When Jesus was about to die, he looked at his disciples and told them “You will all fall away…” Jesus was clearly not concerned with his disciples’ self-esteem. If Jesus were concerned with his disciples’ having a positive self-image, He wouldn’t have said half of the things He did say. Even the gentle calls to “remain in Me” (John 15:4) are preceded and followed by phrases that mark our inadequacies. (e.g. “apart from Me you can do nothing…” John 15:5) along with warnings of destruction. (e.g. “If anyone does not abide in me, he is thrown away like a branch and withers… thrown into the fire, and burned.” John 15:6) Why so harsh? Why is it that Jesus is so confrontational? Wouldn’t it be more encouraging to hear Jesus say something like, “Hey guys, you’re great! I really want you to follow me, because I think the world of you!” (big smile and thumbs up.) But, that is not how this Jesus thing works.
Following Christ must be done from a position of need. Not His need for you, but your need for Him! This is why Jesus is so clear when He speaks to His disciples. You see, He does value you. Not because you’re awesome, but because you’re so inadequate. Jesus’ words are piercing and convicting precisely because you are not righteous and you are in desperate need of righteousness so that you can stand before God. His words are not simply hard for the sake of being hard, they are hard because they are true. Christ sets in front of us His character and we are immediately confronted with our great need for Him.
The remarkable role of the church on this earth is to set that character before a world of people who are ignorant of Christ. The church is supposed to be the canvas on which people can see the character and nature of God. (1 John 4:12) If we are living in loving community, then the world will get a glimpse of God! The call to the church is to reveal the image of God on this earth! If we are to accomplish so great a task we cannot persist in self-exalting righteousness. We cannot insist that we are good enough and that our goodness/attractiveness is why you should join a church. Following Christ must be done from a position of weakness and need. In the same way, our weakness and need must be on display if we are to show the world our Great Savior. Our communities must be centered on the reality that Jesus is Savior, knowing God is great, and we are inadequate without Him.
I believe this is why Jesus was so hard on His disciples. He wanted them to know Him and they were incapable of doing so without recognizing their own unrighteousness. When we, as Christians fail to measure up we fight and bicker over nonsense. When we think we are good enough, we argue over carpet color and attendance. Don’t be dismayed, the church has always struggled with this. James deals with it quite directly in James 4:1-10:
What causes quarrels and what causes fights among you? Is it not this, that your passions are at war within you? 2 You desire and do not have, so you murder. You covet and cannot obtain, so you fight and quarrel. You do not have, because you do not ask. 3 You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions. 4 You adulterous people! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God. 5 Or do you suppose it is to no purpose that the Scripture says, “He yearns jealously over the spirit that he has made to dwell in us”? 6 But he gives more grace. Therefore it says, “God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble.” 7 Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. 8 Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. 9 Be wretched and mourn and weep. Let your laughter be turned to mourning and your joy to gloom. 10 Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will exalt you
Did you notice the prescription at the end? It comes in verses 7-10. You must recognize your unrighteousness before a holy God. This is the basis for understanding and living in Christian community.
At Sovereign Grace Fellowship we are striving to live this out. If these words resonate with you or you’re simply interested in learning more, come check it out.
You can find more about what we believe here: Sovereign Grace Fellowship Documents
You can hear recent messages here: Sovereign Grace Fellowship Podcast
You can view supplemental materials on our YouTube channel here: The Deep End
And you can check out more on our website here (under construction):sgfbrazoria.org