Everyone Is Awesome?
According to several national surveys, Millennials[ are more than twice as likely as previous generations to rate themselves as “gifted,” “special,” “talented,” and “likely to change the world”—despite the reality that Millennials score the same (and sometimes worse) than previous generations in several areas, even after accounting for testing differences and other known biases.
Much has been made of these surveys. Perhaps this is just what youthful arrogance looks like in every generation. Or perhaps Millennials really are overly self-confident. Who knows?
What I do know is this: you’re not awesome, but Jesus is.
That’s the message that everyone, whether eighteen or eighty-five, desperately needs to believe and remember and feel in the depths of their soul. It’s so important that you ought to consider tattooing it on your arms. You should make it the background on your smart phone. You could adopt two dogs and name them, “You’re Not Awesome” and “But Jesus Is,” respectively. Whatever you do, just find some way to get that message into your skull and pray that it sinks into your heart.
Why You’re Not Awesome
When it comes to what makes someone awesome—which means, inspiring an overwhelming feeling of awe-inducing reverence, admiration, or fear—you don’t have it. No one does. There is nothing you’ve ever possessed or accomplished that made God think, “How impressive!” And God sees you as you really are. Not the self-important, self-focused, inflated ego version of yourself, but the real you in all of your un-awesomeness.
Our un-awesomeness should be blatantly apparent. Indeed, the world is full of problems that we have created. And when it comes to our own lives, we are better are messing up things than we are at fixing them. Even the smartest, handsomest, strongest, and most influential human beings are woefully, embarrassingly, and thoroughly un-awesome. Just minutes spent with anyone will show this.
Yet when faced with our un-awesomeness, what do we do?We keep telling each other how great we are. We even tell ourselves how amazing we are: “I’m good enough, I’m smart enough, and doggone it, people like me!” We have become our own parodies.
The internet is littered with graphics, quotes, and pithy sayings telling us how great we are, as if our problems can be fixed with a little “self-esteem.” What we fail to realize is that this course of action is precisely what got us into this mess in the first place.
It was the decision to be awesome—to become like God (Gen. 3:5)—that brought about the current, miserable state of affairs. This is why self-centered flattery and praise, even when it is offered to us by others, will never make us well. We cannot make ourselves better simply by telling ourselves how great we are. That is, in fact, a recipe for making already un-awesome people a whole lot worse.
The One Who Is Awesome
Jesus is the only way out of our spiral of death, in which we feel our un-awesomeness, and then despair and try to cover it up with self-defeating flattery and praise.
That is because the message of the Bible is essentially this: you are not awesome, in any way or shape or form, but Jesus is. His undeserved love, his complete justice, his perfect obedience, his tender compassion, his utter hatred of evil, and his radical commitment to your good is truly awesome. And, amazingly, Jesus’ love for us, and his willingness to forgive us, cleanse us, and reunite to the God we have turned away from, is not based on anything that we possess or earn or accomplish. It is offered to us freely as a gift (Rom. 6:23).
Don’t you see what this means?
How well you sing doesn’t matter.
How good you look…
How many friends/followers you have on social media…
Your relationship status…
Your intelligence (or lack thereof)…
Your successful Etsy account…
Your urban garden and its organic produce… none of these ultimately matter.
Those things don’t make you awesome if you have them or do them well. God is not impressed with any of it, and we shouldn’t be either. And here’s why this is such good news: since having certain things or doing certain things can never impress God, then we have nowhere to turn except to the one who earned God’s approval for us. That’s the point of the gospel. We’re not awesome, but Jesus is.
Those who believe this are set free from the otherwise never-ending desire to justify yourself in the eyes of others. “What will they think of me? Would they like me? Would I be accepted? What will I think of myself?” All those questions melt to nothingness when who Jesus is and what he has done for you is clearly seen and embraced with the heart of faith. You are loved. You are forgiven. You are clean. You are a child of God. It’s all true—not because you are awesome, but because Jesus is and it was his pleasure to lay down his life in order to save thoroughly un-awesome people (Rom. 5:8).
Doug Ponder is one of the founding pastors of Remnant Church in Richmond, VA, where he serves in many of the church’s teaching ministries. He has contributed to several published works and is the author of Rethink Marriage & Family. His interests include the intersection of theology, ethics, and the Christian life. Follow him on Twitter @dougponder.