Jesus Isn’t Your BFF

I truly believe I could have 100 students in my youth group.

It would take a while, but I think we could get there. The formula is fairly simple. Have live music that’s cutting edge, play a lot of fun games, and have crazy giveaways week in and week out. At the end, have some sort of message that’s loosely based on a verse of Scripture but functions more as a motivational talk about Jesus helping you overcome difficulty in your life rather than a call to come and die with Jesus.

Lather. Rinse. Repeat.

I’m not trying to knock that version of ministry. There are great men and women of God involved in that philosophy and style of ministry and God is saving young men and women through those ministries with that mentality.

That’s just not me.

Instead of 100+ coming to a cutting edge service, we have a little less than forty who come to a honestly pretty boring service from a worldly sense. We don’t play music (although I’d like to I just don’t have the talent), we don’t play that many games and we very rarely have some sort of a giveaway.

What we do have is God’s Word.

We walk through it, week after week, often focusing on chunks of the Bible (I don’t know if that’s an acceptable term for a portion of Scripture or not, but I’m running with it) that are not even all that entertaining to read. What’s been phenomenal to me is that we’ve seen growth come in the midst of it.

I’m not talking breadth.

Last Fall we did a semester-long study through the book of Deuteronomy, and that certainly did cause our numbers to explode.

I’m talking depth.

It’s not been anything crazy. At times I face discouragement because it doesn’t seem like it’s clicking with some students. But for some, their depth in their faith is obvious and powerful.

Yet if you look at the modern evangelical church as a whole, you likely see a trend, especially in the Baptist tradition, to make church about being entertained or feeling good and that’s simply not the call of the follower of Jesus.

Here’s what I mean.

We have emphasized a personal relationship with Jesus.

Now, that is obviously a phenomenal aspect of our faith. Christianity certainly encompasses the opportunity that we have to commune with God through union with Christ and fellowship with the Spirit. What a wonderful thing.

What we’ve done by emphasizing this time and time again however is unintentionally taught people, I think, that they have a private relationship with Jesus. One where they see Him as their best friend forever, but not the Head of the universal church and certainly not the Lord telling them to come and die to their own desires each day.

Jesus isn’t my best friend forever. Sure, He calls me friend. What a marvelous truth. But He is also the Lord of all the universe, worthy of awe and worship, adoration and healthy fear. Jesus is fully man. Yet He is also fully God.

Look around our churches though and you again see that many are hesitant to present a Jesus that is worthy of our fear and worship. Instead of liturgy and church history, we have a modernized Christianity that forgets the 2000 years of faithful men and women who have gone before us and set the foundation for what it looks like to follow God. All of that legacy is tossed aside for the hip new trends that gets the most people in the door.

What we’ve created is a version of following Jesus that is about one’s own comfort and self-worth. I can’t tell you how many posts on social media I have seen recently that say something like “I’m committed to working on myself right now. If you aren’t helpful, if you’re toxic, I’m tossing you to the curb.”

Now, that’s not completely bad.

That mindset creeps into the church though, doesn’t it?

Getting up and getting to church on Sunday mornings is hard. And I say that having zero children and as someone who gets paid to be there.

It’s hard to get there. So, if one is expecting to get a self-help sermon about Jesus’ power to make them overcome any difficulty in their life, (complete with hilarious jokes and illustrations from modern entertainment, oh and music that is right up their alley) when those things are lacking their commitment to church falters.

They’re working on the betterment of themselves. If the church doesn’t help their self-image, and if the people in their church are ‘toxic’ (or in my opinion ‘human’, because we all battle sinful thoughts, words, and actions), then they bail on it.

Church is a declaration that we are allegiant to King Jesus. Church, if done right, should absolutely encourage and train us in righteousness. But it should also convict us, challenge us, and get us outside our comfort zones. It should call us each and every week to die to ourselves in the week ahead. That’s not a fun message in the world of self-help motivational speakers.

Jesus isn’t my BFF or a self-help guru. 

He’s Lord. 

Daniel Darling puts it this way:

I wonder if average worshiping evangelicals feel the weight of what they say they believe. I wonder if they grasp that Jesus is more than a fun bumper sticker or billboard, that he is the Head of the church, the Lord of creation, and the sovereign King of the universe. . . our homogenized evangelicalism can at times make weekly worship more like a divinely inspired TED talk than an act of worship, offering a Jesus who desperately wants to be your BFF but is totally chill if you’re, like, not that into him. – Daniel Darling 

Actually guys, if you would like to read a spectacular book on this subject, get The Original Jesus by Daniel Darling. This post is basically me thinking through what he talks about in his book.

