Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Is Jesus a Set of Moral Principles?


We have become very proficient at describing Jesus as God in the flesh, the Incarnation. Of course that is an unfathomable mystery which seems more easily described in doctrinal terms than in terms of the Divine Person. And therein lies a great problem and a chasm between moral principles that are clearly Biblical and the person Whom we are called to follow. It seems much of the western church has presented Christ as a moral monarch who seeks to force the culture into espousing certain moral principles and truths.

And in so doing we have created a caricature of the Risen Christ and misled millions concerning Christ and His mission. Instead of following a Redeemer and Lord, we have followed a set of principles and thereby presented them as the gospel, and worse yet presented them as Christ. This is not an overstatement, this is exactly what has happened. We are not willing to allow sinners to act like sinners, vote like sinners, or legislate like sinners so that we can live and share the person of Christ. We must force the lost into our moral mold in lieu of presenting Christ as a Friend of sinners. Our principles have become more important than Christ.

Jesus was know to associate with sinners and was often castigated by the religious crowd for so doing. Think about that for a moment. He who was the Creator was willing to love and reach out to practicing sinners who were not interested in being moral in any sense of the word. (Word) But Jesus did not require them to bend to moral truths before He would break bread with them, and after He ate with them He did not criticize them because they were sinners, or worse yet, socialists! . He saw them as precious souls and He knew that they could never understand moral absolutes before they believed on Him, just as we only know any truth only by Gods grace. And sinners did not come to listen to a moral Pharisee or to be spit upon by someone who they could tell did not care for them. They came in droves to hear words that reached their hearts and drew them to Him.

It is the very height of moral hubris when God reaches down, plucks us from the dunghill, and then we turn around and throw mud on those who need what was just given to us by God’s grace. This gospel commission has nothing to do with creating moral utopias. This is completely about redemption, and we are ministers of reconciliation walking and speaking words that the Spirit can use to draw sinners to the Jesus we serve. One of the institutions upon this earth that is a classic example of an observable collection of imperfections and sin is the visible church. How could the western church attempt to force some moral utopia upon anyone? Is the church suggesting we are the template to be followed?

But we have our principles and moral banners which we can use to parade around and beat people over their lost heads and feel good about ourselves, but that does nothing to exalt the gospel of Jesus Christ. With all our moral beach heads and our political speeches we have only done damage to the redemptive message of Jesus Christ. If morality can be had through information packets, political alliances, and forcing Judeo-Christian ethics on dead men, then the cross was for naught. And if Christ is just a collection of written mores and natural principles, then we need only to worship in letter and not in Spirit.

The church has basically set aside the Risen Christ as a Person, a Redeemer, and a Lord and we have taken tenants and certain moral codes and gilded them with our self righteousness. And void of the grace of God, we have taken certain moral principles and sharpened them to a point and skewered any and all who dare stand in their way. But that is not the spirit of the cross nor the essence of all Jesus lived and taught. And if adherence to certain morals, to say nothing of creeds, are all that is necessary to know God than a host of Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists, and Jews will gain heaven through their own moral will. But Christ is not the Ten Commandments with legs.

But if the church can bow to a short list of moral principles and suggest they are following Christ, then we can go on living unremarkable lives that are completely absorbed into the culture in almost every way and still claim to be championing His cause. Can there be any more shallow and misleading arbiter of the faith? It would be a colossal spiritual injustice for us to subtly infer the inferiority of those around us because they do not profess Christ, but at the same time we embrace, practice, and are immersed in the culture that defies Christ, and yet enjoy a regular castigation of our fellow cultural inmates. This is the shocking zenith of spiritual hubris. Millions give lip service to a Book they do not read nor obey. Millions speak the name of Jesus as a battling ram rather than a redemptive portal. Millions mock sinners while their own minds are playgrounds for all kinds of sin which they audibly confront but mentally engage. Not a very pleasant report, is it?

