Christians across the globe, but particularly here in America, struggle to avoid mixing a few sprinkles of performance into their personal perception and practice of faith. Even within our churches, Americans can’t help but recognize the size of the buildings, the charisma of leaders, the number of attenders, and the generosity of members. Does our consciousness of human performance have any effect on how believers (and non-believers) in our nation view God?
There’s little doubt that…
- Our vision of God is clouded by our culture
- Our portrait of Him is painted by our perspectives
- Our love for Jesus is diluted by our deficiencies
- Our relationship with the Lord is shaped by our circumstances
I’m not sure I (or anyone else for that matter) is exempt from the influences of this world in how we view and act on our faith.
Most of us don’t…
- Pray like we should
- Give like we could
- Love like Jesus commands
- Witness like His disciples
I’m convinced that if we had any idea who God truly is in all His glory, all else would pale by comparison.
- fall to the ground in amazement if we actually understood His infinite power
- cower in humility if we spent a single second in His mere presence
- be overwhelmed with thankfulness if we fully experienced His unconditional love
- cry countless tears of joy if it were possible for us to grasp His unfathomable grace
- never speak another word except for praise in the face of His immense wisdom
- scream out from the rooftops about the urgency of salvation if we really knew how bad hell is and honestly believed that many of our friends and family members are going to spend eternity there
In the absence of those direct encounters with Who and what we believe, most Christians in America aren’t as amazed, thankful, overjoyed and evangelistic as they should be. We’re more impressed with church buildings and pastors than we need to be. We’re more satisfied with a life of taking care of our own while doing little to serve the poor. We’re too content with feeble efforts to check the religious box rather than dedicating our lives to discipleship and ministry.
Gaining a Proper Perspective
“Where were you when I laid the earth’s foundation?” (Job 38:4)
Our view of who God is shrinks as we ascribe greater importance to earthly religious constructs and representations of His Kingdom. For example, now that America has defined churches as a place and pastors as the “paid professionals”, our biblical sense of personal responsibility and urgency to BE the Church and lead the “lost” to Christ has diminished. The more we acknowledge the magnificence of the facility and sermon, the less clearly we may see the Lord’s magnificence. In other words, focusing on what we (or others) have accomplished can shift our attention away from what Jesus has accomplished.
The essence of Christianity is humility before almighty God. Many expect some degree of credit or favor from God and man for their religious activities because our Americanized flavor of Christianity and definition of “church” has introduced performance-based thinking into our collective psyches. However, if we realized how big this God is that we worship, we would understand that in all things it’s His “doing” (not ours) that matters. We would eagerly and happily surrender our entire lives simply out of love, awe and reverence for all He has done for us, expecting nothing in return. God deserves all the glory and credit.
It’s not about us. it’s about…
1. His Creation – God and His Kingdom are permanent but (as we were reminded last week watching a fire consume much of Notre Dame) anything we build, no matter how impressive, is temporary.
“Some of his disciples were remarking about how the temple was adorned with beautiful stones and with gifts dedicated to God. But Jesus said, ‘As for what you see here, the time will come when not one stone will be left on another; every one of them will be thrown down.’” (Luke 21:5-6)
2. His Righteousness – It’s Christ’s goodness and not our own that we must look to. We are all sinners in dire need of a Savior – even “celebrity” pastors. Throughout Scripture, God almost always hand-picked the most “sinful” to fulfill His purposes – like Paul, Matthew, and Mary Magdalene.
“All of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags.” (Isaiah 64:6)
3. His Obedience – Only Christ’s obedience saves us. Our obedience should be the natural response to His. Our desire to follow GC2 (Great Commandment and Great Commission) should not be motivated by expectations of compensation in the form of salvation, favor or recognition.
“And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death— even death on a cross!” (Philippians 2:8)
4. His Love – Our love follows from His as we abide in the Lord through His Holy Spirit. It was the Father’s agape (unconditional) love that drove Him to create mankind and then to send Jesus to pay a debt He didn’t owe (because we owed a debt we couldn’t possibly pay).
“We love because He first loved us.” (1 John 4:19)
5. His Story – The Father wrote the play and we are privileged to be written in as actors in His grand plan.
“For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love he predestined us for adoption to sonship through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will.” (Ephesians 1:4-5)
6. His Power – Only through the Holy Spirit do we have the ability to do anything lasting and of value. Ephesians 3:16 and 3:20 describe what God is able to do through His Spirit within us as “immeasurable”, yet churches in America are conditioned by culture to track and measure (e.g. “nickels” and “noses”).
“I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.” (John 15:5)
7. His Salvation – We cannot lose salvation because God holds us in His palm. It does not depend on us as if we were in control, losing and regaining our standing with Him each time we sin and repent. Only God could fix the covenant that man broke – and He did so permanently through Jesus.
“I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one will snatch them out of my hand.” (John 10:28)
All of this work has already been done. None of those concepts above depend on our “doing”. Anything good, impressive, pure and holy come from and through the Lord. We must resist temptations to admire man-made structures and elevate leaders onto pedestals. Churches shouldn’t fracture due to a pastor’s immorality, retirement or death. The church is an “assembly of called-out ones” and “those belonging to the Lord” – individuals fully dependent on the Lord for righteousness, power and salvation. Nothing should stand between us and God – because it’s not the “doing” of anyone else, our label as a Christian, or our status as a churchgoer that makes us righteous, powerful or saved (by association). God is the sole source of it all – and if we come to understand one day how BIG our God truly is (making all else instantly lose some of its luster), that reality check would radically transform our Prayer, our Care and our Share.
It’s Your Turn
Every religion except Christianity is based on performance (i.e. our goodness or enlightenment). How have you seen attempts by Christians or churches to make themselves look “bigger” (e.g. by promoting their “creations” or their “goodness”) effectively diminish perceptions of how big our God is?