Sentenced to Gitmo with Jesus

Jim Hamilton writes:

The word about taking up the cross to follow Jesus probably sounded like a call to risk Roman retribution when Jesus spoke it (Matt. 10:38). In the context of Matthew’s Gospel, the word calls the followers of Jesus to lay down their lives by faith for others in obedience to God, just as Jesus did. Herein is the paradox that condemns all selfishness, and through judgment comes the salvation of living for others to God’s glory by faith: “The one who finds his life will lose it, and the one who loses his life on account of me will find it” (10:39).

God’s Glory in Salvation Through Judgment. pgs 371-372.

I found this paragraph fascinating and troubling. It was fascinating for me because I had never really thought about the call to pick up my cross as a call to risk retribution by my own government. These would have been frightfully chilling words. Embrace revolution. Embrace radicalization. Uneducated though they may be, Jesus’ fishermen disciples knew exactly what He was calling them to do. Jesus was calling the disciples to a way of life that put them at odds with the most powerful military force the planet had ever seen. And not only that, but this life was also going to mark them out as the worst scum in the Empire. Crucifixion was reserved for only vilest of criminals. Rome would not even subject their own citizens to the punishment. However, the pain and torment of crucifixion was only part of the punishment. There was also a deep shamefulness associated with the cross. This is to what Jesus called his disciples. A life that would be marked by shame, humiliation and most likely death at the hands of your own government. Strangely, this is the only way to eternal life (Matthew 10:39). Against everything our natural inclinations tells us, embracing death really means embracing life. This is quite a paradox. One that only the Gospel can reconcile peaceably.

Camp Delta at Guantanamo Bay Naval Base

The troubling aspect of this paragraph hit me as I wondered how many in today’s churches would resign their membership if pressed to make such a commitment. Rather, I wonder how many would be willing to risk not only their lives, but also to be marked out as the worst sort of person. I wonder how many Christians would remain so, if it meant being associated with terrorists. Average Joe American hates nothing more than a terrorist. All the images of 9/11 coming flooding back at just the mention of the word. And I believe that if Jesus was here today, instead of calling Americans to pick up their cross and follow him, Jesus might say “risk being sentenced to Guantanamo Bay and follow me.” Now that would wake people up. Can you imagine their reaction? Our worthiness of following Jesus is tied up exactly in whether or not we think He’s worth terroristic associations and terroristic charges. If we take seriously our commitments to Jesus, it will not be a stretch for the world to label us as terrorists. For the sword we bear is capable of exposing the thoughts and intentions of the heart (Hebrews 4:12) and darkness does not like to be exposed (Eph. 5:11).

The question that lays before us is, will we follow Jesus no matter what the cost? Will we follow him, even if the path to death led through Gitmo? I pray that answer is yes. For it is the only way to eternal life.

~sdg

PS – One of my pastors (Pastor Jeremy Haskins) preached a great sermon on this passage after I had written this post. I highly commend it to you. You will be challenged and edified!

His Banner Over Us Is Death! The Sword of the Kingdom Kills Your Best Life Now (Matthew 10:34-39)

If you would like to hear more preaching like this, you can subscribe to my church’s podcast on iTunes or listen to more sermons here.

Heaven is Real: Jesus Told Me So

There is a new book that has made it to the top of the New York Times bestseller list. It’s a book about a little boy who visits heaven, meets Jesus and returns to tell the story. Heaven is for Real: A Little Boy’s Astounding Story of His Trip to Heaven and Back is by Todd Burpo, the father of the little boy, Colton. Todd is a small-town pastor who appears to be anything but a glory hound. The down to earth humility of the Burpo family is what makes this story appealing. Yet, this book and books like it make me wary.

As I watched the video from the Today show (which is embedded below), I couldn’t help but fear this book will do more harm in the long run. I believe it will do more harm because the Bible gets displaced. This, now eleven year old, boy’s experience becomes the standard testimony on the reality of heaven. God’s testimony becomes lesser. It’s still there, mind you. No one will reject the testimony of Scripture regarding the reality of heaven. However, to displace God’s own testimony from the center, is to reject it. If we really believed what the Scriptures have to say, there would be no market for this book. For we have the definitive word on heaven from the definitive source.