We have matriculated into little political robots who screech like stuck pigs when any discomfort comes our way. And let something pick our financial pockets and we become almost vicious. Gay people, lost for the most part, are attacked without any love, but adultery and divorce within the church has been assimilated as an expected part of the heterosexual experience. And the New Testament offers only a few verses about sexual preference, but enough to make God’s will clear. But that same New Testament contains scores upon scores of verses about greed, discontent, worry, complaining, prayerlessness, and self righteousness. But these do not make such a good weapon since they seem to always morph into a uncomplimentary mirror. The gay and liberal thing is much more handy.

But we as believers must make a choice. Is Jesus the Suffering Savior, the Risen Christ, and the soon coming King? Or is he just a Moses on steroids? Is He a personal Redeemer for our souls, or is He a divine manual on morals, economics, and etiquette? Are morals and principles a natural outflow to those who know Him, or are they extensions of the original stone tablets only this time with some anthropomorphic attributes? Is He the exclusive door to heaven through His sacrifice on Calvary and the resurrection from a borrowed tomb, or is He at our disposal as a forward observer to seek out the sins of the lost and call in coordinates so we can eradicate our moral enemies? Just who is this Jesus?

It is the sad state in the western evangelical community that Jesus has become little more than a big brother that gives us the courage to speak morality and politics to a fallen world. The early believers preached and lived Christ, and they had such an allegiance to the Lord Jesus that many were sent to their deaths because they were accused of earthly treason against Caesar. No one can accuse the western church of earthly treason, but there is ample evidence of spiritual treason. In the end this is not about nationalism, economics, morality, conservatism, or even traditional marriage. This is all about who Jesus is, has been, and always will be. Does God act today exactly as He did in the Old Testament? And if believe He does than your stone collection is way to small. If He does than natural disasters are at your disposal to assign divine motive against certain members in the community of sin. Go ahead, verbally outline divine wrath upon a nation because you believe God has grown tired of sinners and He now turns away from the gospel message and is engaged with the political forces here on earth.

Go ahead, but if you take the Old Testament in one hand and the New Testament in the other and push them together and make them one you must be willing to receive the implications of that amalgam. You cannot pick and choose and leave some of the more unpleasant and horrific revelations of the Old Covenant and how God dealt with man. And if God dealt with man so sternly and with violence back then, and if this gospel age must drag that into it, then Jesus added the sins of the mind. And if we want to add that to the Old Testament revelation of the Creator, then we all should already be dead and gone.

Please do not be deceived by all these other caricatures of Jesus that seem so prevalent and self serving to major portions of the church. It may seem like a wonderful game of Risk which makes us the caretaker of Jesus ready to be dispensed when we need Him to change the moral, political, and economic climate around us. And most of these movements only use a fa├žade of Jesus and not the Great Redeemer of Eternal Love. Do not succumb to an American Jesus and thereby rejecting the Lord Jesus who knows no earthly nationality or allegiances. This Jesus is the Eternal Word, Holy and August and who had no obligation to rescue a rebellious race who not only fell once, but continued a daily pattern of rebellion and enjoyed every minute of it. And yet here He comes in the likeness of sinful man in order to breach the gap between a Holy God and a sinful race. And there He is, suffering and dying with excruciating pain and with public shame, only to resurrect in victory over sin and death. And He now dispatches His followers to go into all the world and share this unfathomable love story with each and every creature. That is His command, that is His mission, and that is His heart.

In the end it is completely in God’s hands how He eventually punishes this world, but until then…let us remember this:

Heb.1: God, who at sundry times and in divers manners spake in time past unto the fathers by the prophets,
2 Hath in these last days spoken unto us by his Son, whom he hath appointed heir of all things, by whom also he made the worlds;
3 Who being the brightness of his glory, and the express image of his person, and upholding all things by the word of his power, when he had by himself purged our sins, sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on high:
4 Being made so much better than the angels, as he hath by inheritance obtained a more excellent name than they.

He has purged our sins, and has obtained a more excellent name by inheritance. And by grace through faith, He offers to share that inheritance with us. If you can change the surpassing glory of that Jesus and dilute into a golden calf here on earth, than you have never known Him.

1 comment:

Steve said...

"Our principles have become more important than Christ."

A good definition of our mindset that constitutes legalism.

In Jesus, Steve