What Would Jesus Do?


Not to long ago most church youth groups had 20 somethings in baggy jeans with obligatory holes in the knees, faded t-shirts, unruly hair, at least one ear adorned with a piercing, and a plastic bracelet on one wrist or a leather anklet with beads that had the letters “W W J D”. “Christian” fads come and go like the hula hoop. The “What would Jesus Do” trinkets adorned the shelves of every Christian book store in America for about a decade and you can still see them with regularity.

Some how there is the idea that imitating Jesus in a given situation makes you “cool”, or perhaps even viewed by Jesus in a more favorable way. For some reason I never considered a “Honk if you love Jesus” bumper sticker on a rusty Ford Falcon to be the marker of a mature Christian.

I’m not saying Jesus wasn’t a radical. I mean, he for sure was swimming upstream in his society. The church folks were not very fond of his way of doing things. Both the gospels of Mark and Luke record a snippet of Jesus’ unconventional ministry model.

“And the scribes of the Pharisees, when they saw that he was eating with sinners and tax collectors, said to his disciples, “Why does he eat with tax collectors and sinners?” And when Jesus heard it, he said to them,”Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I came not to call the righteous,but sinners.” (Mark 2:16,17)

“And the Pharisees and their scribes grumbled at his disciples, saying, “Why do you eat and drink with tax collectors and sinners?” And Jesus answered them,“Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I have not come to call the righteous but sinners to repentance.” (Luke 5:30-32)

You claim to be clergy and hang with the dregs of society? Hardly!” The religious people kept missing the point. They just didn’t understand why Jesus didn’t conform to the church going people. Both his message and his audience, his motives and his mission, were completely at odds with conventional wisdom.

Aren’t you glad we are not like the Pharisees? We know who the sinners are and we are going after them. They live on the south side of town in the high crime area. We take food to them once a month and have a ministry to help them shake their addictions and find jobs. And by golly we tell every one of them about Jesus!

That is commendable, good for us! But I have a question. What about that family who shows up at church every Sunday dressed to the nines?  He owns two small businesses, pays a mortgage of $2200 a month on a sprawling rancher, and she volunteers at the homeless shelter twice a month. Are they being made to feel comfortable? Have they been told that if they acknowledge some facts about Jesus, are baptized and work on some behavior modification they will have fellowship with God and get to go to heaven?

Or, have they been warned that their sins have offended a holy God and that they are dead men walking who are the objects of God’s sure wrath against sin? Have we been honest about their critical state and announced the good news that Christ has atoned for their sins and commands them to repent and receive him and live only for him at any cost?

What would Jesus do? Well, he would be honest with people. He would tell people there is a cure for their sickness but he would also tell them they are terminally ill. A driver who doesn’t know the bridge is out up ahead is not likely to slow down. If you care about people you put up a warning sign, “Stop! Bridge out Ahead!”

Christianity is not an alternative lifestyle, it is not a religious experience to make your life happy. The gospel of Jesus is the announcement that you can escape certain death, you don’t have to perish, you don’t have to suffer the wrath of an angry God against sin. The gospel is not good news to anyone who is not aware of the bad news.

What would Jesus do? He would love people enough to tell them the truth. He would warn them to repent from the sham of better morality, church membership, and religious ritual, and trust his saving atonement to make them new, to free them from the bondage of Satan, and to live in freedom as children of the God of heaven, safe and secure in His marvelous grace.

It is good and right to give people the message of John 3:16. But we must press on them the weight of John 3:18 “…but whoever does not believe is condemned already…”. Are there those we shake hands with every week who are condemned and don’t know it?

What would Jesus do?

Royce


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The One True Church


This morning I was to fish in a tournament on a nearby lake. All of the proceeds from the tournament entry fees will be used to support summer camp for kids from our church, Whites Ferry Road Church of Christ. I decided to not fish after paying my entry fee and registering for two reasons. The steering on my boat is failing and severe thunderstorms are predicted. The boat is in the local repair shop and I am in my cozy home.

This morning I sat down with a warm cup of coffee and Googled “weather, 71203” and clicked on my favorite weather site, to see how far away the predicted storms are. I noticed a tiny Google ad, “The One True Church”. My curiosity peeked and I clicked on the link and listened to a few minutes of a video expounding why that church is the “One True Church“. Of course they are not the one true church but maybe they are a part of it, maybe not.

It was easy to learn from the website that the focus of their teaching was a series of lessons validating their claim that they alone are the true church and that all others are false. The first red flag I see, the thing that gives me pause, is when any  group teaches more about the church than the Christ. It takes a lot of time, money, and effort to produce all of the material necessary to support such a claim of exclusivity.

I’m trying to remember how many “One True” churches there is. I can think of  perhaps a dozen right away. You might think of more. Each of those that come to mind use similar tactics and teaching to prove up their claims. And, every one of them has a different set of rules one must keep to finally be accepted by God. Man made religion is always and forever about keeping rules. It is a detailed, well thought out plan of how man can earn God’s favor and be looked upon favorably by Him.

