Christian Excellence in an Age of Systemic Mediocrity | College Retreat
We are ambassadors of Christ. We must pursue the Lord despite culture and the lies it says about God. In this breakout, Jake Scwarting walks through how believers should strive for Christian excellency in a culture of mediocrity. Let’s be God-centered and not self-centered. Let’s work hard in pursuing holiness.
Jake Schwarting, our college staff recruiting coordinator, lists 3 ways we can strive for excellence as believers.
- Partake in the Divine Nature of God
- Be God centered, not self centered
- Work hard
- 2 Peter 1:3-4
- Ephesians 4:1-3
- 2nd Corinthians 5:16-21
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Read the Transcript Below!
There’s definitely a systematic mediocrity that is truly being thrust upon us. We’ve hinted at it a lot, and it’s taken different forms because our society is taking a whole bunch of different forms to attack us, and this is one of the ways that’s attacking us right now. And so as we’re diving in here, the main verse that I want us to look at, and we’ll use this as we launch the discussion about Christian excellence in an age of systematic or systemic mediocrity, it’s 2 Peter 1:3-4.
His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness through the knowledge of Him who called us to His own glory and excellence by which He has granted to us His precious and very great promises so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature.
And so as we’re looking at this, we really need to, with this verse in mind, with in mind that the mind of Christ, the mind of God, His qualities, His divine qualities, His divine nature, everything that we’re going to be talking about is going to be pulled out of who God is. And so what is mediocrity? As I was doing research for this and studying for it, there’s a lot of different things that you can find as far as what is the definition of being mediocre. A lot of people will say it’s just, you’re being average, like it’s a mundane going through life. And so for a lot of people that can be like, okay, that’s simple living, like middle of the road, your typical average run-of-the-mill type of life.
But we all know that mediocrity has a different connotation than just being average, being mid, whatever it is, however you want to say it. It has a different connotation, it has this more negative connotation, this unrealized potential. And so when you sit back and you think about that, that unrealized potential, that potential that was wasted away, none of us want that in any of our lives. So when people start talking about these things of being mediocre, of mediocrity, it really strikes a chord in all of us. It’s really something that as you’re sitting there, whether you’re laying in your bed or sitting on your couch or whatever it is, you’re in your dorm room, and people are being like “That guy’s just mediocre, he’s pretty average,” or whatever it is. If you were a fly on the wall and someone said that about you and you heard that with your own ears, that would rip your heart out because we all want to be something greater.
Mediocrity Comes from a Selfish Mindset
But for what purpose, for what goal, for what end is that? So mediocrity in definition and connotation, is being or doing less than what something should be or should be doing. So basically, mediocrity means you’re still working. You’re not a lazy bum, you’re not some person that’s got no plans, they’ve got no goals, they’ve got no aspirations. We’ve talked about that as well. That’s something that needs to be addressed with a Christian ethic, but being mediocre is someone that’s got an idea of what they want to do. You’ve kind of got some goals. You’re going to school. You’ve got a job. There’s nothing wrong with what you’re doing, but there’s also no aspiration. There’s no aspiration outside of yourself. It is completely self-centered and you don’t even know it. It’s not even a thought that passes your mind that there’s something outside of yourself that you should be striving towards.
We do this as Christians as well. Our goal should be for Christ. Our goal should be for God. But when we’re sitting down so often there’s like an intoxication of life that happens, and this happens for believers and unbelievers. We’re not immune to this. But mediocrity can affect your life and you may not even know it, and what that looks like is, “Oh man, I got to get my degree. Oh man, I got to get the job now. I got to get a house. I got to get an apartment. Man, I should probably be thinking about a wife. I got a wife, I gotta have a kid. This kid, I got to put him in a good school. Next step, oh, I got to think about retirement now.” And you have to realize, like all throughout your life, you can really intoxicate yourself with what this life has to offer in a very subtle way. It can be so subtle as you’re walking through your life that it’s just one step after another, and you think that this next step is going to satisfy, and the next step is going to satisfy and this is not even a conscious thought.
