Over the past two months, I have been stewing on Matthew 7:21-27 in which are two short parables that have always seemed separate and disconnected. Recently, Holy Spirit began to illuminate to me the beautiful connection between the two passages and I would like to share my thoughts with you.
The first passage exposes a life that is self-righteous, not God-centered. The second is a warning to build our lives on Jesus, not ourselves because only a life built on Jesus will withstand testing. I began to see that testing will expose whether we are enthralled with our work for God, or enthralled with God. One life pursuit worships self, the other glorifies God.
I recently saw a video that epitomizes what I have been observing in this passage and burdened with for the church. Jentezen Franklin, a well-known writer and speaker stirred up his church by telling them to say “I’m somebody, I’m going somewhere, and I’m going to do something big for Jesus Christ.” This leads people in the direction of esteeming what they do for Jesus, not what Jesus has done for them.
Perhaps the greatest tragedy of Christian culture today is that churches have made it easy to do “Christian things” and never know Jesus. So many people are led into passing out free stuff for a church-wide outreach, going through Next Step, attending small groups, and going on missions trips.
It is easy to learn these activities detached from knowing Jesus. Over time this will create tension from always pouring out but never receiving. I have felt this pain before, and feel it heavily for others now. The activity orientation was birthed in a desire to counter church consumerism, where people only listen to the pastor and never step into being the church. So people went from being conditioned towards only receiving and transitioned into only giving. This is not true everywhere, but it is prevalent within American church culture.
My experience includes many different churches in different contexts, and these are some of my observations. Many leaders feel compelled to “equip people for the work of the ministry”, which is good. Often the equipping is comprised of strong suggestions, pointing people the direction of various church activities; outreach, leading, prophesying, singing on the worship team, or preaching. Different churches have different activity pulses. I have been in many churches where it is encouraged to transition from accepting Christ, into church DNA indoctrination, and then “plugged into” a place to serve. People join the wheel to keep the wheel spinning.
Personally, I have been told that I just need to get involved with what the church is doing. I have been told that I can read the Bible on my own time and Sunday is for reaching people. I have been told that leaders can’t have problems that sideline them, because leaders can’t be broken, they need to serve broken people. This led to the collapse of my desire to perform. I could no longer please Jesus if it meant pleasing leaders that just wanted my activity as a sign of devotion.
I had to ask, was there room in the church for broken people? Or was it that people were only broken before joining the church, going through next steps, and participating in outreaches. I’m a broken person. I need Jesus. And in the midst of activity, I missed receiving from Him and delayed salvation. Simultaneously, the people that I was reaching were not meeting Jesus, they were being trained to perpetuate church culture activities. They were building on themselves, not Jesus.
We were made to receive from Jesus and serve others. If we do not go to Jesus to receive then we will try to serve God and demand that we receive from others. God has an infinite treasury of strength and joy to give, He cannot be exhausted. So go to Him. And as you find that you are full – pour out to others.
Hardship will come to everyone on earth or eventually by fire when Jesus comes. And there is only one place to land securely in testing. My activity won’t sustain me. When testing comes I cannot land on my work for Jesus. I cannot declare to Jesus – “LOOK WHAT I HAVE DONE FOR YOU!!”. So in preparation for the great pen test of reality, I must not build on the foundation of my work for Jesus, but on Jesus’ great work on the cross. There is one place to be secure. There is one place to be saved. There is one place to be filled. There is one place to be defined. His name is Jesus.
21 “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. 22 On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ 23 And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’
Not everyone who says to Jesus, I was somebody, I went somewhere, I did big things for you will be known by Jesus on the day that dictates eternity. Notice that it is NOT the will of the Father to perform for Jesus. That’s because He made us to be captivated with Jesus’ work.
On that day, many will declare what they have done for God. And will have completely missed what Jesus has done for them. The great proclamation of God’s glory is not what his people do for Him, but what He has done for His people. The security of our salvation is not our goodness, but God’s goodness. This frees us from a performance agenda. This frees us to be broken recipients of grace. God is more exalted by His work being magnified than He is our work for him being magnified.
Summary; the great endeavor of the Christian life is not doing great things for God, but excavating God’s greatness and the great love that He has demonstrated. The center of the Christian life is the place of treasuring God’s goodness. From this foundation, we can joyfully build a sustained, joyful lifestyle of inviting others to Jesus, the Rock.
GOD IS ZEALOUS FOR HIS GLORY. HE WILL NOT SHARE IT WITH ANOTHER!
So Church, what is your aim? Where is the center of your life? Have you received Jesus?
There is a Day of Testing Coming
24 “Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock. 25 And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on the rock. 26 And everyone who hears these words of mine and does not do them will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand. 27 And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell, and great was the fall of it.”
There is a beautiful warning here; a day of testing is coming. There is still time to know God, not just your performance for God. For those that hear His words, Jesus invites us to build on Him. He invites us to leave behind the performance of doing things for Him and to receive who He is and what He has done for us. He warns us that all lives, all works, all values will be exposed. There is an urgency. None of us can predict when rains will fall and when floods will come. No one can predict when life-changing suffering will overtake us.
There is one to consider, His name is Jesus, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross for you. He already pleased God for you. He already atoned for your sins. He freed you from a focus of what you must do and freed you to focus on what He did for you. When you stand on Him, you will be secured through the greatest testing in life.
When standing before God, only the work of God will stand.
For the #joysetbeforeme,