He must increase, but I must decreaseJohn 3:30
Although much of the content of this book is the culmination of several years of casual and relatively disconnected writing and preaching, the manuscript really began to take meaningful shape after a sermon on John 1:19–34, which I titled, “(Un)Worthy of Jesus.”
That sermon, the content of which is scattered throughout this book, was about how John the Baptist had a healthy view of himself and of Jesus. He referred to Jesus as a man whose sandal strap he was not worthy to untie. From John’s perspective, he was unworthy and Jesus was infinitely worthy. As we will see, this is the sort of faith that Jesus blessed and commended numerous times in the gospels.
I have also included a selection of writing on a topic that I plan to give more attention to in the future, which I have referred to as “Treasuring Jesus.” The idea comes from the parable found in Matthew 13:44, and from Philippians 3:7–8.
In Matthew 13, Jesus compares the kingdom of heaven to a treasure hidden in a field. The treasure is the kingdom, and the kingdom is available through faith in Jesus. Paul may have thought about that short parable in his letter to the Philippians when he wrote that he counted all his earthly accomplishments as worthless compared to the value of knowing Jesus.
My desire for this short book is to draw attention to what I believe is the core or foundation of the Christian faith: a right view of ourselves and of Jesus. We are unworthy of Jesus and Jesus is infinitely worthy. No amount of effort will earn us the kingdom of God. We only gain the kingdom when we change our view of everything we have previously considered to be our most precious treasures. It is this burden that Jesus refers to in Matthew 11:28-30.
Jesus said, “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” The call of Jesus is to throw off the burden we are currently carrying, and to take upon our shoulders the burden He offers to us. Our current burden encompasses a constant striving for fulfilment through unworthy methods. Jesus removes that burden and replaces it with the burden of following Him and living out the acceptance and identity we have as the children of God.
In this book you will be presented with a way to think about your faith that may be difficult. It is difficult because it is elusive. Just as quickly as you begin to grasp what I am proposing, you will find it slipping away. I know this because I also find this way of thinking to be a daily struggle. This is because it goes against our human nature.
Our nature is to be self-sufficient and proud. We don’t let go of things and thoughts easily. We hold on to our burdens and try to be independent of a need for outside help. We seek self-actualization through our own accomplishment and success. I am proposing that, as a primary expression of our faith in Jesus, we need to let go of those ambitions and burdens.
You may also discover that what is proposed in this book is, at times, easy to conceptualize. It is easy because it removes the guilt and shame of underperformance. You will discover that all people are underperformers. All people fail to meet a subconscious or conscious standard put in place by myriad external and internal influences. Beneath it all, often hidden deep in our souls, we know that we fail to meet God’s standard. The acceptance of this reality and letting go of trying to solve the problem of underperformance is what Jesus calls His followers to do when He asks us to come and seek rest from Him.
This is not to say that God disapproves of the faith of those who’ve had tremendous success in life. We cannot make a judgment about God’s blessings on people too quickly. Jesus had some things to say about those who became successful in their lives (particularly those who are financially wealthy), and we could spend a good deal of time on a study of that topic. As you read, evaluate your own view of yourself and of Jesus. Try to avoid evaluating the faith of those around you.
Everyone who makes a decision to follow Jesus experiences doubt and struggle in their lives. Consider these low times as an opportunity for correction. It is during these times that we need to be reminded of the simple truths described in the following pages. These are not new ideas. I urge you to test them with Scripture. Investigate for yourself what God’s Word says about Jesus and about yourself.
I hope you will experience a renewed lightness and confidence as a follower of Jesus after reading this book. May you experience a new freedom as you discover how the admission of your own unworthiness is the key to being blessed by Jesus.