How pompous are we to think we can boss Jesus around? We think we can command His presence when needed, yet prefer to keep Him hidden when we are “under control.”
Who are we to think we wield that sort of authority? Demons sure think Jesus is powerful. They beg for permission to move when face to face with Jesus (Luke 6:32). Satan himself has to be allowed to exert his own power.
Think I’m crazy? Read Job. Go to Psalms, turn back one book, and read. It will give you a brighter disposition on your own life, while also showing you the absolute sovereignty of God. He is the only One who is omnipotent, omniscient, and omnipresent.
And Jesus is the Son of God (Matthew 3:17), the firstborn of all creation (Colossians 1:15), and the living and eternal Word of God who became flesh, and dwelt among us (John 1:1-5; 14). Yet, we continually try to reduce Him to nothing more than our pocket savior. As Dr. Richard Ross, Professor of Student Ministry at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary penned,
“Worst case, some students may see Jesus as their little buddy who rides with them in their shirt pocket. He is always there in case they need to pull Him out to “poof” some difficulty away. But the problem is, students may believe He can be returned to their pocket—conveniently out of sight and out of mind until needed again.”1
Embedded and explored within Dr. Ross’ observations is a cold reality we must face as parents, mentors, and leaders with influence to teenagers: This theology was not organically created by the current generation of students, but passed on to them by their parents, mentors, and leaders. That’s right, I said it. Unless we make a conscious effort to more fully exalt Jesus, together we will continue to pass on this dangerous “pocket savior theology”.
If you find yourself in the trenches of “pocket savior theology”, here are a few suggestions to begin pulling yourself out:
1. Search for Jesus in the good times. Take time to recognize Jesus in the good times, as well as the bad. The Lord is not only Savior, but King. Jesus was on his throne yesterday, is on His throne today, and will be on His throne tomorrow. That is, unless He’s busy coming back for his children. God takes care of His children when they are in the wilderness of life, and He takes care of His children when they are in the promised land of life. Trust in His goodness always.
2. Practice a new model of prayer. My absolute favorite model of prayer is the A.C.T.S. model. A.C.T.S. is a trusty acrostic for:
Adoration— Proclaiming deep love and respect for God.
Confession — Confessing guilt of daily sin, laying it at the feet of the cross.
Thanksgiving — Giving thanks to God for His wonderful grace and mercy, and for his provisions.
Supplication — Asking God to supply His power in a given situation and to specific people.
The beauty of this model is it begins by intentionally praying in a way that focuses your attention on God, and not on yourself. Christ-centered prayers will result in Christ-centered overflow in your life. By taking your focus off of what the Lord can do for you, you are first directing your full attention to His majesty. Then, after centering your mind, heart, and soul on Him, you will begin to pray more fervently in line with His heart, rather than your own desires.
3. Constantly remind yourself of the main thing, and keep it the main thing. What is the main thing? Well, the main thing is the gospel, and the gospel is actually more than a “thing”, it’s a person: Jesus Christ. My life is not about me. If you are a follower of Christ, your life is not about you. Our new identity has been completely changed by Jesus, immersed in the Holy Spirit, and everything we do will reflect, positively or negatively, on God. Recognizing and reminding yourself of this truth will help you maintain a high view of Christ.
A friend of mine in student ministry reminds his parents, students, and leaders of this need to exalt Jesus everyday by the very identity of his ministry. He named his student ministry iNam, or “It’s Not About Me.” Simply put, our lives, our ministry, our calling, our responsibility in Christ is not about us; it is about Christ. I believe this is exactly what Paul meant when he said, “For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain” (Philippians 1:21). May we share the same high view of Christ as Paul, and live in a way that reflects that daily.
1Richard Ross, Student Ministry And The Supremacy Of Christ (Bloomington, IN: CrossBooks, 2009), 5.