This past Sunday, pastor Eddie preached out of John 21. If CityLights is not your home church but you have followed us for quite some time online, you know that we have been going over the book of John, verse by verse since January 2012. This past Sunday we concluded the book. One of the points that stuck out at me from John 21 was Jesus’ conversation with Peter. Jesus asks Peter three times if he loves him and Peter is grieved by this but what he didn’t know was that Jesus was restoring him, after all, it was not too long ago that Peter denied having anything to do with the Savior whom he had walked with for three years. Not only is he restored, he is commissioned by Christ to be an apostle. Jesus then goes on to tell Peter how he would end up dying as an old man – by crucifixion, he seemed to imply. Peter looks at John and asks Jesus, “What about him?” Jesus could have told Peter, “Well, don’t worry. John’s got it coming to him as well. He will be an old man and be boiled alive and then exiled to the island of Patmos where he will be lonely until he dies.” This may have calmed Peter down. Perhaps Peter would have a smirk on his face delighted to know he wouldn’t be the only one to suffer or give a sigh of relief. But no, Jesus is wiser than that. We can’t change the subject with Jesus – he’ll know what we’re up to. He’s God. Instead, Jesus says to Peter, “If it is my will that he (John) remain until I come, what is that to you? You follow me!” In other words, Jesus is saying, “Peter, that’s none of your business. I’m your business. Make sure you follow me!”
This really stuck out to me because the truth is, we have a tendency to compare ourselves to others. We look at our life and compare it to the life of others. We look at our house and compare it to the houses on the block. We look at our cars and compare it to the cars we see on the street. We look at our spiritual life and compare it to the pastor’s spiritual life. We compare our checkbooks with our co-workers’ checkbooks. We compare our children’s grades with their classmates. We compare our spouse with other spouses…Why can’t my spouse love God more? Why can’t my kids be like their kids? The list is endless. When we compare ourselves to others, it is an indication of insecurity within us. Ultimately, I believe that insecurity stems from lack of satisfaction and identity in God. We lack contentment with what we have and where we are in life. Comparing ourselves to others can be enslaving and rob us of our joy in God. What’s worse is, comparing ourselves to others makes us miserable or self righteous. It makes us miserable when we wonder why we don’t have more possessions, thus we buy into the lie that God is blessing others more than us and we strive to work harder for the blessing. The opposite is to compare ourselves to someone who has less and buy into the lie that we have more because we are more obedient and we have arrived at the pinnacle of success in our Christian walk.
Comparing ourselves to others will never be of benefit to us. We become whiny human beings who want more and more, only to find out that when we have more, we indeed, want more still. Or we become self-righteous, pompous people who keep finding those below us, and we seek more who are underneath us to make us feel better. The gospel goes against this comparison mentality. If we truly grasp the gospel – that a perfect, sinless savior died a painful death for imperfect, sinful men and women that they may live, not just now but eternally – then we will understand that everything we have is because of grace and wherever we are in life, spiritually, emotionally, and materialistically, is because of grace.
One of my struggles is that I often compare myself to more mature Christians. I follow so many blogs from great pastors on Twitter and read their content daily. I’m impacted by these brothers so much that I begin to wish I was as insightful, keen, intelligent, eloquent, and articulate as they are. I wish I was smarter. I wish I was an expert in Greek and Hebrew. I wish I could impact people they way they impact people. I wish I was more bold and brave. But ultimately, I need to remind myself that being all these things (although they are good) are not what define me because the message of the gospel teaches me that my identity is in Christ.
I was a sinner before Christ; I am a saint after Christ.
I was a child of wrath before Christ; I am a child of God chosen in love.
I was lost before Christ; I am found after Christ.
I was headed to hell before Christ; I am headed to heaven after Christ.
I was an enemy of God before Christ; I am a friend of God after Christ.
I was filthy before Christ; I am washed clean after Christ.
I was an old creation before Christ; I am a new creation after Christ.
I was dying for false gods before Christ; I am living for the one true God after Christ.
The semicolon in the statements above is the gospel. Without the gospel we remain what we were. Christ is our identity. We are like Christ now and we are being conformed little by little into his image. Peter was insecure because he would face suffering and wanted to know that John would go through at least something like Peter to feel better about himself. Peter forgot that God is sovereign. Peter forgot the sayings of Jesus. He forgot the gospel. We must remember that nothing that happens surprises God, in fact it is designed by God to make us more like Christ (Romans 8:28-29).
And so we too, in 2012 tell Jesus we love him and when trials come, we buck and complain and ask “What about him?!” “What about their marriage?!” What about their kids?!” What about the guys who only show up to church once a month?! And Jesus is telling you today, “Never mind everyone else, you follow me! You don’t look left or right or up or down. You fix your eyes on me! You! Behold my beauty! You! Behold my glory! I am God and whatever comes your way, you look at me because it’s going to make you like me! And I am everything you need; I will satisfy you. I am the living water that you will drink and never go thirsty! I am the bread of life that you will eat and never go hungry! I am GOD! YOUR GOD!”
The antithesis of comparing yourself to others is the gospel. The gospel message is liberating because Jesus will not judge you according to how much Bible you know. He’s not going to judge you according to how you stack up against those above you. Nor will he judge you according to how others stack up against you because they are not the standard. JESUS IS THE STANDARD! And when you placed your faith in Christ and repented of your sins, his perfect record became your record. You are already accepted and loved by God because Jesus died for you. He did everything for you. He provided a way to the Father.
Compare yourself to Christ because you are being transformed to his image and one day that will come to completion. That is your goal, not your pastor, not your brother or sister in Christ. Don’t settle for less. Don’t put man in the place of God and walk in the freedom that you have in Christ.
What is it to you that your brother knows more about the Bible?
What is it to you that your sister’s husband is a godly man?
What is it to you that your brother is healthy?
What is it to you that your sister does not have material needs?
“What is it to you that I’m sovereign and know what I’m doing, and have prepared trials to come your way, and have your best interest? YOU, FOLLOW ME!”