By Will Dole
Have you ever been around an extreme attention magnet? You know, the type of person who sucks in attention like a black hole consumes anything in the universe falling within its intense gravitational pull? Maybe it’s the loud person who never uses an inside voice, or the flamboyant dresser, or someone cruising with car stereo blasting such that it rattles our bones. Most of us know an attention magnet; perhaps some of us even fit this description.
To some extent we are all self absorbed. Some demonstrate this by demanding attention; others exhibit selfishness by extreme isolation. Most of us are somewhere between these two extremes with a human nature that is bent on its own pleasure, happiness, gain and fulfillment. Yet, we don’t like to think of ourselves as selfish. Perhaps what’s needed is a paradigm shift. If you aren’t familiar with this term, Dictionary.com defines it as “a radical change in underlying beliefs or theory.”
We may need a radical change in the arena of our faith. Maybe we’ve bought in to the errant message of the “Prosperity Gospel” that teaches Jesus as the way to health, wealth and happiness. That one’s a hot topic, but there are many other subtle errant beliefs that lead right back to selfishness.
For example, a popular pastor recently talked about reaching the world for Jesus, hammering repeatedly that Jesus is the only hope for a better life. This is an accurate statement when placed in the proper context, i.e. Jesus is our only way to God, and therefore, He is our only hope (John 14:6). Not only does Jesus offer life, but He offers a full one (John 10:10). But is a better life a solid reason to evangelize? Is it even a good reason to worship Jesus?
Consider the Great Commission, found in Matthew 28:18b-20:
“All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”
Jesus’ appeal is not based on hope for better lives. He does not say, “You better go tell people that life’s tough and I’ll fix it for them.” Rather He says in verse 18 that all authority in heaven and earth belongs to Him—because He is God. He follows this in verse 19 with “Therefore go and make disciples…” Notice the word, “therefore.” To paraphrase what He is saying, Jesus tells us: “I am God. Therefore, as my followers, go and teach the world to follow Me.” The reason that Jesus starts with His authority is because we do not simply worship a nice guy who died for us. We worship the Almighty God who, in a display of His love, came and willingly sacrificed Himself in our place for our sins. He did this of His own free will and in accordance with the plan He laid out before the foundations of the world (Ephesians 1:4).
It is no mistake to say God is extremely passionate about us as individuals. He cares enough about us to have planned our salvation thousands of years before our existence. After the fall of mankind,we immediately read in Genesis about the prophecy that a Savior will conquer Satan. So it would seem logical to conclude that God’s main purpose in sending Jesus was to save us. And indeed it was. But if God’s only purpose was to save us, then what motivates us to struggle against our sin? Chapter six of Romans talks continually about the incredible grace we are given, while also pounding on the necessity of remaining free from the bondage of sin. Wouldn’t it make sense for us to think, as did some believers in Rome, that we should sin all the more so that grace may abound?
God’s purpose in our salvation is not only our personal eternal destination, but also His glory. God purposefully brings glory to Himself and He alone is worthy of our obedience. As we hold fast the truth that God did everything for us out of love, it’s easy to forget that God did it all to glorify Himself, as well.
So, what if the Gospel is not about us? What if the Gospel is about a loving, holy and perfect God who created mankind in His image in order to bring glory to the Creator? What if mankind later rebelled against God alienating himself through sin? And what if God responded in love, although He had every right to wipe out mankind from existence? What if, instead, He chose to lovingly save mankind from a sinful state by sending His Son to die on a cross while providing freedom from sin so that God might again be glorified?
In the midst of basking in the love and grace God has shown to us, it’s important to remember it’s still all about God. Author Steve Brown points out that if the whole world reached the agreement that God is a liar, He would not cease to be God. He would continue to be truth itself. He would continue His perfect existence, and it would all be for His glory in the end. If He had not saved us at all, but left us in our sin, He would still be worthy of all praise. Nothing can change His holy essence—not even us. He doesn’t actually need us at all, which proves His love all the more amazing, considering the means He took to save us.
The continuing storyline of the Bible is really fairly simple: God creates man to worship Him. Mankind rebels, so God saves. And when God saved us, He didn’t merely save us from death and hell. He also saved us from the sin separating us from Him, in order that we may glorify Him with our lives.
We can easily become so intently focused on ourselves that we miss the grandeur and the splendor of the amazing God who gave up so much to call us His own. We certainly weren’t created to focus on ourselves. It’s best if we let God do the focusing on us—for He does it so well—while we keep our focus on Him.