Another reason I am wary of books like this one is that it reinforces an entitlement mentality for which we must repent. Have you ever found yourself in the midst of a pressing matter, one of grave significance in your little circle of influence, and it feels like your prayers are bouncing off the ceiling? In the time of your, perceived, greatest need, heaven is silent. Have you ever looked toward heaven and shouted, “Speak to me!!” Have you ever wished God would just send you an email or lay it all out for you? Now, no one would ever claim that God owes them personal communication. Yet, when we grumble and complain that God does not speak to us as we wish, we are projecting an entitled attitude.

The reality is, that God has spoken to us. The writer of Hebrews opens the book by stating, “Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets” (Hebrews 1:1). God has spoken by the prophets, in many ways, at many times. We do not have one word, or several words to one prophet. Rather, we have many words to many prophets. Yet, He did not stop there. Verse 2 of Hebrews 1 goes further: “but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world.” Jesus is the definitive word of God. Everything that God has purposed to say to us has been said. This truth serves as a correction to our longings for a personal word from God. It serves to humble us. It serves as an agent of death to all vestiges of entitlement. For it is by grace that any word has been spoken. The prophets of old did not deserve to hear and proclaim the word of God. It was a gift of grace that they bear His word to His people.

Did this little boy really go to heaven? Only God knows. If we find our hope and our encouragement for the reality of heaven in the stories of a little boy, rather than in the Grand Story of the revealed Word of God, there is something seriously wrong with our understanding of what we have in the Bible. If the Gospel is not hope enough, then word of a 4-yr old will do little in the long run to sustain our hope. Is heaven for real? I’ll bet my life on it, because Jesus told me so (John 14:1-4).

So if you’re inclined to read the book (or have read it), be careful. Be wary of stories that seek to displace our hope and trust in the Grand Story.

~sdg

 

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A Scary Thought on Sanctity of Life Sunday

“But Lord, we preached pro-life sermons, we voted for pro-life candidates and even gave a pro-life pamphlet to an unwed pregnant teenager. And we did all this in your name, Jesus!”

Yet, to many, Jesus will respond “Away from me, you workers of iniquity, for I never knew you!”

Father, Please protect us from the tendency to make causes our gospel, our god. May we fight abortion with everything in us, because that is what a heart gripped by the gospel will do. May our generation be the one who sees the end of abortion in America. May our generation produce a thousand William Wilberforce’s. May I be one.

In Jesus name I pray.

~sdg

A Modern Day Devourer of Widows

“Beware of the scribes, who like to walk around in long robes, and love greetings in the marketplaces and the best seats in the synagogues and the places of honor at feasts, who devour widows’ houses and for a pretense make long prayers. They will receive the greater condemnation.” Jesus looked up and saw the rich putting their gifts into the offering box, and he saw a poor widow put in two small copper coins. And he said, “Truly, I tell you, this poor widow has put in more than all of them. For they all contributed out of their abundance, but she out of her poverty put in all she had to live on.” And while some were speaking of the temple, how it was adorned with noble stones and offerings, he said, “As for these things that you see, the days will come when there will not be left here one stone upon another that will not be thrown down.” Luke 20:46-21:6


I have blogged previously about this section of Luke, but I feel the need to revisit it’s ramifications, especially in light of the “Restoring Honor” rally held in Washington, D.C. this past weekend.

In the weeks leading up to this rally, Glenn Beck (Fox News commentator and talk radio host) has been asking for donations to help offset the cost of putting on the rally. Any funds raised over and above the need for the rally would be diverted to the Special Operations Warrior Foundation (quite a worthy cause). During this fund raising drive, someone sent Beck 8¢. Eight pennies in a plastic baggy. It was all this person could afford to send in. They were desperate to contribute to this rally.

As I listened to Beck this morning (I prefer hearing it straight from the horses mouth, rather than edited news stories), he relayed a story about how the 8¢ sent in inspired thousands more to give and helped cover an unforeseen expense that had arisen. It was a miracle, according to Beck.

