“Thomas said to him, ‘Lord, we don’t know where you are going, so how can we know the way?’ Jesus answered, ‘I am the way and the truth and the life'” (John 14:5-6, NIV).
Recently, I was standing in the Sunday morning contemporary church service singing the lyrics of a worship song. It seemed as though we chanted the words of the chorus a few too many times and I began to wonder if these lyrics were even biblical.
Did Jesus come to hold my hand and help me through all my problems? Did he come to make me feel better about myself?
(As happens from time to time on certain subjects on this blog, my teaching starts shifting into preaching and that may be what occurs with this post.)
Some of the worship songs we sing in our dimly-lit contemporary church services seem to romanticize the love of God beyond what is biblical. Please don’t think I’m against contemporary Christian music as I listen to it frequently and have my own digital tunes collection. I’m just questioning the theology presented in some of the choruses we mindlessly sing in church.
Some songs seem to portray Jesus as our best friend who is always ready to fulfill our emotional needs whenever we’re confronted with problems. But, if we want to put God’s love in some sort of context, I think God’s love is more like the love of a good parent than the affection of a best friend.
If you are a parent, then you have probably learned that you don’t necessarily get to be your children’s best friend. As a parent I’m responsible for helping my children become independent, self-actualized human beings who can make good choices in life and find their own way in the world. Unfortunately, I can’t accomplish this formidable task by being their pal.
Raising children is more like boot camp than summer camp! I have to teach them and motivate them to take responsibility for their own lives and well-being.
That means I have to discipline them; I have to teach them to work and take pride in their work; I have to let them make mistakes and watch them fail; I have to tell them things they don’t like hearing and make them do things they don’t like doing; I have to show them respect as human beings even when they disrespect me; and, I have to give them unconditional love and acceptance when they don’t live up to my expectations so that they will persevere in life and try again.
Unconditional love can be pretty messy and oftentimes giving or receiving it doesn’t feel so good!
We can’t package God’s salvation into dreamy and otherworldly choruses that assume to make us feel spiritual. Our worship music should boldly proclaim that God has burst into this earthly realm to liberate the human race.
Our salvation is not about how God makes us feel….
It’s about where our allegiance is!
Salvation is a heartfelt pledge of loyalty, a mindful act of the human will upon hearing and receiving the invitation of Jesus to become His disciple.
“I have decided to follow Jesus!” Now, that’s lyrics worth repeating!
Jesus said He is the Way and that we should follow His Way because His Way will lead us into Truth and Eternal Life.
Many years ago during a baptism at the Sunday night church service one of my friends, who had been visiting the church for several weeks, unexpectedly jumped up from his pew and cried out, “I know the way!” All of us stalwart church-goers were stunned and speechless as we watched him run up the middle aisle and crash through the doors at the front of the sanctuary and leap up the stairs to the baptistry. With his church clothes on he practically dived into the baptismal tank where a very surprised pastor joyfully baptized him.
Mark tells us that when Jesus first called on James and John to be His disciples “they left their father Zebedee in the boat with the hired men and followed him” (Mark 1:20, NIV). And, Matthew (Levi) just walked away from the tax collection booth when Jesus called on him: “As he walked along, he saw Levi son of Alphaeus sitting at the tax collector’s booth. ‘Follow me,’ Jesus told him, and Levi got up and followed him” (Mark, 2:14, NIV).
Jesus didn’t come to help you feel better about yourself. He didn’t come to pat you on the hand and tell you everything is all right. He didn’t come to be your constant companion.
Jesus came to overthrow humanity’s rebellion against God and liberate the human race from the grasp of cosmic evil.
And, He is inviting you to to join His revolutionary cause!
Then Jesus said to his disciples, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. (Matthew 16:24, NIV)