Some Christians grew up in a church that made them feel unworthy and insignificant; like a wayward creature whom God has to stoop down to tolerate – let alone love. Others grew up in an environment of spiritual comfort and freedom – where Jesus’ blood covers everything, but changes nothing. The first group have little more than a set of rules and regulations to make them feel safely justified – while the second group feels free to live and do as they please, and Christ has little impact on their way of life.
However, we see a universal trend in all modern churches of placing the Almighty Self at the center of all things. Marketing tactics have long played on the value system of our selfish culture, personalizing and commodifying everything for the individual. A great window into the ethos our self-centered society is lyrics of the song “Made Too Pretty,” by As Cities Burn.
“We bear your name,
and you let us say
you are something that you’re not.
As if you were made after we saw our own faces,
and knew we were gods enough.
I think we were made too pretty.
We’re caught up in a stare we cannot break.
We know nothing changes too slowly.
Someday we might come down,
but who’s to really say?
And if we are the body,
How’d the pretty men get so ugly?
How’d he get all these spaces between each limb?
And if there is one thing bigger than my head,
that’s the distance I’ve been mislead.”
“We don’t want a God we don’t see in ourselves, don’t see we’re in need.”
At its root, every problem that humanity has wrestled with since the dawn of time boils down to the glorification – or deification – of the self in some way, shape or form. This is a basic Biblical definition of the “flesh.” Self-centeredness, self-love, self-hatred, self-indulgence, self-consciousness, self-defensiveness, self-protection, self-justification, self-absorption, self-exaltation, are just a few ways it manifests.
James 4 lays it out like this: “What causes quarrels and what causes fights among you? Is it not this, that your passions are at war within you? 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. You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions.”
Jesus came to save us from our self-centered world by demonstrating selfless love. He did so by laying down his life in thought, motive, action, word and ultimately – unto his very death. Therefore, the only antidote to our current state of self-preoccupation is complete and utter SELF-DENIAL, which is to “deny yourself, take up your cross,” and follow the example of the only person who ever truly died to Himself.
But this is not a popular concept in the iLoving, “Baby-I-was-born-this-way” cultural environment we’ve all grown up in. In fact, one of the most basic offenses of the Gospel to the human heart is the idea that we really even NEED a Savior. Perhaps the bad ones – the ones that kill and do bad things – but not the ones trying to live good lives and be a good person.
Think about it. What does the whole concept of “salvation” imply?
1) There is something from which we must be saved.
2) We cannot save ourselves.
3) Our lives no longer belong to us, but to the Person who saved us.
Jesus put it in the most simple of terms: “The world hates me because I testify that its works are evil.” (John 7:7) Who did God send to “prepare the way” for Jesus’ ministry? John the Baptist. What was his ministry? Not to remind everyone of how deserving of God’s love they were, but to “proclaim a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins.”
So before Jesus ever came onto the scene, the people’s hearts were prepared for Him by “confessing their sins” and getting baptized. (Mark 1:4) It is no wonder that the gospel of Christ was considered “foolishness to the Gentiles,” who were at the height of Roman affluence, and assigned a god-like quality to the human Self.
God could have chosen any name for the Son He sent to the earth, but to Joseph He said,“You shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins.” (Matthew 1:21). Here we have the primary reason God sent His Son Jesus down to Earth – to SAVE it. Therefore the overriding identity of Jesus in relation to humanity is SAVIOR.
This may all seem so basic, but often it’s the most fundamental tenets we lose sight of. That is, that in order for anyone to receive the “good news” of the Gospel, they must first be in a place where they truly believe they are in need of a Savior, that they cannot save themselves, and that their lives are no longer their own.
I once heard a pastor say he never hired anyone who didn’t have a deliverance story. Now, he didn’t mean they had to have some crazy conversion from a psychotic serial killer to a Jesus-loving pastor in some dramatic moment. But rather, they know what exactly they have been delivered from, and what they’ve been delivered to.
One of the best ways to restore the joy of your salvation is to ask yourself this simple question: What is YOUR deliverance story? Identify what is it exactly that Jesus has saved you from… And what, then, have you been delivered TO?
1 Timothy 1:15, “This is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners.”
Luke 19:10, “For the Son of man is come to seek and to save that which was lost.”
John 3:16-17, “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved.”