I have felt very uneasy about Beck’s calls to “return to God.” Beck is a mormon. As much as the Latter-Day Saints would like to claim it, they are not Christians. They do not serve the God of the Bible. So to what god are we to return? From what I’ve heard from Beck, it seems to be whatever god we desire (as long as they are from the Judeo-Christian heritage). Rabbis, priests and pastors were all present at Beck’s rally. Beck’s call to return to god is a generic call. And the sad thing is, the very Enemy he claims to be fighting against, is just fine with the generic god-talk.

Does morality really scare Satan? I don’t think so. Why else would he offer all the kingdoms of the world to Jesus if only Jesus would bow to him? What greater coupe could the Enemy complete than to have all the world distracted by their morality, only to face eternal judgment? A call to morality is simply a call to save yourself in the opposite direction. The immoral try to save themselves by breaking the Law. The moral try to save themselves by keeping the Law. Both will fail. Both will be destroyed.

Another reason I think the Enemy is fine with the generic god/morality talk is that those types of people tend to have a more difficult road to salvation. The hooker on the street corner knows she’s of lowly estate. The average pew-sitter with shined shoes and a pressed shirt and a respectable job is less likely to suddenly come to the knowledge of his lowly estate. It’s easier for our average pew-sitter to be self-righteous than the hooker. And it’s easier for the hooker to see her need of grace than our average pew-sitter. I’ve heard it said before that you must get a person lost, before you can get them saved. An acute knowledge of your own sinfulness is necessary before one will call out for Jesus.

To what is Glenn Beck calling the nation? He is calling them to return to morality. To trust in the goodness of people. Glenn Beck is calling people to trust in another savior…themselves. While he would deny it, that is the end of his generic god-talk. While he would deny it, he is devouring widow’s houses. He tempts them to trust in something other than Jesus. The temple of moralism and self-righteousness will fall one day. Not one stone will be left upon another. Yet, the Kingdom of Jesus will continue its expanse until the day He returns to consummate His rule and authority over all the earth.

Our only hope is Jesus Christ. His blood-soaked cross is the only way we can be saved. Our religious works are not enough. Only Jesus.

~sdg

Of Mice and LeBron

Let me be frank. This whole LeBron saga has made me dislike the NBA even more than I already did. It highlighted everything I find distasteful. Drama. Self-Aggrandizing. Empty suits with even emptier heads. It was a grand turn-off.

However, to simply write off this whole story would be short-sighted. The more I thought about the whole story and how it’s being reported, I couldn’t help but come to the conclusion that we have some things to learn from this whole sordid tale.

Positive

In a culture that celebrates and practices radical individualism, for one of the greatest talents in basketball to choose to take less money in order to play on a team where he will not be the only great player is quite the shocker. In fact, it’s more than a shocker. LeBron James has just profaned the very culture that lifted him to such stratospheric heights. For seven year, LeBron was King. Literally. But the King has stepped off his throne. And he’s done it in a way that the majority of culture does not understand. Why would someone give up $30 million dollars? Why would someone give up being the King? Because James realized something. While an individual becomes a super-star; teams are what win championships.

What a statement! What a timely message for our culture to hear. James’ rejection of individualism challenges the very core of what our culture holds so dear; thus the visceral reactions from every corner of the culture (except for Miami…they are as pleased a peach). I think it’s a timely message for the church to hear as well. Too often, our church buildings are filled with a bunch of individuals. The concept of church as community is missing in most places in America. Our culture has infected our thinking. Let’s not waste this opportunity to examine ourselves. Our reaction to this story may have something to tell us about our thinking.

