Archives For Jesus

Francis Chan 3I recently read Francis Chan answering those who call him crazy, and it brought me to a realization. He is crazy. He calls us to the impossible. He advocates giving up our dreams, lowering our high view of our families, giving away our hard-earned wealth, letting go of our most valued possessions, and structuring our lives around other people rather than ourselves. He insists that we should make decisions that will actually produce pain in the short term simply because God promises to reward us in eternity.

By nearly any standard, this is crazy. But that’s the crazy thing. The standard Francis is trying to operate by is Jesus’ standard. If we were honest with ourselves, we’d probably all agree that Jesus’ standard is crazy. Who says, “You therefore must be perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect” (Matt. 5:48)? Who takes commands against committing adultery and applies them to a person’s thought life? Or commands against murder and applies them to hatred? It’s hard enough to love a friend; who would command a person to love—to bless—one’s enemies?

Jesus’ standard is crazy, so Francis’ earnest desire to call the church to this lifestyle is crazy by association. And yet, we should wonder who is truly crazy in this situation: the person who makes it his aim to live like Jesus or the people who claim to follow Jesus and yet call people crazy for trying to follow Jesus?

To my mind, it’s crazier to say that the followers of a rejected, crucified, mocked, despised Savior (who promised that his followers would be equally hated and rejected) should expect to be accepted, pampered, praised, and indulged. It’s nuts to say that a follower of Jesus shouldn’t be following Jesus. That insisting on obedience to Jesus’ command to love him more than our own families is somehow unchristian. I don’t see the logic in it.

I’m not really trying to bolster Francis’ reputation or publicly praise him or anything like that (though I am a huge fan). But Francis and others like him give us a great opportunity to ask ourselves about the nature of Christianity. Is Christianity about a modern subculture? Is it about the modus operandi of the average American churchgoer? Is it about stated beliefs and occasional Bible reading and other religious identifications? If so, then Francis is the crazy one. Why go to extremes? Why give up so much comfort, and why bother the church to do the same?

But maybe—just maybe—Christianity is about Christ. Maybe being a Christian means being like Christ. Maybe being a follower of Jesus means following Jesus. Maybe when Jesus washed his disciples’ feet and then told them to do likewise, he meant that they should do likewise. Maybe when he told us to pray for those who persecute us, he wanted us to do just that. Maybe when he told us to pursue his kingdom and righteousness before we seek our very real and very urgent daily needs, he was actually giving us a command, rather than a religious platitude.

Let’s just say that both sides are crazy. It’s crazy to say that we should actually be like Jesus. I’ll be the first to admit it. But it’s also crazy to say that we can be like Jesus without being like Jesus. I know which kind of crazy I want to pursue, and by God’s grace—by his love that surrounds, invades, and transforms me—crazy will increasingly replace normal in my life.

The devil is a terrifying adversary. Though the world of fiction has given us some odious villains—think of the ones that make your skin crawl, like Sauron or Voldemort—these are but shadows of the true villain. Satan truly embodies everything that opposes God, goodness, and life. He is hell-bent on destroying anything and anyone he can, and history shows his remarkable success.

Satan’s greatest weapon is and always has been death. Not that he just goes around killing people. That would be too simple and far less effective. No, Satan leads us away from what is godly, pulls us away from our benevolent Father, destroys us from within and without to the greatest extent possible, and then leaves us in our furious race toward a death for which we are utterly unprepared.

The Bible calls Satan the one who “has the power of death” and refers to the human race as “those who through fear of death were subject to lifelong slavery” (Heb. 2:14–15). Death is the problem from Genesis 3 through the end of Revelation, and it has a hold on all of us because our terror of Satan’s greatest weapon keeps us enslaved.

Terrible though it may seem, Satan’s greatest weapon is actually utterly worthless. Death is still a problem that we all face at every moment, but Jesus has transformed death into something entirely different. Jesus defeated death. How did he do this? Through death. (I’ve always loved the title of John Owen’s great work, The Death of Death in the Death of Christ.)

[Jesus became human] “that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil, and deliver all those who through fear of death were subject to lifelong slavery.” (Hebrews 2:14–15)

Through death, Jesus dealt death the deathblow (say that 10 times fast).

“’Death is swallowed up in victory.’
‘O death, where is your victory?
O death, where is your sting?’
The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.” (1 Corinthians 15:54­–57)

In essence, Jesus took Satan’s terrifying WMD and turned it into a cap gun. Death still scares us, but only when we fail to understand what death now holds for us. For those who see Jesus as he truly is, death is nothing more than a transition into the presence of the Lord (2 Cor. 5:8). Jesus has turned the weapon of death into a gracious gift that gives us the one thing we want more than any other (Phil. 1:21–23). Death is swallowed up in victory; its brutal claws have become cuddly paws.

