I am Thy servant to do Thy will, and that will is sweeter to me than position or riches or fame, and I choose it above all things on Earth or in Heaven. A.W. Tozer
I’ve found a search for validation to be one of the most elusive yet compelling desires within the human heart. Even at 41 years old, married, and a father of 4, I can be in a state of needing reassurance that I am enough. Certainly, my desire in Christ is to always see Him as enough. On paper, that’s the answer I’ll forever give and the reason I do what I do is something that flows out of relationship and a love for Him.
But so often I get things backwards. All my longings seem to be what I want out of life; albeit a life defined by Christ. I want to do. I want to have an impact. I want there to be fruit. And I want it to look the way I want it to. Suffice to say, the Gospel of Jesus in my life is often replaced by a lesser gospel but a much more dangerous one if allowed to be taken to its logical extreme: the gospel of me.
I don’t know how you tick but I’m guessing we have some similarities especially as we look at the world around us. We see a culture that exists on “if you work hard, you should reap and enjoy the benefits.” I’ve tried to find where in the Bible this theme occurs and I have yet to discover it. It seems the harder I work to do stuff for Jesus, the less and less I see end results. Especially as I make it about religion and not relationship. Duty over surrender. Sacrifice over obedience.
What follows today is a blog that I’ve needed to write for myself for quite some time. Often an idea comes quickly and I scratch out some notes and leave a rough draft with enough bones for me to come and finish later. This has been one of those drafts that has been sitting for awhile in my to-do folder; staring back at me. And I know it’s an issue God is taking me to task on. So without further adieu, let’s jump in. Let’s dissect and let’s diminish this “lesser gospel” for the greater, more nobler one that Christ offers.
1. The gospel of me comes from misplaced trust
Think about the things of heaven, not the things of earth. Colossians 3:2
It’s paradoxical in many ways. To think that I’m so in love with Jesus that I want to live for Him and to serve Him. But in the same breath, I want it to look how I want it to look. So in serving God, thinking I’m doing all this important stuff, I’m really only living for what I want out of the relationship. I’m trading real, authentic relationship with Jesus for a relationship that is based upon what I can gain and what He will do in me and through me; again, with my expectations taking front seat.
Does this make sense? Let me explain it in another way: as a parent, you want your kids to love you. You want them be in love with you not just because you do certain things for them, but because of the relationship you have: parent to child. Innately, there should be love. A level of trust should already be there. But if the child only seeks love for the end result of ____ (fill in the blank) thing, how genuine truly is the relationship? To me this is misplaced trust. The child really only trusts in what he or she can have. We too can trust in what we believe we should have; seeking the gift but not the Giver. The creation, but not the Creator. Misplaced trust is where I believe the gospel of me starts. If we can recenter our hope and longing back on Jesus, we will make steps back into right and pure desires.
2. The gospel of me is a recipe for burnout
Just as that misplaced trust leads to expectations of fulfilled needs, our longings apart from God are never fully resolved. “Apart from me you can do nothing” (John 15:5), truly is a humbling statement. It reveals the fact that really there is nothing good or of value that we have outside of relationship with Christ. We know fruit comes to bear by being grafted into Him; allowing the Holy Spirit to be at work, changing and transforming us. But we chase after lesser things, always hoping by some happenstance they will fulfill and bring us peace. The end result is most certainly burnout. (For a study on The Fruit of The Spirit, please check out this series of blogs: The Fruit - An Introduction, Compelled By Love, Defined By Joy, Filled With Peace, and Guided By Patience).
We know all of this, yet we live in denial of it everyday. How do we live in denial? We rarely crack our Bibles. We seldom pray. We look to God only in the moments where things are truly desperate, the moments in which burnout has consumed us. We act as though we can do all of this ourselves when Jesus clearly tells us there is nothing we can do on our own. We become walking contradictions that say and profess one thing but act and live out something completely different.
3. The gospel of me is never satisfied
When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures. James 4:3
When somehow the burnout passes or God redeems our situation, we find ourselves faced with a choice: either I can make changes in my life and recenter myself on Christ or I can keep going down this path of trying to figure it out on my own. If we choose the path of self, we succumb to a feedback loop that is never satisfied. I’m saying this to Christians knowing that many who were once on a solid path are following a course far from where God wants them. I’ve been there and it’s humbling to finally come to the point where you are sick and tired of being sick and tired. I believe sometimes God allows us to hit rock-bottom so we see that no amount of effort on our own will ever correct the ship’s course. We need outside intervention.
The gospel of me is never truly satisfied because sin is never satisfied. Take whatever vice you can think of: sex, money, drugs, power. None of these things ever finds fulfillment in and of itself. None of them were ever meant to. Each of us has a pressure point and a point at which we are weak and easily tempted. What starts as a temptation grows into a fantasy and that fantasy is never satisfied. Even in doing the “good stuff” we think we should be doing for Jesus, we can fall prey to the trappings that are about doing more than being. Idols take many shapes and forms. Sometimes the most idyllic-looking creature can still be an idol…just in disguise.
So what’s the response to all of this? If I left things here without going further, it’d be a pretty depressing blog! But really it’s not meant to be. It’s meant to say what you already know to be true if at some point you’ve trusted Jesus. A relationship with Him is what He desires. Nothing in this life can ever take the place of knowing Christ and living for Him. If you are aiming for anything less and are about anything less, you will never find peace.
If I can be honest for a moment, I think sometimes we just need to rest. We need to rest in our Savior and just be with Him. This needs to occur on a frequent basis, not just a couple times here and there throughout the year. Turn off social media, turn off the bombardment and constant stream of information. Pull away and recharge and reset your mind. Feast on His word because it is meant to be consumed and tasted frequently: Taste and see that the Lord is good; blessed is the one who takes refuge in him. Psalm 34:8 Feed less on the things of this world. Be taken by your Savior and fall in love with Him all over again. Our walk with Him is meant to be ongoing, daily, and vibrant. His Gospel, the life-changing and life-altering one, is the only gospel you and I were meant for. Let’s pursue Him today!