Negatives

The method is the message. Or another way to say it is, what you say is just as important as how you say it. Whoever Lebron’s PR person is should be fired. I have never in my life seen an athlete go from beloved to hated in such a short period of time (Tiger Woods may be the exception). Have you read the open letter from Cav’s owner Dan Gilbert? Wow. I think someone is bitter (From now on, I will refer to Dan Gilbert as Mara Gilbert, but I digress). People in Cleveland were burning LeBron jerseys. They were crying in sports bars. Outside of Cleveland, people like me were sick of the hype. Part of that is not LeBron’s fault. He can’t help ESPN hypes his decision. But the actions by him and his team only increased the speculation and drama. The hour long special on ESPN to announce his decision about made me want to puke. It wreaked of arrogance and self-aggrandizing. I did not watch it. Refused to do so. Besides, the Reds were playing and baseball is better anyways…again I digress. I can guarantee LeBron will not be approached to write a book about winning friends and influencing people. The only friends LeBron has now are in South Beach.

How does that apply to us followers of Jesus? Well, we carry with us a message that is far more offensive that what LeBron did to the city of Cleveland. While LeBron did profane an aspect of culture, the Gospel we carry profanes it even further. We have a message that a lot of people will reject, will hate. Jesus told us so. So shouldn’t we be ever so careful that the only way we offend people is with the gospel? If we are offending them with our political opinions or sports opinions or a self-righteous attitude or anything else, we have shut them off from the one offensive message they need to hear. If I allow a political opinion to separate me from others on the other side who haven’t heard the gospel, then I’ve allowed a false distinction to dictate who I engage with the gospel. Even if I tried to engage them, they will automatically have a wall built up to me, because I’ve elevated this political opinion. The Apostle Paul was very aware of this fact. In I Corinthians 9:22, Paul writes, “…I have become all things to all people, that by all means I might save some.” The offense of the cross is a big enough hurdle for people to overcome. They shouldn’t have to overcome our opinions or poor attitudes as well to get to Jesus.

Is legacy more important than winning? Can they be separated? I guess I’m asking if one needs to win to be great. LeBron seems to think so. Here’s where he fits right in with our culture. Do you remember the No Fear shirts? Do you remember the slogan “He who dies with the most toys wins”? This is exactly why LeBron chose team over individual. He spent 7 years in Cleveland and has no rings. He needs rings. Rings mean he’s accomplished something. Championships justify him. So perhaps Lebron’s choice of team over individual is not as pure as we thought. The knife wound in the back of the city of Cleveland is evidence of that. When we think that winning is the path to greatness, people get hurt. And it’s usually those who have invested the most in us.

That’s why in the Kingdom, the path to greatness is the path to losing. Jesus said that the first shall be last. Jesus said that if you would be the greatest, you must be the servant of all. So in the Kingdom, in the one place that matters, championships mean nothing. Rings and bling won’t give you any clout in this Kingdom. But hands weathered in the service of others are priceless. A heart that cries out to true King and longs to do His bidding is what is truly great. You can be the biggest loser in this life and find out your sitting on the right hand of the King himself in the next. And the great thing about living this way, no one gets hurt in your climb to the bottom. Instead, others are lifted up. The legacy of a servant is to be desired more than that of a champion.

If you haven’t read the open letter from Mara Gilbert, go back and read it. Did you catch the religious language? Chosen One. Heaven. Hero. Sounds like LeBron James was more than King in Cleveland. Sounds like he was savior too. And when false saviors are exposed as such, all hell breaks lose. I think all I need to say here is, there is only one King and Savior. His name is Jesus and He is one who sticks closer than a brother. We will never be snatched from His hands. In fact, our names are engraved on His palms. He is preparing a place for His people. And He will return one day and put to further shame these false savior kings. Just like Tiger, I’m glad for another false savior being exposed. I pray that the followers of Jesus in Cleveland will use this opportunity to interject the Gospel into their conversations about LeBron. I pray that followers of Jesus everywhere will use this opportunity to talk about the hope that we have. LeBron points us to Jesus. LeBron is a failed savior and all failed saviors point to Jesus.

Conclusion

We are wretchedly complicated beings. Even in honestly innocent decisions, there lays in the corner of our hearts motivations with wicked intent. I think that’s the biggest thing we could learn from LeBron. We will never be able to live in perfect holiness. We will never be able to satisfy all the demands. Outside Christ, we’re left to build our own legacy, thinking we’re doing what’s right while we kill those who put their hope and trust in us. As we are exhorted to be unlike Jonah, let us be unlike LeBron. And let us be more and more like the true Savior King. And let us pray that LeBron will bow his knee as we have been granted to do.

