the forty-second parallel

Archive for the ‘Jesus’ Category


The Broken and the Marginal

Tim Keller, The Prodigal God p. 14 – 15:

Jesus’s teaching consistently attracted the irreligious while offending the Bible-believing, religious people of his day. However, in the main, our churches today do not have this effect. The kind of outsiders Jesus attracted are not attracted to contemporary churches, even our most avant-garde ones. We tend to draw conservative, buttoned-down, moralistic people. The licentious and liberated or the broken and marginal avoid church. That can only mean one thing. If the preaching of our ministers and the practice of our parishioners do not have the same effect on people that Jesus had, then we must not be declaring the same message that Jesus did. If our churches aren’t appealing to younger brothers, they must be more full of elder brothers than we’d like to think.

via Steve McCoy

Posted on November 24th, 2008 | Jesus

He is Better

Matt Chandler, Nine Pastoral Prayers:

We don’t follow Jesus because he makes things better. We follow Jesus because he is better … We don’t follow him because he makes our life better. We follow him because he is better than life.

Posted on April 13th, 2008 | Jesus

Jesus did not come to make you happy

Jared Wilson:

Jesus did not come to make you happy. He came to make you holy. And there is a joy in that process we can find that is much deeper, much greater, much better than the happiness we are far too easily pleased with.

Posted on June 10th, 2007 | Jesus

Why You’ll Never Be a Better Christian

I had a rough week a few weeks back. Between things at work and at home and at church, I was frustrated with lots of things – but mostly just frustrated with my own inability to do things right. It seemed like no matter what I did or how hard I tried, things just weren’t going right for me. So, there I was at the end of the week – just a frustrated dude driving to work on Friday morning (exactly what the world needs). As I dodged traffic, I was praying and thinking about what my problem was and then it dawned on me – I’m a failure. And I got the biggest grin on my face and I realized (once again) how good Jesus is. Hallelujah – I’m a failure.

Let me explain.

I’ve heard plenty of sermons wherein well-intentioned preachers urge their listeners to get serious about doing X, Y or Z. As the sermon usually goes, once you can get XYZ down pat, voila – you’ll be a better Christian. The XYZ can be anything – prayer, devoted bible study, healthy relationships, etc. All of which are very good things in and of themselves and certainly worthy of exhortation. But I think that such sermons border on becoming holy self-help seminars and miss the point of the Gospel completely.

Jesus didn’t die on the cross so that we could be “good Christians.” He died and rose again so that we might become the righteousness of God We are saved by grace because there was no way in hell (literally) that we were ever gonna get their on our own.

So, if we really believe that it’s God’s grace that makes us followers of Christ and nothing we could ever do, where do we get off thinking that we can do anything to make us better Christians? Because, no matter how hard you try or how good or bad you are at doing the XYZs, you will always be a failure as a Christian. Go ahead and say it: “Hallelujah – I’m a failure.”

Until you do that, you’ll always be living like you’re trying to earn something you can never get and will never live like Jesus is really the Lord.

Posted on December 15th, 2006 | Failure, Jesus, The Gospel

Those Odd Moments

Little girls have a way of greatly impacting the amount of extra time one has for extracurricular activities like blogging. But at the same time, they also have a way of casting certain aspects of life into very sharp focus – even at three months of age. In any case, this is something that I’ve been thinking about and meaning to write about for quite a while now …

I don’t know why we can read the same words in the Bible over and over and then one day things just click and all makes perfect sense. A simple turn of phrase that previously seemed content to fade into the crowd can suddenly burst into a room, gushing with the beauty of the love of God and demanding nothing short of stunned silence on our part. I presume it to be part of the more mystical [1] side of following Christ – the Holy Spirit picks and chooses times to reveal things to us for reasons that may of may not ever become clear [2].

I had one of those odd little moments several weeks ago while listening to Alistair Begg via the Resurgence. In his sermon, Begg mentioned 2 Corinthians 5:21 which reads:

For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.

When I heard him read that, the second half of the verse stopped me in my tracks. I’ve read 2 Corinthians multiple times but can’t ever recall paying particular attention to that verse. But the implications and meaning of the first half of the verse didn’t hit me until last week while listening to Mark Driscoll.

