“And I, if I am lifted up from the earth, will ?draw all men to Myself.” (rf. Jn. 12:32)
When we consider this passage, we usually envisage the cross of Christ, Jesus suspended in mid-air bleeding from the many wounds inflicted upon Him because of our sins. On the surface, this interpretation would be an accurate one. However, there is a more subtle, more powerful message at the heart of this text.
Jesus is stating that if He and His work of salvation (i.e. the Gospel) are “lifted up”, or placed as center focus, then He will “draw all men” unto Himself. He presents to us a cause-effect relationship. In other words, “if” we do this, “then” He will do that. In this case, with the first condition, our responsibility is to focus all of our attention, as His followers, on Him and His Gospel…nothing else. If we make Jesus the center of everything we do, both inside and outside the church, then He will magnify Himself, glorify the Father, and ultimately “draw all men” unto Himself. Jesus then will take to Himself the responsibility of bringing people into a saving relationship by the power of His Holy Spirit.
What Jesus is stating flies in the face of much of what is passed off as present-day church growth encouragement and initiative. Today’s theories revolve around the idea that the church must track the trends of the surrounding culture in order to gauge and follow suit with events and programs that connect with these specific movements. The idea is that if we meet people where they are, they will like us and then come and join us. The more we can accommodate their tastes, desires, and goals, the more that people will be interested in church, thus, coming to be a part. In other words, according to these views, we should “enculturate” the church instead of transforming those who come out of the culture by the power of the resurrected Christ (rf. Php. 3:7-16). By holding to the above, we tend to be relying on the “arm of flesh” in the hopes of redirecting the lives of unbelievers in a positive manner, not bringing any real change in terms of their sins. Rather, it has to be by the Spirit of God operating within them to bring about what is necessary to change and renew their hearts and minds (rf. Rom. 12:1-2). This is why we are falling short in reaching the people around us.
Let us commit as God’s people to return to our “first love” (rf. Rev. 2:4-5). Let us consciously make Jesus the center of our thoughts, worship, music, actions, and the totality of our lives. Then, as we begin to do this consistently and committedly, we will see Him draw people unto a saving relationship unto Himself. Won’t that be exciting to be involved in such a work happening all around us?