Doing Jesus Wrong; or Why You Will Never Do Anything for Christ
When I read how Christians are mobilizing to do this or that for Jesus, I marvel. Sometimes I marvel at what they are doing (I once read of a local church’s helicopter Easter egg drop that left me speechless), but more often it is the spirit of the broadcast. It may be best to capture that spirit in a single phrase.
The phrase I have grown to lament is, “for Christ.” In Christ, of Christ, with Christ, by Christ are perfectly fine expressions; but for Christ, puts our all-wise and omnipotent Lord in the position of being an object. Grammatically, God is the subject, and He should always be the subject without exception.
Thus, my grievance is with the attempted theft of God’s glory, and no Christian should ever think himself above that dimension of pride. The Bible teaches us that deception is not balderdash. It is subtle, clever, even alluring. The lie is not diametrically opposed to the truth; rather, it is a minuscule variation that proves itself perverse over time and trajectory.
The trouble I have in proving my point is the use of the phrase in the Bible. Are we not ambassadors “for Christ”? Yes, that is how Paul phrases it in 2 Cor 5:20; but upon closer scrutiny, we note the term πρεσβευω “ambassador” — (presbeuo, which comes from πρεσβυτερος — presbeuteros, meaning “senior” or “elder”). This is the same word Luke uses when Paul called the elders of Ephesus to meet him at Miletus (Acts 20:17). Luke identifies these same men as, ερισκοπος (episkopos), which are those appointed by the Holy Spirit to lead the church (Acts 20:28).
If a man of God is an ambassador, then he is an elder and ruler in the church. He is appointed by the Holy Spirit for that position (Acts 20:28), and the work of the Holy Spirit does not end with this man’s appointment.
The error made in the idea that, “I am going to go and do something for Jesus,” is based in man-centered theology. This view of Christ and the Christian life is, “God has done His part, and now I must go and do my part.” “I have works to do for Jesus” misses the fact that God’s Spirit is in the Christian to will and to do God’s good pleasure (Phil 2:13). In other words, it is not I who lives and works, but Christ in me is sanctifying me and doing the works that bring Him glory (Gal 2:20; Rom 15:16; 1 Thess 4:3, 7; 5:23; 2 Thess 2:13; 1 Pet 1:2). This is done in me and through me, but it is not done by me.
The flesh, mind and body and spirit, cannot do anything good (Is 64:6; Rom 3:12). One would not know this from the frenetic activity in carnal Christianity. The Spirit of Christ is hardly recognized as the Agent of every good deed. In fact, He appears to be the needy beneficiary in most visible Christian activities, today. This is robbery, for it invariably neglects to ascribe greatness to our God.
We are going to claim this for Jesus, march there for Jesus, make it happen for Jesus, reclaim America for Christ, reform America for Christ, etc.
Imagine what it would sound like to perform the actual works of grace with this errant attitudinal tone, “We are praying for Jesus,” or “We are reading our Bibles for Jesus,” or “Today, I am taking the sacrament for Jesus,” “Because I am here to listen to the preaching for Jesus.”
Ultimately, what God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit accomplish is for Christ’s sake, and therefore, when anything is done, let it be done in robust boast in the Lord, with the Lord, of the Lord, and by the Lord (1 Cor 1:31). In this way, whatever is done “for the Lord” is sure to bring Him the glory.
Spokane Valley, Washington
March 9, 2022