Jesus or me? Renewing the Center
We’re living in a world that demands every moment of every day. Whether it's politics, our jobs, family, friends, local church or community, we find ways to keep busy. The question is – who is at the center of all these activities? Is Jesus the one who really matters in our lives, or do we put ourselves at the center?
The more we put ourselves at the center of our lives, the more we move away from Jesus being the center. The more we move away from Jesus, the more stressed we become about the things we can’t change and the less likely we are to take risks and follow Jesus’s agenda.
To put it another way – are we being selfless or selfish? If Jesus is at the center of our lives, how we spend our money, time, and energy are ordered by him. If we are at the center of our lives, then we use those resources primarily for our benefit.
As I reflected on this personally, I thought about the two potential options this way:
I know I need to make sure I’m moving towards the selfless side, but my humanity clearly wants to pursue the selfish side. So how do I make sure I’m becoming a selfless disciple of Jesus?
The answer? Begin to center my entire life on Jesus.
That might be easier said than done. I get that. But let’s start with a simple narrative from Luke’s gospel.
Mary and Martha
Now as they went on their way, Jesus entered a village. And a woman named Martha welcomed him into her house. And she had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord's feet and listened to his teaching.40 But Martha was distracted with much serving. And she went up to him and said, “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Tell her then to help me.” 41 But the Lord answered her, “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things, 42 but one thing is necessary. Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her.” (Luke 10:38-42, ESV)
Luke is trying to teach us about holy hospitality – how we welcome and allow Jesus to be the center of everything we do. So much so, that we allow Jesus to be our host and we follow his lead.
Mary focused her attention on Jesus. She humbly took full advantage of the opportunity to be really with Jesus. An opportunity that, in their culture, wouldn’t normally be an option.
Martha, on the other hand, was distracted by being “anxious and troubled about many things.” She was doing well and serving her guests, but was selfishly overwhelmed. So much so, that when she spoke to Jesus she referred to herself three times (10:40).
Are we disciples (selfless) or are we distracted (selfish)?
I think we get distracted in our world of busyness and perfectionism quite often. We get caught up doing things according to our agenda and forget to balance our lives according to Jesus’s agenda. Jesus is waiting for us to eagerly become selfless disciples, and not be distracted by selfish performance.
What would our agenda look like if Jesus was at the center? On the other hand, what would our agenda look like if we put ourselves at the center? Would our priorities be different in each case? All too often, we sacrifice what really matters to pursue things that aren’t as important.
For example, when we become busy the first thing we often cut is our personal time with God. Think about that – we cut the most important thing first. From my experience, when we cut our personal devotions, we tend to default to selfishness. From there, our priorities start to shift.
- We shift from pursing God’s agenda to our own agenda.
- We shift from growing the Kingdom to spending our money elsewhere.
- We shift from committing our families to the local church to protecting family time at all costs.
Don’t get me wrong, family is very important! But when Jesus is at the center of our lives, the call to put him before our families begins to make more sense:
"If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple. (Luke 14:26)
Of course, “hate” is not referring to “dislike” rather the extreme difference between a selfless disciple and a selfish unbeliever. We need to stop thinking like unbelievers and challenging ourselves to become disciples.
I’ll let Paul’s words conclude:
For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit. (Romans 8:5)
Is Jesus at the center of your life? Do your daily activities prove it?
I gave our congregation the opportunity to challenge themselves with a little exercise. I gave them a sheet to list all their activities and to indicate which activities were most important if: 1) Jesus was at the center of their lives; and, 2) if we were at the center. It’s a humbling exercise if done honestly.
Give it a try. You may be surprised at the results.
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