Am I Obsessed with Jesus or Am I Obsessed with Being a Christian?

Confession time: I used to be obsessed with being a Christian.

And I didn’t think much about it at the time. Maybe I didn’t know. But my goal in life was to make sure that people knew I was a Christian. I wanted to do everything possible. A list of some ways:

  • I would post super deep Facebook statuses and check back often to see how many likes I got.
  • My Instagram photos of the sky would include some caption with some spiritually Christian jargon, and then I’d get mad when I only got one like.
  • IMG_1963Before prayer meetings, I would plan what words and phrases I was going to use in prayers so people would think I was awesome.
  • I would drop random biblical phrases into conversation to try to sound spiritual.
  • I would get super psyched whenever someone would reference my biblical knowledge that was “way more” than they knew.

A further example. In the summer of 2012, I started writing a book that basically broke down 1 Peter 5:6-7. Here’s how chapter 1 started:

2011 was my only summer working on staff at a camp called Snowbird Wilderness Outfitters (or SWO for short). SWO is a Christian youth outdoors recreation camp. For more information (shameless plug), check out swoutfitters.com. I highly recommend it.

May 19. I went up to my friend Matt after the night session of a day of Staff Training. Seeing as how it was my first summer on staff and I really wanted to impress people, I asked him what was getting out of his quiet time. The rest of my journal entry records it perfectly:

“He was telling me about what he was getting from his personal quiet time, and it was great stuff. I began to talk and instantly realized I was putting on a persona, acting like I had it all together. I just stopped and said something to the effect of, ‘I’m trying to do what you’re doing.’ He said he was going to bed, got up and left. I talked to him this morning (the 20th) for a little bit before I realized exactly what was going on but getting hints from God…I was studying Acts 1 and wanted to talk about how Jesus said, ‘It is not for you to know the times or the seasons that the Father has fixed by his own authority.’ I wanted to talk about it but I had nothing. I realized that my acting charade was beginning to wear off and that’s what the Lord was convicting me of. So, story told. God’s broken me down and now I’m trying to get back to where God can use me to minister properly this summer…I realized I had a big pride issue. I wanted to give off an appearance that I was a solid Christian, while inside I was doubting, struggling.”

Pride continues to be an issue in my life. So when I write this chapter about humility, I speak to myself more than I speak to anyone else. I’m slowly realizing in my life that I have nothing to bring before the throne of the almighty God who rules the universe.

I didn’t finish the book, but this moment has stood out to me when it comes to thinking about spiritual pride in my life.

In the opening to this post, I said “used to.” I don’t know if that’s entirely accurate. I think there’s definitely part of my heart that still gets excited and prideful whenever anybody compliments any knowledge of anything biblical I have. God is working on my heart to grow me in this area, to humble me.

I posed the question that is the title of this post on Facebook yesterday and I got one response: those who are obsessed with being Christians are Pharisees. And that’s exactly what I was and to this day still have remnants of in my heart. What were the Pharisees known for? Showing their righteousness before others (Matthew 6:1). They were obsessed with being religious instead of the God who was the basis/center/crux of everything they supposedly believed.

How do you know if you’re obsessed with being a Christian instead of Jesus? I wanted to put together some kind of test, but I couldn’t figure it out.

See, the things you do when you’re obsessed with being a Christian are often the things you do when you’re obsessed with Jesus. You want people to think you’re obsessed with Jesus, so you do all the “right things.” We forget that being a Christian is more about Jesus and less about us showing that we’re Christians. We’re not a Christian because of what we do, we’re a Christian because of what Jesus did.

Can I be honest with you? Sometimes, as I scroll through my Facebook page, I see people post highly-spiritual statuses and photos of their quiet times and everything that they’re doing that’s “holier” than what I’m doing, and I feel two things. First, I feel discouraged that I’m not as “holy” as they are. Second, I wonder if they’re more obsessed with being a Christian than loving Jesus. To that second point, I honest can’t make a judgement on that. I could make guesses.

But to be honest with you, I get mad. I get upset. I get judgmental. I despise those people for what I perceive to be Pharisaical actions on social media. And that reaction is never right. It’s very self-righteous of me.

