Stand Out for Jesus as You
God never asked you to fit into someone else’s expectations as a Christian. He does not require you to be exactly how your parents, pastor, friends or mentors want you to be. He does not demand you be what the world expects of you. He did not call you to learn how to be part of the “in” crowd at school or church. Jesus does not care for a second whether you are cool or trendy.
Jesus called you to follow Him – individually.
Jesus calls to serve Him – NOT his messengers, their expectations, denominations, structures, cultures or plans.
God wants to use you as defined and guided by Him…not people. Letting others take these roles is often easier to do but it removes God from His throne. He saved you for you, not you reshaped by someone else’s cookie cutter. Trying to do it as anyone else is pointless, powerless, and frustrating.
This series is designed to lead you to more Jesus in your life. 5 Days to Destroy Fear, Drudgery, and Despair in 2021. Did you go through Day One and Two yet? I strongly recommend you do that before going forward. Here they are:
I know it may be hard so far. Growing in Jesus means dealing with you…and that is scary. It is so worth it, though. Less you means more God in your life. Keep going!
This is your Day 3 challenge. Let Go of Trying to Fit In. How else can I put it:
Let go of worrying about meeting people’s expectations.
Let go of fear of disappointing people.
Let go of worrying about the judgment of people.
Let go of thinking you are not valuable to the Body of Christ.
Let go of shame and compulsion.
Let go of anything but fearing God, loving His people, and doing His work…no matter if that suits those around you.
An Honest Conversation on Christian Culture
This is a daunting subject for me to write on. I hesitated to go here as it can be so easily misunderstood. I don’t want you to take the wrong things from it. I am not saying “follow your heart” or discover the “inner you.” These are not Christian ideas. I am also not endorsing pride or stubbornness. You and I cannot do it on our own. There is much we leave behind as we grow in our faith. Following leaders and being part of a church body is part of the process.
But just because there are pitfalls, does not mean you cannot talk about it. Jesus never silenced people’s questions. God does not shame you for trying to work things out. He calls you to boldly seek Him. Denial, avoidance, and silencing of discussion are tactics of the enemy.
So as I promised you in the mission statement of Pastor Unlikely, I will go forward and talk it out – in honesty, in love, and seeking Jesus’ direction above all. I would love your feedback.
Perfect Love Casts Out Fear
I love the Church – no matter the denomination. There is no greater group of people in the world. I love being around Christians. I have learned so much from other disciples since I came out of the world. The love and joy I received has been like nothing this world can offer. My life is dedicated to serving Christ and His people as a result.
I also have painful experiences in the Christian culture. Things like being shamed and scorned over style, personality, and opinions. There have been demands for my obedience, silence, or conformity to systems, political parties, and men. I have been treated as a lesser Christian for not being enough according to people’s standards: cool and stylish enough, formally dressed enough, rich enough, entertaining enough, somber enough – the list is long and contradictory. I have been treated as disloyal and rejected for seeking the Bible’s answer on an issue rather than accepting what a group pushed. I have watched as people were punished for violating unwritten rules that have nothing to do with the Gospel. Worst of all, I have seen people driven to exhaustion by demands to fit in..while they were dying inside. Some of these desperate people have been so hurt by disapproval and burnt out by a church “vision” they left Jesus behind entirely. Others stayed but smolder with bitterness and pain. Their walk is in ruins.
This is why I am writing. I know I am not alone in this experience. I have talked with so many burdened and hurting Christians out there. They are being crushed. Their faith is being ground down. They are working like mad but have no peace, joy, and love. They feel powerless and dry and can’t understand the reason.
Is this you right now? I’m so sorry!
The great news is it does not have to be like that. You don’t have to do Christian life this way. Jesus loves you better than that. He made you a saint. He finished that work on the Cross when He said “It is Finished“. This earned you His love, His approval, His joy, and His righteousness. Since Jesus earned it, no one is entitled to try to take it away from you.
No one else has the right to command you.
No man has the power to demand you to meet their expectations.
No one has the right to shame or condemn you.
No one has the authority to treat you as a lesser Christian (or applaud you as a super Christian).
No one is allowed by Jesus to pressure you serve to them or their organization.
Do you believe this? Do you live this way?
It is only in following Jesus that you are asked to deny yourself and take up your cross by God. You belong to Him, after all. It is not in following anyone else. The great news is He is a way better master. He loves you perfectly. His love is willing to cast out your fear of man – are you willing?
What does it mean to let go of trying to fit in?
Conforming to Jesus Alone
Christianity involves both humble submission and joyful community. You do learn from other Christians. You do submit to the authority of Scripture, one another, and your church to the extent it is Biblical. This is true. Community is also hard. There are many personalities involved. You are called to love other Christians and serve in a Church. This includes sacrifice of your time, freedom, money, and desires. Jesus calls you to deny yourself, taking up your cross, and following Him. This direction clarifies our issue:
Who do you belong to?
Why do you do the “Christian” things you do – at home, at school, at church, in service, and in life?
Please take a moment and think about your answers.
Is it God who guides your faith decisions or avoiding the disapproval of people?
Is it God who causes you to serve or not wanting to let people down?
Is it God who motivates your works or gaining attention or rewards in your system?
Why are you doing the “Christian” things you do, Christian?
If your “Why” answers are other than for Jesus, who are you serving? Need an example to see what I mean?
I have a friend who attends a large church. They call the wife of the pastor there the “First Lady”. That First Lady picks one woman to act as her “Armor Bearer” each year. The person spends a year serving the First Lady. She gets her dry cleaning, fetches coffee, and is on call to run errands. The Armor Bearer even carries the First Lady’s purse into church each week. It is considered a great honor to be picked. There is spirited competition for the job. Some take off work for a year to be eligible. What is the problems?
