I notice more and more the religion so many churches preach is the gospel of me.
God loves me. God is all about me. God is committed to me. God creates his will and commands around me. God wants me to be happy. God wants me to be free.
The risk in holding fast to these statements is that we forget the basics of who God is, himself. While God does love us, we tend to focus the gospel solely on ourselves, and somewhere along the line start to believe this idea – God exists to love and please me.
While many of us would say we do not agree with this statement, a life built on this mantra can work itself into our everyday thinking without us even realizing it. We put luxuries and convenience above spending time with God. We finagle and justify our actions to fit into God’s commands, thinking we know what’s best for our own lives. When it comes down to it, if we do not agree with a biblical statement, we disregard it. We pick and choose pieces of the Bible to believe, the ones that are pleasing and culturally acceptable, and chalk the rest up to the sinful men who wrote the Bible or the culture of the era. We forget, “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness” (2 Tim. 3:16).
The truth is God does love us. God pours his grace out on us daily and even forsook His own Son to forgive us our sins. But the doorpost to His mercy and grace, the doorpost to His love for us is not His devotion to us, but God’s own devotion to Himself.
Wait. What? That sounds mighty proud and arrogant, you might say. But he’s God, and he deserves the devotion. He is the “one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all” (Ephesians 4:6). We often take our eyes off God’s glory and focus instead on demanding what we want.
When Moses asked God to identify himself amongst the many Egyptian gods, He responded, “I am who I am” (Exodus 3:14). The literal translation from Hebrew is, “I will be what I will be.” God’s vastness, his mysterious and incomprehensible power, is on display through this statement. His being is wholly separate from anything or any other god we could worship, including making an idol of ourselves. I’m trying to paint a picture here, straight from scripture, of God’s devotion to who He is. He doesn’t say, “I will be what you want me to be” or “I will be like other gods or idols.”
It comes up time and time again: When Job was enduring tests and tribulation and questioning God about them, God answered him, “Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth? Tell me, if you have understanding” (Job 38:4). In the same way, the New Testament says in reference to our questioning God, “But who are you, O man, to answer back to God? Will what is molded say to its molder, “Why have you made me like this?” Has the potter no right over the clay, to make out of the same lump one vessel for honorable use and another for dishonorable use? (Romans 9:20-21). I’m not saying we don’t matter to God. I am saying the ultimate focus of all things reflects back to God.
All of scripture is not about us. The Bible and our relationship with God is all about God’s story. God created us for Himself. Jesus coming to earth and dying to save us is a picture of God’s love and mercy and our great need of saving. Do not fool yourself. We are not the heroes. We are the ones, broken and bruised, being carried away from our deceitful hearts.
This is the very heart of the gospel: God’s grace for us, but it is God’s story of love, His calling of the church to Himself. This truth is most encouraging to me.
If God were as dedicated to us as we are ourselves, life would be chaos. If He gave in to our every whim, hope, or dream to make us happy, we would all be in a constant state of change and tumult. We are fickle, and our desires and passions start strong and quickly fall by the wayside. We change what we want all the time. But thankfully and gracefully, God is more dedicated to Himself and His plan for our lives, which includes loving us and changing our hearts to be more like His. When we are focused on Him, we experience inexplicable joy and peace, no matter our circumstances. Psalm 37:4 says, “Delight yourself in the LORD, and he will give you the desires of your heart.” When we truly delight in our Creator, when we see who He is, He fulfills His purposes in us.
It is because of God’s devotion to himself that He is unchanging and trustworthy. This very part of His nature enables Him to love us unconditionally, to keep His covenants perfectly, and to establish His kingdom eternally.
When Jesus was on the Earth, the Pharisees questioned him about seeing Abraham, as Jesus was only in his 30’s but referenced Abraham being glad about seeing His day (meaning Jesus’s day). Jesus’ response reflects directly back on this theme of God’s devotion. In John 8:58, Jesus says, “Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I am.”
Because He is who He is, we can be loved.