Last night I went to a graduation ceremony at my church for two great young men who had completed a gospel-centered drug rehabilitation program.
Those who filled the pews in our sanctuary came from all various backgrounds. There were those who have grown up in church, in Christian families, like myself. There were those who had fought addiction for decades and were continuing to be sanctified by the power of the Holy Spirit.
There were those who have their Baptist Hymnal memorized, complete with the third and fourth verses of many songs. There were those who prefer the ear-shattering drums and bass of concert-style music like we had last night.
All the while, I reflected on how this was the future of the church in America.
(I’m not talking about the music. Ear-shattering electric guitar is not more pleasing to God than hymns, or vice versa. Worship is about the condition of one’s heart, not one’s preference in music style.)
A unique, diverse group of men and women who were all acknowledging their need for the saving work of Christ.
You see, it’s those who acknowledge their need for Jesus who experience Jesus.
Those who act like they have it all together (none of us do) miss out on the joy and hope of Jesus.
The Lord has been revealing this to me over and over.
The first way God revealed this to me was on Monday night. Every week or so, my wife and I do a short Bible study in the Gospel of Luke. We were reading in Luke 6, and the following passage was impactful and intriguing.
Looking at his disciples, he said: “Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God. Blessed are you who hunger now, for you will be satisfied. Blessed are you who weep now, for you will laugh. Blessed are you when people hate you, when they exclude you and insult you and reject your name as evil, because of the Son of Man. Rejoice in that day and leap for joy, because great is your reward in heaven. For that is how their ancestors treated the prophets.
But woe to you who are rich, for you have already received your comfort. Woe to you who are well fed now, for you will go hungry. Woe to you who laugh now, for you will mourn and weep. Woe to you when everyone speaks well of you, for that is how their ancestors treated the false prophets. – Luke 6:20-26
Talk about how the kingdom of God is an upside down kingdom.
Who is blessed?
The poor, those who are hungry, those who weep, those who are hated.
Now who is it that should be warned?
The rich, the well fed, the happy, the well spoken of and well liked.
When I think back to last night’s extravaganza, this passage just bursts into reality. A sanctuary full of men and women who acknowledged ‘I’m not strong enough. I’m not good enough. I need help. I need a Savior.” Those who acknowledge their needs will be blessed by the presence of their Savior.
Fast-forward from Monday night with my wife to yesterday afternoon. I was working through a Bible study on the book of Galatians, and I came across this quote.
Their belief that Jesus was the long-awaited Messiah was hard to reconcile with the traditional view of an exalted Messiah, especially because Jesus had been nailed to a cross, like a common criminal.
This quote is in reference to first-century Jews who had a hard time accepting that Jesus was the Messiah. This was because they believed their Messiah would restore the people of God to prominence, usurping the authority of Rome. This isn’t what happened. Instead, Rome crucified this Messiah. It didn’t make sense to them.
That’s because Jesus turns everything upside down. Instead of leading a rebellion to overthrow Rome and be served, He came to serve and give His life for His people.
You know what’s interesting to me?
You and I like to fight for that second list.
We want to be full. We want to have self-worth that is boosting through the roof, so the gospel becomes about us rather than God. We want cushy, comfortable church experiences where we are never convicted or challenged. We want to be liked by everyone (well, some of us desire this). Our biggest hopes are that legislations and laws will be enacted that support our views. We want the church to be central. God and country. Cultural Christianity. All the while we are being warned by Jesus not to strive for these things.
Brothers and sisters, why are you clawing so hard to get back to the center of society?
Brothers and sisters, why are you exerting all of your energy to be better than Jesus? He suffered. We will suffer.
Instead, embrace what makes us blessed in the eyes of Christ.
Embrace your sinfulness. Embrace your need for a Savior. Embrace the aches and pains in your heart. Embrace God for who He is. Embrace the joy and hope that the saving work of Jesus brings. Embrace the margins of society. Most definitely speak up against sin in our country. Get off of Facebook pleading for people to see your point of view and instead be the hands and feet of Christ in your community. Stop trying to be more well-liked than your Savior.
I pray for the church to get pushed to the margins more and more. It’s not an easy prayer to pray, but it’s a powerful one.
This place is not your home.
God’s kingdom flips everything on its head.
Our walk as followers of Jesus comes with persecution.
But one day, a day I look forward to, I will be in the presence of God. He will have renewed all things. Once again I will be worshipping the King of Kings with hymnal-thumpers and Christian rappers alike (and I can promise you the worship won’t be like either), all acknowledging that we needed saving, and a Savior came for us.
In His Name,