Summary: Who we really are is revealed by how we think about four major areas of life: God, time, money, and relationships. This message looks at the first two.
Following Jesus, part 6
Wildwind Community Church
November 13, 2005
Right now we’re talking about following Jesus, and I have realized this week that there’s one thing that keeps me from following Jesus as faithfully as I would like, and I know that it’s the exact same thing that keeps you from following Jesus as faithfully as you might like. That thing, frankly, is me. That thing in your life is you. The biggest struggle in my life is getting over myself. It’s easy for me to watch that video and laugh because I think, “I’m not like that.” But then I stop and think about it and realize that the truth is that on the level of my emotions and expectations, maybe I’m a lot more like some of those people on the video than I’d like to think. Maybe I do have some ridiculous expectations. Maybe I do sometimes see the church as a vehicle for meeting my needs. Maybe in my own mind and heart sometimes I work and worship at MeChurch.
Have you ever been to MeChurch? Maybe you identified yourself in one of the people on the video, or maybe you can see other areas where you sometimes show up to MeChurch on Sunday, or relate to others during the week as if you attend MeChurch. This is easy to slip into, isn’t it? It’s easy for us to think about church as the place that’s here to meet our needs, and to look at other people in the church as being instruments for the meeting of those needs. The church, my small group, the programs at my church, the staff and workers at my church – they are there to meet my needs and if my needs aren’t getting met, then I’ll leave. Worse yet, I’ll stay and just complain anytime someone or something doesn’t meet my needs.
I don’t want anyone to feel chastised this morning. I am not preaching this today because I think our congregation is any more susceptible to selfishness than any other church. In fact, I’m preaching this today because I want to remember, and I want you to remember, that we are probably not LESS susceptible to it.
I struggled as I wrote this message last week because it’s hard to get people past themselves when I sometimes struggle to get past myself, and it’s hard to get people past themselves in a message where you turn a mirror on people and ask them to look intently for a half hour at their own reflection, even if it’s a spiritual reflection. I think that’s why there’s a hymn that says, “Turn your eyes upon Jesus – look full in his wonderful face. And the things of earth will grow strangely dim, in the light of His glory and grace.” We need to spend less time looking at ourselves and more time looking at Jesus. We need to spend less time examining our lack of love and spend more time in the love of God. We need to sing fewer songs that have the word I in them, and sing more songs that have the words You (referring to God) and we (referring to the body of Christ) in them.
But how do we do that? How do we get people to turn their eyes upon Jesus? How do we get up on Sunday morning to attend the church of Jesus Christ and not slip into MeChurch mode? It’s hard in a MeCulture. Turn on your TV and watch Oprah for a moment – the high priestess of MeCulture. Read a current magazine. Watch the news. Even listen to some preachers. You’ll hear about what you can do to accomplish this, how you can make your life better, how you can be happier, how you can be more successful, how you can get ahead, how you can live up to your potential, five steps to getting rid of fear, etc. Me, me, me, me, me. You, you, you, you, you. We spend nearly all of our week immersed in MeCulture.
Then we come to church. And we hear a preacher talking about God. And our natural question is how God can help us accomplish things, how God can make our lives better, how God can make us happier or more successful, help us get ahead and live up to our potential, get rid of our fear, give us our best life now – we just assume that everything we encounter that could possibly be good must help us meet one of these goals. Isn’t that the standard for even deciding whether or not something is worthwhile in the first place?
Many of us think this, but it’s very scary because most of the time we don’t even know we think it. These ideas are part of The Matrix, you might say. They form the set of assumptions that make up the world we live in. They convince us that we are pursuing God and convince us of our holiness, when all the while we are still pursuing our own self-interest, it’s just that now we have brought God into the mix and are trying to get him to fight these battles for us. It’s the oldest trick in the book – claiming that God is on whatever particular side that I happen to be fighting on.