If we believe that the cross is central to Christianity, then the focus when we present the gospel will be the cross – and a message of sacrifice. The message we present is one that proclaims that Jesus Christ, God in flesh, lived the perfect life, died the death we deserve, and then rose to life again, conquering death and sin – because of this, we can know God now and for eternity. Because of this, the unlovable, marred by their own sin, sitting in a pile of their own crap, are presented clean before God and made lovable – made pure by the blood of Jesus Christ.
The gospel is first about what Christ has done.
Today’s culture seems to be about me. And you. But mostly about me, right? The world revolves around me and God exists to placate my need to be approved of and my friends exist to make me feel valuable. I’m meant to love me. I’m meant to think of myself as valuable because otherwise how will anyone else perceive value in me?
Today, we are all told those lies. We are all told that everything is about us – or should be about us. Heck, Patrick Dempsey just did a Loreal ad – because men are worth it too. We’re a self obsessed bunch and sometimes, I wonder if our “gospel” preaching when it comes to teenagers doesn’t merely perpetuate that myth rather than challenge it.
I’m not saying we don’t address the issue of self esteem and self worth. I’m saying we flip it all on its head and get it right. Self esteem and self worth become totally different issues when you have Christ at the centre of the picture. They become an image of an unworthy sinner and the perfect One who redeems them. It becomes something much more powerful. When we preach the gospel, it should begin with Christ and end with Christ. And we should be all about Christ because of the gospel, because of Christ, self esteem becomes irrelevant because our value is not in ourselves anymore, but wholly placed in Christ and HIS worth.
And that message is not one of self love, but of God’s love and our love for God.
If we believe that the cross is central to Christianity, then self esteem is not our starting point. God does not exist to placate our need for approval. The starting point is Christ.
Please, do not turn the gospel into a watered down message of self help. It doesn’t make God more attractive. It just makes him another version of Oprah, but with a much worse TV network to his name.