My recent blog on “I Want More Religion” provoked a degree of rage which only served to prove the point I was trying to make.
In a lengthy online discussion, one podcaster (whom I will not grace by identifying) commented that my blog made him so angry that he wanted to “kill” me.
Seriously. He said he felt like killing me because I dared say that Jesus was not all about relationship, but also obedience and holiness.
And he kept repeating it…
In a “Christian” podcast…
With his co-host laughing and joking about it.
I guess that “relationship” thing with Jesus must be working out well for him (not!).
What Happened to Holiness?
While listening to his lengthy rant, I was very glad that God commanded “thou shalt not murder,” and that our civil laws are rooted in that command, thus protecting me from the “Jesus” he thinks he knows.
I wasn’t so much concerned with his visceral reaction and desire to do me harm, but rather with the irony of his reaction.
He is so trapped in the popular post-modern hipster theology of our age, that the only thing which now matters to him is how his “relationship” with Jesus makes him feel.
The contrasting point in my blog was that we need a real relationship with the real Jesus, and not a Jesus created from our own sensibilities. Furthermore, we know that we know the real Jesus if we are going and doing as He commands.
I don’t know why this basic point is so controversial today. Even Jesus made it clear: “If you love me, you will keep my commandments.” John 14:15 & 21.
Have we become so focused on creating a Jesus in our own image that we have forgotten obedience, holiness, mission and calling? Because, folks, I don’t know about you, but there are times I don’t “feel” like obeying, but I do it anyway because the one I love commands me – in His Word and in other ways that transcend my feelings – to do so.
A Spiritual Pathology
Unfortunately, there are mature believers who feed this prevailing spiritual pathology by saying things like, “if we simply know Jesus, ______ naturally follows”. (Fill in the blank: holiness, obedience, good deeds, maturity, discipleship, etc.)
There’s enough truth in that to be tempting. But here’s what I’ve observed: You can get away with saying that if you have walked with the Lord long enough to have internalized the spiritual discipline of a mature, authentic relationship with Christ.
New believers – who often are struggling with their own subjective hurts, attitudes, desires and sensibilities – don’t, however, have that luxury. Hopefully, they are beginning to learn the Shepherd’s voice, to die to their old self, and to distinguish between the impulses of their past and the authentic life of Christ in them. But no new believer is good at those things from day one.
We need fathers and mothers in the faith who lovingly teach obedience and mentor holiness, who patiently convey the truths of Scripture to a new generation, and who’s lives gracefully model the perfect harmony between our relationship with Christ and all that He commands.
And out-of-balance platitudes don’t count, or help.
A Real Relationship with The Jesus
Yes, yes, a thousand times YES: Obedience, holiness, mission and calling are the fruit – and not the object – of my relationship with Jesus, who now lives in me. But if Jesus in me is not being expressed through me in the ways He commands, then the Jesus I claim to know is a lie.
Let me repeat that: If the Jesus in me is not being expressed through me in the ways He commands, then the Jesus I claim to know is a lie.
Apparently, this central tenet of the New Testament, the teachings of Jesus, and the historic understanding of our faith, is now considered so offensive that it provokes murderous rage in some post-modern “brothers”.
How did we sink so low?
A False Dichotomy
When I know the authentic Jesus, there is no conflict between my relationship with Him (I’m all for that!) versus going and doing what He commands.
Scripture, as I pointed out in my blog, tells us that in Christ – the real Christ and not some Christ of our own creation – we can’t have one without the other.
The problem we face is that the prevailing post-modern mindset of our age is quick to latch onto the truth – and it is truth – that it is wrong, very wrong, to make Jesus all about obeying, going and doing.
But they miss the contrasting truth that it also is wrong, very wrong, to make Jesus all about a subjective relationship rooted in how I feel.
Why is this so hard for people to grasp these days? Are folks so trapped by the spirit of our age – which distrusts anything and everything that challenges our own feelings and sensibilities – that they can’t hear the Holy Spirit, who Jesus says will lead us into all “truth”?
Has truth, now, been finally reduced to whatever affirms my subjective feelings and sensibilities?
Sometimes I think Satan has been working overtime at reducing faith to little more than spiritual masturbation. Yes, it feels good, but it is not a real relationship – at least, not with Jesus.
An Abuse of Grace
It is ironic how many who say that simply having a “relationship” with Jesus will take care of everything else – like obedience, holiness and maturity – are the ones most often stuck (like that podcaster) in the rut of their own self-consumed sensibilities.
They want a Jesus who is little more than an affirming projection of their own hurts, feelings, attitudes, and ways of perceiving. They don’t relate to – or authentically know – Jesus as Lord of all and King of Kings.
They want His mercy, but not His rule.
They want His affirming life, but not the discipline of obedience.
They want His grace, but refuse to grow up.
Jeffery Marshall, a friend on Facebook, made this comment and it gripped my heart:
While a Christian is not under law, this does not mean – as the contemporary church so often teaches – that God requires less of a Christian under grace. A Christian is not under the law for justification; grace sets him free. But grace does not set him free to give less obedience unto God and do as he pleases (Rom. 6: 1f). Actually, it sets him free to give obedience to God and His word from the heart (Rom. 6:16-17; 1 Cor. 6:12; 10:23).
To this, I can only say amen.