~sdg

The Death of Me

I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. I do not nullify the grace of God, for if righteousness were through the law, then Christ died for no purpose. – Galatians 2:20-21

O wretched man that I am. Thanks be to God that I do not achieve the righteousness required for salvation on my own. I am utterly in capable. My flesh constantly wars against me. The battle is fresh and the conflict is heavy. Every day, the war rages on. I am so thankful for Paul’s letters. In the very moment I need encouragement or rebuke, the words of God recorded b Paul are of great help. I see two things in this passage that bring me strenght.

First, my debt has been paid in full. I was crucified with Christ. In God’s court, the condemned has been punished. His justice has been satisfied. Since I am not dead, this current life lived in my corrupt flesh is lived in utter dependence on Christ. He is what sustains me as I go about my daily activities. I am sturck by to implications from this truth. First being that my life is not my own. Paul explicitly states this when he said that we are not our own, we’ve been bought with a price. We are to glorify God in our bodies and lives. When I was talking with a friend of mine, he made an interesting statement. In regards to sin he simply, but emphatically stated, “I do not have the right!” That is a shocking statement in this country. America is built on rights and the free exercise there of. The culture has twisted it so taht everything is a right, everything is deserved. Sadly, the church has adopted this mindset to a large degree. What would our battles with sin look lik if when tempted, we screamed out “I have no rights!!”? My rights, my will, my volition, my life were all killed on the cross. I am not my own. I am a slave of God, purchased to do His good woks in the world. The second implication is that we daily need communion with God. We must be in constatn communication with our life source. If we fail at this point, we will fail in the other. Without feeding the truth of God into our souls, we will grow tired and wak, unable to figh the temptation. We are beauty starved. We settle for the imposter beauty of sin instaead of the genuine, deep beauty offered by the Word of God. In gazing pon the beauty of Christ, we receive life to our dead bodies, life to do and be all God has called us to.

The second truth I see is that I do not nullify God’s grace! There are going to be days when I do not live as though it’s Christ living in me. I am going to ract and to struggle and I will fail at some point. What do we do then? I think that’s why Paul included this verse as the last line in the paragraph. He lays out the ideal in verse 20. The ideal is a daily, striving communion with God that allows Christ to dwell and control our daily lives. But what happens when we fall short (as we all have)? Paul answers it clearly! We do no nullify God’s grace! Our actions, for good or evil do not affect our righteous standing before God. Jesus fulfilled the whole law perfectly. That perfection has been imputed upon me. The doctring is called substitionary atonement. Christ was our subsititute and he has made atonement for our sins. This is the essence of the gospel. Men no longer have to earn their salvation. In fact, they can’t! All they must do is turn to Jesus and in Him, their lives of rebellion are forgiven and not only are they forgiven, they are declared righteous. Holy, perfect, co-heirs and co-reigners with Christ! Martin Luther called it the “Great Exchange”, our sin for His righteousness. I couldn’t think of better trade.

