February 20, 2006

What Kind of Jesus?

I was pondering this on the way home, after hearing some drivel that called itself a Christian song on the radio. It may turn into a sermon some weekend soon, but I have to get it out of my head and onto "paper" before I go nuts.

Matthew 16:13-16 (ESV)
13Now when Jesus came into the district of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, "Who do people say that the Son of Man is?" 14And they said, "Some say John the Baptist, others say Elijah, and others Jeremiah or one of the prophets." 15He said to them, "But who do you say that I am?" 16Simon Peter replied, "You are the Christ, the Son of the living God."

Who do WE say that Jesus Christ is? Unfortunately, we often portray Him as something other than what He is. 1. The Optional Jesus.
I used to listen to a great Christian rock radio station. They played great music, but when it came time for a presentation of the Gospel, this is what they said:

Life can be rough. We all have problems and discouragements, and sometimes it seems like we just can't do it alone.

You don't have to do it alone -- there's always Jesus. If you ask Him, He'll help you out when life is too hard.

Obviously, it's not word-for-word, but that's the sentiment. Life too hard? Give Jesus a try. Does your life stink? It'll stink a whole lot less with Jesus.

That's true, but it's not enough. Most kids I know would say "Nope, my life's pretty good right now. Guess I don't need Jesus yet. Give me a few years, though." I was saved when I was 8 -- life wasn't tough back then. The biggest decision I had was whether to get the new Biotron or four or five new Time Traveller figures for my Micronauts collection. Thankfully, this isn't the Jesus that was presented to me back then.

We present Jesus as an option. "You've tried Buddah. You've tried pot. You've tried alcohol. Now try Jesus." Reminds me of a bumper sticker I used to see -- "Try Jesus. If you don't like Him, Satan will always take you back." NO!!! That's wrong on so many levels I cannot even begin to talk about it. Every time I saw that bumper sticker, I wanted to grab a razor and a bottle of Goo Gone and get rid of that garbage. But when we portray Jesus as an option, that's what we can expect -- junk.

2. Jesus as a "what if" solution.
The song I referred to earlier is Nicole Nordeman's "What If?" but the concept is old. In philosophical circles it's known as Paschal's Wager.

But what if you're wrong?
What if there's more?
What if there's hope you never dreamed of hoping for?
What if you jump?
And just close your eyes?
What if the arms that catch you, catch you by surprise?
What if He's more than enough?
What if it's love?

Ugh. I had to cut and paste that, and I feel like I need to clean my computer. Is that all Jesus is? "Just in case you're wrong, you'd better get saved. You don't want to die and end up in Hell, do you?" This Jesus is nothing more than eternal fire insurance. It cheapens what Christ did at Calvary -- "Maybe it's all fake. But what if it's not?" The most important thing about Christianity is the historical fact that it did happen. Christ died a gruesom, horrible death. He was buried by His disciples. And three days later the tomb was empty and He had risen. That is the essence of the Gospel. Without the fact of the resurrection, our hope is in vain. It's not a matter of "Maybe it didn't happen, but if it really did and you reject it, you're in DEEP trouble." There's no maybe. It happened!

We have to anchor our presentation of the Gospel on the fact of the finished work of Christ. The Jesus that we show to people must be worthy of our worship and praise. He must be more than just another option that's available to us after everything else has been tried. He has to be more than a "worst case scenario" where we're holding out hope that we're right, but just in case we'll have this Jesus dude.

The Jesus we serve is the Creator, the Sustainer. He is the Messiah -- the very Son of God, who was crucified but rose. He was sacrificed on our behalf, so that we could be reconciled with God. He did for us what we could never do for ourselves. He alone is worthy of our worship. He's not an option -- He is "the Way, the Truth, and the Life." Nobody gets into heaven unless they go through Him -- covered in the blood He shed for us. No what ifs. No options.

No other way.

Posted by: Warren Kelly at 09:33 PM | Comments (1) | Add Comment
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1 Thank you for your thoughts and statement of belief. I heard Nicole’s song for the first time here in the Minneapolis, MN area on the radio as I drove to work the other day. I've heard it several times since them. Each time I hear it, I can't help but feel that something is "off" about the song. Your comments partially exposed some of its faults, but I think my discomfort has more to do with the irony of this song relative to the singer's evangelistic intent. That is to say, I find irony in that we cannot, on our own, convince another human being to believe in God, – either as an option, a fallback, or for any other reason. The best we can do is clearly offer the one way to salvation – plant the seed of faith and stand back as the Holy Spirit works within the person. So, do you see the irony? Nicole's song may indeed offer one way to challenge a misperception or doubt, thereby planting the seed. Yet, it might also be a dangerous way of witnessing because of the misinterpretation that can occur due to the nature of this rhetorical medium. Might a person hear the song and subsequently feel compelled to further explore the Christian faith in Christ as Savior? Perhaps. Could a person hear the song, then promptly, silently reject Christ as their Savior? Perhaps. Could either of these decisions result after a one-to-one conversation with a non-believer? You bet. I believe in the absolute that you reference above. Belief in Jesus Christ as one's Savior truly IS the only way. Commitment to that belief comes through the power of the Holy Spirit. Noone is qualified to determine if Nicole's song is, or is not, an effective way to plant the seed. I feel that confronting skepticism of the true meaning of Christ's sacrifice might be one way to plant the seed within someone who may be on the very cusp of commitment. It caused us to pause. It might cause a non-believer to pause as well – for better, or for worse, depending upon the guidance of the Holy Spirit in their life. In a way, such songs encourage me to continue to witness to others in my daily life as a way of furthering the understanding of Jesus Christ as the the Savior – the son of God, my rock in good times and in bad. In Christ, Aaron P.S. I believe you meant "Pascal's Wager."

Posted by: Aaron Cooper at March 21, 2006 10:18 AM (y2JlV)

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