We had a great time last weekend with old and new friends who gathered at our house to watch Josh Harris’ new film, “I Survived I Kissed Dating Goodbye“. Most of them are singles who have grown up in the church and were affected, either directly or indirectly, by the book. We had some really helpful conversations about the film afterward, and my heart is still full from the encouraging fellowship.
One takeaway stood out to me above all the others: Exalt Jesus Christ. Before you think I am about to expound on an important, but equally vague, Christian idea and move to close your web browser, hear me out.
The purity culture had good intentions. They wanted to glorify God, they wanted to save sex for marriage, and they wanted to save themselves emotionally and sexually for their spouse. Those are all good things. But the problem is that we can’t take something good and make it ultimate. Only God is ultimate. Sexual purity became so over emphasized, that Jesus wasn’t emphasized anymore. I know, because I was part of the movement, and I did it, too.
This overemphasis on something other than Jesus created a monster that no one anticipated. We glorified sexual purity outside of marriage and marital sex within marriage so much that it became our identity. Being a virgin on your wedding night became a badge of righteousness to flaunt. And if you didn’t, you became a second-class Christian. Your sexual status became one of the most important things about you. The church bought into romanticism’s idealism of sex just as much as our culture did, we just modified it a bit to fit our christian morality.
Watching the film reinforced what God has been teaching me over the past year… to make it my aim to exalt Jesus Christ. The purity culture exalted sexual abstinence before marriage, but we can easily emphasize anything over Jesus. So what do we do to guard ourselves from this danger?
For those new to the faith, saying we need to “keep Jesus the main thing” is profound. But for us who grew up in the church, we need to have something more than an idea to wrestle with. I hear words like that and start to tune out because I’ve heard them so many times before. We have lots of articles floating around in the blogosphere about keeping Jesus the main thing, and I don’t intend to just regurgitate the same idea, even though it’s true. We need something practical to give that idea flesh and bones. My heart wants to exalt Christ, but I get stuck because I don’t know what doing that looks like when Monday morning hits.
So here’s my practical takeaway. There are many ways of growing in your relationship with Christ, but this is one of the main ones: Read the Bible with an eye to seeing Jesus in fresh ways. John 1:1 calls Jesus the WORD. Jesus gave us the Bible so that we can know Him.
In the church culture I grew up in, Jesus was a distant person. He saved me 2000 years ago from my sins. He sits at the right hand of God in heaven. But I mostly referred to him by his title “Christ” which means Messiah, not by his personal name, Jesus. My tongue even now sometimes trips over the name “Jesus” because I said it so seldom. I was a Christian and had a relationship with God, but Jesus didn’t seem as personal.
About two years ago, I confided my frustration at this impersonal view of Jesus to my pastor’s wife. She encouraged me to read through the gospels. “Look at how Jesus treated people”, she said. So I did. I started in Matthew and just watched Jesus. He noticed the outcasts. He noticed those who were discriminated against. He noticed the weak. He touched them, looked into their eyes, and loved them. I saw myself in those people, and I started to see Jesus as personal. I’m still reading the Bible this way, and I have so much more to see of Jesus.
So let’s exalt Christ together. Let’s revel in Jesus.
If you’re looking for more encouragement in your pursuit of Jesus, below I’ve linked to two books that have been really helpful for me in addition to my Bible reading as I seek each day to learn more about Jesus.