I want to live in a better community than the one I live in now. Don’t get me wrong, I’m absolutely crazy for Port Angeles and its people, but there is always room for improvement. Which is why I’ve never been more excited to be a pastor; encouraging and teaching people in a town that is experiencing a huge movement of citizen action. It’s been incredible, and I have no doubt that our best days are ahead!
In spite of all the positive momentum in our community, one thing that I’ve noticed in our culture at large is that we are on a progressive trend towards autonomy from God. As we “advance,” our need and awareness of Him gets less and less. However, a problem is surfacing. There has been an underlying degradation of our moral fiber in America, and regardless of how great things appear I believe we can all feel it. The standards we are trying to achieve have been set by people, and we rely on each other to affirm what we are doing instead of God. Herein lies the problem: We have forgotten that God’s eyes are always seeking the earth for those that are fully committed to Him (2 Chronicles 16:9); committed to Him even above their fellow neighbors.
It may sound backwards at first, but if we want to improve our community and the lives within it, the standard to work towards should be established by God. The beneficiaries of our service should absolutely be our community and its people, but only out of an effort to mirror the love God has shown us, will our communities be truly changed. If we are constantly aware of the perfect love God gifted us in Jesus, then regardless of the amount of effort we put into what we do, there is an understanding that we can always do better. We can always give more, serve more, empathize more, care more, and love more. I don’t ever want us to look at our surroundings, and because of the vast improvement we see, believe that we have “arrived.” Or worst yet, compare ourselves to a neighboring community who may not be as well off, and think we can rest because we are in better shape than them. These are the dangers of committing ourselves to people and their standards above God.
I heard an analogy years ago that may help in understanding. If you take a sheep and put it against a backdrop of a green hill, the sheep looks very white. However, if you place that same sheep against a backdrop of pure, white snow, it begins to show how truly dingy it is. It’s the same in regards to people. It’s easy to think we’re doing well if our commitment is primarily to other people and our standards are set by them. A person or community set against the backdrop of a culture that embraces moral compromise looks pretty darn good. Now place them against the backdrop of a perfect and holy God, and the stains begin to show. Contrary to what you might think or have been taught, this is not and should not be a shameful, guilt-ridden process. It’s not a time to focus on flaws and wallow in self-pity, but instead an invitation to freedom because you now live for an audience of One not millions! Unlike the multitudes of voices from those around you, when God guides and directs, it’s a single voice that always encourages. In fact, that’s a sure way to know you are hearing from God: His voice always encourages, always uplifts, always loves – period.
It’s time once again to look at Jesus as our example. We can learn how he committed himself fully to his audience of One – his Father in Heaven. He performed miracles from this place of commitment, not needing input or affirmation from the people watching.
“Now when He (Jesus) was in Jerusalem at the Passover, during the feast, many believed in His name when they saw the signs which He did. But Jesus did not commit Himself to them, because He knew all men, and had no need that anyone should testify of man, for he knew what was in man.” John 2:23-25
As we immerse ourselves in these three brief verses, we can get an amazing glimpse into the true heart of a servant. First, notice Jesus was busy doing miraculous signs without the need to round up an audience to watch him. His priority was to simply take care of the needs of the people. The byproduct was that those around him saw the miracles and believed in his name.
I understand the desire people have to lead others to Jesus and see life change before their very eyes, but we can’t forget that someone else’s choice to either follow Christ or not is never on our shoulders. We spend far too much time focusing our efforts on getting people to say that they believe in Jesus instead of simply showing them his love through our service. The natural outcome of the latter will be a desire on their behalf to want to know him more. Anytime the Bible says salvation comes through faith in Christ (Ephesians 2:8), or “confess with your mouth that ‘Jesus is Lord…’” and you will be saved (Romans 10:9), it is always in reference to an individual making that choice - not someone else suggesting it for them. When Christ called his own disciples, his instructions were to simply follow him and learn by watching what he did. Their eventual belief in him came from witnessing his acts of service and love.
The second thing to notice is what I began this message with: Jesus didn’t commit himself to people and had no need for their opinion on what he was doing. He knew our fellow man didn’t always speak from the purest heart and that man’s wisdom wasn’t a stable foundation to build upon. God is the only solid rock to build upon, and our commitment should rest with Him.
If you read about the life of Christ, you’ll soon realize that his method for building community is far superior to anything we could dream up. The funny thing is that it’s not complicated, and unfortunately there are plenty of people out there that will take credit for it, not realizing it was God’s plan from the beginning - take care of and love people first, while maintaining your loyalty to Him.
As simple as God has made it and as well as Jesus modeled it, we still manage to mess it up. We get offended when people disagree with our methods, we get hurt when they don’t follow through, we seek an audience for our validation, we even get jealous when we see people serving well and accomplishing great things. In God’s infinite wisdom, and knowing full well “what was in a man,” he still placed us here together. Why you ask? Because He also created us in his image, and when we get community right, nothing speaks the message of His love louder.