Saturday, February 20, 2010

Would We Recognize Jesus Today?

"But look, you are trusting in deceptive words that are worthless. " 'Will you steal and murder, commit adultery and perjury, burn incense to Baal and follow other gods you have not known, and then come and stand before me in this house, which bears my Name, and say, "We are safe"-safe to do all these detestable things? Has this house, which bears my Name, become a den of robbers to you? But I have been watching! declares the LORD." Jeremiah 7:8-11

There are 1,026,501,000 Roman Catholics and 316,445,000 Protestants in the world. Most Catholics are Roman Catholics; there are 60,018,436 in the United States. Protestants in the U.S. number 42,513,059 as of 1997. Of this, based on figures from the mid 1990's, in the United States, 28,921,564 individual Baptists in 122,811 local churches in 63 different denominational bodies. Worldwide one can identify 37,334,191 Baptists in 157,240 local Baptist churches. Those are impressive statistics. Yet, why do I as a life-long Baptist have this feeling that not many Baptists exist any longer? Why do I have this sense that Christians are invisible?

How is it in your part of the country? Are Baptists (and Christians in general) widely and popularly recognized today as the "stout champions of freedom"? Or is the popular image of Baptists in your part of the world by non-Baptists what it is in mine? And that is that we are narrow, provincial, even reactionary Christians, not freedom-loving freedom-fighters. Baptists in many places today are not seen as those who keep a sickle in their hands to root out the weeds of oppression and totalitarianism in the garden of life.

I have to admit: I have almost no faith in the human race. In the ten years since committing my life to Christ, the world has become a very strange place. Of course, the world didn't change. There is nothing new under the sun. What changed was me. My outlook on the world, myself and my relationship with God is what changed. Granted, I grew up in church, so I'm very familiar with the routine. I thought I was going to heaven at that time too. As it turns out, I wasn't even close. Merely calling oneself a Christian, having your name on an enrollment form or going through the conventional motions of religion isn't good enough in God's eyes. We may not burn incense to Baal, but we do worship other Gods. Those Gods particularly for the middle and upper class would be comfort, fame and fortune or its derivatives. There is nothing wrong with having a house, car or nice clothes in and of itself. But are these things obscuring our relationship with Christ? Are we truly blessed if we have these things? I seem to recall that the blessed are the peacemakers, the poor, the meek, etc...

Which brings me to Jesus. He stands anywhere between 6'0"-6'4", has an average build, a brown mullet, blue eyes and is always dressed in a sparkling white toga. Yet, it is not known if Jesus ever sat for his portrait. The Gospels provide no physical description of Jesus. There is no mention of what day Jesus was born. Was Jesus really born in a motel? What was the innkeepers name? What is going on here?

What is going on is this: We've created Jesus in our image. We put our spin on the Bible in order to make it fit our culture. Jesus who was persecuted and murdered in his own day is now acceptable and spoken on the lips of people everywhere. Not bad for being dead.

In the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus is referred to as being a lawgiver re-establishing the covenant through Abraham, Moses and David. Jesus came to establish not a physical kingdom, but a spiritual kingdom and the good news was to go out to the world at large. This is the symbolism behind the torn curtain in the temple. The temple having been cursed by Jesus (parable of the fig tree), the 2nd and final destruction took place in 70 A.D. The deceivers who claim that Solomon's Temple must be rebuilt in order to usher in the return of Jesus are engaging in heresy and idol worship. They seek to lock people out of God's kingdom. By claiming that rebuilding Solomon's temple is a prerequisite for Jesus's return, they are saying God operates according to man's agendas. They also deny that Jesus is the Messiah. Beware of those who claim that Jesus blesses the powerful and wolves in sheep's clothing. Satan also claims to be the Messiah and performs many "miracles".

Take a close look at the genealogy of Jesus. There are five women mentioned: Tamar, Rehab, wife of Uriah (Bathsheba), Ruth and Mary. Bathsheba? The woman whom King David had an affair with? Yes! Tamar, Rehab, and Ruth also had engaged in questionable conduct. There are six women who factor into the account of the Exodus: Shipharh, Pual (mid-wives), Miriam (sister), Jochebed (mother), Zipporah (wife) and the Pharoah's daughter.

What is going on here? These accounts portray a Jesus that is very different than what our culture portrays him as being. Jesus came for the women, the lepers, the lame, the outcasts, the poor, the persecuted, the downtrodden, well you get the picture.

God came to liberate us. Jesus was the cumulation of His plan all along going back to Abraham. Women's liberation, civil rights, natural rights or what have you were being done 2,000 years ago and even earlier. It is just that the world took that long to catch up and yet still, we have ways to go.

So Would We Recognize Jesus Today? I doubt it.

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