Thursday, September 8, 2011

The Palatable Jesus

Conservatives are really good at pointing outside of themselves to liberal theologians and mainline denominations. We are quick to underline the areas they have departed from orthodox biblical faith, but we fail to realize where we have practically done the same. While we might intellectually hold the Bible as our authoritative source of truth, we live as though these truths don't matter. This is why conservative churches are dying in the same manner liberal churches have already declined. We are self-professing conservatives, but by becoming result-oriented we have become liberals in practice.

How can I say this? Conservative, Bible believing evangelicals are just as guilty as liberals of reshaping Jesus into our own image. It is just a different image. The conservative version of Jesus is a Messiah who doesn't have a problem confronting sin. He calls people to holy living. He died to convert people. All of these are not necessarily wrong, just not complete. Our problem is that we have made Jesus so familiar to our conservative sensibilities that He doesn't inspire our hearts towards worship. We forget that the cross saves us, but also confront us with our own ugly sin forcing us to lean totally on Jesus' perfection. We cannot please God on our own strength. We forget that on our best day, the day we witnessed, read our Bible, had our quiet time, fasted etc., on that day our works are dung in the sight of our holy God. We often teach salvation by faith, but teach becoming a mature Christian (sanctification) by step-by-step instructions trusting in a can-do attitude. See all our Christian self-help/church growth sections in our bookstores.

How often do our congregations become so moved by the majesty, power, and glory of Jesus that it falls on its face in the presence of the King. I do not mean a coerced, feelings-oriented manipulation of people, but a realization of the reality of Christ's majesty. Worship is making much of something/someone. Does your congregation make much of Jesus in worship? Or has Jesus become so familiar and common among us, that we are deceived to seek other focuses that make members excited and thrilled? How can we call people to give up everything to submit to a Savior that we find boring?

I am guilty of making Jesus palatable to my tastes. Conservatives and liberals are guilty of this. Rule followers (typically conservatives) make Jesus to be a pharisee. Rebels (typically liberals) make Jesus to be a rebel. Even post-moderns (folks that don't want to wear a label) reshape Jesus. They don't want Jesus put in a box. He is made so big that He almost cannot be known. The truth is that Jesus is more righteous than any Pharisee and more of a rebel than any boat rocker in today's society. We can know who He is because He has revealed everything we need to know about Himself in Scripture. The problem with all camps is that when we make Jesus out to be like us our faith is not about Jesus, but about ME. When churches do this their focus shifts from the author and perfecter of their faith, to placating the membership. Scripture clearly reveals everything we need to know about Jesus, and testifies that your and my life should be about Him. He is really that important.

Unless conservative, Bible believing evangelicals (even reformed churches) realize that their faith, their lives, their churches are not about us, but ought to be about Christ, we will find ourselves on life support just like the mainline denominations are. Who is worshiped in your church, Jesus or you? Has Jesus been made palatable in your church or in your own life so that He does not move your heart to praise Him? Lord, Jesus forgive us (myself most of all) for making too much of ourselves, and too little of You.

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