Summary: What does Jesus want from us anyway? Just what is a "successful Christian"? Are you one?
Jas 1:2-4 - 2Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, 3because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. 4Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. (NIV)
My last sermon I ended by saying, “Let’s make Jesus proud”.
But what does that look like? What is a “successful Christian”? Who will hear the words, “well done good and faithful servant?”
Will it be the one that stops sinning? Will it be the elders or those on the board? Will it be the pastors of the mega-churches?
Who can expect to hear those words of highest praise, “well done good and faithful servant?”
II. Adoption of failures
Last time I went to great pains to explain that we are not worthy of God. In the story of Justin I pointed out his wrecked condition in several different ways from his illegitimate, unplanned birth to his enormous criminal file. It would be impossible to overemphasis our desperate situation before Jesus came along. We are all street kids, villains, selfish and confused, miles from what God means when he uses the term “human”, falling terribly short of being the glory of God we were made to be.
The purpose of pointing this out with so much force is that the bible does the same. Why? So that no one may boast. It is imperative that we come to God in humility. Our fallen egos war with God on every front. And pride is what turns angels into devils. The only way another ego can enjoy the presence of God is to subject itself to him.
The strong emphasis on us as failures sounds, at first, to be negative and destructive. Some might see Christianity as a faith that is out to squash the human spirit. But they would be wrong. It is only out to squash human pride. Meanwhile, the point is that God loves us failures and sent his son to die so that we can be considered a success.
III. Achievement is not an option
Be we aren’t a success. Are we? We are only considered a success. Since we know that we are failures, achievement is not an option. Did you hear that? Achievement is not an option. I get so frustrated with myself for not being what I imagine a Christian to be. I am not disciplined enough. I am not spiritual enough. I am not pure enough. I don’t pray enough. I am not thoughtful enough. I am not gentle enough. I am not humble enough. And on and on.
How about you? Are you Christian enough? Can you list your failures? Do you ever get down on yourself because you just can’t pull it off? Do you compare yourself to other Christians? Do you compare yourself to the Christian in your head?
Well guess what? I have good news for you. WE ARE FAILURES. Now, isn’t that a relief?
IV. Christian Success
Now don’t get me wrong, there are successes in our walk. It would be very depressing if it were otherwise! But that isn’t the point. God didn’t choose us because we were successes. He isn’t impressed with what we achieve. He wasn’t when he took us off the street and he isn’t today. There is no boasting before God. So, if God is after something other than achievement, what is it? What does it mean to be a successful Christian? What does it take to make Jesus proud?
Listen to this very simple message:
6 - And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him. (NIV)
No one can BE Jesus, but everyone can FOLLOW Jesus. No one can know God, but anyone can EARNESTLY SEEK him. What defines a Christian is not how good he is, but how hard he tries. EVERYONE can try.
Every commandment of Jesus sets us up for failure. But that’s assuming that he thinks we should actually be able to BE like him. Christianity isn’t about being like Jesus. Have you ever met anyone like Jesus? No. Does that mean there are no Christians? No.
A Christian is someone who believes IN Jesus, not themselves.
A Christian is someone who puts aside all notions of achievement, all concept of accomplishment, all fantasies of attainment and tries anyway.
Listen to Paul:
Php 3:12-14 - 12Not that I have already ... been made perfect, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. 13Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, 14I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus. (NIV)