Social media is perhaps, in my opinion, the newest place for self-righteousness to flourish. In Bible times, Pharisees could walk around the synagogue area, where a lot was going on, and flaunt their righteousness before others. It was the social and religious center of the cities in Israel. Facebook and Twitter are the social centers of today, and they are growing to become, more and more, the religious centers as well. Social media gives us many opportunities to be self-righteous before others, and I’ve taken advantage of it many, many times.

So to answer the question, I don’t know. I can’t look at you and say, “You’re more obsessed with being a Christian instead of obsessed with Jesus.” You have to examine your own heart. We’re not called to be obsessed with being a Christian. The point of being a Christian is to be obsessed with Jesus. And you can pick at that word “obsessed” and go all semantics, but the point is this: our goal is to glorify God. Our goal is to make much of Jesus. Not of ourselves or our personal faith.

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Before We Get All High and Mighty on the Osteens…

There’s been a big Facebook and blogosphere uproar surrounding the YouTube clip of Victoria Osteen’s “worship God for you” declaration in the last couple weeks. 

The clip below has over 1 million views on YouTube:

I will say, the Bill Cosby bit is funny.

The criticism that has come the Osteens’ way for their stance is well-deserved. If you want a good response to what was said, read these excellent blog posts by Albert Mohler (“The Osteen Predicament – Mere Happiness Cannot Bear the Weight of the Gospel”) and Matt Walsh (“Joel Osteen and his wife are heretics, and that’s why America loves them”).

These are things that should be written, and I commend both Dr. Mohler and Walsh’s blogs as must-read if you have any confusion about the theology behind it. But as I pondered these responses and thought about my own reaction, I had to stop and think about myself for a minute.

How many times have I approached God this way? How many times have I spoken false doctrine to others or to myself because it “felt good” to me or would “feel good” to others? When we see false teachers, we should call them out, we should point out the flaws in their teachings. But we must not do it out of self-righteousness, but in love and dedication to the truth.

I’ll be the first to tell you that I have long fought a battle with self-righteousness. I grew up in a Christian family and managed to stay out of trouble for most of my school career – with just the odd silent lunch or reprimanding word here and there. I also attended church regularly and regularly spoke out in youth group. I knew a lot. I knew the answers.

When I went to college, I saw a lot more sin than I did before in high school. Just part of the gig of being a college student. And my freshman year, it manifested itself in self-righteousness. I would look around and see others and, I confess, judged them. Hardcore. I would self-righteously look at them and shake my head (sometimes visibly), astonished by their sinful ways.

BJoel-Osteen-Preaching1ut in the last couple years, I’ve noticed one thing: I’m not much different than they are.

If it weren’t for Christ in my life, I’d be right there with them. I’d be in the same boat. I’d be sinning just like them.

Also, fun fact: I am sinning like them. Maybe it displays itself in different ways, but I’m a sinner just like those kids I went to school with are. Just like the Osteens are.

Just like you are, Christian. “If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us” (1 John 1:8). Pharisees loved to do what we’re doing to the Osteens. They loved to look at sinners and condemn them. I notice that sometimes we in the church love to do the same, especially when it comes to false preachers.

Let me go ahead and say again that I don’t approve of what Victoria Osteen said, or what Joel Osteen has said. It’s a horrible misinterpretation of Scripture, to put it mildly.

But before we get to crucifying them, remember that they need Jesus just as much as we do. Remember that Jesus died so that the pastors who misinterpret His Word might have a chance to learn differently, receive grace and spend eternity with Him in heaven. I want them to preach truth.

I also don’t want to give an affirmative answer the Osteens’ salvation, because that’s not my job. If they’re Christians who are just missing something big, pray for them. If they’re not Christians, pray for them.

I don’t want to be the prideful Pharisee that looks down on the repentant tax collector and says, “God, I thank you that I am not like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I get” (Luke 18:11-12). Or in this case, “false teachers, liars, misinterpreters of Scripture, or even like this Victoria Osteen.”

Truth is, I’m a lot like them. 

I want to be the Christian that sees the flaws in others and responds in three ways:

  1. Pray that they know and love Jesus.
  2. Examine my own heart for sin.
  3. Pray that I would know Jesus more.

We shouldn’t be comparing one to another; we all fall short in comparison to the glory of God (Romans 3:23). He just wants us – you, me, the Osteens, the kids I knew in college – to be His. 

So please, Christians, let’s be in prayer for the Osteens, not just blast them all over social media and in conversations at church. We must stand for truth, yes, but not at the expense of loving others.