“What’s your ministry? Your calling? What makes you happy?”
We hear messages like these often, as Christians. In fact, it’s easy to grow immune in a “me” culture, to the subtle world-view sneaking into what was intended to be a simple, relationship with Jesus. In fact, “you” messages can permeate every aspects of our living; from career choices, to family planning, marriages and even ministries.
We can forget the gospel is not about us, it turns on the axis of Jesus.
Although I grew up knowing Jesus, it wasn’t until I was baptized as an adult, this idea of self-less Christianity began seeping into my theology. Before immersion, I lacked grace in understanding Jesus was more than some “add-on”, like a sticky post-it tacked onto my sinful nature, or some bumper sticker used to spiritualize the beat up, dented automobile of my life.
However, soon after baptism the true message of a self-denying gospel started soaking into my being. By grace, God revealed to me through scripture, we aren’t called to “live better”, but commissioned to “come and die”. It’s not us decorated by some gospel, but our old self replaced by new life, centered around Jesus, for ultimately His praises alone, not ours.
I learned we are called to a gospel that requires us to crucify our flesh with its passions and desires, not one made for our praises and exaltation. (Gal. 5:24)
Jesus said it best in Luke 9:23-24, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross (an instrument of death) daily and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it.” Jesus used a grain of wheat to symbolize our lives. “Unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone, but if it dies, it bears much fruit.”
And yet, why is it so easy to get tricked by a compromised gospel that says we can add on Jesus and He will multiply what we want in our lives, forgetting the truth that He calls us to subtract sin and divide self from the equation of our lives?
Jesus didn’t mess around with this concept of surrender, self-sacrifice, and sanctification. His desire is that daily, we reflect more and more of His image. In fact, in no uncertain terms He warns, “Those of you who don’t give up everything you own, cannot be my disciple.” (Luke 14:33)
Scripture makes it clear we are called to a gospel centered around Him, not us.
When speaking about foster care and adoption, I often use the analogy of children burning up in a fire, and how God has called the church to race into the fire (or hard places) and rescue them. Yet, as believers, how often do we play it safe, run away from the flames, instead of towards them? Are we willing to take up our crosses, lay down our lives and sacrifice, so that the glory of His purposes will shine through us?
Malachi 3:33 tells us, God, “Will sit as a refiner and purifier of silver”. Proverbs 25:4 urged, “Remove the dross from the silver, and the Silversmith can produce a vessel.” Paul pleas in John 3:30, “He must increase, I must decrease.” The NLT translations being, “He must become greater and greater, I must become less and less.”
Yet, we don’t fix our eyes on suffering. We don’t let the cross become our sole, sorrowful description as believers. As Christians our hope lies in the resurrection. 2 Timothy 2:11 tells us, “If we have died with Him, we will also live with Him.”
The joy of our walk is in the knowing that as we lay aside our hopes and dreams, His resurrection power burns brighter and shines even more alive in us, and any “Present sufferings are not worth comparing to the glory that will be revealed to us.” (Romans 8:18)
Time is short, compared to eternity. Let’s live standing on a gospel centered on the axis Jesus, rejecting a culture compromising us to simply add Him to our ministries. I once heard it said, “If it doesn’t feel a little like dying, it’s probably not the gospel”?
Though born, raised, and still living only miles from where she grew up, Jen's heart lies in the nations. Jen loves the beautiful tapestry found in the wide diversity of people, different cultures, and all nations. Jen and her husband have been married twenty years, and have parented fifteen kids and counting; twelve foster, one adopted, and two bios. Her multi-racial family reflects her passion for unity, desire for faith without walls, and missional mindset to share both the gospel and the power of redemption to a world desperately needing the hope found in Jesus Christ. Jen and her husband have led in a variety of ministries; including prayer, small groups, children's, and women’s. Jen advocates for the orphan as a board member for the non-profit, A New Song; and loves doing missions work internationally, along with her family. You can find Jen writing about faith, while challenging her readers at her blog, Rich Faith Rising, as well as at tweeting faith-filled messages @Jen_Avellaneda . Jen is also on facebook.
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