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The Jesus Way is Harder

Let me ask you a question. Why do you go to church? The way you answer that question will reveal a lot about you and your view of the church. For those of us churchgoers, we don’t spend much time thinking about this question, because either (a) it’s just what we do, or (b) we’re too . . . busy.

Busyness can often lead to shallowness. We don’t take time to think and pray.

I’m not trying to give you a guilt trip. In fact, I want to do just the opposite—I want you to think about how your relationship with other believers helps point you to the very One who takes away your guilt (Hebrews 10:22). Likewise, you have an opportunity to help those same believers who help you.

Hopefully, that’s a big reason why you go to church—to be in relationships with other believers, centered on Jesus, in order to fulfill His mission “to seek and save the lost” (Luke 19:10).

A pastor who serves a large, nationally-recognized church shared that internally and privately, “his pastoral staff was worn out and hurting” (Eswine, The Imperfect Pastor, 65). He determined that their congregation valued professionalism more than relationships, excellence more than grace, and the Bible as information more than transformation.

He continued: “We tried recently to invite church members for dinner with no agenda other than to get to know one another. Many told us afterward that, as pastors, we had wasted their time because we gave them nothing to do but sit with people, talk, eat, and watch children play” (ibid., 66).

This pastor said their church follows a celebrity way rather than a Jesus way. His conclusion? “In order for this church to grow in health, it will require a culture change. But that would mean we’d probably lose several hundred people. As soon as we imply that the gospel shows strength in weakness, grace for our mistake making, and biblical truth as having a relational context and a sacramental view of time, many will be agitated and leave. The good news is that we’d no longer bow to immature and damaging congregational assumptions and would finally try to pastor them into more of a Jesus way” (idem.).

This is not an easy shift to make . . . for you . . . or for me. When church becomes more about programs than people, professionalism than servanthood, or being trendy rather than being authentic, we succumb to the celebrity way. The Jesus way is harder. It requires our admission of brokenness, surrender to Jesus, and acceptance of others who, like you and me, don’t always get it right.

But that’s the church. It’s messy and glorious all at the same time, because it’s about imperfect people who follow a perfect Savior. It’s the Jesus way. Which way are you taking?

Do You Ever Just Let God Love You?

If I’ve heard it once, I’ve heard it a thousand times: “I just don’t think God is pleased with me. I know I’ve let God down. Do you think God is angry with me?”

Christian author Philip Yancey once shared the story about his uncomfortable and impatient wait at O’Hare for a flight that was delayed for five hours. He was sitting next to a woman who was traveling to the same conference where he was scheduled to speak.

Due to the late hour and long delay, the conversation turned quite melancholy, and he shared his dysfunctions of childhood, his disappointment with the church, and his questions of faith. He was in the process of writing one of his acclaimed books, Disappointment with God, and many of his personal struggles and doubts kept rising to the surface.

His companion listened for a long time, and then out of nowhere she asked what turned out to be a life-changing question: “Philip, do you ever just let God love you?”

Later, as he reflected on her question, he wrote,

I realized with a start that she had brought to light a gaping hole in my spiritual life. For all my absorption in the Christian faith, I had missed the most important message of all. The story of Jesus is the story of a celebration, a story of love. It involves pain and disappointment, yes, for God as we well as for us. But Jesus embodies the promise of a God who will go to any length to win us back. Not the least of Jesus’ accomplishments is that he made us somehow lovable to God (The Jesus I Never Knew, 269).

One of the earmark differences between Christianity and other religions is the love of God. Not one time does the Qur’an apply the word love to God. The Upanishads only speak of love as an ethereal concept of a spiritual realm. Even the ancient Greeks considered it eccentric to claim they love Zeus or he loved them.

Only in the Christian Bible do we read, “God is love” (1 John 4:8, 16). God showed His love among us in this: “He sent His one and only Son into the world that we might live through Him” (1 John 4:9).

The problem is, I can know this intellectually but not experientially. I can agree in my mind that “God is love,” but not believe or receive that truth into the depth of my heart. One of the hardest challenges of the Christian faith is to get over ourselves—our successes and our failures. Primary attention on what we do, or fail to do, takes our attention away from the One who loves us.

The Christian life is not a scorecard of us seeking God’s approval. We already have God’s approval. He is our heavenly Father. Jesus revealed how much God loves us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us (Romans 5:8). And now we can rest in His love, walk in His love, serve in His love, give in His love—not to earn His love, but to return His love only as lovers do. “We love because He first loved us” (1 John 4:19).

And so I ask you, “Do you ever just let God love you?”

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