the gospel isn’t about me

I recently heard the above song, “You Say” by Lauren Daigle, for the first time. I was blown away by Lauren’s vocals – I so much appreciate that she brings such talent to the Christian music scene. What I want to discuss in this post is the lyrical content and what it says about us and about God. Here’s the chorus of the song:

You say I am loved
When I can’t feel a thing
You say I am strong
When I think I am weak
You say I am held
When I am falling short
When I don’t belong
You say I am Yours
And I believe
I believe
What You say of me
I believe

As a Christian, I believe these statements are true: that we are loved, affirmed, and strong. We often speak them over each other, and over ourselves, when caught in moments where we feel less-than. But I would argue that such statements aren’t complete – in a way, they’re half-truths, and they leave out the broader picture of who God is in favor of focusing on making ourselves feel good.

It doesn’t matter who we are. It matters who God is. I do think there are lines in this song that point to this wider truth:

The only thing that matters now is everything You think of me
In You I find my worth, in You I find my identity

Taking all I have and now I’m laying it at Your feet
You have every failure, God, and You’ll have every victory

Please don’t entirely disregard this song just because its lyrics fall a little short! It’s still God-glorifying and a gorgeous piece of music. I just want to point out that there’s more to be said about the song’s themes.

In understanding the broader narrative of the Bible, we often make the story about us instead of about who God is. Think about how we sometimes share the gospel with our brokenness at the heart of it: We sinned and separated ourselves from God, but God was at work to save us. He sent Jesus to cleanse us. Now we can be one with him. Do you see how this wording keeps us as humans at the center instead of focusing on the actions of God himself?

It’s important to know that we can be picked up and made whole when we’re broken. It’s important to know that we have a “very present help in trouble” (Psalm 46:1 ESV). But remember: we have these blessings because our merciful and loving God chooses to lavish us with them out of his goodness and not out of ours.

I see this concept at play across the entire narrative of the Bible, but in this post I want to focus on the first few books of the Old Testament. In Genesis, God chooses Abram as the patriarch of the people God will use to bless the world– not because of who Abram is, but because God in his mercy chooses to invite humanity into his plan for redemption.

“Now the Lord said to Abram, ‘Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you. And I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and and him who dishonours you I will curse, and in you all the families of the Earth will be blessed.’” (Genesis 12:1-3 ESV)

Notice in this passage that the emphasis is not on the greatness of Abram that leads God to choose him – there’s no mention of such a thing. Instead, the emphasis is on what God will do through the people of Abram. I will make you a great nation. I will bless you and make your name great. In his glory, God will bless the world through Abram – how? Through the person of Jesus, who will emerge from Abram’s bloodline. Again, God chooses Abram not because Abram is anyone special, but because God is great and deserves to be glorified.

Following through to Exodus, God calls on Moses to be the mouthpiece who will speak for the broken-spirited Israelites, who long to be set free from slavery. It’s ever clear, to Moses especially, that he’s not fit for the role. Does God point out Moses’ positive traits and cite them as reasons why he’ll succeed? No. Instead, God tells Moses to focus on his own divine glory rather than on Moses’ human abilities.

“’Come, I will send you to Pharaoh, that you may bring my people, the children of Israel, out of Egypt.’ But Moses said to God, ‘Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh and bring the children of Israel out of Egypt?’ He said, ‘But I will be with you, and this shall be the sign for you, that I have sent you: when you have brought the people out of Egypt, you shall serve God on this mountain.’ Then Moses said to God, ‘If I come to the people of Israel and say to them, ‘The God of your fathers has sent me to you,’ and they ask me, ‘What is his name?’ what shall I say to them?’ God said to Moses, ‘I AM WHO I AM’. And he said, ‘Say this to the people of Israel: I AM has sent me to you.’” (Exodus 3:10-14 ESV)

Here, God gently and simply reminds Moses who he is, calling him into a deeper knowledge and trust that God will carry him through this trial. It’s about trusting in the goodness of God rather than in how God makes Moses feel about himself.

I’m not saying that it’s bad to affirm the things that are true of us in Christ – loved, esteemed, set apart. But those realities ring empty when they leave out the One who makes them possible: the One who loves us, chooses us, and makes us holy.

God loves me not because of anything I could ever do to prove myself, but because of his infinite mercy and grace.

God chose me for the divine purpose of declaring God’s holy name in this world – not because I deserved to be chosen (I didn’t), but because God is gracious.

God makes me holy so that Christ may be glorified in me and that through his work in me, others may come to know him.

Instead of focusing on the ways God lifts you up when you’re brokenhearted, focus on the ways in which he draws near and glorifies himself in our struggles. Instead of remembering who you are, remember who God is.

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