A few weeks ago we began a conversation about the Bible and its inherent challenges of understanding and interpretation. As we discussed the book in all of its complexity, we suggested a very straightforward and simple conclusion: the Bible is difficult to understand because it was purposely written to be difficult to understand. Such a conclusion really disturbs most common Christian thinking about converting the world here and now. As we continue to lay out what we believe to be the reasons for such an avoidance of world appeal by the Scriptures, we now turn the focus on the really big question of results. Why would God, why did God set up a plan where everyone does NOT get a fair chance to come to an understanding of the Bible in our present environment? What good could possibly come from such a strategy?
In the immensity and complexity of the book we call the Bible, there are some verses that have become somewhat famous…like the Christmas text “Good tidings of great joy…” The football stadium text “For God so loved the world… the character of God text “God is love…”. Another text that is well known and deeply meaningful is spoken by Jesus to one of the thieves dying on the cross next to him, Jesus said “Today shalt thou be with me in paradise…” This text shows us the power of God’s love as expressed through the compassion of Jesus and his sacrifice and it is truly inspirational in the hope that it portrays. Now, here is a simple and very legitimate question - what was Jesus saying to this thief? What was he promising and why was he promising it? As we find out by examining so many verses of Scripture, what seems to be said is not always what is really meant. So, did Jesus really say what most th
Pick up a book or an article and start reading...if that book or article is well-written, it will bring you to some kind of conclusion, some kind of understanding or realization that you didn’t have before. Now, these realizations can be across a wide scope of subjects and learning, but the bottom line is you picked up that well-written book or article and now you have some greater knowledge or insight. Now pick up the Bible and start reading…it starts out all good and wonderful and then just six chapters later it seems like God gets mad and pretty much scraps His whole creation thing. Why? Read further and the confusion grows! So, what's up with this, anyway? The Almighty God, creator of all things, surely could have had the Bible written in such a way that it would be universally understood! Well the fact is, He didn’t! Why not? There is actually a really cool answer to this!
...Unless one is “born again.” This phrase carries great meaning no matter what Christian denomination you come from. The meaning of the phrase certainly changes depending upon your particular belief system, but the power of the phase remains intact. To be “born again” in all cases implies one of the most significant spiritual changes any person can ever experience. So when does being “born again” happen and what does it really mean? Does this spiritual change happen when one is baptized as an infant or when one commits their life to God through Jesus or when one is baptized as an adult or when one dies? Is this spiritual change a prepaid one way ticket to heaven or an opportunity for power and control in your present life, or is it a sober and humbling opportunity to sacrifice all that you have and all that you are?
Christians like most other people are creatures of habit. Although society has engineered dramatic changes in how we handle our lives, for many Christians the act of going to church remains a staple in their lives. We go to church to do what? Traditionally we have gone to learn about God, to have fellowship with those of like mind, to get away from the rat race of our lives and to remind ourselves about how to live in a Christlike fashion. Traditionally we have gone to church to reaffirm our faith – to strengthen ourselves to better stand for our core beliefs. As I said, times have changed...now it seems as though many of us go to church for different reasons. In many instances church has become a place of neighborly activity, social acceptance, goodness, activities entertainment and fun. Church is now a nice place to go to feel good about myself. So, are these changes unhealthy or bad? What’s wrong with feeling good about myself? What makes a church a really good church?
Have you noticed how easy it is to offend people these days? There seems to be such an overt need to accept and to be accepted that we go overboard with the “correctness” of our words and behavior lest we hurt anyone’s feelings at any time. Now, being accepting of others is a good thing, but is it the most important thing? Should we willingly lay all other principles and standards upon the altar of mutual acceptance? Are we compelled to accept the world the way it is without regard to the good we have gleaned from the way it was? How did Jesus do it? He certainly spent time with the sinners of his day but was it at the cost of higher principles? Did Jesus actually “hang out” with sinners? Was his time with them to make them feel good or accepted? What is God’s role in all of this? If we want a relationship with God, does He accept us as we are or is there more to it?
Revenge – the desire for it can be a powerful and even overwhelming emotion. Sadly, thinking about revenge can be a fun motivating and bonding experience, as it occupies our minds with creative and yet often diabolical means with which to carry out our purpose. It is amazing how the development of such a negative action can spur such positive feelings. So wait – if all of these positive feelings come from planning revenge then can we rightfully label revenge as wrong? Absolutely! Just because something makes you feel good or empowered or focused doesn’t mean that you are becoming a better person because of those things. Remember, Satan felt good and was empowered and was focused when he rebelled against God – and we all know how that will turn out! Can revenge ever be good? How do we recognize, manage and direct our feelings of revenge?
Thinking about the death of Jesus always produces a variety of emotions. On one hand, we feel a deep sense of gratitude, hope and praise, for without his willing sacrifice and ignominious death, we would all remain under the sentence of sin with no possible way out. In short, we and the entire human race would be doomed to destruction. On the other hand, when we think of his death we feel the dull, persistent aching pain of sadness, because we know Jesus was an entirely innocent man who was subject to the most unfair and devious kinds of deception, mistreatment and torture. Did you ever wonder what was behind the events that brought Jesus to the point of crucifixion? Did you ever think about who did what and why to position the Savior of all mankind as an enemy of the state?
Jesus loves you! This is a true, simple and potentially life-changing statement. Once we accept what that three-word sentence actually means, it can become a steering mechanism for everyday of our lives, pointing us to righteousness, godliness and self-sacrifice. Jesus loves you. Pointed and refreshing, but what does it really mean? Does Jesus’ love for us guide us in our everyday experiences? Yes! Does his love for us mean that he wants the best for us? Of course! Okay, so if he wants the best for us does that refer to comfort and abundance in our lives? Does Jesus’ love for us bring us to better living conditions, more financial stability, a much better present and a brighter future? The answers to these questions will vary wildly depending on whose brand of Christianity you look at and this just confuses the matter. Instead of asking different Christians about the role of comfort and abundance in a Christian’s life, let’s find the answer from Jesus’ own teachings and the Apostle’s own words.
As Christians, we pin all of our hopes on the belief that Jesus was crucified and died for our sins. This is the bottom line core reason for our coming to Christ for it speaks of him doing something for us out of pure love that we in no way could do for ourselves. To us the sacrifice of Jesus represents the ultimate gift. Those outside of Christianity often look at this belief with disdain and even sarcasm for to them it is foolishness and evidence of a blood thirsty god. One question that is probably not talked about much is about the breadth of Jesus’ sacrifice – who did it cover and how do we know? In the present conditions of our world, the Muslim faith is often thought about and referenced. What do Muslims think of Jesus? While they do believe in him, they don’t see him as a redeemer. Does this mean that they are not covered by his sacrifice?