I fear there is a milk toast Christianity present in our churches today. Absent is the rugged reality of the N.T. that we see Paul writing about. I fear in many churches there is no need for the death of Jesus. All that is required is an occasional showing up, some pious talk, and a collection plate. There is no experience of the supernatural or the miraculous. There seems to be a lack of genuine presence of the H.S. that causes people to say, “That is the work of God Almighty.”
The N.T. example of the Christian experience is that of a personal, passionate devotion to Jesus. Any other kind of so-called Christian experience is detached from the person of Jesus, and there is no regeneration, no sanctification, no being born again into the kingdom in which Christ lives and reigns supreme. There is only the idea that Jesus is our pattern, a figurehead, or an example to follow, and nothing more.
Jesus said, “When He, the Spirit of truth, has come. … He will glorify me” (John 16:13-14). When we commit ourselves to the revealed truth of the N.T., we receive from God the gift of the H.S., who then begins interpreting to us what Jesus did, and making us like him through sanctification and regeneration. The Spirit of God does in us internally all the J.C. did for us externally. Jesus is all-sufficient in saving us, for he cleanses us on the outside and on the inside.
After Jesus’ triumphant entry into Jerusalem he went to the temple. Mark 11:11 says he, “Went to the temple. He looked around at everything …” In the Greek language, “Looked around,” is just one word. A literal understanding of this word is, “He looked round about upon all things.” The idea is Jesus looked thoroughly into what was going on at the temple, and He gave deep thought to what he saw.
The next day Jesus returned to the temple and, having looked round about upon all things, He knew the ideals of God were not being maintained. Therefore he cast out the merchants, the money changers, and would not allow merchants to shortcut through the temple. With the temple gleaned, Jesus is then seen standing guard over the temple and using if for its intended purpose. This is a beautiful picture of Christ as Lord and Master of the temple healing sick people with children singing hymns around Him. For a moment God’s Temple was used for its intended purpose.
Today the temple is gone, but a new temple can be found. It is found in the body of every believer. When a person accepts Christ’s offer of salvation, He comes into that person and looks round about upon all things, and whatever is there that does not uphold the ideals of God He casts out. According to 2Cor. 6:16 the Christian then becomes the temple of the living God. If the Christian’s body is God’s Temple, isn’t it time we began treating it like it is?
A rich young ruler came to Jesus seeking answers to questions. His questions were sincere, for he did not have any ulterior motives. The man had much going for him. He was moral, rich, and obedient to the Laws of Moses, yet he knew God was requiring more of him. He asked, “What … must I do to get eternal life?” What does eternal life mean? Does it mean a continuation of the life we presently live? No, for the young man was aware that his present life was lacking.
The young man sounds like us, for we too know our present life is lacking. We seek eternal life, yet we do not know how to obtain it. We are aware of the infinite and hear its call, yet do not know how to grasp it. We hear echoes of the eternal, and do not know how to obtain it. Our record appears clean, yet we know it is not. The answers to our questions leaves us hungry, thus we ache for more. Nothing we do brings us rest, and so we attempt to take hold of a life that will satisfy the deepest in us. We know there is more than flesh. We know there is more than we already possess.
In summary what is our cry? It is the cry of God’s lost child calling out after their Abba God. We are seeking God, seeking life, and all this before we ever come to Christ.
The Pharisees continually confronted Jesus with their interpretations of the law. In order to be right they had to make God wrong. When anyone attempts to make God wrong they essentially make gods of themselves. Jesus response to such god making is to take us back to the narrow gate with its narrow road (Cf. Matt 7:14).
Jesus takes us back because he desires to restore what was lost in the garden. He beckons us back so that he can restore our life to the way it is supposed to be with God. Go back with Him. Walk with Him. Talk to Him, and let him talk to you. Then, suddenly, in the midst of the conversation you will say, “Did not my heart burn within me while He talked to me by the way,” (Cf. Luke 24:32).
Jesus takes us back not to live in the past, but so that we will know where he is leading. Where is Jesus leading us? He is leading us out of this world so that he can lead us into a place where, “There will be no curse, the throne of God and of the Lamb will be in the city, and his servant will serve him. They will see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads. There will be no more night. They will not need the light of a lamb or the light of the sun, for the Lord God will give them light. And they will reign for ever and ever.”
Jesus took three of the disciples to a mountaintop where he was transfigured before them; they saw his inner glory shine through. During that grand event God’s voice was heard saying, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased; listen to him,” (Matt 17:5).
God said, “Listen to Him,” yet in the next set of verses we read how Jesus told the disciples what was going to happen to Him in Jerusalem, and instead of listening to what He said, they were, “Grieved,” (23) by what he said. They were grieved because they heard something that did not fit their world-view of a Messiah. Yet they were the very words from the Divine Son, so they must be true.
As Christians we often think we have it all figured out, but then something causes us to listen to Jesus and we find ourselves grieved. When we listen to Jesus we find Him bringing us back to the narrow gate of Matt 7:13. The command to listen reminds me of a poem by Edward H. Richards, “A wise old owl sat on an oak; the more he saw the less he spoke; the less he spoke the more he heard; why aren’t we like that wise old bird? The poem makes a good point: We should listen more than we speak. Unfortunately we can’t get past the conversation of self-righteousness that is going on in our head to hear what Jesus is saying. The Proverb is correct that says, “He that has knowledge spares his word,” (17:27).
Have you noticed how in the Gospel accounts of Jesus that everywhere He traveled, “Great crowds” (Matt 15:30), of people flocked to Jesus? Whether in a Jewish, or Gentile setting Jesus was the one person everyone turned to for the answer to the problems that plague them. Even today go anywhere in the world and proclaim the Gospel of Jesus and you will have men and women flocking to him. Place Jesus anywhere and in any setting today and men will make Him their leader. That is because Jesus has ability in the presence of our inability.
The mistake the disciples made was they limited their view of Christ based on a personal view, and they thereby limited Jesus. Thus today we learn that the work of Christ is limited by our unbelief. There is much that Jesus would like to do for us, but He limits His actions to where and when the results of his actions will be recognized as coming from Him as the Son of God, and not from our own achievements. Jesus moves in our lives when he knows his movement will bring glory to God.
Here lies a lesson: What stops Jesus, what halts His power from being revealed in our lives is our lack of faith in him. What gives the Christian power to overcome any obstacle, to say to a mountain, “Be moved,” and seeing it move, is a belief that he is able in the midst our inability.
He is Able,
When we read the Gospel accounts of Jesus we can’t help but notice Jesus continually came into conflict with the Pharisees. The reason for the conflict was He revealed the truth that was hidden in their hearts – hypocrisy. Today many are in conflict with Jesus because they resent what Jesus reveals in their heart – hypocrisy. Thus Jesus always puts mankind at the crossroads; either Jesus Christ is the supreme authority on the human heart, or He is not. Let me just say that if Jesus is not the supreme authority of our heart then he is not worthy of our attention.
Reading the Bible is like looking into a mirror and seeing ourselves. We see the hypocrisy of our heart, the emptiness of our good works, and we come away appalled at the possibilities of evil that lies within us. We are awakened to the fact that all Jesus said is absolutely true, and, if for a moment just have some honesty, we have to admit that purity is something far too deep for any of us to arrive at naturally. Therefore, the only thing that truly provides protection against these appalling possibilities is Jesus’ redemption.
The word redemption is a great word. It means the chains are removed, the cell doors are opened, and the prisoners are set free because the price has been paid. Accepting Jesus redemption means handing yourself over to him every-day and in every-way, and you will not have to experience the terrible possibilities that lie within your heart.