Wednesday, December 10, 2014

A Different Jesus

Mk.2: And again he entered into Capernaum after some days; and it was noised that he was in the house.
And straightway many were gathered together, insomuch that there was no room to receive them, no, not so much as about the door: and he preached the word unto them.
And they come unto him, bringing one sick of the palsy, which was borne of four.
And when they could not come nigh unto him for the press, they uncovered the roof where he was: and when they had broken it up, they let down the bed wherein the sick of the palsy lay.
When Jesus saw their faith, he said unto the sick of the palsy, Son, thy sins be forgiven thee.
But there was certain of the scribes sitting there, and reasoning in their hearts,
Why doth this man thus speak blasphemies? who can forgive sins but God only?
And immediately when Jesus perceived in his spirit that they so reasoned within themselves, he said unto them, Why reason ye these things in your hearts?
Whether is it easier to say to the sick of the palsy, Thy sins be forgiven thee; or to say, Arise, and take up thy bed, and walk?
10 But that ye may know that the Son of man hath power on earth to forgive sins, (he saith to the sick of the palsy,)
11 I say unto thee, Arise, and take up thy bed, and go thy way into thine house.

Most western evangelicals seek God’s hand rather than His face. They desire material blessings rather than the forgiveness of sins. Repentance is an ecclesiastical relic but prosperity gets top billing today. In this narrative it would seem plausible that these Jews would strongly resist the notion that a man could forgive sins. They were blind to who Jesus was. It was to be expected and Jesus once again performed a miracle to reveal His divinity.

But what could be the excuse for evangelicals who own several Bibles and carry them to the gatherings? For many years as a pastor I towed the right wing line. I knew theology and doctrine and Greek. And yet I could only admit to myself inside that something just did not seem right. It wasn’t until I revisited the teachings of Jesus and read them literally and without peer pressure that I began to have my eyes and heart opened. And little by little I began to experience a dramatic epiphany which made what I used to believe seem more and more off center and actually blatantly wrong. And my awakening was so dramatic and was so at odds with what “orthodoxy” had told me that it was well over a year before I would share what had happened in my heart.

The Spirit did not change my views on the deity of Christ or the gospel of Christ or any of the foundational truths that are obvious in Scripture. But the Spirit did change my previously held views on important issues such as nationalism, the treatment of sinners, the singling out of gay sinners, politics, and how clandestine self righteousness can be as it burrows its way into your heart and hides as “moral convictions”. And all those things when embraced can not only cloud your spiritual vision, but they can eventually formulate a different faith as well as change the gospel by their influence on its perception.

And this is part of the lesson we can learn from this portion of Scripture. This is a very cloaked phenomenon here. When you have been raised in a certain culture and you have been taught certain things that are not even open for discussion then you embrace them by default. And these things become a conduit for your perspective about most things Biblical. So if Jesus teaches something that seems extreme and may have implications that would bring into question “settled law” among your community of faith, you quickly dismiss any interpretation that would be a danger to what you know you believe.

And the human nature has a built in defense mechanism which can provide safe interpretations that are more compliant with your preconceptions and thereby relieve any tension. Most evangelical church members are not deep students of the Bible, and fewer still are those who seek Christ through much prayer and fasting. And therefore most embrace what they are told and have come up with their own defense of their position regardless of any Scriptural evidence to the contrary. And if their favorite preacher holds to a position it has become theirs as well. This is commonplace within the evangelical community. If Charles Stanley or Adrian Rodgers or some other famous preacher holds to a position it becomes settled law in the hearts and minds of those whom hold them in high esteem. It is a part of human idolatry.

So when Jesus forgave the man his sins, and if a Scribe had said, “maybe there is something to this man”, then perhaps some of the people might have given pause. But since they questioned and mocked Him, then most of the people followed in suit. It is human nature at its finest. How many evangelical church members would be willing to question almost anything about what they believe? And how many overly busy western church members would take significant time in prayer, fasting, and a vulnerable study of the teachings of Jesus? And believe me when I tell you that is what it takes to break through all the tradition and entrenched error.

And we live in a consumer culture which wants and wants and wants some more. It is never satisfied and each year there has to be newer cars and newer toys and newer gadgets and newer clothes and yet who even achieves complete contentment? And little by little that same spirit has seeped into the church until church members desire the same things as the unbeliever. Addictions and divorce and materialism and hatred and nationalism are no not only part of the church member philosophy, but they are part of the church’s practice and dogma.

And the perception of Jesus is that He sees things as do Americans. In fact most evangelicals perceive Him as championing America and its causes around the world. And they dress Him up in capitalist garments as a pro-life and a pro-traditional marriage Savior who rides the landscape slaying all the political and moral dragons and if He has time He might share the gospel with much less vigor than He does His other agendas. And when you have reached that kind of perspective then you may have left the faith. And many who read this might say about me with the Scribes in the above narrative, “Why doth this man thus speak blasphemies?” But I can never retaliate against you for I once stood among you. And I can only share what I have seen and heard and what I pray for you as well. Seek the true Jesus, find Him, and follow Him with all your heart.

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