~sdg

Just Desserts

Typically, each Sunday evening, you’ll find me watching “Extreme Makeover: Home Edition”. I really enjoy this show. Families with difficulties are chosen to receive a brand new home. While not very manly to admit, the show often reduces me tears as you hear about the struggles and tragedies that have befallen these families. While I appreciate the show and rarely miss an episode, there is a theme running through it that I believe to be a horrible lie. This lie is perpetrated not only in this show, but also through out all of culture. Without fail, the “designers” will say something to this effect, “this family deserves this…” That is what I believe to be the lie. This is the lie that haunts America. This is the lie that has made the American church weak and pedantic in it’s thinking and theology. 
Perhaps I’m coming across to harsh. Or am I? When we look at our lives through the lens of Scripture, does that statement pass the litmus test of Biblical truth? It is my assertion that no, it passes no test of truth and is therefore a lie. Today at church, I met a guy in my Sunday school class I had not met yet. He and I and Nick engaged in a great conversation about the church not truly understanding what forgiveness really means in regards to christian leaders who’s sin causes their fall from leadership. My new friend made the statement that we don’t understand the depths of our own sinfulness. Because, if we did, we would live differently. I couldn’t agree with him more. It is the great truth that can set us free. When we believe we deserve certain things because of this or that, we become prisoners of our own expectations. If what we think we deserve is not granted, we believe we’ve been jilted. Our arrogance in assuming we deserve good has brought us to a place of resentment and bitterness directed at whoever we find responsible for our lack of fulfillment. Perhaps it’s God. Perhaps it’s Republicans. Perhaps it’s white people. Perhaps it’s your parents. Perhaps it’s your boss. Whoever it’s culturally acceptable to blame, we blame and eventually the blame turns into hate and hate imprisons us. 
The truth is that we deserve nothing good. We deserve destruction. Our sin is grotesque before the Lord and His anger burns hot against it. His justice and wrath are soothed only through the slaughter of the guilty. Friends, this is our just desserts. This is what we deserve. Yet God is gracious, slow to anger. His mercies are new every morning. He has not dealt with us according to our sins. He laid them on Jesus. He made Jesus cursed. He made Jesus sin. He made us righteous…not  through works, but bestowed through grace. When we properly understand what we truly deserve as sinfully wretched people, we can properly understand exactly what Jesus accomplished on the cross for us and that understanding should bring us low and humble as we approach the throne of grace. To often, we presume upon God’s kindness and make demands we ought not make. We try to bargain with God. If he does this or that, we’ll do this or that. That’s not how it works. God does not negotiate. God tells us how it’s going to go down. We can either rejoice or rebel.
I pray that each one of us come to a greater understanding of our sinfulness, not so that we become tortured souls, loathing the very day of our birth. Instead, I seek for us to be humble and appreciative of even the small good things that God sees fit to give us. Despite all the hard times and sins committed against us, we deserve a lot worse. I pray the Spirit uses these thoughts to spur you on to truly cherishing your election to God’s family. He is so good. We are so undeserving. Praise be to God, our Father! May He complete the good work started in you!
~sdg

Jesus the Priest

During my testimony, I described how Jesus relates to us in three ways. As Prophet, Priest and King. I’d like to discuss the Priest relation. I always got the obvious priestly references. In Hebrews, he’s called our high priest. We know he is not unsympathetic because he was tempted in every way that we were. I know he makes intercession before God the Father for us. Like the Priests of old, Jesus was not only offered up the sacrifice for my sin, but was the sacrifice for my sin. It’s is quite obvious that Jesus relates to me as the Priest. I’ve recently come across some very subtle ways in which Jesus relates to me as Priest.

Have you ever wondered why Jesus waited until he was 30 years old before starting his ministry? I’ve always wondered that. I was reading Numbers last night (I finally made it through Leviticus) and I came across a census. That’s how Numbers gets it’s name…because God wanted to count the people. The warriors were counted, those 20 years old and up. They number above 600,000. Big army, even for today’s standards. The priests are then counted; those Levites who are eligible to serve in the tabernacle. There was a slight difference in who was counted. Only men, aged 30 and above were allowed to serve in the tabernacle. Did you catch that? 30. It hit me. Why did Jesus wait till He was 30 to start His earthly ministry? In a simple and subtle way, He was proclaiming to His Jewish audience that He is the last High Priest. Nothing negates his eligibility. Not even His age. It’s amazing. Even to the most innate details, God is telling His story…no i is left undotted, no t’s are left uncrossed. This, of course, got me thinking. Could there be more?

As I read, there are many more conditions for being a Priest. But, Jesus seems to break a lot of those rules. For instance, priests aren’t allowed to touch dead people (unless its immediate family). Priests aren’t allowed to touch lepers. Priests must marry virgins. They cannot marry divorced women, defiled women or widowed women. The litany of rules continues. Jesus never touched a dead person. When he touched them they came to life. Jesus never touched a leper, for when he touched them, they became well. The Bride of Christ is a spotless bride, cleansed from her whoredom, completely changed into the virgin. Jesus is our Priest. In more ways than we can ever imagine.

