Friday, November 21, 2008

Can we talk?

Nate, inspired by Michael, made a list of the things we tend to edit out of Jesus. He's de-editing. Here's a sample:
[Jesus] is more interested in what he did than in what we are doing.

He was not under the illusion that he would never die.

"Repent" was a major theme of his ministry.

He easily and willingly exposed people's sin to them.

He was completely unafraid of other people's opinions about him.
There's more where these came from, so do check it out. I've been saying for a long time, to anyone who would listen, that if we are not brought up short by Jesus, if his words do not cut us to the quick, if his teaching does not challenge us and convict us and even cause us at least a pang of grief from time to time, then we are probably toying with a very "edited" Jesus.

Why do we do this? Why do we never hear the word "repent" in our churches? Why is sin not spoken of as the fundamental dilemma in all our lives, the dilemma from which the cross alone saves? Thus, lacking a robust understanding of the sin-problem, the cross itself only merits an occasional mention. I know scads of Christians who will go on ad nauseum (every single Easter) about Mel Gibson's whipping post scene, but who shy from all discussion of the cross as their fundamental need now. This moment. Every moment.

For these folks, the church experience is simply a happy get together of wonderfully nice people, where they remind themselves that God is very very pleased with them. In their small groups they talk about how to be a success, or how to be a leader, or how to romance their spouses. They quote their favorite "encouraging" Scriptures back and forth to each other and tell themselves they're doing ministry if they wear a Christian t-shirt or something.

They like to talk about their "Spiritual gifts," but when shall we hear about the precious "withering work" of the Holy Spirit, for example, that Spurgeon talked about?
The Spirit blows on the flesh, and what seems vigorous becomes weak. What was fair to look at was smitten with decay, and the true nature of the flesh is discovered. Its deceit is laid bare, its power is destroyed. There is space for the dispensation of the ever-abiding Word and for the rule of the Great Shepherd whose words are spirit and life.
Oh, don't let me go on. I don't know if all this complaining is the least bit righteous, but I think perhaps there is a holy unrest mixed in there. I just don't want to settle for Christianity-lite. It occurs to me that if we must never be critical about church, then we are condemning ourselves to a smarmy dishonesty concerning one of the things about which we ought always to be searingly honest.

Like Jesus was.

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