Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Chapter 10.5 The Careless Jesus

This new chapter is written by one of my great friends Tom Broyles. He is a great man of God who has a heart to share Jesus with all. Thank you Tom for being a part of this!

I was so honored when Pastor Eddie asked me to write a chapter in his blog. I have known Eddie for several years. He was a faithful mentor and friend through many challenging seasons of my high school career. Anyone who knows the guy knows he is a genuine lover- of God and people. So I first just want to say, thank you, Pastor Eddie, for allowing God to use you as a tool to shape my walk with Him. I have a deep respect for you.

I have heard it stated by various ministers, church leaders, and brothers and sisters in Christ, “There is a call to holiness upon this generation.” And I could not agree more with this statement. We live in an evil world plagued with distractions, temptations, and sin, and our world is waiting for a model of what heaven looks like. However, this is NOT a new problem facing this specific generation. So I believe a more accurate statement would be, “There is a call to holiness upon EVERY generation.” God does not show favoritism, and His invitation for us to be like Him or “To be holy as He is holy” (Leviticus 19:2 and 1 Peter 1:16) is for everyone in the body of Christ. Father wants us to experience the joy and fullness of His holiness- His character and nature- and NO ONE is excluded from that invite! In this chapter we will be talking about the “Careless Jesus” or the Jesus who just doesn't really care how we live.. err..um.. is that right?

Over the past year of my life, but especially the last few months, I have had some of the most humbling encounters with the Lord. The more I encounter the Lord’s holiness- His character and nature- the more I find myself longing to experience more of Him. I am well aware of the fact that I have just scratched the surface of Father’s goodness, and I can’t seem to shake that desire inside for more! God says about Himself in Isaiah 55:8-9, “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are my ways your ways declares the Lord. As the heavens are higher than the earth so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts higher than your thoughts.” I believe if there is anything we can underestimate or fail to understand as followers of Jesus, it is His goodness, His kindness, and His gentleness- all of which make up His holiness. His attributes are what separate Him from us. We aren't good like He is good. We aren't kind like He is kind. We aren't gentle like He is gentle. However, these attributes are the very thing which He has called and invited His body to live in and become.

The Lord deeply cares about how you live your life. If He didn't then He would not have called you to partake in His holiness. I enjoy reading in the New Testament how Jesus speaks to the disciples versus how He speaks to the Pharisees. I think Jesus would put anyone to shame when it comes to name-calling, and He definitely let the Pharisees have it on more than one occasion. But honestly, one of the biggest differences between the disciples and the Pharisees were that the disciples’ hearts were positioned to receive from Jesus, and the Pharisees’ hearts were not. If we are not living holy as he is holy, it is because we are not receiving from Him. And if we are not receiving from Him it is for one of two reasons- lack of seeking, or unbelief. God calls unto us, but we as His children must believe and respond to Him!

Don’t be fooled! The enemy loves to blow us around by waves of doctrine and teaching. It’s one of his favorite tactics. A common one I have seen that comes up around the topic of God’s grace and holiness is this idea- “God loves you and has abounding grace over you, but expects you to turn by your own strength from your evil behavior.” This type of teaching puts the focus back on self and back on works. It’s the mentality that as a believer, God expects me to do more. He expects me to be more. And He expects me to live up to a standard that I’m never sure I will attain. This is NOT the Gospel. The good news of Jesus is that He changes us so that we can have new life through Him!- “If the spirit who raised Christ from the dead is living in you, He who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies because of His spirit living in you.” (Romans 8:11)He isn't searching for you to do more- because “apart from Him we can do nothing.” (John 15:5) He is not looking for your good works- “It’s by grace you have been saved through faith.” (Ephesians 2:8) He doesn't really care about a bowed head and closed eyes. He cares about a bowed heart- “Create in me a clean heart, oh God, and renew a right spirit within me.” (Psalm 55:10). If we say that our faith is in His abounding grace, yet we try to become like Him by our own will, then how is that a testimony to the grace of God? And if He has given us his spirit to put to death our flesh (Romans 8:13), then how could we possibly, once called into His fullness, perfect ourselves by our own will- our flesh? It is impossible. Jesus came so that we might have life right now, and living in the fullness of that life doesn't mean we are perfect, it means we are satisfied in His perfection because our hearts are yielded to His character and nature.

You were designed to commune with Father. In the Garden of Eden Adam and Eve had communion with God ‘s presence and were given a promise of eternal life. They were innocent like new born babies in the sense that they did not know right from wrong, all they knew was the presence of Father and His promise of life to them. It says in Genesis 3:8 that God walked beside them in the cool of the day. However, their promise of eternal life was based upon their obedience to God’s command, “You shall not eat of the tree of knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat from it you will certainly die.” (Genesis 2:17) And this truth of receiving eternal life through our obedience still stands today. However, our obedience is not to the first Adam who willfully disobeyed in the the Garden of Eden, but to the second who yielded His will in the Garden of Gethsemane. Likewise, the first Adam disobeyed God’s command by eating of the tree of knowledge of good and evil in the face of much temptation, but the second obeyed God’s command by dying on a tree and yielding his will to Father in the face of much persecution. Therefore, if the children of Israel who were born under the law, “Thou shalt not..” as the first Adam was and had a communion with Father that was so intense that it split the Red Sea in Half, caused Moses’ face to shine with glory, and anyone who opposed them to fall to their knees in submission (the list could go on), how much more and greater is our communion with Father being born under the law of grace through the second Adam, Jesus Christ!