Satan still roars, but Jesus has made us into those who call his bluff:

“He disarmed the rulers and authorities and put them to open shame, by triumphing over them in him.” (Colossians 2:15)

Satan still waves his orange-tipped cap gun furiously, like a four-year-old cowboy fighting a make-believe enemy. But those of us who know what death now holds can smile calmly and join in Paul’s taunt:

“O death, where is your victory?
O death, where is your sting?”

Zombies in the Bible

Mark Beuving —  October 30, 2013 — 4 Comments

What, you don’t think the Bible says anything about zombies? Believe it or not, one of the signs of the power of Jesus’ death was the introduction of Christian zombies:

“And the earth shook, and the rocks were split. The tombs also were opened. And many bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep were raised, and coming out of the tombs after his resurrection they went into the holy city and appeared to many.” (Matthew 27:51–53)

Admittedly, these zombies didn’t go around eating people, but here we have dead bodies climbing out of their graves, walking back into civilization, and interacting with the living.

That’s terrifying. Imagine the events of that day. Jerusalem was stirring with the unusual trial of this Man who claimed to be the Messiah, the King of Israel. He was led out of town and crucified. In the hours leading up to his death (from noon to 3pm) the sunny sky turns black. And when he actually dies, a ripple of supernatural activity crosses the land. The 60 foot tall temple curtain is torn from top to bottom. The earth splits open with a violent earthquake.

And then a true Halloween terror takes place: hands that were once decaying in the grave stretched out into the fresh Palestinian air. Bodies that had been resigned to the darkness of the underworld stepped out into the light of day. Corpses that had been carried out of Jerusalem and planted in the earth now bloomed into new life and walked back through the city gates. Mouths that should have gone eternally silent began speaking to townspeople.

But this wasn’t some weak form of magic that gave a minimal amount of life, allowing decaying bodies to stagger through the streets but not fully regenerate. No, these zombies came to life with all of the power of the resurrection. For in that one moment, death had been dealt a lethal blow. The effects of decay were entirely reversed. The stain of the underworld was irrevocably removed. These men and women were the true undead (not the everything-but-dead as in our zombie tales). They had been dead, but death could no longer hold them because Life himself had just entered the realm of death and burst it open.

This true zombie story, then, speaks not of the reign of death, but of eternal life. It speaks not of the dead haunting the living, but of the newly-re-living haunting death and proving themselves untouchable.

We don’t know exactly who these once-dead people were. Very likely, they were faithful Jews who had died clutching to their hope that God would send his Messiah to restore his people eternally. In other words, they died waiting for Jesus, and on this day, their hopes were validated. We also have no idea what happened to these zombies after they entered Jerusalem. But it seems highly unlikely that they died again, since their life was a visual sign of the power of Jesus’ death and resurrection. Perhaps they ascended with Jesus in Acts 1.

While we’re missing some details, Matthew records this incident for us so that we can have confidence in our future and the reality that death is nothing but a passage to life. So when you see zombies this Halloween (whether they’re terrifying or two-feet tall and super cute), be reminded that God once sent zombies into Jerusalem to remind the world that death is an empty threat.

When Jesus Sat Down

Mark Beuving —  October 22, 2013 — Leave a comment

Of all the actions Jesus performed, one of the most significant was sitting. I’m serious:

“After making purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high…” (Hebrews 1:3)

“But when Christ had offered for all time a single sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God, waiting from that time until his enemies should be made a footstool for his feet. For by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified.” (Hebrews 10:12–14)

Hebrews repeats this important concept: Jesus did what he came to do, then he sat down. According to Hebrews, Jesus played the role of both priest and sacrifice through his crucifixion. He was the priest offering the perfect sacrifice to God, and he was also the perfect sacrifice being offered as an atonement for the sins of humanity. In doing this, Jesus purified us from our sin and brought us to God.

And then he sat down. That was it. All that he needed to do. With his last breath on earth he declared “It is finished,” then he went back to the Father and sat down. When you make a perfect offering, you don’t need to add anything to it.

This has so much significance for our daily lives. Jesus has “offered for all time a single sacrifice for sins.” Your sins have been paid for. I know that we all feel unworthy of God. Sure, Jesus paid for my sins. Sure, Jesus has reconciled me to God. But I still feel like there’s something I need to do. I need to get cleaned up a bit.

But Jesus sat down. He made the perfect sacrifice—he’s the only one who could. And then it was done. So he took a seat. What more are you going to add to Jesus’ sacrifice? If God is fully satisfied with Jesus’ offering on your behalf, what more is he looking for? What is your effort to clean yourself up before God going to do, other than demean the perfection of Jesus’ crucifixion?

