Temptation to Be Relevant by Wesley Kouba

The first temptation the devil dangled before our Lord was the temptation to be relevant: turn stones into bread. Yet Jesus’ answer rings loud and true (4): “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.” Of course our Lord is quoting Deut 8:3. All things that come from God’s mouth are what we are to live on. This zeros in and centers on Jesus in the NT (“I am the bread of life; eat my flesh and drink by blood; Jn 6:63-68). Jesus as the true and living word comes and speaks these words of life as the embodied Word of Life.

The Son of God himself had a deep understanding and awareness of who He was as the incarnate God (Baptism, 3:13-17). Yet the tempter drives this identity issue home as the foundational component of his temptation. He wanted Jesus to question, doubt and forget who He was and who He belonged to.

We too must come back to who we are as God made us to be even in all of our idiosyncrasies, preferences and proclivities (Ps 139:1-16). Our unvarnished self is who we are in the privacy of our closets when no one else can see except for God himself. Honest vulnerability before the Lord and others must be a friend and constant companion. Acceptance of self and a solid understanding of the tension of the beauty of our being and the sinfulness of our flesh is crucial.

Too often Christians fall into the binary ditch of either/or. We fall for the all or nothing mentality when instead the Holy Spirit of God is moving us into places of discernment and Spirit-led navigation. The temptation to be someone we’re not is often fed from a hatred of self or a deep discontent with one’s identity. Until we come to grips and accept who we are and whose we are, this push for relevancy will continue to bombard us (Col 2:16-23).

In a world where the metric system of identity is so closely tied to what we do, accomplish, perform, acquire and produce, God’s people have succumbed to this false value system and believed the lie. Even within the church the currency of status, influence, power and consumerism have subtly creeped in and tainted our mission and purpose. Instead, as followers of Jesus, we must die to self and embrace irrelevance (Matt 16:24-26).

We offer to the world a crucified and risen Savior through the broken fragments of our lives. That’s true relevance.

This requires great honesty, humility and vulnerability. We lay ourselves down before God and others. You offer to your children a crucified and risen Savior through the broken fragments of your life. It’s not your morality, your values or your hard work ethic, important as they are. That means all the ups & downs, successes & failures, sinful tendencies & redeeming qualities that you give to your kids in gospel faithfulness and spiritual integrity.

More than ever we need to return to the ancient practices that have grounded and led us back to the arms of Jesus and the heart of our Savior. Contemplative prayer is one of those practices. Contemplative prayer ties our hearts and minds to the truths and realities of God’s love for us (1 Jn 4:19). We center and base our lives on God’s love. His love over us, for us, and towards us. When we are grounded and anchored firmly and securely in the love of God, it gives us space and permission to quiet our lives and hearts. It provides us time, clarity and quiet to be with the One who loves us and gave Himself up for us. This practice helps provide a gut check when we’re tempted with the idol of relevance.

We can’t continue to believe the lie that busyness, relevance or morality is the goal. Jesus, the living Word is the goal. Christlikeness is what we pursue and yes, that includes focus, hard work & morals. Yet there are a lot of hardworking, moral people who don’t know Jesus. Do we model for our children what it looks like to love the presence of the Almighty, to listen to the voice of God, to see His glory and splendor in all of life, to taste His goodness and feel His embrace? There is no place where you can go where God isn’t already there.

 Jesus as the Living Word came to be our Bread of Life. That means we don’t have to rely upon ourselves to constantly produce, be efficient and consume and feed every appetite and felt need. We don’t live by earthly bread alone, but as we attach ourselves to the True Vine - Jesus the Living Word.

     -Think about your specific temptations to be relevant.
     -Confess to someone you trust about the issues hindering you from contemplative prayer.
     -Take time to repent and receive the renewal and acceptance that is in Jesus!