We love ourselves. We love humble bragging. We love self deprecating comments. We like bringing attention to our flaws so other people will think about us. We love “me” more than “you,” well, unless “me” is inconvenienced. Then I love “you.” We love to comment and accuse others rather than sacrifice convenience to get dirty and messy. We are a reactive people and hate to be proactive. It’s why Charleston happens. It’s why we let racist jokes slide. It’s why we focus on gun control being the issue rather than the heart. Because we don’t like addressing our problems. Yep, you white guy that thinks you’re free from the label of “racist” because you have black coworkers you joke with. Yes, you white lady who wishes those kind of people won’t move in on your street.
The heart is wicked. The same desires that ruled in the garden of eden, and were present in Peter when he denied Jesus, and were present when Saul stoned Christians, and were present in the slavery days, and were present in the civil rights era lynchings, are the same ones that permeate our lives, thoughts, and actions today.
The difference, now, is, society has had 2000 years of moral therapeutic deism taught and passed down by generation to generation so we feel good about ourselves. We boast that “we aren’t like them,” and “I would never think of doing such a thing.” All the while standing on our social media platforms and giving the Pharisees a run for their money in hypocrisy 101.
But see, I am like them. I’m no different. Neither are you. And that bothers me, and it bothers you. We don’t like to think of ourselves as vile, mean and selfish. We don’t like being called names and told we are sinners. But, we are.
My actions, thoughts and desires are just as evil as the ISIS terrorists, the Charleston shooter and the Aurora, CO theater shooter. I am guilty. I am vile. I am in need of rescue. Rescue from myself. I can’t go one hour without thinking about myself and what I want. But that would mean I am incapable of rescuing myself. Yes, I need something, or better yet, someone outside of myself to rescue me. I have no hope within me.
I used to think I could pull myself up and muster enough good intentions and motivations to carry on and do right most of the time. I believed that because I prayed a “sincere” prayer, somehow, God would love me now. It, literally, has always been about me in my mind. Even now, it’s still all about me.
Yet then I read the Bible. The Bible illuminates my soul. This thing church people call “the flesh” is denied, if but for a moment. I see scripture in a way I have never seen it before. Life isn’t about me. It is about someone else. Someone bigger than me. Someone outside of me who rescues me from myself. Someone who stands in my defense. Someone who exchanged his perfect life for my wicked one. Someone who is my advocate. Someone who took God’s eternal spanking toward me that I might go without one.
When I read the Bible I learn there isn’t a list of requirements for rescue. There isn’t a quota of church services or prayers or readings. I can’t and won’t love my wife and kids or serve my neighbor enough. I can’t sing or help kids or play in the band enough. I can’t be faithful enough.
Yet, Jesus is.
Jesus declares me righteous. He chooses me. I don’t choose him. My wicked heart would never choose him (wellllll unless I wanted to gain something from him. Make a little money off of him. Use his name and image and bible verses to let people know I’m a good dude and I can be trusted). Yea, I know how to play the game well. Maybe the best in the Christian business of playing the game.
There is no hope in me. My only hope, the only hope for our society is Jesus. It’s not going to get better for you Christian. It’s not going to be easier. Your convenience and ease of living is going to come crashing down. It’s going to be hell. When it does, are you going to turn inward and try to pull yourself up and your fortune and lifestyle you’ve “worked so hard” for up while telling the world “I have faith God will deliver me from this?”
Or will you rest in the eternal inheritance Jesus gave you, the only blessing worth having? It’s his finished work for your failure. His mercy for your mess.
His identity secures your eternal wealth. Jesus is the blessing you read about in scripture. He is it. Do you miss that? I do. I know it, but it’s difficult to live it! To rest and rejoice in it. (There’s that flesh again.) I often feel like I’m living in famine. Oh I have money and houses and cars and wealth. But that just makes everything worse, at least for me. Because now I have stuff to hide my insecurity. When I’m not content in Jesus and his efforts, but rather trying to save myself with money, fortune, and acceptance, I’m not resting.
See Jesus hung out with the desperate, the needy, the broken of society, not because he was any of those things, but because it’s the desperate, the needy and broken who want Jesus. They’re thirsty for him because he is all they have. Their desires are no different than ours, it’s that they have less stuff to cover up those desires on the outside. Those people are you and me, suburbanites.
Jesus is needed in the suburbs, but not many of us will see him because our eyes are blinded. Those who can see are tempted to fall back into the bondage and slavery of performancism. The suburbs are full of stressed out families running on the wheel of perfection, trying to stay relevant with their peers, maintaining work loads that are too great, while trying to “keep it together.” We miss that my identity is in Jesus. That it is ok to fail and not have it all together. Let me help you here, messed up, broken people is all that there are. You’re off the hook.
It’s inconvenient to stop and admit defeat. It’s humiliating to ask for help. But Jesus offers it, but not on your terms. It’s on his terms. You don’t get a little Jesus then keep running on the wheel. No, Jesus, destroyed that wheel when he went to the cross, died in your place and then defeated death by raising up. His work is finished. It is completed. The wheel is no longer needed.
Let’s stop telling ourselves we are feasting on Jesus when we are living in a desert of self help and performance. Jesus lets you dine at his feast because he wants you to, not because you deserve it or earned it. You can’t. No more famine. Your feast is found in Jesus.
Jesus is enough.