I dare you to try to find a legitimate Jesus-loving Christian under the age of 30 that doesn’t think they are the next best thing since the Apostle Paul. They’re going to change the world, don’t you know? They’re going to be a leading force for change in this generation, haven’t you heard? God has placed a call on their life and they know in their heart that He is going to do massive things through them! Cities are going to be turned upside down and evil industries are going to be turned inside out. Ministries are going to be birthed out of their God-given visions and their names will go down in the Christian-Hall-Of-Fame right beside Spurgeon, Lewis and Tozer. Because of what God’s going to do through them, the Church will never be the same!
….I hope you pick up on my sarcasm.
Ambition is great. Passion is necessary. But this generation — my generation — has been inundated since Pre-K with the notion that we are superstars. If we ever had any doubt concerning our grand potential to accomplish impossibilities, our parents, teachers, and maybe even our pastors squashed it immediately for the sake of our “self-esteem.”
Affirmation is good, when it’s balanced and realistic. But what we’ve been told isn’t balanced. And it’s far from realistic. Not everyone is smart enough to be a doctor, or skilled enough to be an artist, or brave enough to be a cop. We all have strengths, yes — and that’s what I think our parents and teachers were trying to get at. But we also all have weaknesses, character flaws, and things we just suck at — and this is what we have all seemed to miss.
So now the western hemisphere is covered with a mass of twenty-something world-changers who can’t imagine their lives fleshing out in anything less than history-making super-stardom. And this mentality didn’t bounce around the church as it swallowed up everyone else, either. When young people get converted, you can bank on the fact that within months they’re going to receive “a word from the Lord” about the ministry they’re going to start, the book they’re going to write, the conferences they’re going to speak at, or all the women they’re going to save out of sex-trafficking.
And I’m definitely not excluding myself from that bunch.
Converted to Christ at age 21 from a lifestyle of homosexuality and other extremely visual, public sins has poster-boy-for-Jesus written all over it. And I was all about being in the spotlight. I wanted my life to be used for something great — something grand. I wanted thousands to know my story of redemption and hear how Jesus changed my life. And most of the Christians around me really affirmed and encouraged these desires in me… so they had to be good desires, right? Right??
Now don’t get me wrong, thousands of people hearing about Jesus isn’t a bad thing. That’s a very good thing. But a good thing quickly turns into a bad thing when it becomes about your fame instead of Jesus’ fame.
When it came right down to it, I wanted my story to be known because I wanted to be known. I wanted to start a ministry so that I could be seen. So I pursued these things. Not entirely for my own glory… but mostly. And at the risk of being too judgmental, I’m going to go ahead and say that this is the case for most young Christians aspiring for “big things.”
The biblical model of Christianity is incredibly different from our contemporary American-ized model. We still use biblical language, but lack the biblical meaning for that language. Jesus has called us all to do great things, that is most certainly true! And before we were even brought into existence, God prepared good works for us to walk in (Ephesians 2), absolutely! But where things fall apart for us is when we miss the fact that “greatness” in the eyes of God is often menial in the eyes of the world.
The world’s greatness and glory is the praise of men. To do something great in the world, multitudes need to know about it. To be something great in the world, you need at least 20,000 followers and a little blue check by your twitter handle. But the Kingdom of Jesus operates on an entirely different level than the kingdom of this world. The only glory and praise that matters in the Kingdom of Jesus is the glory and praise of God. (And I don’t mean the fake kind of “glory and praise of God” that is still really the glory and praise of you. It’s possible to talk about Jesus while still being all about yourself. Turn on TBN and take a look.)
And this is hard for us to accept.
- It’s not enough for us to know that God saw us give the man outside of Walgreen’s some food and drink, we need to post about our “blessed opportunity” on Facebook.
- Leading a 5 person bible study in our living room once a week where God is really showing up and transforming those 5 people isn’t satisfactory for us… we need to figure out a way to serve the masses with our “gifts.”
- Serving in an established outreach ministry that needs workers just doesn’t fill our cup…. we need to go launch and lead our own ministry.
Our love for ourselves so easily can swallow up our love for Jesus and others. My love for myself so easily can swallow up my love for Jesus and others.
Two years ago a fresh wave of mercy entered my life when I met a guy named Kyle, who is now my pastor. I didn’t know it at the time — or I would’ve run in the opposite direction — but God brought Kyle into my life to begin the process of crushing my pride… gently, of course. On a weekly basis for the past two years he has spoken the kind of truth into my life that makes me want to choke him (I’m semi-serious). He has helped me, even amid my sometimes hostile reactions, to differentiate between my desires that are fueled by love for Jesus and those that are merely fueled by self-seeking pride. He has helped me to take my focus away from the pursuit of me-centered-Christianity and to embrace Jesus-centered-Christianity.
And it’s been rough. The flesh doesn’t go down easily — or quietly. But it’s also been incredibly fruitful and life-giving.
Everyday I have to look in the mirror and remind my so-prone-to-self-seeking self that this Christian life is not about me. Jesus loves me, for sure. He is always with me — comforting me, strengthening me, sustaining me –yes! And He wants me to be filled with joy and life… the Scriptures testify to that over and over again.
But because of Jesus’ love for me and His desire for my joy, He can’t be about making me into something great (according to the world’s standards).
At the very basic level of our being, we are designed to magnify the awesomeness of God, not our own awesomeness. We were made to thrive on the glory of God, not on the glory of ourselves. The Lord knows that the praise of men feels good on the surface level, but that it won’t quench what our hearts truly desire and even need. We need Him. We need to look away from ourselves and worship Him.
My fellow millennial-Christian, stand with me today in the mirror and let’s look soberly at ourselves and remind them that this Kingdom business isn’t about them, it’s about Jesus. And most of the time, Kingdom-work is going to appear pretty mundane in the eyes of those around us. Working a secular job and being Christ to our co-workers may not be our self-seeking dream of being on a stage preaching and teaching, but it very may well be the Lord’s will for us. And the Lord’s will is good.
Witnessing daily to the same people in the same places may appear on the surface to be trivial and meaningless, but when we look at the Scripture and remind ourselves of the biggest and truest realities, we can be assured that it is far from that. The Holy Spirit is always working in and around us. Every time the gospel is spoken, even in our work places or homes or gyms or grocery stores, God is there. He is moving, enlightening, softening, strengthening. Stop letting celebrity-style-Christianity make you think that you are a less-than Christian because you’re not on a stage. The glory of God doesn’t dwell on a stage or in a pulpit or at the front of the classroom or in a PhD. It dwells on the lives of those who:
“do not account [their lives] of any value nor as precious to [themselves], if only [they] may finish [their] course and the ministry that [they] received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God.”- Acts 20:24
This article originally appeared on My Christian Daily.
Matt Moore is a Christian writer living in New Orleans, Louisiana, where he moved in 2012 to help plant NOLA Baptist Church. Matt spends his days drinking way too much coffee and writing about a wide variety of topics at www.moorematt.org. You can find him on Facebook or follow him on Twitter.