SIR, WE WOULD SEE JESUS
The Danger of an Egocentric Outlook and Peril of a Self-Obsessed Perspective
My local Church used to have a banner over the platform which could not be missed by any in attendance it bore the words “Sir, We would see Jesus” and it is a Scripture found in “John 12: 20-30” and in context, it was relating to certain Greeks who wanted an audience with Jesus. It is a theme that has resonated in my spirit for over five decades. However, in our day and age, in our “modern and culturally governed society” this attitude and aspiration has been greatly emaciated and been replaced by many other attitudes all with the aim of attraction of others and being culturally acceptable.
This has led me to put together this blog and I hope it will be – informative, challenging, thought-provoking and above all transformative.
Traditional preaching often has the unintended consequence of making the audience inwardly focused and fixated on themselves. There is a familiar pattern that unfolds nearly every time, this being a sermon with – A riveting opening, an equally appealing body, and an actionable conclusion. Still, however, there’s still the unanswered question of where people’s gaze goes when they walk out of the church after hearing one of these carefully written sermons. They might have left with their eyes set inward, missing the life-changing potential and transformative power of a God-centered message, leaving self-absorbed, if we’re not careful.
So where does this lead us? Well! Let’s take a look at some thoughts that might I hope to prove useful to all of us as we consider our “Personal Walk of Faith” and those we are hoping by the grace of God to assist and enable in their “Walk of Faith.”
The Genesis Three Connection: Understanding the Genesis of Self-Obsession
In order to understand the perils of being self-absorbed, we need to take a look at where this pattern of behaviour first emerged. The third chapter of Genesis enlightens us with substantial knowledge about the human situation. As we dig more into this verse, we find that there is a consistent theme that emerges, and that is the idea of “nakedness” that is first presented in “Genesis 2:25.” The beginning of self-centeredness can be traced back to the moment when Adam and Eve disobeyed God’s command, which marks the turning point in human history. Since that time, we have had a consistent tendency — one that is innate to our defiant flesh — to give precedence to our own wants and goals. This is a result of the fact that we are rebellious flesh.
Interestingly, at the Coronation of King Charles, some of the focus of the day turned to protestors who were declaring – “He Is Not Our King.” This is the same spirit that was birthed right back in Genesis 3 when the attitude of hearts was “God Is Not Our King” and this defiance has continued throughout the generations the familiar words found in “Romans 1:28” which say “…And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a reprobate mind, to do those things which are not convenient;…” are especially indicative of the inherent rebelliousness of mankind’s attitude.
The Consequence of Throttling the Life from the Bible: Stifling Life’s Essence
In our eagerness to impart wisdom and guidance, there is a danger, in our haste to provide wisdom and direction to others, of reducing the teachings of the Bible to merely a checklist of things that need to be accomplished. This reductionist way of thinking can have disastrous effects, such as making people more self-absorbed and preoccupied with themselves. It is not possible to reduce the meaning of the Bible to just a list of moral precepts. We rob it of the potential for transformation it possesses when we lessen the power that it possesses to provide life. A goal that is centred on the gospel should go beyond the restricted scope of self-improvement and call us to a deeper awareness of the redemptive plan that God has in store for the world.
However, we who may have the great privilege of ministering to others need to recognise that to a major extent over the last two decades, we have been the basis of both a misguided approach to the “Walk of Faith” and an increasing “Self-Absorption.” The lack of systematic, regular and in-depth Biblical teaching and the teaching received through the many “self-looking and self-attainment, self-promotion, validation and self-aggrandisement” songs we are defining as “Worship Songs” has a lot to answer for.
The call to concentrate our eyes on Christ, in a culture where people are lured by the appeal of taking selfies, may come out as countercultural and even difficult. Yet, it is in this intentional shift of focus that we discover the key to genuine transformation. As believers fix their gaze on the Saviour, the shallowness of today’s selfie culture is gradually replaced by a profound sense of wonder, veneration, and appreciation for the selfless love that Christ has shown to his followers. They begin to experience a profound transformation within their hearts and minds. This transformative gaze upon the Saviour leads to a heightened sensitivity to the leading of the Holy Spirit, a deeper understanding of God’s character, and an increased desire to live in obedience to His Word.
But what about the desire for more conscientious believers? That’s a real question we should be asking ourselves, both as “Individuals and Collectively.” If our observations have seen mostly stressed-out individuals attempting to meet the demands of a plethora of applications, perhaps it is time for an experiment.