The One True Church” is not a church on earth making claims of exclusivity. The “One True Church” is the mystical body of Christ composed of every person God has called to Himself and is depending on Christ alone for salvation and final reward. That remnant of those, both dead and living and who are not yet saved, who are God’s own dear children and understand that God looks on His children favorably because of the obedience of Jesus and not their own. He birthed them supernaturally, put His Holy Spirit in them as a guarantee and assurance, gave them immortality, wrote His law on their hearts, poured out His love in their hearts, and designed them to love and do good works.

It is my view (this is not inspired!) that of professing Christiandom only a “few” are members of the Lord’s body, the “church“. Jesus’ own words when He described the “narrow” way and “few” that find it. His rebuke of professing Christians who were only counterfeits in Matthew 7. And for me, the most compelling truth is His descriptions of how his followers must live in self denial, have unconditional love for others, be different from the world, and be holy people, stands in stark contrast to the average church member on the pew any given Sunday.

God’s plan to reconcile sinful people to Himself goes against human nature and crushes the human ego. It demands surrender! It demands that we give up trying to appease God and simply trust the Christ who bore our sins in his body, who died, was buried, and was raised from the dead. Most people it seems, stumble at the simplicity of the gospel of Christ.

If you are in “The One True Church” Christ is the chief cornerstone of your life. If not, He is the stone you stumble over and a rock of offense. The message of the cross and the resurrection of Jesus will get one of two reactions. A person will either be drawn to God’s plan or be offended by it. How about you? It is my only hope!

Agape’

Royce

God is angry!


wrath“The Father loves the Son and has given all things into his hand. Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him.” (John 3:35-36)

This passage gives a stark contrast of two realities. The first are those who have eternal life. The second group is those who have no life and the wrath of God is on them.

The same contrast is given earlier in the third chapter of John’s gospel where Jesus says to Nicodemus these words.

“Whoever believes in him (Jesus) is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God.” (John 3:18)

Here the contrast is given, not condemned, and condemned already. The person who fails to put his faith in Jesus in favor of the love of his own evil deeds, his religion, his church, his family, his work, or a thousand other things, does not wait for condemnation, he is already condemned. The wrath of God is already on him. He is a natural child of wrath. (Ephesians 2:3)

The wrath of God is something to be feared and to avoid at all costs. Just what is the wrath of God? The most basic meaning is that God’s wrath is his hatred of sin, or unrighteousness. But it is more than that. It is also His holy vengeance against sin and finally against sinners. God will get even!

God is a God of love but He is also a God who hates evil. He is a God of forgiveness, and second chances, and more, but He is also a God who damns. He cannot be holy and just and not judge sin and sinners in the harshest way possible. This tension is at the very heart of the gospel of Christ.

Paul addressed the Roman believers in the first chapter of Romans by saying the following.

“For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek.  For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith, as it is written, “The righteous shall live by faith.”  For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth.  For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them.  For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature   have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse.  For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened.” (Romans 1:16-21)

The beauty of the good news is that in the telling “the righteousness of God is revealed” (Jesus). Never forget that the righteousness of God is a person, not a pattern of behavior. When we share the very good news about the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus, and what those acts affords those who believe, God is revealing His righteousness. God’s revelation is the written word but it is also the spoken word. As we tell he shows.

Paul didn’t stop where most of today’s preachers stop; he went on to discuss the flip side of grace, God’s wrath. Just as sure as God’s righteousness is revealed in the gospel of the grace of God, just as sure is the reality of God’s fierce hatred of sin.

“For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth.”

Here is the love of God and the wrath of God. There is righteousness and its rewards, and unrighteousness and its sure end. God has gone to extreme lengths to make clear his nature but wicked men and women put the truth away and believe a lie. Oh, they know God but they liked themselves and their evil ways more and their hearts are darkened. They are objects of the furious anger of a holy God.

When Jesus died on the cross as a common criminal God unleashed his wrath against sin upon the Lamb of God for you, in your place, on your behalf. Now just as in Adam all die, all of those who are in Christ live forever!

So here lies before us the crisis of faith. Will a man repent (change his mind about the course of his life) and put his trust in Jesus who took his appointed wrath upon him? Or, will he, like those Paul described, attempt to fashion his own religion and not honor God, or be thankful, and stay on a course of certain damnation and the wrath of God.

I can’t begin to imagine how terrible God’s punishment for sin will be, but we have a glimpse by looking at the suffering of Jesus.

I beg you, forsake your way of doing things and put your whole trust in Jesus. Don’t trust your church membership, your family heritage, or your own goodness. It is the way of destruction, the broad way to hell. You can exchange death for life, wrath for righteousness…..it’s up to you.