A Holy Standard vs. a Societal Standard
But it is so mediocre ’cause you’re not realizing the potential that the Lord has for you. We need to reclaim what being mediocre is. It’s not simply just an average boring life. It is a life that is not realizing what the potential should be. So how has this happened systematically? How are we not holding to a holy standard but succumbing to a societal standard? How is this happening in this age? In this age especially, it’s living in a way that is completely self-centered and is wrapped up in that. And for society, the benefit of society is its control over you. And as Christians, we know that the only thing that should be driving us, the only thing that should be controlling what we do, the only thing that we should be submitting ourselves to is to the Lord. And so the goal of society is to make everything about you, to cloud your vision with everything.
Like I said, I mentioned intoxicated life. This can be fueled in so many different ways, and just a few of these include, obviously, everyone knows it, what’s on our phones. The hours and hours we spend on our phones, scrolling through Instagram, scrolling through whatever social media it is late at night, whatever. I mean, who doesn’t at some point, that’s how you go to sleep. Like, that’s what affects all of us. I mean, it is so easy just to open up whatever app, whatever it is. I mean, news, Twitter, it doesn’t even matter. Whatever you’re filling your eyes with, whatever you’re filling your mind with, with relationships. We can be filling our souls with whatever relationships as society is saying what they should be. Again, to continue to have that control over your actions and what you’re doing through our faith, even as Christians, society can, and again, society is pushing, it’s violently pushing against the Christian faith right now. But also, one of the tools that the devil uses is to just twist it just a little bit, like this is what true faith looks like. This is what, as a society, this is what belief in anything looks like. Apply this, we talk about worldview, we talk about our greatest enemy, what are these things?
What is Christian Excellence?
So you have to sit down and you have to think about how the world has affected the way you view God. Through our thoughts, through our experiences, through our responsibilities. We are slowly and systematically accepting lesser and lesser versions of all of these things. We’re accepting lesser versions of what relationships should be, of what faith should be, of what our thoughts and our thought life should be, of our experiences, and obviously, lesser and lesser versions of what our view of responsibility should be as well. But in reality, you are going absolutely nowhere because all that attention is still on you, you’re still being swept away by the tide.
And so with that idea of mediocrity and mediocre, a shift over to excellence, what is Christian excellence? How do we break this? What is it? Where are we going from here? Because all of that control, all of those pressures, all of those ideas that we’re being flooded with, biblically, where should we be grounded?
As I was studying through this, and as I was saying in 2nd Peter, the word for excellence that is used there, it’s in Greek. A fuller meaning of what that word excellence is “a sum of all of the desirable qualities.” So clearly Peter is relating this to the Lord. And so it’s the fullness, the fullness of qualities that are the Lord. That’s what excellence is. And so it’s not simply a laundry list of Christian dos and don’ts. It’s not simply like, “Ah, well, you’re not doing this good enough,” or, “I need to do this more,” or whatever it is. It is the entirety of who the Lord is. We always, we say all the time that God is love, God is also excellence, in Him is full and true excellence.
Excellence Cannot be Separated from Godliness
Apart from Him, there is no excellence. Excellence does not exist apart from God, apart from Christ. So as the believer, what does this look like? Going back to 2nd Peter, it says,
His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness through the knowledge of him who called us to His own glory and to excellence by which He has granted to us His precious and very great promises, so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature.
The way that we experience this excellence, the way that we break mediocrity. The way we break being mediocre is simply partaking in the divine nature of God. It’s not complicated, partake and share in His qualities. That is who we are as Christians. And so in this, we are set apart, we are a priesthood. Ephesians 4:1-3 talks about this. It says,
I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling, the calling to partake in the divine nature of God, in which you have been called with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the spirit and the bond of peace.
It’s not about us. Again, like I said, it is not a list of dos and don’ts. I don’t want anyone to come in and to leave saying, “Man, excellence, it’s another thing that I have to do.” There are aspects to that and we’ll get to that. But at its core, where your heart should be, what your heart should be yearning for, what your mind should be excited to go towards is the divine nature of God; to share in that.