Our thankful hearts should lead us to do much for God’s sake. But don’t forget where you stand. You’re God’s child. Not because you deserve it, but because God received the perfect payment on your behalf. God’s satisfaction with you is not evidenced by your stellar obedience, but by Jesus’ seated posture at God’s right hand.

 

What does Jesus’s love for harlots, tax-collectors, and other outcasts tell us about how He would approach the issue of same-sex love today? Put differently: Since Jesus loved sinners unconditionally, does this mean that Jesus would be (or is)

thelatterdays.blogspot.com

thelatterdays.blogspot.com

frustrated at Churches today who oppose same-sex relations?

The reverend John Spong says yes: “the church…cannot claim to be the body of Christ if it fails to welcome all whom Christ would welcome.” And since Christ welcomed harlots and tax gatherers—the sinners of the day—so also the body of Christ should welcome the LGBT community, especially since they have been emotionally (sometimes physically) beat up by the church.

Part of what Spong and others say is correct. I too condemn as unchristian the hate speech and abuse that some so-called “Christians” have hurled at anyone made in God’s image. A good chunk of the Evangelical church has gone about this issue all wrong, and I have a genuine pain for anyone—including several friends—who have been hurt by the church over this issue, and I want to learn how to mediate Christ’s love to all areas of our broken world.

I also cherish, embrace, and promote—sometimes amid much criticism—the radical, counterintuitive grace of Jesus, which I have blogged about here, here, here, and here. And here and here. And here. I’m certainly not some crusty curmudgeon who wants to put grace on a leash to protect our churches from being overrun by gay people, or other sinners like smokers and drinkers and dancers. The more the merrier, I say. I genuinely hope that our churches become filled with gay people. After all, Jesus wasn’t born in a feeding trough in order to attend some plastic church in the burbs. He came to seek and save the lost, heal the sick, and chase down wayward sons.

But what does Jesus do when He finds sick people?

He heals them.

This is the main problem I see with the logic of those who enlist Jesus’s radical grace in service of unconditional support of the LGBT community: Christ-like love does not demand unconditional acceptance of behavior.

We celebrate Jesus’s healing of the sick, finding of the lost, and cherish both Jesus’s acceptance of the woman caught in adultery and His life-given command to “go and sin no more.” That’s because Jesus’s love, though not conditioned upon behavior, does not endorse sin any more than a righteous physician would ignore an infection.

If we take the rhythm and pattern of Jesus’s life seriously and swim with the same ethical current, Christians today should hang out with, build relationships with, listen to, have drinks with, and show compassionate love toward LGBT people who have been beaten down, marginalized, and outcasted by society.

But such unconditional, counterintuitive, scandalous love does not demand an unconditional acceptance or approval of behavior. When Jesus embraced the sinner—the one in need of healing—He didn’t applaud their behavior: He proclaimed “Go and sin no more,” not “go and turn a few more tricks tonight, and I’ll buy you a cup of coffee tomorrow.”

Jesus reached out to and befriended tax-gatherers, but he didn’t endorse extortion.

He hung out with prostitutes, but he didn’t sanction illicit sex.

He admired the faith of Roman soldiers, but he didn’t endorse violence (or the paganism that saturated the Roman military).

I’m not trying to smuggle homosexual love in the back door of Jesus’s prohibitions. I’m only trying to make a larger point that Jesus’s radical love for sinner does not mean that He was indifferent to sin, even though his love was not conditioned upon us fixing our behavior. Indeed, the physician doesn’t expect the patient to come to the hospital with a head start. “Here you go, doc! I went ahead and ripped out my tonsils; you can take it from here…” The Physician joyfully works on patients in a coma with no health care (eat your heart out, Obama!). But…He works. He operates. He heals. He takes old pieces of His beautiful creation and restores and transforms, spinning out masterpieces of new creation.

Could it be that our culture has defined “love” as unqualified and unconditional toleration and affirmation? But Jesus, being true to His first-century Jewish context, never saw love and behavior as incompatible: “If you love me, you will keep my commandments” (John 13), not “If you love me, you can live however you think will bring you the most earthly happiness.”

Marriage, sex, and children are gifts given by the Creator, not inherent rights demanded by creatures.

“Yes,” you may say. “Love the sinner and hate the sin!” But I’ve got one better. How about we “love the sinner and hate our own sin.”

When heterosexual Christians seek to love LGBT people, they should hate their own greed, pride, self-righteousness, and the lack of love shown to their heterosexual spouse. Let’s put to death our own deeds of the flesh with humble, relentless passion before we reach out to the “other sinner” in some clinical fashion. Heterosexual Christians are sinners plugged into the life-support of grace. Remember that.

Now, you logicians out there have noticed that this entire post begs the question: “Is homosexual sex a sin?” So far in my study, I’d say yes. But stay tuned for the rest of this (rather long) blog series. We’ve still yet to cover the most important passage in the debate: Romans 1:24-27.