I guess this was saying to me that God is so much bigger than I can ever imagine. He fits into no box. He transcends all. He is above all. He is in control of all. And He is good. For that I am grateful. Be encouraged. God’s detail in laying out the life of His Son also finds it’s way into our lives as well. God cares that much about telling his story, that he has not forgotten the details. He knows the ends and He will provide the means…this I know to be true.

~sdg

Is Jesus A Christian?

J. Gresham Machen asks a very provocative question in his chapter (from Christianity & Liberalism) on the divergent views of Christ. He asks if Jesus was a Christian. I have never asked myself that question. I now believe how we answer that question will shed great light on our attitudes and beliefs about who Jesus is and what he came to accomplish. Before I go on, answer the question in your head. Is Jesus a Christian?

Well, what do you think? Is Jesus a Christian? If you do a quick search of religions, you’ll probably find out who founded the religion. The one who founds the religion is always pointing others to some thing that is the object of the new religion. From that object, worshipers garner their sense of purpose and maybe even a little hope. In the major religions that are practiced in our world today, none of the founders of those various religions claimed themselves to be the object of that religion. Muhammad did not claim to be Allah, only His prophet. Buddha did not claim to be god. The Hindus have many gods. Joseph Smith did not claim to be God, only his prophet. L. Ron Hubbard did not claim to be God. We can safely say that each of these founders were the first of their respective religions. The first Muslim, the first Buddhist, the first Hindu, the first Mormon, the first scientologist. So that brings me back to our question. Is Jesus a Christian? Lets deal with the two possible answers separately.

First, we could say, yes, Jesus was a Christian. On the surface, that sounds nice. I follow Jesus, if I’m a Christian, doesn’t that make Him a Christian? I believe a deeper examination will reveal a different answer. One problem Machen describes with this answer is that Jesus proclaims Himself to be the object of faith, not an example of faith. We are not called in Scripture to have faith in God like Jesus had faith in God. We are called to have faith in Jesus. Jesus is not our example of faith like Muhammad is an example of faith. For a Muslim to worship Muhammad as Allah, that is heresy. Yet we Christians worship Jesus as God. There is only one name under heaven, given among men, by which we must be saved. It is the name of Jesus. Secondly, the problem of sin that Christianity alleviates also disallows Jesus from being a Christian. You become a Christian by admitting you need your sin problem fixed by Jesus. How can Jesus fix our sin problems if he too is admitting He needs a sin problem fixed? Since Jesus is the object of faith and the means by which we attain salvation, Jesus cannot then be a Christian. He lived a perfect life and continues to live perfectly in heaven. He has no sin problem. He came to deal with our sin problem. He transcends the movement. No other worldly religion can make this claim. Only Jesus. His otherness is what makes Christianity even possible. If he was just like us and we were to only have faith like Jesus, our faith we be utterly worthless, for we would still be dead in our sins.

What if we answer the other way. Jesus wasn’t a Christian. That sounds almost like heresy (I’m beginning to think that if it sounds like heresy to the modern church, it’s probably not heresy at all and quite sound biblical doctrine…but that’s another story). What was Jesus? We cannot deny that Jesus was a devoutly religious man. He prayed, He fasted, He went to synagogue. So what was Jesus’ religion? Machen states it is the religion of perfect sonship. Perhaps only in heaven will we ever attain to such heights. Machen talks in terms of religions. Perhaps it would be more helpful to our modern ears to talk in terms of relationship. Does Jesus relate to God like I relate to God? I hope you are giving a resounding no! Jesus is God. He relates to himself and the other members of the Godhead in a totally different way that we cannot even grasp. It is a relationship which we will never experience this side of heaven. Our sin masks it. Paul says we see dimly now, but at death, clarity of sight. So if Christianity is a relationship, between man and God, it is safe to say that Jesus was no Christian. He was something more, something deeper, something all-together mysterious. He was the final revelation of Christianity, it’s ultimate object.