Instead of focusing on self-improvement, let us encourage people to focus on Christ and watch the transformation that takes place. The gospel is about Christ and His redemptive work on our behalf, not about our personal efforts. Although the attraction of quick fixes to compliance may entice us, the genuine harvest lies in shifting the focus from the listener’s performance to God’s magnificence.
Transcending Self: Embracing the Christ-Centric Message of the Bible
The Bible is a guiding light of divine revelation amid the chaos of self-centeredness. The unwavering majesty of God is felt across its pages, and Christ himself is emphasised. Amidst the clamour of self-obsession, the Bible shines as a beacon of divine revelation. The timeless wisdom it contains can bring about a dramatic shift in perspective, one that raises our awareness of God and turns our attention to His Son. By immersing ourselves in its timeless wisdom, we can experience a profound shift in focus, it is one that elevates our awareness of God and directs our gaze towards His Son. A healthy message, rooted in Scripture, along with foundational, regular and expanded teaching has the potential to transform individuals into God-aware and Christ-focused disciples.
The Gospel’s True Essence is the fact of Christ’s Work for Us. Within the tapestry of the gospel, we must recognise that salvation does not hinge upon our own works. The gospel’s complex tapestry makes clear that our salvation is not contingent on anything we do. It is through the matchless grace and immeasurable love of Christ that we find redemption. As we refocus our attention on His work for us, we begin to grasp the true essence of the gospel, which is as we know a message of divine favour and unmerited favour. Our preoccupation with personal striving fades, making way for a profound understanding of God’s transformative power in our lives.
The Transcendent Influence: Discovering Transformation through Gazing upon Christ
The desire for better-behaved believers is a pursuit of fostering a vibrant and authentic faith community, a question arises: How can we cultivate believers who not only exhibit moral behaviour but also radiate the transformative power of Christ? If our collective experience has been marred by the sight of pressured individuals striving to live up to the demands of numerous applications, perhaps it is time for a paradigm shift. Instead of perpetuating a culture of self-improvement, let us embark on an experiment that encourages people to fix their gaze on Christ and behold the magnificent transformation that unfolds.
The gospel is not merely about our personal effort; it centres on Christ and His redemptive work on our behalf. Although the allure of shortcuts to conformity may tempt us, the true harvest lies in redirecting the spotlight from the listener’s performance to the greatness of God.
There is a prevalence of “Pressured Striving and Performance-Based Faith” sermons that abound. What does this lead to? It leads to the prevailing emphasis on self-oriented applications and an exhausting cycle of striving, measuring up, and grappling with the fear of falling short. However, the true essence of the gospel is far from a relentless pursuit of perfection based on our own merits. It is about embracing the profound truth that our salvation rests in Christ and His finished work on the cross.
The gospel calls us to release the burden of performance and embrace a grace-saturated faith that flows from the depths of our relationship with the Saviour.
This leads us to ask – Is there a need for a more “Experimental Approach” to enable the multitude of believers to break free from the shackles of self-centred striving? If so, then it is paramount that we dare to tread uncharted territories. To embark on a fresh recognition of experimental grace, one that invites believers to redirect their gaze from their own efforts to the person and work of Jesus Christ. To encourage individuals to engage with the Scriptures, immersing themselves in the life-transforming truths found within its sacred pages. By dwelling upon the beauty, majesty, and redemptive power of Christ, hearts and minds can be captivated by His love, mercy, and grace, instead of their inherent weaknesses, failures, faults and impotence.
By doing so the burdens of self-improvement are replaced by a humble surrender to the transformative power of Christ’s love, resulting in lives that reflect the character of God and bring glory to His name.
The call to shift our gaze from self-centeredness to the Saviour stands as a liberating invitation to true transformation. In a world teeming with self-obsession, and the plague of narcissistic behaviour perpetuated by the incessant need for selfies the call to fix our gaze on Christ stands as a beacon of hope and transformation.
By shifting our focus from self-centred striving to God-centered living, we open ourselves to the profound realities of the gospel. As we immerse ourselves in the Scriptures, tracing the narrative thread that points to Christ, we can begin to witness the harvest of transformation in our lives and in the lives of those around us. Let us, as a community of believers, embrace the call to fix our gaze on Christ, for in Him lies the power to transform hearts, renew minds, and ignite a passion to live for His glory.