Insecurity and its many fruits are evident in the church today. Why? Because we, as Christians, are screwed-up, flawed, immoral, unethical, and desperately needy. Our denial of the truth leaves us insecure before people and insecure before our Father.
What causes “Christians” to work so hard to accumulate things (for comfort and security), to chase after the esteem of men (through achievement and facades), and to continuously pursue worldly pleasures? Jesus indicated that His followers would not be characterized by these pursuits. What causes a “Christian” leader to build a cathedral and a following of men, and then burn out seeking to maintain and protect his “kingdom”.
Why does the church seek everything “big”? Is bigger better in the Kingdom? Is a church of 1,000, meeting in a 2 million dollar building better than a church of 30 that meets in a home? Mega-churches seem to be everywhere these days. Why? Are they better? Is a ministry necessarily better if it attracts more people and “wins” more converts? Why do our ministries have to be validated by (big) “signs and wonders”? Was Jesus driven to do “great things” for His Father or rather what the Father told Him to do? Is our Father always after what is big and successful in our eyes? Does Jesus ever call someone (even a missionary) to just a few people or to a ministry unseen? “Please don’t tell anyone what I’ve done for you.”
I believe this pervasive insecurity is a primary cause of some of the above behavior in the church today. We readily say that God is powerful and loving, but our insecurity rests in our lack of trust that He loves me, interacts with me and will use me, as I am. We seek (big) growth, achievement, and miracles, not in response to a specific command from our Father, but to further convince ourselves that God is real and sovereign and loving.
I believe the root of this insecurity is our continued flawed-ness and our lack of certainty that God cherishes us still (with full knowledge of all our thoughts and motives). We admit that we were sinful and flawed before we knew Jesus. What about after? We all know the truth, that we are an inner mess of contradictory motives and desires, some pleasing but many that would be embarrassing if known publicly. We are not what we think we “should” be, or what others perceive us to be and we wear ourselves out trying to appear as we think we should, both before men and before our Father.
Why is there is far more talk in our churches of “character” and “accountability” than of grace? Is our primary pursuit the building of character or the understanding of, and living in, grace? I fear that many of our church leaders today resemble the superficial, plastic, joyless “character” preachers of Jesus’ day that he labeled as “white-washed tombs. Jesus had some harsh words for those who appeared to “have it all together”.
We are flawed, still. So flawed. We always will be. Can we admit this and talk about this? Can we share with one another our embarrassing mistakes, our laziness, our failure, our sins, our self-centeredness, our lustful desire for pleasure and comfort, our doubts, our parental failures, etc? Can we speak of the wonder of grace and God’s love for even me, rather than how polished I am and how polished you can be? Can we walk with and work with others with obvious flaws and lower our expectations them, with our primary focus to love them rather than improve them? Or should accountability and character-building remain our modus operandi? I recently counseled a Brazilian church leader who sinned against and wounded another deeply. My Father led me to share with this individual my flaws. I wrote out a (long) list of all my current sinful actions and attitudes and gave it to Him. Our Father wanted him to know His love and embrace, in his flawed-ness. He wanted him to know that he was “normal”. This is our Father’s heart. Not only is flawed normal, it’s expected. “Nothing can separate us…” No people on earth should be more comfortable with their flaws than Jesus’ people, but…
Is the goal to become Jesus-like by overcoming our flaws (and building character) or to have a Jesus-like relationship with our Father?
We will NEVER find security by building character. We will always know the profound Romans 7 battle within us, with daily wins and losses. We will find peace and joy only by knowing our Father’s affection for us, as we are, with all of our flaws.
There is temptation in missions and ministry to encourage character building, to encourage people to become more like Jesus in behavior, to imitate Him, to be a WWJD person. I fear that this radically misses the boat. Christianity is not about imitating Jesus, obeying the Bible or building character.
Jesus’ emphasis was on relationship with the Father (see Jn 17), which begins (and continues) with our accepting and owning His love for us, as we are, with all of our (current) flaws and sinful attitudes. Behavioral changes can be seen and measured. How we humans love to measure! When, however, we encourage people to their “prayer closet”, to go to the Father directly, the behavioral changes may or may not be immediately obvious to us. We must trust our Father to work and to do what He will in each life, when He will. We need more people in the church talking about their screwed-up-ness and their closeness with Jesus than we do their outward changes or “miracles”. I’ve seen so many outward changes last only a short time because they are without a relational foundation (based on God’s profound love for a forever flawed son or daughter). We promote quick changes though we know that quick changes (or growth) rarely last.
Walking with Jesus is about conversation, listening, surrender, and “doing what the Father says”, fully appreciating that we will always be relating to Him as a flawed (and joyfully loved) son or daughter.
I believe that the attitude Jesus desires in us primarily is gratitude. Honestly appreciating our flawed-ness (still) and how cherished we really are (still) produces a thankful heart. Gratitude acknowledges Him, honors Him, worships Him, and seeks to continuously receive and give away that which cannot be earned or added to – His grace. If we would only know the favor that we have with our Father, and His affection for His flawed and still imperfect kids.
I write this to me and perhaps to you. If you are discouraged by your flawed-ness, your sin, or your failures, you are invited to the “Throne of Grace” to know again that, as you are, you are cherished and loved and you are still His beautiful (and imperfect) bride.
“My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.” 2 Cor 12:9