The seminary professor walked into the classroom with what we lovingly referred to as a, “boom box.” It was a very large radio that played music with these weird things called cassettes and CDs. He cranked up the volume, and then stood on the table while playing “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking for” by U2. He then dramatically said, “I want to go over what all of us in this room (Christians and future pastors) say we believe.” And for the next few minutes he made us sound like we were crazy, but he had a point to make. I’ll share that point with you in a moment. First, I also want to give you my rendition of what us Christians say we believe in the next couple of paragraphs. And I am not doing this to discourage your faith, but to attempt to let you see what those who don’t share our beliefs may hear in the story of Jesus. Yes, I’m about to offend some of you, but try to stay with me before getting your undies in a bunch.
It’s my story so please picture me standing on a table, and I resemble Bradley Cooper, but sound like Matthew McConaughey. I’m playing “All My Rowdy Friends” by Hank Jr. You need to remember that Jesus, while performing miracles and claiming deity, is also presented to us as a man. He was a God-Man if you will! And He was up in Heaven with a corner office as the son of God, but then one day the CEO (God) calls him to His office.
Jesus walks into God’s office and his Dad began delivering a sales pitch, “Look Son, the folks down there on earth that we created have attributed a lot of horrible things to me. They have falsely believed tales of a God who will kill children or cause the death of entire civilizations. They think I’m all about anger and retaliation, and I’m going to send you down to earth to change all of that for us. You will still be my son…the son of God, but you’ll also be a man at times. Meaning, you’ll feel pain…a lot of pain, but let’s come back to that in a minute.” Jesus doesn’t interrupt, but has questions.
“Jesus you will show our people how much we love them. Uh, there is one problem.” God pauses for a dramatic effect, “In order for them to fully understand our love for them…you are going to hang on a cross.” Jesus said, “Say what?” God turns on the powerpoint presentation.
“Let me explain how this works. I need you, no wait, the world needs you to die on that cross.” “Die as in dead?” Jesus clarified. “Very dead. It’s an important part, there can’t be in question that you are dead. In case you haven’t noticed they are a bunch of sinners, and in order to have their sins forgiven we (as in you) need to be the sacrifice. The good news is that I’ll be with you the entire time. There will be a moment that I’ll have to look away, because you will have the pain and sin of the entire world raining down on you, but I won’t leave you. And at that moment you’ll be fully man in that you will feel all the pain of a crucifixion, but…but here is the good news! It won’t be long until you are fully the Son of God!” God takes a breath so Jesus asks, “And that would be how long?”
God the Father continues, “After you die they’ll put you in a tomb for 3 days, but I will bring you back to life.” Jesus waits for more and God delivers, “I’ll send you back down after they realize the tomb is empty. And you will appear to a few of them, and wait until you see their faces. They’ll be very confused, because you won’t really look like you did before the cross. So they may take some convincing that you are the messiah, but they’ll get it. And by the way, before you die you will change the world with 12 young guys who like to fish, will doubt you, and one will deceive you…that’s how you end up on the cross.” Jesus says, “Great plan, when do I leave? God replies, “How about Christmas?”
As you read that very crude presentation of Christianity does it sound reasonable? I do realize that every religion thinks the others sound crazy, but as a Christian you can’t help but think what we believe is slightly bizarre. So why do so many believe it? Well, there are a couple theories on that question.
- One, we believe it because we need hope. We need to believe something bigger is in control, and when times are tough we can pray and God will help us. And there is hope for eternal life. The thought of death being the end of the story sucks! As my good friend Fitz says, “If this is all there is then I’m going to be pissed!”
- The other theory as to why we follow Jesus is that the spirit of God reaches out to all of us, and some of us just can’t resist it. We may doubt it. We may struggle with it. We may even try to run from it, but it pulls us into its holy little vortex!
I personally believe most of us that are Christian’s would have to admit it is a little of both. In fact, faith is all about hope. And there is absolutely hope found in believing in a loving and compassionate God. And for those of you who don’t believe or who are on “the fence” let me explain to you why I personally attempt to follow this Jesus. Let me show you why I truly love Him despite my actions (at times) showing otherwise.
This is my own personal view that I’ve developed in my journey of faith. Pastors often point out that we are disconnected from God due to our sin. They teach that Jesus is the bridge that connects us to God, because He died for our sins. So we are lead to believe the gap between us and God is about sin. I believe the gap between us and God is created more by our misunderstanding of who God is than it is our sin.
Jesus doesn’t just fill in the gap caused by mankind sinning against God and each other. Jesus takes away some of the mystery of God. It is Jesus who came to earth so that God no longer felt distant, inattentive, and down right mean. My faith is built on Jesus revealing God to me. God confuses me greatly without Jesus. Why? Because without Jesus, all we would have is the Old Testament to introduce us to God, which I personally believe was written with some inspiration, and a lot of assumptions…assumptions about God that were incorrect. I can’t believe He would demand the death of children, and condone stoning, slavery, and mass genocide. Yes, the Old Testament points us toward Jesus coming to earth, and once He arrives I believe He cleared up a lot of speculations and assumptions about God written in the Old Testament. Yes, the Old Testament is full of incredible stories that teach us about life and even love, but there are parts that are not commensurate with the teachings of Jesus. Jesus is the true word of God. Everything must be filtered through His teachings.
If you focus on the life of Jesus then God becomes something you want because He is good, and not just so it makes you “good.” And as you get to know Jesus then you also realize He offers more than hope after death. Jesus offers a better way to live. Yes, mankind sins, and we need forgiveness, but that is not my biggest draw to Jesus. I want to be loving of others, and be the type of man others find loving, kind, honest, patient, hopeful, forgiving, and charitable. And for me personally, I see that in Jesus, and when He says, “Follow me” then I’m all in. I often screw it up, but we get to where He wants me sooner or later.
I still haven’t answered the why. The only way someone will follow Christianity is if they can’t resist a Spirit or energy that pulls them toward Jesus. If they just follow Christianity, because momma and daddy told them to then it is very unlikely their life will show the love of Jesus. If He is only in your mind and never finds His way to your heart then you are missing Jesus. If someone follows Christianity, because they just need a set off rules then they’ll simply be angry and judgmental. And if they follow it, because they just want to be part of a religion then they’ll feel empty and again…the love of Christ will likely be absent.
When someone follows Jesus because their heart has been filled with the love He so clearly discussed with the red letters then they will be a light in the darkness. Their love for others will be evident, and the spirit that lives within them will be contagious and desirable. Remember, those who were unlike Jesus…liked Jesus. We must ask ourselves a very important question, do we have a spirit that lives within us that draws others not just toward us, but to Christ.
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