Apart from Christ, there is no excellence. Apart from Christ, our greatest hope is mediocrity. In reality, our reality is wrath. So within Christ, we have this amazing hope of excellence. 1st Corinthians 10:31 talks about this as well. It says, “So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.” Following in line with this excellence, whatever we’re doing, all of it, like I said, it is a heart attitude. Everything we do is for His glory because it’s in His glory and His excellence that we find this.
The Source of Christian Excellence
How amazing are these things? We’re literally called to share in the excellence of God, Jesus and the Holy Spirit. Christian excellence is simply enjoying the Lord in this partaking of His divine nature. Just stopping thinking about yourself and finding enjoyment in the Lord is Christian excellence. Now that sounds super easy sitting in this room, listening, being at Snowbird, you’re around believers and you’re getting prepared to go back.
But we all know life is gonna hit you in the face real quick. Thinking and enjoying the Lord, we’ve talked about it a lot. Spencer’s talked about it, we’ve talked about it through different sessions, but it gets hard. Self-motivation, discipline, it’s not enough because the source of that is yourself. It has to be rooted in Christ. So our flesh, something that we all struggle with, something that we all deal with, makes it incredibly difficult. So going back to mediocrity and seeing this dichotomy between what Christian excellence is and what society is thrusting upon us and mediocrity.
To someone on the outside, to someone that doesn’t believe that Christian excellence is enjoying the Lord, it’s partaking in His nature, it may look very much like mediocrity. I was talking to one of the guys this week about this concept and what we were, what I was gonna talk about and we were thinking of different examples of men and women that display this. These people are simply displaying this Christian excellence in their life. But from anyone from the outside, it looks very simple. They are simply going to work, simply going to class, simply studying and doing whatever it is. As life continues, being faithful to your wife, being faithful to raise your kids up, being faithful to your church, continuing to do those things. But what is the source? Where is the source coming from? Because again, it can look and seem like it’s mediocre, but what it is is where is your source? Where is your heart coming from? And so, with that, whatever we do, it’s for the Lord. It’s to worship and enjoy Him, which is excellent.
Why Strive for Excellence?
So big deal, what is the need to be an excellent Christian rather than mediocre? And this is super powerful. We’re called to something higher than just ourselves. We’re called to be ambassadors for Christ. 2nd Corinthians 5:16-21 outlines this beautifully. It says,
From now on, therefore, we regard no one according to the flesh. Even though we once regarded Christ according to the flesh, we regard Him thus no longer. Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away, behold the new has come. This is from God who through Christ, reconciled us to Himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation, that is in Christ God reconciling the world to Himself, not counting their trespasses against them and entrusting to us, to us, the message of reconciliation. Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ. God making His appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. For our sake, He made him to be sin who knew no sin so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God.
This is huge. This is so huge! This is why it’s a big deal. This is why it’s a big deal to strive after these things. This is why it’s a big deal to choose to enjoy the Lord. This is why it’s important to choose not to find the strength within yourself. All of us here, we’ve tried this game. We’ve tried to go at it on our own. We’ve tried to live life on our own strength. It doesn’t matter how long you’ve been a believer, we’ve all tried to do it. We have great seasons with the Lord and then we’re feeling great about ourselves, we’re doing good and we neglect and we are like, “I don’t need to read the Bible. I don’t need to really pray about this decision,” as small or as large as it may be. We act in the flesh and it fails us every time. And so this huge groundbreaking truth means that in partaking of the divine nature of God and simply enjoying his divinity, enjoying his excellence, we are now sharing in his ministry. Simply enjoying the excellence and sharing in the excellence of who the Lord is, we are now a part of the ministry of reconciliation for souls.