Jesus came because He cares about the way you live your life. As humans we naturally live our lives contrary to the way God intended us to live. However, through personal, intimate communion with Father we can become holy as He is holy and live a life that is pleasing to Him. All of heaven bows before His throne and shouts, “Holy!” If we obey the work he has for us we can come in and find out what they mean. He has already paid the way. Do you want to go?

“And this is the work God has for you: believe in the one he has sent.”

-Jesus in John 6:29

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Chapter 10.4 The Mean Jesus

Well now that we are done with "Materialistic Christianity" I want to talk about another kind of "Jesus" that plagues the body of Christ in America... The Mean Jesus. This "Jesus" is, in my mind at least, one of the worst versions ever! In this part of the miniseries I want to cover how we make God look bad by making His son be a mean unforgiving person. It really breaks my heart to see people turn away from God because of his followers but most of all because we make Jesus to be a bad guy who is just waiting to deny anyone access to a relationship with him.

Like always I would like to give a disclaimer right off the bat, see with most of the extremest there are spots of truth, see God does not like sin what so ever. I do believe he will judge sin and that there will be punishment for sin. I do know that Jesus did talk about hell a lot more than he did about heaven and finally that we must, as followers of Christ, become renewed in him and not live an unholy life. With all of that being said let us go into the subject at hand "The Mean Jesus".

So what is some of the characteristics of the "Mean Jesus"? Well he is full of hate and dislike toward many things. He loves his followers to spread the message of displeasure of this world. Most of all he only wants a relationship with you if you are willing to get yourself right before you come to Him. He is an all around unlikable guy. You know what is really funny about the "Mean Jesus" is that his followers think that they are safe from him but in reality if they come to find the real Jesus they are now on his hit list. See the people who believe in this kind of Jesus are not just the really loud out spoken ones they are the ones who secretly hate other people and claim it to be okay because God would too. The "Mean Jesus" people make God look bad by simply taking grace out of the equation. The reason that is a big problem is because grace is something that makes Christianity a very unique religion and without it our faith would amount to nothing.

I have brought up to separate kinds of ideas when it comes to the "Mean Jesus" now I want to talk about both of them. Now the first one we all know about cause we can see it all the time on the news. I will try and refrain from naming names but I believe most of you know what I am talking about. When ever a group of people say they are representing Christ and say things like, "God hates fags", or, "Thank God for dead soldiers", or the worst, "God hates you", those people are not speaking for God at all! If you preach a God that hates anyone you are not preaching the God of the Bible. Now I know that the old testament there was a lot of people God judged but nowhere did it say He did so because of his hate for the people. God judged them for their acts of sin. These kinds of people who preach the "Mean Jesus" can not tell the difference and just do a blanket statement of God hating everyone. This is far from the representation of the God of the Bible. God desperately wants a relationship with his people and did literally everything to make that happen so how can He hate them? The easy answer to that is, He doesn't! This kind of Jesus will not win souls nor help people come out of their sin. This "Mean Jesus", it seems like he wants them to be like that so He can judge them and send them to hell. The sad part is that when this Jesus is preached it makes no one want to hear about the real one. The last point on this part of the "Mean Jesus" is that while watching an interview with a former member of one of the churches that preach this way said, "I felt like God hated me", it gets no more sadder than that. Like I said earlier not even the people who follow the "Mean Jesus" is not safe, He rules with fear.

Now the other "Mean Jesus" is sorta of a secret agent. See he does not wave banners or protest He just sits in the hearts of people who claim to follow the real Jesus. This kind of "Mean Jesus" shows His ugly head when His followers are confronted with people they just dislike for one reason or another. This "Mean Jesus" shows up in racism, sexist, bigoted, class wars, and all around selfishness. The reason this "Mean Jesus" is hard to see is because he only comes out when the person who has Him in their heart is confronted with one of the people they dislike. I have a little of a personal story with this kind of "Mean Jesus". I used to go to church, very rarely, when I was a kid. I will leave the church nameless and the people involved that way too. I will just tell you that it was a white church and the other person involved was black. Now this black guy, who is a very close family friend, came to see my dad one day and found out he was at church so he decided to come see him there. Once my fathers friend got into the church he was asked to leave, my dad's friend did not make it any further than the front door. When he asked why he had to leave he was told, "this is not your kinds church and we do not want you here", and right then the "Mean Jesus" shows his ugly face. I do want to say that I do not believe that this was the feelings of the whole church but it was said by one of the ushers. My dad's friend did leave with out a fuss but even so that was very much unacceptable. This is not the Jesus who loved everyone and wanted everyone to come hear what he had to say about the Father. This is not the Jesus who freed a promiscuous woman from being stoned. No this is the "Mean Jesus" who says that if you do not fit in with us you must leave. There really is not to many other things that makes God look bad than making a relationship with him limited to certain people.

We must not stand for any of this in the body of Christ. We know that our God loves and wants people to love also. We can not simply watch people be turned away from the love of God because of this "Mean Jesus". We must teach the gospel and His love to all. We can not and will not back down from these kinds of people who love to share hate to everyone. This "Mean Jesus" does not really exist, except in peoples mind, and we should have no problem showing everyone this. We all are saved by grace through faith because of the love of God and we need to make sure everyone knows of this. He does not want you to have to clean yourself up before coming to Him, no He wants you just as you are so he can change you. God loves all of us and desires for us to come to Him as children asking for our fathers love and help. To sum it all up the "Mean Jesus" is a made up monster and has no power what so ever.

Then what can we do to solve this problem? Just stand up against all of this. So let me ask you, are you standing up? Can you tell when someone crosses the line into "Mean Jesus" preaching? Is there a little bit of "Mean Jesus" in your theology? Are we willing to be the louder voice for the real Jesus or just let these people have the platform to continue making God look bad?