For Jesus,

Royce

Who are you now?


godJesus said something astonishing to Nicodemus, a leader of the Jews. Nicodemus had come to see Jesus and to discuss His amazing miracles. He understood there was something other worldly about Jesus. It was pretty obvious that God was with him. The only sensible explanation for some of the things Jesus had accomplished was that He must have had supernatural help, namely God!

In reply to Nicodemus’ statement about Him, Jesus replied, and then repeated, “You must be born again“. Of course this strange response stumped the learned leader of the Jews, so he questioned further, asking about this strange teaching. Jesus made it clear that the kingdom of heaven is only for those who have had a Spirit birth. Flesh produces flesh and Spirit produces spirit.

Today there are many in our churches who are like this ancient religeous leader Nicodemus asking “How can these things be?” In discussions with my Christian friends both in person and online it is clear that many of them have missed an important truth that if not understood leaves a person confused just like Nicodemus. Have you pondered the message of grace and then the many commands and rules and wondered “How can these things be?” I’m not going to ask you to raise your hand, but does the New Testament seem to you like a series of contradictions and paradoxes? I know it does to many, many people, especially in our churches of Christ.

Every person who has been born of the Spirit (from above) lives every day of their life on earth, since that new birth, in two distinct dimensions. They are alive in the dimension of the “flesh” and the dimension of the “Spirit”. Both realities are equally real and true. In fact, the spiritual, one could argue, is more real becaus it is eternal while the other is temporary. I am a living breathing human man and at the same time I am a spiritual man, one of the household of God by the new birth. And so are you if you have been born again.

The Bible addresses both of these realities in very distinct ways. I could write pages about those differences in Scripture but I want to focus on one point. With regard to our status with God, or salvation, there is also two realities. The first is what I call our position with God. This is our positional standing with God. It is what it is only upon the basis of the person, work, and worth of Jesus Christ. We are only accepted in Him, and never accepted for any other reason.

The second reality again relates to our spiritual selves but is what I call our practical standing. It reflects our response to God’s lavish love and grace shown to us in His Son. It is what we “practice” as believers day by day, hense the term “practicle“. My friend Edward Fudge says it this way and makes it clear, “We work out what God works in“. The Bible says both to “work out your salvation with fear and trembling“, and “It is He who is in you both to will and to do His good pleasure“. So both our positional standing and our practicle standing are addressed and identified.

Finally, I’ll add that these two realities can be viewed from two perspectives. There is first the view from God’s perspective and secondly the view from the street where you live. God sees you as already perfected, safe and secure, clothed with the rightsousness of Jesus and seated in the heavenlies already glorified. That is God’s view and He allows us glimpses of that reality. You and I see ourselves as strugglers, trying to do what is right and often failing even ourselves. We don’t like our sin but it keeps hanging around, most of the time in the shadows but far too often in the light of noon day it explodes on the scene. We are shocked and saddened and quickly repent and receive God’s promised cleansing…and then the cycle continues. We find that we are never right about everything, or everyone, we never perfectly obey what we do know to do, and secretly we admit to ourselves that we are misrable failures in the Life.

The very good news is that our daily living, fail as oft’ we do, does not in any way change or threaten our position with God, or our standingwith Him. You are just as much a child, just as saved, just as secure, on the days you disappoint yourself as the days when you think you’ve done ok. God is constant and consistant in His sovereign love for His own who are actively trusting the Christ of the gospel for eternal life.

Cheap grace you say? Hardly! “Shall we continue to sin that grace may abound? God forbid!”Are you crazy? If you can live in continual sin and experience no tension, no sorrw of soul, you must take care to see if you are really in the faith. Everyone who is truely a believer is safe and sure of heaven and God’s great promises. There is no securityfor imposters. People who are trusting in themselves, church membership, baptism, family heritage, or scores of other things instead of Jesus Christ are only promised the wrath of God and perishing.

I am convinced that once a person knows who He is in Christ he will more liekly live like who he really is. Those who hope to become who they hope to be by what they do are certain to be sadly disappointed.

I hope the next time you read the Bible you will remember your Positional standing and your Practical standing with God. This will set you free to be who God called you to be, free to lovingly obey, rather than be confined to the bondage of legalism, failing over and over and over again. Any person who claims to be justified by what he does is either a liar or lost. He is a liar if he doesn’t admit, at least to himself, it just isn’t working out well, he fails too often too easily. Or he is lost and does not know God spiritually because he has never repented of his wickedness and thrown himself upon Christ’s mercy with his whole heart and mind.

Of course those who are not Christians live in two realities also. They live in the body of human flesh and they live in the dominion of Satan the god of this present world and are spiritually “dead“. They are in the sway of the evil one to do his pleasure. Only the God of heaven can breathe life into the man who is dead spiritually. Put your whole trust in Jesus the best you know how and He will make you to stand whole and holy.

For truth,
Royce