Read the first half of that verse – particularly “he made him to be sin” – I don’t think that statement is any sort of literary slight of hand. It’s meant to be taken quite literally. Christ became sin.

Are you a liar? Christ became a liar. Are you an alcoholic? Christ became an alcoholic. Are you a pervert? Christ became a pervert. Think about that – if that statement doesn’t make you squirm, then you don’t fully understand the gravity of what Christ did on the cross. To glibly say “Christ took away our sin” makes it sound easy and clean and just another day on the job for Jesus. But to say that Christ became our sin – our lies, our deceit, our perversions – is to recognize the weight and guilt that fell on him. He didn’t co-sign a loan for us – he became guilty of every sin that we have committed.

That’s the weight of the cross. And taken on it’s own, that simple statement is quite overwhelming. The enormity of it demands from us a response. But before we can respond, we inevitably ask “Why?”. Christ became our sin on the cross; he died; he rose again. But why in the world would Jesus do that? What was the point?

The simple answer is to say “so that our sins might be forgiven” – which is correct. But, again, oversimplifies the enormity of the situation. And this is where the second half of the verse comes in and we discover the glory of the cross.

It says: “… so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.”

Christ didn’t go to the cross so that we could say we’re sorry and get off the hook and become buds. Through him, we actually become righteous. He doesn’t make us just good enough to get into heaven. We literally become the righteousness of God.

Pay attention to the end of that statement. Not righteous – but righteousness itself. And not just righteousness, but the righteousness of God. We assume Christ’s righteousness, just as Christ assumed our sin.

Mindblowing, isn’t it?

[1]: I mean “mystical” in a most literal sense – things having an importance that is not immediately apparent or obvious; that are beyond ordinary understanding. See Phillipians 4:7

[2]: And I don’t think it’s a new thing. There are several times recorded in the gospels that Jesus told the disciples something that to us (with a death/burial/resurrection + 2,000 years) seems mindblowingly obvious. But, as the gospel writers tell us, the weight and meaning of Jesus’ words was withheld from them.

Posted on November 2nd, 2006 | Jesus, Life in General, The Gospel

Implications

Over the past year or so, I’ve done a lot of thinking and reading about what exactly it means to be a follower of Jesus. And one thing I’ve noticed again and again is this disconnect between the life that Christ calls us to and the life that modern, evangelical Christianity sells (literally) to the world at large[1].

Michael Spencer has a good piece about why so many Christians buy into the notion of a culture war. It’s a lengthy essay, but here’s a small quote:

Both families and churches struggle in turning out disciples. American churches specialize in an consumerized, gnostic, experiential Gospel that is increasingly inseparable form the culture in which that church exists. American evangelicals have become as much like the dominant culture as it is possible to be and still exist at all. In fact, evangelicals continue to exist, in large measure, because they have mainstreamed the culture into their religion so that one’s Christianity hardly appears on the radar screen of life as in any way different from the lives of other people. We are now about values, more than about Christ and the Gospel.

Evangelicals should come to terms with this: they are in every way virtually identical to suburban, white, upper middle class American culture. They are not as bad as the worst of that culture, but they are increasingly like the mainstream of that culture and are blown about by every wind of that consumerized and materially addicted culture. In fact, go to many evangelical churches and the culture is so present, so affirmed, preached and taught that one would assume that there is nothing whatsoever counter cultural about the affirmation that Jesus is Lord.

I think it’s crucial that all Christians (but especially evangelicals) recognize that the counter cultural implications of following Christ have nothing to do with who you vote for, buying Christian CDs instead of “secular” ones, etc. and everything to do with who you live your life for.

[1] There’s a fantastic article on consumerism over at Leadership Journal by Skye Jethani: Leader’s Insight: From Christ’s Church to iChurch – How consumerism undermines our faith and community.

Posted on August 5th, 2006 | Culture, Jesus

3:36 AM

Deuteronomy 6:4-9:

Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.

Being a follower of Christ is not a simple exercise in thinking the right things theologically. Rather, it demands loving Him and following Him with all of your heart, soul and mind. Or as one commentary rather wordily puts it: with perfect sincerity (heart), utmost fervor (soul) and the fullest exercise of an enlightened reason (mind).

Leave any one of those things out and you are left with distorted image of Christ, which in turn shortchanges your relationship with Him.

Posted on March 9th, 2006 | Jesus, The Gospel

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