The Gospel of Jesus Christ contradicts everything we have been taught. We have been told that we can accomplish anything we set our mind to. We have been taught to set goals and work hard to achieve. There is no ladder we can’t climb. There is no prize we can’t attain. There is no medal we can’t win. The stories of Olympic athletes these next two weeks will be used as proof.
The American dream is alive and well. This is the land of opportunity. We pride ourselves in our self-sufficiency. We idolize those who are achieve success as self-made men and women. We strive to achieve more and then to be recognized for it. We want more for our children as well, so we train them to be achieve-oholics.
Yet, there is a cloud that hangs over it all. There are many who reach the pinnacle and find it is not all it is made out to be. Many others hit a roadblock on the way to their dreams and struggle with the disillusionment and regret. They are frustrated they are not at a place in life where they want to be or hoped to be. It’s hard to understand how in this land of opportunity there are so many people who struggle with depression, anxiety, and addiction.
In the pursuit of the American dream, Jesus becomes a means to an end. We make our plans. We set our agenda. We develop our priorities. Then somewhere along the way we bring Jesus in to assist us in accomplishing it all. We ask for his wisdom to guide us, recognizing he is a great advisor and teacher. When the going gets tough we ask him to provide strength, recognizing he is a great motivator. We are the CEO and he is the best chief of staff we could ever have. We are the athlete and he is the best coach in history.
But all of this totally misses the mark. The Gospel goes far beyond any of that. The Gospel has nothing to do with us bringing Jesus along from the ride. The Gospel is about Jesus saving us from sin and from ourselves. The Gospel is not for people who can do it mostly on their own and need a little bit of help. The Gospel is for people who can’t do it at all. The Gospel is for us. As much as we might commit all our resources, energy, and passion to our cause – we still find ourselves coming up short. Or we discover our great cause was not all that great.
The start of the Gospel is when we come to the end of ourselves. It starts when we we recognize our lack of ability. The Gospel is not about our plans or our dreams. It is about God and God alone. God has a dream for us that is bigger than anything we could ever imagine for ourselves.
Jesus is not to be accepted, invited, or believed upon. It’s not as if we are somehow begrudgingly letting him into our lives. It’s not a matter of us doing a favor for him. It’s not that he needs us and we are giving him a job. It is really the other way around.
He is to be surrendered to, abandoned for, and depended on. This is the Gospel invitation. I am desperate without him. I need him.
- I am a beggar. He is the rich man.
- I have nothing to offer. He has everything to give.
- I can’t. He is more than able.
- I am lost. He is found.
Without the true Gospel the Church will be ineffective. Our faith will stay dull and lethargic. But Jesus is inviting you to more. It goes beyond having the right dreams, but living in a right relationship. The gospel leads you to exchange your dreams for his dreams. It moves you beyond hunger for achievement and recognition, but towards a hunger and thirst for him.