Thursday, June 19, 2014

Who Do You Think Jesus Is?

One of the neatest toys from childhood is Mr Potato Head.  A simple little toy with hundreds of options.  When I was a kid my favorite thing was to make the potato head into a creature straight from a nightmare...Eyes where the arms go, arms out of the eyes, nose on top of the head.  It just wasn't as fun to just make him look normal.

That attitude of remaking everything to suit our own needs/desires is a pretty common one.  We try to remake our spouses, our friends, our jobs, our kids, etc.  Too often we don't want to accept things and people the way they are, we want to remold them after our own images. 

And this attitude influences our relationship with God.

God and Jesus have been through quite a makeover the past few decades.  Amazingly the makeover has less to do with God Himself, and more with culture.  The God of scripture has always stood over cultural trends and eras, but lately it would appear that an "evolving" society is tired of a God who draws us to Himself and out of our selves, but instead is looking for a god that will follow and affirm where we have already decided to go.

I was recently reading an article about someone's problems with the bible and church.  An actual statement was that the bible needs to be updated and revised to be more in alignment with our new society.  This is the sort of god that is no longer an "embarrassment" to those with more nuanced and modern sensibilities.  It is a god that is a fancy designer handbag to wear as a philosophical accessory.

The response by orthodox believers and the church has sadly been unhelpful.  It's not that they don't try to speak truth when issues arise, but that they are spending all their time running from fire to fire desperately trying to put it out, without ever addressing the problem of what is starting all of these fires.

15 “But what about you?” he asked. “Who do you say I am?”
16 Simon Peter answered, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.”
                  Matthew 16:15-16

At the heart of all of these debates is that we are not asking and answering the fundamental question....Who IS Jesus. 

When Jesus becomes nothing more than an accessory to add and remove depending on our current whims, than we can manipulate him to fit into any box we desire.  Don't like what he has to say about sin, pop out that interchangeable part and pop in some "love" instead.  Worried that his statements about sex and marriage are too antiquated, pop that out, pop in some affirming philosophical mumbo jumbo that makes you feel better. 

If the answer to the question of who do we say He is, is that He is the Messiah, then all of that changes radically.  The son of the Living God, the King of Creation, the Risen Messiah, is not some childish toy that we manipulate and adapt to be more appealing to our current thought processes.  Instead of demanding He adhere to our standards, we are forced to recognize that it is us that must adhere to His.

Timothy Keller wrote that if the God we are following seems to always agree with how we feel, then we are not following God at all, just an idealized idolatrous image of ourselves.  If Jesus is the Messiah, than there is a implied correlating truth;  You are NOT the messiah.  This means that our own opinions and thoughts on a matter should be held skeptically.  The goal is not finding a way to shoe horn God's opinion into alignment with our own, but to be willing to submit our thinking to His Truth. 

As long as we do not address this fundamental issue, "Who IS Jesus??", we will always be putting out fires.  Should we speak truth in the face of falsehood?  Sure.  But if we do not address the heart of the matter, there will always be another fire to put out. 

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Consuming Consumption

Have you ever not been hungry and ate more food anyways?  Welcome to my life.....Though I proudly trumpet my new found health and ever increasing rugged handsomness, I still struggle with unhealthy urges.  When those urges had more control of me I would often find myself eating well past being full.  My wife could always tell because when I overate I would have uncontrollable hiccups.  And the graceful woman that she is, she would always call me out. 

So why did I eat well beyond being full?

Because it made me feel good.

Even though it later made me feel bad......

Why do we over consume things?  Because they are filling in for something else.  We are a materialistic consumer driven culture.  And we are all victims of it.  Even the way grocery stores are arranged is to best induce you into buying more stuff....because you THINK you need it.  I just read about how even funeral homes put the most expensive caskets on the right hand side of the display room because almost every person turns right when they enter a room.

We consume, and consume, and consume.  Yet we never are satisfied.

The lie we have accepted and integrated into our lives is that we can go "get" something that will fill the gaping need we sense within ourselves.  We pursue things, people, money, sex, adventure, victories, etc, all in the desperate striving to finally feel ok.

Why are we like this? 

It is because we have objectified happiness and satisfaction.  Finite things and experiences have taken the place of objective truth and we treat these things as means to an end.  We feel no guilt about what we waste, whether people or things, because they have no greater value than what we wanted them to do for us for the moment that we wanted them.  When they lose their ability to bring us some sort of relief from the emptiness we toss them aside because they no longer have value.

In chapter 6 of the Gospel of John we have two great back to back stories.  First Jesus feeds 5,000 with some bread and some fish.  An amazing miracle that testifies to Jesus' divinity as well as supplying a real felt need(being hungry).  The crowd is excited about this Jesus fella and want to make Him King.  Since that is not why Jesus came to earth(to be an earthly king) He slips away and crosses the lake to another city. 

When the crowds figure out Jesus slipped away they follow after and confront Him, wanting more of the same, to which Jesus replies,

26 Jesus answered, “Very truly I tell you, you are looking for me, not because you saw the signs I performed but because you ate the loaves and had your fill. 27 Do not work for food that spoils, but for food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you. For on him God the Father has placed his seal of approval.”

In the face of an amazing miracle of Jesus, someone who they are beginning to recognize as not just any man, what do they want?  More food.....  Jesus then explains what He is really offering

35 Then Jesus declared, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never go hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.

How do they respond to all of this?

41 At this the Jews there began to grumble about him because he said, “I am the bread that came down from heaven.” 42 They said, “Is this not Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know? How can he now say, ‘I came down from heaven’?”

Do you get this?  When he was giving them "stuff" they were all about it.  When He told them to look past the stuff and just filling their "stomachs", they got grumpy.  They wanted full bellies when they were hungry, every time.....

There is a cycle of desperation and need seeking that we readily agree to accept.  We run from thing to thing when the need arises.  It has become as natural as breathing.  The pattern of allowing ourselves to get "starved" from what we really need followed by unhealthy binging so that we feel "ok" defines too much of our existence. 

Jesus came to not give you a meal to fill you up until you are desperate again.  He came to offer you hope and satisfaction that changes everything.  It changes the way we "need", the way we consume, the way we view people and things.  In Christ people and things are no longer objects existing to serve you.  Instead, they are beautiful gifts from a loving Father that deserve to be cherished, honored and enjoyed.  Not to control and drive you.  But to serve, and be served by, you.

Are you tired of the never ending cycle of starving and binging?  A pattern that never leaves you ultimately satisfied?  Stop looking to things that spoil.  Start looking to Christ.