the instagospel vs. the true gospel

What if the most freeing words ever spoken came in the most savage package?

The Instagospel

PSA: Social media isn’t what it once was. Many moons ago, it was a safe place where we would post ratchet photos with reckless abandonment, because bless our hearts, we didn’t know any better. Now apps exist that enable us to reconfigure our figures and whiten our teeth with the swipe of a finger. But there was once was a time when social media had no pretenses, strategies, or strings attached. What you saw really was what you got, and we felt no shame.

Not anymore, the insta-grind is so real. Daily we scroll past advertisements about “Personal Branding Strategies” implying that we are a brand and we need a strategy. A new standard has been set for what is “post-worthy”. Now moments are staged, posts are perfected, and captions are crafted because there’s a lot at stake here, people: if people don’t “like” our brand, then they don’t “like” us. So we make the word “Hustle” our wallpaper (guilty) and get to stepping.

ICYMI (that means, “in case you missed it” Grammy), our worth and value isn’t measured by how many friends, followers, or likes we have. Cue all the praise hand emojis. We know this. Ironically, we typically see these messages of hope brush-lettered atop a professional, flat-lays of crisp white, coffee mugs, manicured nails, and Kate Spade staplers. So while the message says, “You Are Enough” it actually communicates, “Get On My Level.”

I know you know what I’m talking about. Day in and day out we read the same things:

“You Are Enough”

“You Can”

“You’ve Got This”

These all-inclusive, yet pseudo-personalized, statements really are no different than the “special” conundrum: If everyone is special, then is anyone special? The definition of the word negates the validity of the statement. If she’s “enough”, and her version of “enough” is much more than my version of “enough”, then can we both be “enough”? But for the sake of the argument, let’s suppose we do reach a point when we are enough, we can, and we do in fact “got it”, how long will it last? Once we get there, how on earth do we maintain being and doing and having?

See, the issue with the instagospel is that it sounds good, it looks good, and it makes us feel good, but it can’t hold it’s own weight. Notice that the statements contradict themselves: Keep trying to stop trying. Keep striving to stop striving. Keep chasing the cessation of chasing. Not to mention that we hear these messages from high-fashion strangers who have more followers on Instagram than citizens in my hometown.

The issue is not that pretty words in typed in pretty fonts are bad. The issue is that many of the “instarational” quotes actively contradict with what the Bible says is true. Big time.

Scripture tells us that we will “be transformed by the renewing of our minds” (Romans 12:1, NIV), not the refreshing of our feeds (So cheesy. Please, forgive me). So let’s put down our phones and look to the Bible to see what it actually says instead of what sounds nice.

The Biblical Gospel

Since we have all messed up in one way or another, and therefore fall short of God’s standard, and since “righting our wrongs” requires the death of something, things are not looking good for us as it currently stands:

We aren’t enough.

“For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23, ESV).

We can’t.

“For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God’s law; indeed, it cannot. Those who are in the flesh cannot please God” (Romans 8:7-8, ESV).

We don’t “got” this.

“For by works of the law no human being will be justified” (Romans 3:20, ESV).

According to scripture, God’s standard is perfection. We are not good enough to meet that standard. While we are in the flesh we literally cannot become good enough to meet that standard. Death is the only appropriate compensation for not meeting God’s standard; and that, my good people, we do not “got” at all.

And because Jesus, was, and is, and will always be, we don’t have to be these things.

No, really… because He is, we don’t have to be. Let that sink in.

He knows our shortcomings. We need not strategize and stage,filter and formulate to try to give the illusion that we’re better than we seem. We have nothing to hide and no need to tidy up because he has already seen us at our worst.

Here’s the really good part:

“He saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy… so that being justified by his grace we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life” (Titus, 3:5,7, ESV).

He sees us at our worst and loves us still. He knows all our junk and invites us to come as we are. He took the punishment for what we earned and gave us the righteousness that he earned. It gets even better: he died for us knowing full well that we would never be able to pay him back.

He knows we aren’t enough; but he is.

He knows we can’t; but he can.

He knows we don’t “got” this; but he does.

If we claim to know Jesus, then we claim to know our shortcomings. That’s why Christians need Christ. Our inadequacy is a key ingredient in the gospel narrative. It’s not a rags-to-riches story about us overcoming our weaknesses— It’s about finding freedom from the pressures to be enough, do enough, and have enough. Our freedom is found not in our strength, but in His; not in our abilities, but in His; not in what we’ve got, but in what He has always had.  “It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery” (Galatians 5:1, NIV).

On my best day I’m not enough, and because he is, I don’t have to be. Fire up the George Michael, because that right there is FREEDOM!


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