As our society continues to deteriorate by political correctness, tolerance, individualism and self-help-ism, Christianity is taking on a new face. And it is not Christianity. Knowing Jesus is about dying to self.
“And [Jesus] was saying to them all, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross daily and follow Me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake, he is the one who will save it.”
– Luke 9.23
We have turned Jesus into our cheerleader. He accepts us unconditionally, He loves and affirms us no matter what we do, He is on my side. We sing songs like “I am a friend of God”, we write books about who we are in Christ, and we tell ourselves over and over again that we are loved. Jesus loves me, this I know. We use Jesus to help boost our self esteem. He came to save us, He exists for us, He adores us.
This is a mutilation of one of the most precious truths in the world. Yes, Jesus does love me, this I know, for the Bible tells me so!
“Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends.”
– John 15.13
God so loved the world that He sent Jesus to die on the cross and raise again, paying the punishment for our sins so that we can be forgiven and spend eternity with Him. But what is the end goal here? Did Jesus do that because we are so precious and He wants to affirm us and make us happy and comfortable in our own skin? Or did Jesus do this in spite of us, to make great His own glory?
“But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.”
– Rom 5.8
God did not send Jesus to die because of our worth. He sent Jesus to die in spite of us. We were His enemies.
For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life.
– Rom 5.10
And although you were formerly alienated and hostile in mind, engaged in evil deeds, yet He has now reconciled you in His fleshly body through death, in order to present you before Him holy and blameless and beyond reproach—
– Col 1.21-22
And this magnifies God’s greatness, His grace and His mercy. People, in their self-righteousness, might be tempted to lay down their lives for a loved one, a good man, or even a king or nation. But God sacrificed His only son for wicked people.
For one will hardly die for a righteous man; though perhaps for the good man someone would dare even to die.
– Rom 5.7
In clear, unashamed terms: God has created us for His glory. He does not exist for ours.
But now, thus says the Lord, your creator, O Jacob, and He who formed you, O Israel, “Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name; you are Mine! When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they will not overflow you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be scorched, nor will the flame burn you. For I am the Lord your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior; I have given Egypt as your ransom, Cush and Seba in your place. Since you are precious in My sight, since you are honored and I love you, I will give other men in your place and other peoples in exchange for your life. Do not fear, for I am with you; I will bring your offspring from the east, and gather you from the west. I will say to the north, ‘Give them up!’ and to the south, ‘Do not hold them back.’ Bring My sons from afar, and My daughters from the ends of the earth, everyone who is called by My name, and whom I have created for My glory, whom I have formed even whom I have made.”
– Is 43.1-7
What does this mean? It means that our women’s Bible studies should not be focused on looking inward and building ourselves up as adored by God. It means that we should be looking outward to God. Being a Christian is not a self-discipline of believing good things about ourselves, it is dying to ourselves and believing great things about God. Is it true that we are friends of God? Yes! By all means:
“No longer do I call you slaves, for the slave does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all things that I have heard from My Father I have made known to you.”
– John 15.15
But the glory here is not who we are, in being a friend, the glory is that the God of the universe accepts us. Therefore, we should not boast in our proximity to God, we should boast in God. It’s not about me, it’s about Him. John the Baptist stated most clearly our example of how we should react to our salvation:
“He must increase, but I must decrease.”
– John 3.30
Do you examine the Scriptures looking for promises to boost your self esteem and worth? Or do you examine the Scriptures to get to know more intimately who God is, and to make much of Him? Is God on your side, or are you on God’s side? The “What Would Jesus Do” phenomenon swept youth groups in the late 1990’s, and people began to answer the question by their own perspectives and not Biblical ones. Jesus would accept everyone, love everyone, affirm everyone, and let us just be ourselves. Right? I saw a meme on the internet recently that might shock some:
Jesus made a whip and chased people out of the temple who were selling and exchanging money. Did Jesus accept and affirm them? Or perhaps most commonly misrepresented is the adulteress:
The scribes and the Pharisees brought a woman caught in adultery, and having set her in the center of the court, they said to Him, “Teacher, this woman has been caught in adultery, in the very act. Now in the Law Moses commanded us to stone such women; what then do You say?” They were saying this, testing Him, so that they might have grounds for accusing Him. But Jesus stooped down and with His finger wrote on the ground. But when they persisted in asking Him, He straightened up, and said to them, “He who is without sin among you, let him be the first to throw a stone at her.” Again He stooped down and wrote on the ground. When they heard it, they began to go out one by one, beginning with the older ones, and He was left alone, and the woman, where she was, in the center of the court. Straightening up, Jesus said to her, “Woman, where are they? Did no one condemn you?” She said, “No one, Lord.” And Jesus said, “I do not condemn you, either. Go. From now on sin no more.”
– John 8.3-11
Jesus did not get on her side. He told her to go and sin no more. Adultery was not acceptable to Jesus, He told her, I forgive you, now go and change. He invited her to get on His side.
Let us be careful to remember that this is not about us. Yes, God promises us peace, rest, and eternal salvation. Life in the fullest! But that is all ultimately to His glory. In order for us to have life in its fullness, we must die to ourselves, we must look to Him. We must get on His side, join His team, follow Him and make much of Him. Let’s stop trying to build up our self esteem, because we are sinners and we will fail continually. But let us glorify the one who saves us in spite of ourselves, and rest in His goodness and mercy. Let us focus on Jesus today, not on ourselves.