And He 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. For what is a man profited if he gains the whole world, and loses or forfeits himself?” (Luke 9:23-25; NASB)
Thanks to Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and reality TV, the world is full of narcissists. As someone with his own online blog, I don’t have much room to talk, but since only three or four people actually read it, I think I’m good.
The problem with being self-centered is just that; your world revolves around you. This is an even bigger issue in the realm of Christianity and the Gospel. Being a Christian requires God to be the center of your life, which is easy to say but much harder to accomplish. Sure, we say that God is our focus and the advancement of the Gospel is our goal, but how many of us can do that without esteeming ourselves for what we do to pursue that?
Recently in Atlanta, the Passion 2011 conference took place. For reasons I’m about to get to, I didn’t go. For one, I disagree with John Piper on enough things to warrant me not paying to see him preach. I’ve heard Andy Stanley preach entire sermons without evoking the name of God or referring back to the Gospel. Also, if I wanted to see famous acts, such as Hillsong United or David Crowder, I’d buy a concert ticket instead of letting the distractions of the bands interfere with my focus on Christ during my worship. (Side note: I’d rather have an organist on stage with hymn books every other seat than be enticed by loud music and lightshows that shift my focus away from the One who more than deserves it. Others prefer the opposite. Whatever works for you is what you need. To each his own.)
Anyways, to my point. The main idea of the conference was “Do Something Now”, which is great. There are millions of people across the world who have never even heard of Christ. This is a tragedy. Even as I write this, I am haunted by the fact that everyone who reads it will be in either Heaven or Hell once their life has passed, and these people have at least heard the name of Jesus.
The problem lies here. Almost immediately after Passion ended, my Twitter feeds were full of Tweets referring to “doing something now”. The issue was that most of them read as “I will…” or “I am…”, and very few mentioned God. Very few said anything to the extent of “For God, I will…” or “For Christ, I am…” The commitments offered, while I am sure were offered nobly, were self-focused. I searched under the hashtag of #DoSomethingNow and my disbelief continued. Here were thousands of people who were so moved to become full-time missionaries or give their lives to the ministry and the Gospel, but so few gave God the focus. I saw more “I” and “me” and “my” than I saw “God”.
It was a sobering reality check, even for myself.
I began to think of all the times I struggled with not receiving recognition for serving the Church or didn’t feel like my work was appreciated. Then I remembered times when I knew it was all for Christ. The contrast was day and night, and I came to know that everything I do is all for God. There is no middle ground where God and I split the recognition. If the Gospel isn’t my focus, then I’m doing something wrong.
Once I caught on to that, I started to wonder how anyone who has a desire to share Christ with the world can let that desire revolve around themselves. It didn’t take long at all to find reasons. There are people who rewrite and rearrange the Bible into “modern language” to make it “cool” and “hip” and (supposedly) easier for us to understand, but present it in a language so far off from what the original, God-inspired text stated (I’m looking at you, Eugene Peterson). John Piper says that “God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in him” (emphasis added). Joel Osteen can’t preach anything other than a self-help sermon. The eternal online debate over Calvinism, Armenianism, and Molinism has been reduced to how much more right someone is over someone else rather than how to spread Christ from the stance of these theological positions.
It all boils down to the importance of God waging war with the importance of “me”. Satan loves it. For every second we live our walk with God focused in any portion on ourselves, it’s a second that he has to distract us. It’s a second that we aren’t listening fully to God. It could be the second you had to tell someone about Jesus. Jesus said that to follow him, we had to deny ourselves. The world cannot produce anything to save us. It all has to come from God and it all has to be focused on God. I said earlier that everyone who reads this post will end up in either Heaven or Hell. That’s a sobering truth. Likewise, every person you speak to, every person you sit next to in class, every person you know will, one day, end up in either Heaven or Hell.
This world doesn’t need my denomination. It doesn’t need my church. It doesn’t need my views. It doesn’t need my preferred translation of the Bible. This world doesn’t even need me.
This world needs Jesus.