A couple of weeks ago, IT even made the national news, as lightning struck it during a thunderstorm, and it burned to the ground. The leadership of the Solid Rock Church have vowed to rebuild it because "it was the symbol of hope for many people." REALLY? That statue gave hope to people? SERIOUSLY? I have to say that I think these people have it all wrong. I even am a little angry about the whole "graven image" thing. Hasn't anyone read the Ten Commandments lately? How could these people completely whiff at understanding who the real Jesus is?
WELL... It was easy for me to stand in judgement of the distortion of Jesus that I see from the leadership of the Solid Rock Church, but I have found that I am doing something very similar. In fact, I am finding that many, maybe even most Christian Americans are distorting the message of who the real Jesus is. I am uncomfortable with the truth of what I have reduced Him to, and I want to share this with you in this post.
A friend of mine, Jeff, recently gave me a book, titled Radical, by Dr. David Platt. It was the first book written by a pastor with whom I was pretty familiar. The messages I had heard him give mostly dealt with the overwhelming nature of God's love and spreading the Gospel to a lost world. What Christian can disagree with that message? I was excited to delve into the book, but then I became very uncomfortable with what was written in it. In the first chapter alone, Platt laid out what it truly meant to be a follower of Christ. It wasn't Platt's words or his great gift of persuasion that cut me to the core. It was the little numbers that led to the endnotes of the book. Everything Platt said was backed up by scripture -the RED words of the Gospel that were spoken by my Savior, Jesus Christ. It was at this point that I started to see that I have done just what the makers of the Jesus statue did... I distorted the image of God and have put my own unbiblical slant on the message of the Gospel. Here the scriptures that God used to bring me to this uncomfortable place:
- Luke 9:57-58 - On the road someone asked if he could go along. "I'll go with you, wherever," he said. Jesus was curt: "Are you ready to rough it? We're not staying in the best ins, you know." Jesus said to another, "Follow me."
- Luke 9:59-60 - He said, "Certainly, but first excuse me for a couple of days, please. I have to make arrangements for my father's funeral. Jesus refused. "First things first. Your business is life, not death. And life is urgent: Announce God's Kingdom!"
- Luke 9:62 -Jesus said, "No procrastination. No backward looks. You can't put God's kingdom off till tomorrow. Seize the day."
- Luke 14:26 -"Anyone who comes to me but refuses to let go of father, mother, spouse, children, brothers, sisters -yes, even one's own self!- can't be my disciple.
- Luke 14:27 - "Anyone who won't shoulder his own cross and follow behind me can't be my disciple."
- Luke 14:33 -"Simply put, if you're not willing to take what is dearest to you, whether plans or people, and kiss it good-bye, you can't be my disciple."
- Mark 10:21 - Jesus looked him hard in the eye -and loved him! He said, "There's one thing left: go sell whatever you own and give it to the poor. All your wealth will then be heavenly wealth. And come follow me."
- Matthew 13:44 - "God's kingdom is like a treasure hidden in a field for years and then accidentally found by a trespasser. The finder is ecstatic -what a find!- and proceeds to sell everything he owns to raise money and buy that field."
In summary, according to the exact words of Jesus in God's inspired Word, to be a disciple, I must:
- be willing to be homeless
- be willing to abandon my responsibilities, my plans, my family, my home
- be willing to sell everything I own and donate it to the poor for kingdom purposes
Man, this sure doesn't look like my life. It doesn't look like the life of anyone I know. As far as I know, no one in my family, my small group, nor my church lives like this. This is when the questions started to come... Is this really meant for me? Is God really talking to American Christians today in these passages? How can materialism be so ingrained in our lives that Christ's definition of a true disciple is completely antithetical to how we live today? Am I so hungry for God to teach me and work in my life that I am willing to give up everything for His glory? I know I am not. I am conflicted by this.
I can blame it on my culture. I can blame it on the "American Dream". I can blame it on people around me who I judge are more wasteful of their resources than myself. But what it comes down to is this question:
According to the words of Christ in God's Word, am I a true disciple?
According to the criteria laid out in Luke 9, Luke 14, Mark 10, and Matthew 13, I must answer with an embarrassed, shameful NO. Reading Platt's book and cross-referencing it to the Word of God has brought me to the conclusion that I have not been following the God of the Bible as he commands. I have created an image of Him and His Gospel that is more palatable for me. One that fits into my lifestyle and my world. I have held fast to the scriptures that talk about His love and His forgiveness, His mercy and His grace. BUT, I have ignored the ones that talk about my response and my responsibility to those amazing gifts of God. In Radical, Dr. Platt states,
"Fundamentally, the Gospel is the revelation of who God is, who we are, and how we can be reconciled to Him. Yet in the American Dream, where self reigns as king (or queen), we have a dangerous tendency to misunderstand, minimize and even manipulate the gospel in order to accommodate our assumptions and our desires. As a result, we desperately need to explore how much of our understanding of the Gospel is American and how much is Biblical. And in the process we need to examine whether we have misconstrued a proper response to the gospel and maybe even missed the primary reward of the gospel, which is God Himself."
This is my challenge. This is the challenge I lay on all of you who are reading this entry...
Evaluate how much of the "gospel" you are living- out lines up with the true Gospel, God's Word. Are we bringing glory to God the way He tells us to bring it in His Word, or are we creating our own "jesus"-one that looks a lot like ourselves - so that we can be comfortable in our wealth and excess?
Like I stated before, I am deeply conflicted by the fact that I am not living like a Biblical disciple. I am saddened that I don't personally know anyone who is. I am glad there are more chapters to Platt's book. I am hoping he (with the help of the Holy Spirit) will help guide me through the process of becoming a modern-day American disciple.
Stay tuned.... More to come....