In His Name,

Nathan Roach

He’s Still On The Throne

He’s still on the throne.

throne
I know Jesus doesn’t sit on a middle-earth throne, but this sure looks cool.

A couple years ago, my mom texted me this amidst a conversation about the trials and difficulties that were present in my life at the time. Certain aspects of the world as I knew it were spiraling out of control in some ways and my mom knew just what to encourage me with. Jesus was still on the throne, even in the midst of what seemed like chaos.

The second Psalm can be a source of great encouragement when the leaders and rulers of our world are prone to evil and wickedness, and when disaster strikes our world, our country, our city, or our family.

Why do the nations rage and the peoples plot in vain? The kings of the earth take their stand, and the rulers conspire together against the Lord and his Anointed One. “Let’s tear off their chains and throw their ropes off of us.” – Psalm 2:1-3

Here’s a pretty accurate illustration of the way that Jesus is treated in the minds and hearts of so many in our world. So many in our day take their stand against the Lord and his Anointed One. Now in the case of this Psalm, that Anointed One would be David. But in the case of our day, the one who holds all things together and rules over all is none other than Jesus Christ. The godly man or woman understands that they are submitting to the ultimate rule and reign of Jesus. The ungodly man or woman however is the one who sees submission to Christ as bondage and seeks to break the chains of God’s sovereign hand over their lives.

The one enthroned in heaven laughs; the Lord ridicules them. Then he speaks to them in his anger and terrifies them in his wrath: “I have installed my king on Zion, my holy mountain.” – Psalm 2:4-6

This is simultaneously one of the most encouraging and fear-inducing passages in the Psalms for me. The Lord laughs at those who seek to break free of His rule and reign. He isn’t scared, intimidated, worried, or anxious when the men and women of this world seek to break free of His rule and reign. Instead He just laughs. He finds it humorous that man would strive to buck up against His rule and reign. Then his anger and wrath are felt as He reminds the wicked of this world that He has installed His King on Zion, on His holy mountain. Jesus has been enthroned. He is enthroned over the cosmos, and He should be given His rightful place on the throne in each of our lives.

I will declare the Lord’s decree. He said to me, “You are my Son; today I have become your Father. Ask of me, and I will make the nations your inheritance and the ends of the earth your possession. You will break them with an iron scepter; you will shatter them like pottery.” – Psalm 2:7-9

This shows us just how powerful King Jesus is. The nations are at His disposal. The very ends of the earth are under His control. He can shatter the wicked with an iron scepter, breaking them like pottery. The picture of Jesus that is all too often portrayed and presented in our culture is the Jesus that is simply a lover. A guy who sprinkles grace onto our unrepentant sins and personal brokenness, inviting us into a moment of intentional worship and transparent fellowship. While Jesus certainly is a loving Shepherd of the broken, He is also the Victorious King, the One who defeated death, evil, Satan, and every wicked scheme of the enemy. King Jesus is powerful.

So now, kings, be wise; receive instruction, you judges of the earth. Serve the Lord with reverential awe and rejoice with trembling. Pay homage to the Son or he will be angry and you will perish in your rebellion, for his anger may ignite at any moment. All who take refuge in him are happy. – Psalm 2:10-12

Servitude, humility, awe, reverence, respect. When we come to terms with who King Jesus is, that should be our response. We should come to his feet and worship Him for who He is. Instead of following our sinful desires and bucking up against His rule and reign, we should submit to King Jesus and let Him have his rightful place on the throne of our hearts and our lives. The man who is happy is the man who takes refuge in Him, the man who submits to King Jesus.

In Acts chapter 4, Peter and John were imprisoned and tried for their outspoken faith in Jesus. Upon their release they went to the community of faith and shared with everyone what they had experienced. They used this very Psalm as encouragement in the face of pronounced and intimidating persecution from the governmental and religious leaders of their day.

I do not know what you are going through today.

Maybe you are facing persecution for your faith in and submission to King Jesus.

Maybe you are facing the aftermath of terrible destruction or disaster in your life.

Maybe you are fearful of the future, and the headlines of the news get you more and more worried.

The reality of evil can’t be avoided or run from. However we don’t have to meditate or dwell on evil. We can meditate on the fact that Christ has defeated Satan.

Brother or sister in Christ, may you be encouraged that King Jesus sits on the throne. May you be strengthened in your resolve, strengthened in your faith and trust that King Jesus is not frightened by the news articles that you see on your social media accounts. Brother or sister in Christ, may you be drawn deeper into fellowship with the Powerful King Jesus.

If you’re not sure where you stand with King Jesus today, tell Him so. One thing I love about the Psalms is that they are honest, full of cries to God and raw emotions.

Ask King Jesus to help you trust Him more.

In His Name,

Nathan Roach

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