For years I rededicated myself to live for Jesus Christ. By rededication, I mean that I promised God that if He would help me, I would try harder to live for Him. In my understanding at the time, living for Him meant that I would behave in a better way. I would read the Bible more consistently, pray more earnestly, witness more boldly, give more generously, avoid sin more vehemently, ad infinitum.
My understanding of what it meant to rededicate myself to Christ wasn’t uncommon. Many people view it the same way. When I was a local church pastor, I often used by sermons to challenge the congregation to rededicate themselves to Jesus. This week it would be a challenge to read the Bible more; next week it might be to pray more. Every week, my challenge to Christians revolved around behaving better. It was all about trying harder. And the people responded – in great numbers.
The reason for their response is because when we align ourselves with a legalistic paradigm that we use to judge our behavior, not one of us will get a perfect score. None of us are behaving at all times in all areas of life without room for progress. Judge yourself by law and you’ll come up short every time. The result will always be a sense of condemnation and guilt.
Jesus never once calls on us to rededicate ourselves. Instead he says that we should renounce our self efforts to do better and simply follow (enter into union) with Him. (See Matthew 16:24 – it says “deny” yourself, not “dedicate yourself.) Rededication generally focuses on bringing our behavior up to par.
Consequently, the focus of our lives becomes ourselves and how we behave. Most Christians are consumed with that endeavor. They constantly stare at themselves and their performance. They invest all their attention and energy on improving their actions. They may say they love Jesus, but based on the little attention they give to Him and the enormous attention and energy they spend on themselves and what they are doing or not doing, the truth becomes evident. They come first, not Christ. The evidence indicates that they are a god in their own mind.
Whatever we put before God is an idol. Consequently, when a Christian places his focus on himself and how he is acting more than He focuses on God Himself, he is guilty of idolatry. Remember that idolatry is placing anything before God. So to make our own demand for a higher religious performance the priority of life is a subtle form of idolatry.
Christianity isn’t about you and how well you behave. It’s about having an intimate love relationship with God through Christ. Where is your focus? Is it on you? On what you’re doing or not doing? Or is your attention and devotion squarely focused on Jesus Christ?
There is a real need for repentance in the modern church. It is the need to turn away from ourselves and our never-ending, never-satisfied demand for perfect behavior. It is the need for a turning-to Jesus Christ.
We must stop worshiping the false god of our own behavioral expectations. Stop worshiping our own self-efforts to improve. We must stop permitting our Christian experience to be about my efforts, my sins, my good works, my promises to do better. It’s not about me, me, me. Christianity is all Him, Him, Him!
May God grant the gift of repentance to His church so that we will quit worshiping ourselves at the Temple of Rededication. May we turn to Him and acknowledge that we never will be able to live up to our own self-righteous demands, so we are casting ourselves on His grace and love. Then, and only then, will we find that Christ and Christ alone is our Deliverer. He will free us from being held hostage in a prison of self-perfectionism. When we turn away from rededication and turn to Him, we will hear Him lovingly whisper, “I never intended for you to change yourself. I just want you to rest here in my arms. I’ll bring about the changes in your life. You just stay here and enjoy me.”