I think the significance can be huge. I believe a generation of Christians grew up in a Sunday school system that taught them to be like Jesus. We are told to imitate Jesus. While a worthy goal, we can never fully attain it. We can never relate to the Father as He does. We can never attain sinlessness. All we have that resembles Jesus is imputed upon us by Jesus Himself. Perhaps we should shift our teaching. Perhaps we should teach children to have faith in Jesus, instead of teaching them to be like Him. The difference sounds subtle, but the ramifications are huge. Perhaps we’ll have less legalism plaguing the church. Perhaps there would be less Christians consumed by the guilt over their inadequacies. Perhaps the faith in Jesus would bring a revolution to the church in which many souls are brought into the Kingdom of Light.

My challenge to you is to quit trying to be like Jesus and instead have faith in Jesus. Faith that he will supply your every need. He will supply your atonement, your grace, your strength, your righteousness, your propitiation. I challenge you to embrace Jesus for all that is and wants to be for you. Don’t limit him to a mere example of acceptable piety. Embrace the freedom of the abundant life that He offers.

~sdg

Mindful of God


“For this is a gracious thing, when, mindful of God, one endures sorrows while suffering unjustly.” – I Peter 2:19

The injustice in our world is rampant. Sin reigns in the hearts of people and the end result has been great injustice. Slavery, to this day, is still practiced in the world. Men beat their wives because they cooked the meal wrong, or worse, burned it. Children are abused, both physically and emotionally. Injustice is all around us. Because of the suffering that exists, our world has created a certain aura around those who suffer. Suffering in and of itself has become a means of righteousness. I think that Peter was aware of this and gave us a warning. I believe Peter is pointing us away from this empty suffering. The reason I believe this is the little clause he added to the sentence…”mindful of God.” Without this clause, the focus is no longer on suffering, but God Himself. It is only when we suffer with God on our mind that we suffer graciously. What does it mean to be mindful of God? I think it is an important question to ask. If we are to suffer as God has called us to, we ought to know what this clause means. The perfect example was Jesus. How did he suffer? What was it about his disposition and actions that made his suffering worthwhile? I think Peter answers our question. In v.23, Peter tells us how Jesus responded to the injustice he suffered. “When He was reviled, he did not revile in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten, but continued entrusting Himself to Him who judges justly.” I believe we have big shoes to fill. Let’s discuss this one part at a time. Jesus did not return evil for evil. There was no tit for tat, no eye for an eye. As He preached in the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus turned the other cheek. This is truly amazing A God who does that which He commands His creation! To deepen the thought, consider this; Jesus is God, God has decreed that revenge is His, He will repay for injustice. In perfect obedience, Jesus laid aside His rights as God and subjected Himself to the authority of the Father and live in the manner of a servant. That is the type of God we serve; One who will show us how to live.

Let’s continue pondering the verse. Peter ends by saying that while suffering, Jesus did not threaten. Let me stop for a moment. Here is the King of the Universe, with all authority in heaven and earth, hanging from a tree. I be the legions of angels were ready to strike. Flaming sword and chariot were waiting for even a breath of an order to engage. Or even yet, He could of justly spoken to them their coming condemnation. He could have spoken in great detail about the horrible and insatiable pain that awaited them for their crime. Yet, He was silent before them, like a lamb led to the slaughter. Instead, Peter tells us what Jesus did. He entrusted Himself to God, the Father, who judges justly. Wow! That is what it means to to be mindful of God in our suffering. To know that He is the one who judges justly. He is the One with ultimate final authority. He is sovereign overall. He is the righteous One who executes justice. No matter what suffering you endure, if you do so unjustly, consider God! Will He not set the account right in the end? Does He not delight in making things new and right? Be mindful of Jesus in your unjust suffering. Know that your injustice is not forever. It is a mist that disappears in the morning.

There is one implication I would like to address. If we must suffer with God on our mind as ultimate judge, what does this mean for those who suffer and are not mindful of Him? They suffer in vain. We are meant to identify with Jesus in our suffering and if we do so without considering Him, we will revile in return, we will threaten and the anger that wells up inside of us over our perceived injustice will ultimately destroy us if God allows it to.

Dear friends, be mindful of God in your suffering. Don’t be like the world. Be like Jesus. Ask for the strength and He will supply it!

~sdg