A Person, Not a Program
I once heard a story of an Asian Christian who was getting a tour of all the grand churches and ministries in a particular part of America. After seeing it all he was asked what he thought. He said, “It is truly amazing what you have been able to do without God.”
It is a stinging rebuke that touches on a reality that is a constant problem in American Christianity. Americans tend to be independent, schedule-making, checklist-checking, doers. One reason for this is there is still a biblical work-ethic present in the fabric of much of our society. The Bible certainly does call for hard work, for wise time-management, for making plans, and for zealous activity. But there is another reality underneath it all. It is a truth which works like a ballast under a boat, providing the weight to keep the boat upright and sailing straight. This reality is that our hope is a person and not a program.
We like to fix things, and tools help us get the job done. It is a tragedy, though, to think that the effectual power is in the tool. The tool is not where hope should rest. Nevertheless, we look to counseling to set people straight. We think a trendy 40-day Bible program will be the eye-opener. We hope a dynamic preacher will impart truth. We bank on a pill to ease our mind. We seek a particular set of circumstances that can bring the peace we long for. On and on the list goes. All of this is tool-hoping.
Have you ever seen a bulldozer clear away brush? It is a powerful machine to watch in action. But what you have never seen is a bulldozer clear brush without a driver. Without the driver that giant tool will sit motionless or create chaos. This is the same for every tool. Tools are wonderful things, but they need a skilled and informed operator. The true source of power is not the tool, but the one who knows how to operate that tool. This is why our hope is always in a person, not a tool.
We must constantly come back to the person of Jesus Christ. The solution to our problem is Jesus, not Jesus + . You might say, “Wait a minute, don’t we need the Bible, and the people of God, and wisdom and other such things?” Normally we do, but we need them because Jesus himself is at work in and through them. They don’t operate by themselves. The Spirit of Christ must be in them to skillfully do the work. Psalm 127:1 “Unless the Lord builds the house, they labor in vain who build it; Unless the Lord guards the city, the watchman keeps awake in vain.” Therefore, we must constantly point people to Jesus as the solution. Yes, he will use tools, but he is the effectual change-maker. The reason we constantly come back to the Scriptures is because the Scripture keeps our focus upon the person and not the tool in his hand.
Let me walk you through some key features of the Christian life. In every one, I want you to see that Jesus is the person at work in every one of them.
Truth – Truth is critical for growth and Jesus said, “I am…the truth” John 14:6
Hope – Hope is at the very heart of the Christian faith and the Biblical cry is “Hope in God” Ps. 42:5,11
Salvation – Salvation is the ultimate goal, which is why God is called salvation. “The God who is our Salvation” Ps. 68:19
Wisdom – Wisdom is typically thought of as a way to handle information, but in Scripture wisdom is found in Christ. “…in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.” Col. 2:3
Sanctification – We must grow in holiness, but in Christ we have it in the ultimate sense, which also guarantees that we will have it in the progressive sense. By the way, look at all the other features we have in Christ from 1 Corinthians 1:30 “But by His doing you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, and righteousness and sanctification, and redemption…”
I AM – The gospel of John has about 20 instances where Jesus uses the ultimate divine title “I am”. Sometimes it stands alone and sometimes it is connected to a descriptor like “I am the bread of life.” At the heart of all of these is the reality that everything you need, every solution to every problem, is found in the self-existent, all-sufficient I AM.
Therefore, to properly wrap this up, we must conclude with Christ. In all your counsel, make it your goal to have people see the transforming power of Jesus over any nugget of advice. In all your preaching, make it your goal for people to see the glory of Christ more than a memorable outline or illustration. In all your teaching, highlight how all the law and the prophets point to him.
There is a new song by Natalie Grant called More Than Anything that does a poetic job stating this. The chorus forces us to answer a question: Do we want healing or the Healer? Do we want saving or the Savior? Do we want a gift or the Giver? Do we want guidance or the Guide?
Our hope is not a program, a pill, a verse, a different situation, or another person.
The core of our hope and the solution in every problem is a person: the Lord Jesus Christ.