None of this is in the Bible. It is part of this church but Jesus never asks for this pomp, position, and procedure. There is no title “First Lady”or “First Lady’s Servant” in the Word. You might not think this a big deal, but consider the forces these exert on a Jesus’ sheep.
“First Lady” claims one woman is ahead of every other woman – she is first among the church. It portrays her husband as spiritually superior as well. A presidential role is implied – President and First Lady. The title tells the rest of the church they are at least second or lower by definition. The job of “Armor bearer” then adds to the message. It accepts these two people – pastor and wife – should be served by nature of their roles. The culture proclaims it an honor just to carry their bags. It also subtly tells the rest of the church they are inferior in Jesus. They are not good enough to be on the same level. The award of the job provides a temporary seal of approval to get closer to Jesus. It pressures God’s servants to comply with man’s expectation to gain God’s love. It then hides all this behind a veil of Christian service.
Therefore, when you do a charitable deed, do not sound a trumpet before you as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may have glory from men. Assuredly, I say to you, they have their reward. Matthew 6:2
Is Jesus really in any of that? He would not call a person first unless they were last and servant of all. He is not a respecter of persons. He says not to show favoritism – ever. Yet, this is what happens when man makes religion about us and not about God.
Am I now trying to win the approval of human beings, or of God? Or am I trying to please people? If I were still trying to please people, I would not be a servant of Christ. Galatians 1:10
Paul Fought for Your Freedom
This is the reason Paul and Peter got into a serious dispute in the Bible. Did you know that happened? Paul publicly rebuked Peter in front of the whole church in Antioch:
Now when Peter had come to Antioch, I withstood him to his face, because he was to be blamed; 12 for before certain men came from James, he would eat with the Gentiles; but when they came, he withdrew and separated himself, fearing those who were of the circumcision. 13 And the rest of the Jews also played the hypocrite with him, so that even Barnabas was carried away with their hypocrisy.
14 But when I saw that they were not straightforward about the truth of the gospel...Galatians 2
This dramatic scene likely took place in front of everyone during the early church version of Sunday service.
So what happened?
Antioch was the first great Gentile church. That is, it was made up mostly of those from a non-Jewish background. It was a church on fire for Christ. It is the church that sent out Paul and Barnabas on the great missionary journeys. They were filled with the Holy Spirit, born again, and praising Jesus. Things were great until the party of circumcision arrived. They were Jewish people who claimed to be both believers and messengers from God. They essentially argued the Gentiles in Antioch had gotten a good start in Jesus but were incomplete. They may have even said they were not actually yet Christians. They said the Gentiles must keep the Mosaic Law – circumcision, eat kosher, and all – to be real Christians…like them. They held themselves up as the standard of all things good. They put down the Gentiles as unclean and unholy and demanded they conform.
Do you see the culture and system they tried to set up? Can feel the pressures being exerted on the Gentiles to get them to conform? Shame and disapproval are such powerful motivators.
Peter not only felt the push, he was swept away by it. There is no record Peter preached their message or verbally endorsed their doctrine. His behavior was enough for Paul to say he was to be blamed, was a hypocrite, and strayed from the truth of the Gospel. Why so strong?
Peter treated believers in Christ like they were unclean. He and the Jewish believers shunned the Gentile Christians like lesser Christians. What is worse, he acted like Jesus’s work was incomplete. These believers needed to comply with man’s work, rules, and gain their approval to be made whole. His behavior urged them to earn their way out of his and other men’s disapproval. Paul is emphatic in response. He vigorously defends the completed glorious work of Jesus. He denies their claims to steal from your standing with God:
For I through the law died to the law that I might live to God. 20 I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me. 21 I do not set aside the grace of God; for if righteousness comes through the law, then Christ died in vain.” Galatians 2.
If this is truly the structure required in church, Christ died for nothing. Can Paul be any clearer? If you could earn God’s approval through any means, Jesus did not have to die. Since He did then it is worthless to try to earn it.
Men and women can point you to Jesus. They can encourage with Jesus’ directions. They even can rebuke you when you sin against God. They are not entitled to take from His work or His job. He made you new on the Cross. He is your Master alone. There is only one Savior – Jesus – and He saved us all equally. We stand on the same level at the foot of His Cross. You serve Him.
Are You Willing to Be Free
If you were honest while reading this, you probably realized you spend time and energy working to meet expectations of others. We all do to some degree. You accept the condemnation of some. You may fall for shame, pressures, and deceptions of man. You may even believe you are less than or unclean due to messages from others. This is not from Jesus. They may have good intentions. They may have bad. It does not matter. If it is a person’s will expressed and not Jesus’, throw it out. If any message says you need to add to the work of Jesus on the Cross, it is robbing from your Savior. There is no need for you to comply. You will be called by Christ to serve others, love others, and lay down your rights for others…but it must be Christ calling. This is where the joy is present.
Trying to win the approval of others – even church people – is not what Jesus chose for you. It is doing what people expect from you and asking Jesus to reward you for it. It is naturally painful as a result.
So this is where the hard part comes it. Say “No”. Refuse to go along with the same old things if they are not for and from Jesus. Examine everything against God’s Word to make sure it is from Him. Then follow Him and say “No.” to everything else. People will not stand up and cheer for you when you do. But you don’t belong to them anyway. Jesus loves you!
God wants to use you in all of your brokenness, talents, failures, weakness, strength, and uniqueness. He is weaving a tapestry out of all of His beautiful children. Will you play your part? Will you follow Him? No one else can be you in Christ. No one can fill you like Christ when you do serve Him alone.
What shape are you being molded into today?
Jesus will take care of the crowd. You take care of following Jesus.