“In him we were also chosen, having been predestined according to the plan of him who works out everything in conformity to the purpose of his will, in order that we, who were the first to hope in Christ, might be to the praise of his glory.” – Paul to the Ephesians (ch.1, v.11-12)
It’s not about us. It never has been.
I feel as though growing up in the American church system cripples a lot of people. I would argue that it cripples most, but that’s an opinion. Why would growing up in church cripple instead of heal, you might ask? There are various examples of wounds that people have from their respective churches growing up. I will not go through and list off every single example that I know of, but I also do not want to make light of the wounds you may have. For the sake of the purpose of this blog, I will just focus on the one I have seen the most.
The word is egocentrism, which is kind of similar to selfishness, but to a much deeper and more problematic level.
There are a couple of defining attributes of someone (or something) that is egocentric (according to dictionary.com):
1) regarding the self as the center of all things
2) having little or no regard to the interests, beliefs, or attitudes other than one’s own.
THE PROBLEM: egocentrism
THE SUB-PROBLEMS: the glorification of humans and the growing subjectivity of the Gospel.
First: the glorification of humans
There was a movie that came out sometime last year that caused an enormous backlash from the “Christian” community in America. The issue, for the “Christian” community, is that the movie was unbiblical and absurd and that the characters could not have been portrayed more wrongly because they were too messed up in the movie. But let’s think about this: had you not grown up putting glory in whom glory was not deserved, would this movie still be a problem?
I grew up in Sunday school basically learning the Noah was one of those Bible characters (alongside people like Moses and David and Solomon and Paul and Peter and more) that was a superhuman. I was never told about their brokenness. I was never told about their need for grace. I was never told that Noah was a drunk with no self-control (Genesis 9:18-23) or that Moses was a rash chronic doubter (Exodus 2:11-12; Exodus 3:11-15; Exodus 4:1-14; Exodus 5:22-6:1,10-12; Exodus 6:30-7:7; Exodus 32:19-20; Numbers 11:18-25; Numbers 20:6-12) or that David was a chronic liar and cheater and stealer (2 Samuel 11). I only knew of the things they did that were awesome and grew up learning to give them credit for those things. I mean, they might as well have been Jesus the way Sunday School taught me about them.
The key to this first point is that we give extra-holy attributes to sub-holy beings. To clarify, we make gods out of pastors, worship leaders, and bible characters amongst a vast array of other human beings that just are not Jesus or anything close to him.
Now, let’s ask ourselves a few questions:
1) What is the difference between you and me?
2) What is the difference between you and a preacher (any preacher, take your pick)?
3) What is the difference between you and the apostle Paul?
4) What is the difference between you and Moses? Noah? David?
Now, let’s answer our questions:
1) Probably physical location and age and maybe gender.
2) Maybe the same as #1 and also a different opinion on desired occupations.
3 & 4) Maybe the same as #1 and #2 alongside the most important difference……….TIME PERIOD.
What are the similarities between you and me and all of these people?
The fact that we are all just severely broken messes in need of more help and more grace than for which we could ever imagine to ask.
The fact that without Jesus, we all would be on the same fast track to Hell. Let’s take a look at Romans chapter 3 starting in verse 9:
What shall we conclude then? Are [Jews] any better? Not at all! We have already made the charge that Jews and Gentiles alike are all under sin. As it is written: There is no one righteous, not even one; there is no one who understands, no one who seeks God. All have turned away, they have together become worthless; there is no one who does good, not even one. Their throats are open graves; their tongues practice deceit. The poison of vipers is on their lips. Their mouths are full of cursing and bitterness. Their feet are swift to shed blood; ruin and misery mark their ways, and the way of peace they do not know. There is no fear of God before their eyes.
Second: we made ourselves the subject of the Gospel.
(My mom is an English teacher and so I’m really hoping I get this grammar lesson correct.)
Subject: the person/place/or thing performing an action
Object: the person/place/or thing on which the action is being performed
We do nothing to get/earn/attain/accept/buy our salvation. That is way more power than we will ever have. If we could save ourselves, then why in the world would Jesus have come to save us? We are so screwed up and twisted and broken that we do not even know how to begin to fix anything. We do not even know where the thought process of fixing something should start. But somewhere along the line we started thinking that we do know. Somewhere along the line, we began to think that if we spoke clean enough or kept our bodies pierceless or tattooless or did not drink any alcohol or partake in tobacco use or do whatever we thought was good that we could fix what we broke.
We do not even know what “fix it” means.
This perfection that we have been trying to attain on our own, this righteousness that we cannot seem to grasp; it’s Jesus. It always has been Jesus. And it always will be Jesus. Back to Romans 3 starting in verse 22:
This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.
Somewhere there was a transition from christocentric to egocentric. Somewhere along the line we removed Jesus as the center, as the subject. We began to play the role of God, a role that we could never actually do. We made ourselves God. We thought we could save ourselves by being “good” when in reality what we know as “good” is still broken! We have no clue what good is except the presence of The Lord, which is too good for us to even begin to understand. We consider things to be good whenever we are positively affected by them. Us. It’s all about us. A day is considered bad when something undesirable (in our opinion) happens to us.
It’s not about us. It never was.
Jesus did not leave perfection and paradise for our sake. He did it because that is who he is. His nature, as we understand it, is not that Jesus is faithful (even though he is that). It’s that Jesus is faith. Jesus epitomizes faith. Faith is not something that could ever happen without Jesus; even faith in the smallest things like getting in your car and having faith in other people to drive carefully.
Jesus is everything.
“But whatever was to my profit I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ.” – Paul to the Philippians (ch. 3, v. 7-8)
Without Jesus, we are nothing.
“All of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags; we all shrivel up like a leaf, and like the wind our sins sweep us away.” – Isaiah (ch. 64, v. 6)
“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made: without him nothing was made that has been made.” – The Gospel according to John (ch. 1, v. 1-3)
We don’t know what good is, but we don’t have to.
“Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them.” – Jesus in The Gospel according to Matthew (ch. 5, v. 17)
Jesus was good for us because we could never be.
“All have turned away, they have together become worthless; there is no one who does good, not even one.” – Paul to the Romans (ch. 3, v. 12)
He did not live to be an example for us, he lived because we could not.
If we believe what we have read in Romans 3, then the only acceptable and eternal sacrifice for God was God himself. And because, according to John 1, Jesus is God, then Jesus was the only option of mending the severed relationship between Creator and his creation. The Lord sent Jesus with the intent of being our High Priest (Hebrews 4:14-5:10) and being the mediator between the two parties of the broken relationship. Jesus is the ultimate peace-maker that we, as confused sinners, could never be.
It’s not about us. It never was. And it never will be.
We are the object, the person being acted upon.
Jesus is the subject, the center, the everything, doing the acting.
“In him we were also chosen in order that we might be for the praise of his glory.”