“For every one who tries to keep his life will lose it. But he who is willing to lose his life for My sake will find his life.” (Matthew 8:34-38)
For years, my gospel was exactly that — mine. It was cobbled together from self-seeking people who stood behind pulpits and lecterns, or from film, books, and other media, voices demanding perfection, promoting ambition over repentance, materialism over humility, knowledge for knowledge’s sake, love without sacrifice.
We all have a private interpretation of the Gospel of Christ, even though we are warned not to twist the Good News to fit our perceptions. That’s why the Word of God is so important. The Word is the Living Foundation, the Rock of Ages, Yeshua Hamashiach, upon whom our promises are based. The Word is God. Anything that departs from the Word has no power to create real transformation. What is left smacks of tradition, and tradition is filled with remnants of paganism.
We prize our traditions. They’ve lasted so long because they are the sacred cows of our own heritage. We pay Christmas and Easter homage, knowing that in the early centuries, church missionaries combined the winter solstice and worship of Ashtar the fertility goddess with the Christian celebrations of Christ’s birth and the Resurrection. Augustine and others did this to gain converts — and political power. The result? A cobbled together form of Christianity.
More troubling is our failure to truly know the God we worship in our personal lives.
Because we have expectations.
We become unhappy in life when our expectations go unfulfilled.
We are the End Times Generation of Believers.The Laodicean-Age gospel is one of Selfishness: Plenty. Convenience. Materialism. Pride. Greed. Ambition. Celebrity worship. Conformity. Positive Thinking. Laws of Attraction. New Age Universalism. Empire Building. Political Power.
In Revelation Chapter Three, the Letters to the Seven Churches, Jesus rebukes the Laodicean church for boasting it was “increased with goods,”adding “Thou art wretched, miserable, poor, blind, and naked.” In this End Times Age, we see Jesus standing outside the Church. He knocks at the door, calling individuals to come out and fellowship with Him. But He is not in the midst of the overflow crowd in the service.
Comfortable in a fake gospel, the Last Days church shuts Jesus out. Many of us lived a crisis gospel for years, crying out when our expectations were dashed, questioning why we didn’t get what we wanted, giving lip service to a being we perceived wasfar away from us.
Early in 2020, our expectations were destroyed.
We did not expect Americans standing in food bank lines.
We did not expect job losses, economic catastrophe, or the complete shaking and shifting of the very ground we stand on.
We did not expect that our kids might inherit a diminished, damaged country.
But the shaking has revealed to us the falseness of what we perceived as an American birthright; conservatives and liberals peddled a promise of a better life: better life via the two-party system, via the medical community, through protectionist policy and globalism in turn, through a stock market boom, through a real estate boom, through public education, as a consequence of locking up offenders in for-profit prisons, through massive student debt, through out of control national debt, through population control policies, through a tough immigration policy, through technology.
Now, America’s institutions are crumbling. Systems are shut down.
God has not met our expectations.Or, were we worshipping the True and Living God in the first place?
Is it possible we have worshipped a version of Santa Clause? Hoping to make the “nice” list? Looking for consideration from a vaguely benevolent, old man once a year? The True and Living God is a good and gracious God of Light. He is Love. But He does not change. He does not conform to the thinking of this world. He does not perform feats of magic. He does not release His power if only we “keep this chain going, “share this meme if you love Jesus,” or “copy and paste this status on Facebook.”
For we walk by faith, not by sight. Without faith it is impossible to please Him. And faith must be rooted in the Living Word of God. That’s why the Word transforms. It is Jesus, the Creative Power of God the Son, moving in our lives. He cannot go against His Word. “Heaven and Earth shall pass away, but My Word shall abide forever.”
Our expectations change. They revolve around the god of Self. We expect God to adhere to tradition, to honor our hard work, to remain true to our political views, to agree with our view of things, to fulfill our wish list, to enhance our already blessed lives. Much of what we believe about the God of the universe is based on a middle class value system that prizes the status quo. We want stasis. We fear change.
But this status quo god has to die. And we will die without change. Paul said Conformity is death. God is in the Transformation business.
These days, God is calling us to do more with less.
It’s a kind of turning loose, of shaking your talismans, your anchors, your pacifiers, your excuses, turning out the pockets of your life and letting it all fall. It’s giving up on being perfect or getting the right balance or finding the magic bullet that finally puts you over the top, solves your problem, makes you right, validates you, satisfies you, or justifies all your crazy.
The human existence — in the mere business of meeting the needs of our bodies — is bankrupt of purpose and hope. The more flesh drives us, the more we believe we are merely flesh. Our spirits starve. Depression comes from the darkness of dashed expectations and the indulgence of our body’s needs without giving God space and time to do His best transforming work. Such a work requires our commitment. More than that, it demands total surrender. A living sacrifice.
That’s not a Gospel people like to hear.