In my last post we examined the first marked deficiency of being inadequately trained up in Christ - the "Everything is simple" mindset. Today we'll look at the next trap set for our young people.
None of that is important.. I don’t think about that, I just try to love Jesus
The second expression common among the naive and immature Christian is "I don't think about that, I just try to love Jesus" -- or "just be like Jesus and everything else will fall in line.” It’s the simple "it's just Jesus" line. This is a particularly deceptive lie because it combines profound truth with simplistic expression. It really is, after all, all about Jesus.
From where do we get this idea? The Revelation of Christ given to John tells us that Christ is the Alpha and the Omega. Jesus himself tells his disciples “I am the Truth.” In this regard, because Christ is God - it is all about Christ. But we cannot commune with Christ as we are. Something is in the way - sin. Yes, it’s that old fiend which constantly rears its head while we’re just trying to worship God. It’s an irritation - a constant source of trouble. And often, we attempt to circumvent dealing with sin by making it just about God - just about Jesus in particular. This is the error of the new prophets like Shane Claiborne and Tony Campolo. The particular problem that accompanies this error is the failure to know anything about Jesus.
One can study Scripture for 100 years every day and not know enough about Jesus. However, most often, it’s not the failure of diligent study of Scripture which leads to a lack of understanding of Jesus, it’s the arrogant refusal to submit to the Holy Spirit as a guide to learn about Jesus. The Breath of God gave us Scripture - all of it. All of Scripture reveals Jesus. However, the new prophets stick only to the Gospels. And indeed, only to the parts of the Gospels they like.
To these new prophets, Scripture is a supporting reference for their Jesus. They go to Scripture like a fat man goes to a buffet. The fat man ignores the vegetables and the healthy meats and goes instead straight for the fried chicken, the buttery rolls and the dessert bar. The new prophet goes to Scripture likewise, ignoring the law, ignoring the Righteousness of God, ignoring the Holiness of God and goes straight to the Grace of God and the Love of God. To the new prophet, these are the only source of nutrition and just as the fat man becomes fatter and more useless, the one who comes to Scripture without submitting himself to all of Scripture becomes a fat and useless Christian.
The reality is that the Jesus of Scripture is not simple, and he’s not an impotent emotional wreck trying his best to get everyone into heaven but being frustrated by the omnipotent free will of man. He’s not someone who takes everyone just as they are, requiring no change, requiring nothing of man - only willing to give everything of Himself so that man can commune with God just as he is - in the pig pen, in the filth that is his sin, in the mire of grotesque disobedience and hatred of all that God really is. Indeed, to the new prophet, we still hate all that God is, so rather than deal with that sin lying prostrate on our faces seeking new hearts, we instead change God to something we don’t hate.
Knowing God is not easy. Aside of learning new things that stretch our minds, knowing God requires two things that are equally impossible for anyone aside of the indwelling work of the Holy spirit. First, it requires an understanding of the things of God. Paul teaches us that we are spiritually dead and incapable of understanding the things of the Spirit. It is, in fact, impossible to know the things of God without God’s divine work in our hearts. And lest anyone believe in a god that is excited to do that in every one’s heart - let’s remind ourselves that Jesus confounds the simple and wicked - he hides the truth in parables only revealing the truth to his disciples in private. Jesus tells us the reason for his parables, and it’s not to make things more clear! It’s to intentionally hide the truth. Shane and the new prophets do not know this Jesus. To them, Jesus uses parables to make things more clear. To them, the use of parables is an instrumental tool of discipleship - never mind that Jesus did not use parables for his disciples and no one else after Jesus uses parables as a discipleship tool. To the simple, to the naive, to the new prophet, Jesus is simple and knowing him is simple. The truth is, that Jesus himself teaches us that He is not simple, that the Father is not simple and that knowing Him is hard and consists of knowledge of Scripture, fellowship with the Father, the Son, the Spirit and other believers and obedience to His will - particularly loving the brethren and hating the world.
Jesus confounds us on every level and in every dynamic of living. The naive want to reduce Jesus and simplify Jesus - they make Jesus into the man in the pictures in their childhood bibles sitting on a rock wearing a perfectly spotless white robe with a blue sash smiling and entertaining children on his lap, that's Jesus to them. To the simple, anything complex about God, anything difficult about God, anything mysterious about God is an iniquity - a defect - a problem to be solved rather than a virtue to be emulated. They have a deep seated problem with God being anything but like themselves.. simple. Their sin has so infected their thinking that they rebel against the Holiness of God in their minds and theology and living. They don't want to think about a Jesus who curses trees, curses cities, leaves rich young rulers without answers, drives money changers out of the temple, refuses to give the gospel to gentiles, hides truth in parables, requires absolute obedience to the law, allows money to be spent on worship of Him rather than feeding the poor, a Jesus who comes in judgment on a white horse with a sword killing all who sin. They don't want to talk about Jesus who specifically refuses to pray for the lost in the last recorded prayer (John 17:9). They want only to worship a jesus who loves everybody the same all the time - grandpa jesus... Santa Claus jesus... Ghandi jesus... buddha jesus... any jesus except Jesus!
