[This entry follows a sermon preached at Gray Road Baptist Church, entitled "Taking Jesus On His Terms." Click on the title to listen to the message.]
Tonight, I began a five-day Biblical Counseling Training Conference (BCTC). I am excited about what the next five days will bring. They will be long, but I'm sure they will also be profitable. The conference is hosted by Faith Baptist Church in Lafayette, IN. Tonight, I was introduced to one of the ministries of the church, called Vision of Hope. This is a residential treatment program for young ladies between the ages of 14 and 28. These young ladies live in a house and undergo intense biblical counseling as they deal with unplanned pregnancy, drug/alcohol abuse, eating disorders, or patterns of self-harm.
As part of the opening session of the BCTC, we heard the testimony of a girl named Martha. One year ago, her parents were attending this same conference while she was planning to commit suicide. Tonight, Martha spoke about several of the underlying problems that led to her decision to hurt herself and the biblical truths that helped set her free from a destructive sin pattern.
One of the biblical truths that she mentioned is relevant to our text. In Mark 3:7-19, we see the crowds coming to Jesus for healing. They come from all over Israel, seeing Jesus as a means to their desired end...physical healing. These types of 'followers' are not interested in denying themselves and taking up a symbol of death like the cross (Mark 8:34). They simply want a better life here and now. When the harder teachings come from Jesus, many of those who may have followed Him around go home (John 6:60-66).
In contrast, we see the twelve who are appointed by Jesus because He desired them (v. 13). They are not merely attracted to Jesus for what He can do for them; they are called to be with Him, to preach His message, and to carry out His mission (v. 14-15). Jesus initiated the relationship, and Jesus set the terms of the relationship. Likewise, God has initiated a relationship with us by calling us from death to life...from darkness to light...so our lives must be lived in submission to His will and His ways. These two groups represent different views of God...one saying God is a means to my desired end, and the other that God has the right to rule over me because He is Lord and has graciously saved me.
So, where does Martha fit in this contrast between the crowd and the twelve? Well, she spoke about how, in the process of her counseling, she was smacked with this realization, "God doesn't need me." She had lived her life believing that she was the center of God's universe and of His attention...believing that God's very purpose was to serve her and fulfill all her desires. She had known from childhood that "The chief end of man is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever," but she had come to believe that the chief end of God was to glorify her. When God wasn't doing this, she felt that God had abandoned her, and she didn't believe she had a reason to go on living.
Do you see the crowd's mentality in statements like these? Do you see the false belief that God is a means to my end rather than the Sovereign of the Universe? I hope so...because if we are not careful, we will find ourselves accusing God of unfaithfulness, as Martha did. After all, if our view of God is wrong when trials come into our lives, we may interpret them as God's betrayal rather than His gracious sanctification.
Thankfully, God brought Vision of Hope into Martha's life, and through biblical counseling, her unbiblical view of God and of herself were exposed and are being corrected. She is now doing very well and is attending the BCTC so that she can help others grow spiritually.
Thinking about the implications of life with "Jesus on my terms" or "Jesus on His terms" is not just an exercise in Bible study or a clever sermon outline. It shapes the way we think of ourselves, and it shapes the way we think about God. If our perception of God and of ourselves is wrong, then it can be destructive to our spiritual growth.