Wednesday, December 19, 2007

I'm Standing up on the INSIDE!

"Almost everything about Jesus in His day is the opposite of what everyone expected. It was the opposite of what the religious people of his day practiced and said and did. I think what Jesus had to say in that day is equally as controversial today as it was then. I think that a lot of the things Jesus had to say were the exact opposite of today, of our modern mindset and the way we have to think."
- Devin Hudson, opening in the series Antonym (part 2 - "Radical and Ruthless")

When I went looking for a picture to add to my blog, I read through the one that Devin had written on this particular series. He doesn't seem to mention the legalism that was addressed in "Heart Matters" (the first sermon in the series) - but I did like what he wrote here, "I think it is a misnomer to believe the truth must be softened in order to be received. At Grace Point, we deal with some tough subjects. We just deal with them in an authentic and loving way instead of a judgmental and mean-spirited manner. Being authentic and real means tackling the tough issues as well."

I began to think of this in light of the opening quote I listed above. What ideas have we, as a culture and society formed about who Jesus is?

You know me -- I love the visuals. ;)

As I read throughout Lee Strobel's new book, "The Case for the Real Jesus" - it became more clear that today's society is more confused than ever about who Jesus really is. Not just the claims that He made - but everything else about Him as well. Far from the old debate (which still carries on today) if He was "liar, lunatic, or Lord" - but now, was He tolerant? How tolerant was He? Was He firm? How firm was He? Where was the line? Was Jesus a hippie, peace loving prophet/God/man or was did He hate (insert here)? And so, in line with the opening of the second sermon with the quote from the blog - I began to think, how opposite is our society today from what Jesus really taught?

In the Heart Matters sermon, Devin mentioned that as a "professional Christian" he was a bit bothered and worried I believe, that if Jesus came and visited today - would the church be opposite of Him as it was the first time He visited? I used that line of thinking many times in defending the LDS faith, but now on the other side of the fence, it deeply impacts me. Are Christians today like the Pharisee or Sagistees of Jesus' day - total opposites to who Jesus is and what He is for?

Today's society itself, is completely opposite of everything Jesus taught - the first and most outstanding "virtue" is the "me" syndrome. It's all about me. When Jesus clearly taught that it's all about being a servant. That we are free to follow whatever seems right to us - when Jesus clearly taught that He was the only way, the only light, the only way to heaven. In today's society - Jesus can become whoever someone wishes Him to be - whether that means adding Him onto a necklace with the god, Om (which technically is just a symbol that is "This symbol (as seen in the image on the right) is a sacred syllable representing Brahman, the impersonal Absolute of Hinduism — omnipotent, omnipresent, and the source of all manifest existence. Brahman, in itself, is incomprehensible; so a symbol becomes mandatory to help us realize the Unknowable. Om, therefore, represents both the unmanifest (nirguna) and manifest (saguna) aspects of God. That is why it is called pranava, to mean that it pervades life and runs through our prana or breath." source) or making Him a tame kitten or finally acknowledging Him as the Lion of Judah - neither tame or domesticated. Whatever you want to believe about Him is fine - even though He was clear about His nature and that He could do nothing that the Father did not do - ie He could not go against His own nature.

While Jesus tried to get to the heart of the matter - relationship not rules, not legalism, not walls - the Pharisees blocked Him out, and as Christians today, we are still doing this.

"When Jesus came, relationship had been replaced by religion. Truth had been replaced by tradition. And the internal focus had been replaced by an external adherence to guidelines and rules and obediance to outward focused rules. I think that's our tendency even today, to replace the internal with the external. Because it's easier to judge, it's easier to live by, and it's easier to gage when I'm right, when I'm wrong, if I have some type of rules list, if I have some type of checklist, if I have some type of this is right and this is wrong list to go by. But what we discover is that Jesus takes us back to the heart of the matter. Instead of the external, Jesus focuses on matters of the heart, focuses on the internal. And He addresses heart matters because as we said last week, relationship is internal. Relationship is not mechanical."
- Radical and Ruthless -

Today, we are so focused on the outside to judge our "goodness" - from whether or not we see movies like Harry Potter or Golden Compass, to what language we use in conversations with other Christians or non-believers, to how clean our homes are, to how much we serve, how much we tithe, to how our children behave, and so on and so forth. I can recall having a recent conversation with a man who Sabrina (from the c-store) has called, "Preacher Man" who took the time to correct me in a few things I said. He wasn't concerned about the meaning I had behind these words, of the intent - but rather more concerned that I said them correctly (in his vision of course). We both were agreeing with one another - but I said it differently than he did, and instead of focusing on what we agreed upon, he wanted to make sure I didn't repeat what I said to anyone else because it was "heresy" - when in fact it was the same thing he was saying, just worded differently. Or however many people told me, "Don't see the Golden Compass!" - besides the fact it's just a movie - they made me want to see it even more. ;0)

So when I speak to men like Ron, who then tell me what God has to "accept" or else He can't be God or how they are going to heaven simply because they were "good enough" on their own without Jesus I want to bang my head against the proverbial brick wall! Of course, I seem to want to do that often - perhaps I have anger issues that should be lifted up to God? ;)

Why do people have these ideas in their head? That their own goodness is enough? That any real "God" must accept their life choices? Because society is telling them this. And if it's on Primetime it must be true. ::roll eyes:: But what are we doing as Christians? Are we shining a light in this pitch black world? Are we sharing the gospel and the essential need for a Savior? Or are we getting steadily more and more sucked into all of this?

It becomes more and more important to find a church that engages you, that brings you to knowledge of the gospel, and grounds you in the Word. When I first began attending Grace Point - I just didn't see that happening. Devin covered a few verses from the Bible and then went on the modern day application. Which I totally loved - and still do, but didn't see myself getting much out of. Around that time, I realized how deeply entrenched I was in legalism - I knew I was legalistic, some say it was the little red flag that caught my attention in the LDS church but I didn't quite understand all that that entailed.

Devin points out, "Its in the heart that relationship begins and is developed," - while Devin uses the big examples - murder, adultery, divorce, etc - he reminds us that Jesus brought it all back to the heart. Pushing aside all the "preferences" that we have as individuals in our worship or belief systems - what exactly is the heart behind it? When I sat there, engaged in the sermons and enjoying them, then wishing for something deeper - what was in my heart? Was I focused on the internal or the external? Did I want something deeper so I could hold my own in discussions or for application? If the relationship begins and is developed in the heart - how is it fostered? Through daily interaction. If I have a head full of knowledge (I don't), but not a softened heart and daily interaction with God, then how do I ever develop, mature, and deepen my relationship? I don't. I realized, I was being legalistic. I glean that deeper interaction through my deeper interaction with God. If I'm not applying the daily - then I'm going anywhere except the three foot baby pool.

While this series seems to be more pointed towards some issues (divorce, adultery, etc) - this is what I'm really taking from it - who Jesus is and it's importance of understanding this, and remaining focused on the relationship we have with Jesus - not the safety borders we put up.

Below are the links to each sermon in the series.

(1) Heart of the Matter
(2) Radical and Ruthless
(3) Irrational Living

Don't be sitting down on the outside and standing up on the inside.... allow your heart to change - not just your motions.

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