Someone recently pointed out that this sounds like the Rob Bell "there is no hell" controversy. To be fair, Rob Bell does not argue that there is no hell, but he does argue that in the end, hell is unnecessary, trivial, of little consequence and eventually unneeded. The naive forget that Jesus is God! And as God, He is creator of hell. As God, He is the one on the road to destroy Sodom when He speaks with Abraham. He is the one to destroy all living creatures, man and beast alike, in the deluge. He is the one who judges and eventually passes sentence. He is the one whom the world will run from in terror, hiding in caves and in darkness. He is infinite! He is Holy! He is majestic! He is mysterious. He is terrifying to anyone and everyone who still has any small amount of sin in their heart. If He is not terrifying to you, right now, then you don’t know Jesus.
My eight year old son recently felt this pain of terror when he realized that one of his best friends would be destroyed by Jesus if Jesus were to come back today. This truly hurt my son - to think that God would kill and destroy forever his friend. I am reminded that if we love our father, our child, or our friend more than we love God, then we are unworthy - we do not love God, we cannot be said to love God in any way or fashion. And most of us are stuck at this place my eight year old son finds himself. He has compassion for his friend! The question is whether my son will be able to embrace and cherish and love the Holiness of God more than his compassion for his friend. It is not iniquity to have compassion - indeed, it is a virtue. The iniquity is putting that compassion at the forefront and despising God’s Holiness. The iniquity is in changing God so that His Holiness is not a problem - robbing God of His Holiness and Righteousness. The iniquity is in loving the World. If any man loves the World, the love of the Father is not in him.
But the simple will cry out “God so loved the World!” They will race as fast as they can to a cross where Jesus dies for everyone but is impotent and might have died for no one because it’s not really up to Jesus in the end, the all powerful and determinative force which ultimately figures in where a person spends eternity is not Jesus, but a person’s own free will. They cannot see different kinds of love in God. They require God to love equally in all respects. They require God to set aside His Holiness and His Righteousness in order to satisfy an inherent right to salvation available to all men. In the end, they require God to be fair.
It is remarkable that they do so. The hallmark of immaturity is a focus on fairness. Every school yard child will evoke the doctrine of fairness, and every adult knows that it is a rues meant to disclaim responsibility for the true doctrine underneath “fairness” - “me too!” It should not surprise us that the hallmark of Christian immaturity is also an appeal to the doctrine of fairness. No where in Scripture do we find God saying “I’m fair.” He’s truth. He’s justice. He’s righteousness. He’s love. But no where do we find that he’s fair. The doctrine that God loves all people at all times in all places equally is an appeal to fairness. It does not survive even the most inexperienced rational observation though. No one would suggest that those who perished in the holocaust experienced the same grace from God as those living the good life in twenty-first century America. Fairness is simply not. It does not exist. God is not fair in his distribution of wealth, he is not fair in his distribution of grace, he is not fair in his distribution of the Spirit and he even makes it a point to illustrate to his disciples that He is not fair! The parable of the workers coming at different times during the day illustrates this truth. Some work for a very small period of time and receive the same reward - God does not have to be fair. The simple will twist this to mean that God is fair and everyone deserves the same regardless of what they bring... Well, some people are going to argue that the sky is green no matter what you say.
Jesus is beyond our simple understanding. He is not fair. He comes in judgment. He kills people. He refuses to pray for the lost. He whips people. He creates hell. He begs not to have to go to the cross. He rebukes his best friend Peter and lets Peter fail miserably. He leaves Paul with a debilitating illness. He lets Lazarus die and his sisters suffer in pain. He destroys Sodom. He doesn’t do enough for Tyre - knowing that if He did more, they would be saved (Matthew 11:21). He removes lamp stands. He refuses to allow repentance after death. He gives the Gospel to some countries, leaving others without it for centuries and even millennia. He is not what the simple expect, nor what they desire. He is not the God of the simple. And the simple must be instructed in who God is, and how He is to be worshiped and how we are to commune and fellowship with God.
Jesus is the answer - He is the Alfa and the Omega. However, that does not make it any less difficult or simplify the matter at all. In fact it requires more. The Christian life becomes more challenging the more we understand that it is all about Christ.