of ourselves we are nothing, but we are made alive in Christ by virtue of His nature.
Jesus Himself was the epitome of humility and He taught us to be humble. That is why Paul teaches,
For through the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think more highly of himself than he ought to think; but to think so as to have sound judgment, as God has allotted to each a measure of faith.
– Rom 12.3
Jesus Himself said that we should always sit at the seat of least honor, lest we embarrass ourselves when someone of higher honor comes.
“For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.”
– Luke 14.11
The point is simple. We are most assuredly not the hope on Earth. Jesus Christ and His Gospel is. We are blessed to be the ones to proclaim the hope, but we are merely people pointing the way to the hope. We most assuredly do not answer people’s prayers. God may use us to answer prayers, we may the tool that He chooses to use in His sovereign ways, but we are not the sovereign, the benefactor, the provider. In fact, we might screw things up if we “answer” someone’s prayers in the way we think it should be resolved, because often times God has a greater plan than we could ever imagine in the works! For example, the Bible says,
For even when we were with you, we used to give you this order: if anyone is not willing to work, then he is not to eat, either.
– 2 Thess 3.10
If someone is “praying” for food, but it lazy and unwilling to work, and we go in and feed him without the leadership of the Holy Spirit, we enable his habit and do not allow God to work a life-changing miracle in his life, convicting him of responsibility and work ethic.
The heart and intention might be pure behind these two thoughts. But danger lies in the un-thoughtfulness of using such a motto. First of all, the person may come to believe what they are saying. It might start out with the right heart, but in attempting to be what they are saying, people will err. Secondly, and perhaps more importantly, it teaches error at best and heresy at worst. If a young Christian is in your presence and you teach him these false truths and he does not have the foundation of Biblical knowledge and understanding, he will go astray from the beginning.
Humility is the key. Praise God, there is no greater honor than being used by Him to preach His Gospel and His truth to another. But we are no one’s hope. We answer no one’s prayer. God alone is the hope, God alone answers prayers. Consider your words today, and your efforts. Are you watching to see what God is doing around you, and joining Him in His work? Or are you busy being about your own efforts and asking God to bless them?