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All About Us

its-all-about-meWhen we hear a preacher talk about "our Jesus-shaped hole" we're sensitive to the dangers. It sounds instantly "me-centred" doesn't it? If a preacher goes on about our felt needs and how Jesus meets them, Jesus seems only as big as the hole that's in us. That can't be right.

Yet, while we may be able to spot that error, another kind of me-centredness can beset the soundest of pulpits. Let me pick on perhaps the three most popular topics preached on in the churches I visit. These days the Trendy Trifecta is Trinity, grace and idols. Everything now is Trinity, grace and idols. Thinking back to last Sunday, I touched on all three, and if you're a preacher I hope you covered at least two of those!

But here's the danger, we are so self-obsessed, we can even make these truths all about us. We psychologize them and turn them into anthropology not theology.  So,

We're interested in "Trinity" because it resonates with our need for love.

We love love, we think it's lovely. So we love that God is love. And we preach the Trinity because it accords with our prior proclivities. We don't preach Trinity as the nature of God, we preach it as wish-fulfillment.

We're interested in "Grace" to the degree that it's a motivator in our lives. 

It's all about which regime produces the better Christian life - carrot or stick. Well, because we're "grace" people, we say CARROT. Loudly! But what we mean is "we believe in a certain shape to the Christian life" - not "we believe in a certain shape to God's life." Again, we don't preach grace as God's very nature (quite apart from how we feel about it), we preach it as wish-fulfillment.

We're interested in "Idols" as a psychological explanation for our patterns of addiction.

Idols-speak provides us with a window onto our own desires and we need little encouragement to think about ourselves. Idols-speak can become like the online personality test to discover the real me: delicious! But in preaching there's a real danger that we don't consider idols theologically. I find it rare for a preacher to define idols (as Scripture does) as false conceptions of God. Instead we consider over-investment in the world and the flesh and how we can solve our idolatry problem by determining to worship the right thing. In all this, God Himself is quite dormant, waiting for us to switch our allegiances. We are centre-stage. (More on idolising idols here).

It might sound "God-centred" to talk about Trinity and grace and idols, but so easily we make it all about us.


9 thoughts on “All About Us

  1. Cal

    I suppose the danger becomes more realized when we tack on these ideas onto a nebulous conception of 'God'. Frankly, and perhaps its me, but I can't understand the abstraction of this Triune Being. Same appears to throw off idols (and turn to the Supreme Being?) and grace (which becomes an "energy" i.e. Roman teaching).

    We gotta define all these in the person of Jesus. Trinity in that Jesus is the Christ, Son of God. Grace in that Jesus is Giver and Gift. Idolatry in that Jesus is True Lord and True God.

    I know you meant all of this, just thought it should be explicit!!

    cum amore,

  2. Glen

    Cal, totally. I think this is another instance of how God-centred-ness and man-centred-ness collapse into the same thing in the end. Only Christ-centredness can save us.

  3. Paul

    Thanks for this Glen. For a long time I couldn't understand why I was so put off by some kinds of Trinitarian theology - as well as people talking about grace all the time. A relational god is only good news if it is specifically God the Father loving God the Son in the unity of the Spirit - with Jesus bringing His Bride into that eternal life. A god can be as social and relational and as 'triniatrian' as he/she/it wants BUT unless it it is all about Jesus... it just isn't worth anything at all.

    Same with 'grace'. A god might act with grace... giving what is not deserved etc. BUT, unless that god is Jesus I don't want their paltry 'blessings' and mercy. I don't want to be friends with any god other than Jesus the Spirit filled Son of the Father. I don't want the free and generous friendship of any other god. I don't want my sins forgiven or my problems solved by 'grace' unless that grace is the friendship and love of Jesus, who endured hell on the Cross for me.

    I only want to be freed from idols if I am set free to worship Jesus. Even if I could be free of all idols, what is the point unless I am free to worship the LORD Jesus? Idols only look like dumb, selfish blocks of wood/silicon/metal/tech IF I am worshipping Jesus... without Him they all seem so useful, cool and no harm at all.

  4. Mo

    Have you been listening to my sermons? Seriously, have you? I feel like I need to go back and repreach the last few!

  5. Kevin Allard

    We're interested in making sure it's not about us because we know that true satisfaction comes from putting God first and not focussing on our needs so...

    Isn't there always a degree to which it has to be about us even when we are calling ourselves to put God first?

  6. Glen

    Brilliantly put Paul: " I don’t want my sins forgiven or my problems solved by ‘grace’ unless that grace is the friendship and love of Jesus, who endured hell on the Cross for me." Amen.

    And Mo - no, I'm preaching to myself! It's so easy to shove the trendy trifecta into a motivational, pop-psychology mould. I'm sure I need to re-process a lot of stuff too!

  7. Glen

    Hi Kevin, I've always liked the line "It's not about you, it's about Jesus for you." Notice the line isn't "It's not about you, it's about Jesus." Instead it's about what *Christ* has done in death and blood and it is definitely offered to you. But it's offered to you from outside yourselves.

    So yes, the gospel is definitely *for you*. But it's all about *Jesus* whose glory is His grace.

  8. Pingback: Four Thoughts on Grace for Reformation Day | Christ the Truth

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