Satisfaction in Christ
How encouraging and amazing is that? Simply by living and being underneath the Lord, under His teaching, under His rule, under His guidance, under His source of strength, we will be messengers of reconciliation. That should empower us. That should get us excited to know that coming out of opposition, rejection of the Lord, to not only share with Him in who He is, but then to go forward and act as an ambassador for Him, we now represent God in His excellence to be a force against mediocrity, be a force against sin, to be a force against the powers and the principalities of this world. It is huge. So to give some practical advice, how am I to be excellent as a Christian in this age? So obviously the first one is to partake in the divine nature of God, is to think about, to dwell on, to meditate on the truths of 2nd Peter. To understand that yeah, there’s gonna be good days, there’s gonna be bad days, but my spirituality is rooted in Christ and my strength is not in myself. My enjoyment is not coming from something other than God.
Your flesh is going to lie to you and you’ve already felt it. Every single influence in this society is telling you the Lord’s not really gonna satisfy you. You really think you only need the Lord, again, sitting in your apartment, in your house, whatever it is, and you’re thinking to yourself, “Man, how can it be? How can it be that I only need the Lord?” Those are the lies. And like we said, we’ve preached it all this weekend. It’s all the music, it’s all the social media posts, it’s all the advertisements, it’s everything saying, “This will satisfy, this will satisfy. Oh, if this doesn’t satisfy, you can do this. And then if you get bored with that, now you can do this.” It is never going to satisfy people. Trust me, it is never going to satisfy. If we are not in the Bible, if we are not in the body of believers, if we are not enjoying the things that the Lord has created to keep us centered, to keep us rooted in Him, we will continue for our entire lives to look to be satisfied by something else and it will never fulfill. So the second thing, be God centered, not self-centered.
We Represent God in His Excellence
In doing this you will break the control of society. You will break the control of being mediocre. You will not be mediocre. That fear that we have inside of us of being mediocre, that fear that we have of being just another guy, just another girl, it’s going to be broken. Stop thinking about yourself. Stop going forward in life and thinking, “Man, if I can just improve this one thing about me,” or this desperate act of, “I just wish this was different about my body. I just wish that I was smarter. I wish that I looked better.” Break the control.
Let your life be God-centered. Let him define who you are.
You’re going to fail in this, but that’s why we have the Spirit.
Third thing, work hard. Like I said, your flesh is going to fight against this. Society is gonna fight against us. The devil sure isn’t gonna like this either. So work hard, work hard to live out the enjoyment of the Lord. There are so many things that the Lord has created as a side note to enjoy. And so let’s enjoy them.
Excellence is Partaking in Who Jesus is
Again, all of this goes back to and is centered on where’s your source? Where’s your source? We can still enjoy music, we can still enjoy art, we can still enjoy athletics. Whatever it is that you enjoy, we can still enjoy it. But where’s your focus? Where’s your center? What is your reason for it? Our reason should be that we are ambassadors for Christ with the Lord in the ministry of reconciliation.
We’re going to fail in this. We’re going to fall into mediocrity; the definition that we’ve created, not being what we should be in Christ. But that’s why the Lord gave us the Holy Spirit, how beautiful is that!
That’s why we have that to come back to and put our trust in Him. To fall back into the Lord so that we can walk daily with Him. There is hope. So society is gonna tell you that excellence is big. It’s big life. You gotta be doing this, you gotta be going on this trip, you gotta be with these people, you gotta be with this group. You gotta have this life. You gotta be following these steps. You gotta be noticed, you gotta be seen.
But the Lord dictates what true excellence is. God has decreed that it is partaking in Him, that it is partaking in His qualities; which is so much better, so much deeper, so much richer and truly satisfying, truly satisfying. We have our identity in Christ. Excellence is partaking in who He is.
Take some time, truly take some time and search your heart. Search your heart and ask yourself, what are my motivations right now? What am I doing in life right now? And if you’ve thought about this before, think about it again. Really sit down and think about what the Lord is doing in your life. Really think, “am I just going along with the tide?”
Again, it’s not just what you see on social media, it can be good things. But what is your motivation? What is your source? It has to be the Lord. We alluded to it earlier in a session, your faith has to be your own.
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