You want to know what your problem is? You don’t love Jesus enough. I know this not because I know you, but because I know me. I’ve got the same problem. My wife has the same problem, as do my kids. The sheep in my flock suffer from the same problem.
The folks I meet at conferences have the same problem too. Wherever there is a sin-problem, underneath it all, is this problem. Husbands don’t love their wives as Jesus loves the church, because husbands don’t love Jesus enough. Children disobey their parents, because they don’t love Jesus enough. Pastors soft-pedal the Bible because they don’t love Jesus enough. And people hop from one church to another because they don’t love Jesus enough. Politicians grow power hungry because they don’t love Jesus enough. Rich people suffer from greed, because they don’t love Jesus enough. Middle class people suffer from greed, because they don’t love Jesus enough. Poor people suffer from greed, because they don’t love Jesus enough. Find a sin and you will find there a heart that doesn’t love Jesus enough. Find Jesus, and you will find the solution to our problem. Which is just what Jesus has promised will happen.
It is a good thing that evangelical Christians have wakened from their pietistic slumbers. It is good and proper that we should be about the business of making manifest the reign of Christ over all things. That He is Lord has effects that stray rather far from our hearts. We fight the culture wars because they are simply a manifestation of the war between the seed of the woman and the seed of the serpent. But the serpent is more crafty than any of the beasts of the field. He took the biblical wisdom that argued that we ought to tend to our souls, and turned it into world-denying piety. And now he takes the biblical wisdom that argues that we must push for the crown rights of King Jesus, and turned it into worldliness, and a denial of the call to piety. Jesus, on the other hand, calls us to seek first two things, the kingdom of God and His righteousness.
How can we seek two different things first? We do so when we realize that the weapons of our warfare, that the very engine of changing the world, is changing ourselves. The reign of Christ will be manifest in the political, social, artistic, cultural realms only insofar and only through the manifestation of the reign of Christ within His people. We will only make known the great Gospel truth that this is our Father’s world, as we live as pilgrims, recognizing that this world isn’t our home, that we are just passing through.
It is because we are worldly that we embrace the culture’s engines of change. We think that we will change ourselves and the world only as we read more books, make more movies, elect more politicians, produce more widgets, and add more programs to our churches. We think sanctification is a doctrine to be studied, rather than a calling to be pursued. In truth, it is neither. We do not pursue a calling, but a person. Sanctification isn’t merely the means by which we become more holy, but is the means by which we become more like Jesus. Just as He, the Son of God, is the express image of the glory of the Father, so we, the bride of Christ, are the image of our eternal Husband. We glorify Him by becoming more like Him.
This is the promise of God, the end of our sanctification, our glorification: “Beloved, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is” (1 John 3:2). Do you see the connection? We don’t know what we shall be, but we do know we will be like Him. How will we be like Him? What means brings this to pass? We shall see Him as He is. This is the glory of our King, not that He labors faithfully to change us, not that He changes us by the Word of His power, but that He changes us by the power of His glory. Seeing Him makes us like Him.
Which brings us back to our troubles. Our sanctification is long and laborious simply because we do not seek His face. We do not long for His presence. We do not seek to behold His glory, because we are insufficiently impressed. It is the pomp and the power, the dazzle and the sizzle, the bright lights and the baubles of the world around us that have captured our hearts. We don’t find His glory glorious enough, and so we are not yet like Him. We do indeed see through a glass darkly, a glass darkened by our love affair with the world. If we loved Him, we would seek Him. If we sought Him, we would find Him. If we found Him, we would see Him. And if we saw Him, we would be like Him. And believing this, John tells us, will purify us, “and everyone who thus hopes in Him purifies himself as He is pure” (v. 3). So may it be said of us.