Making Jesus Real in an Unreal World, Part 2

We live in interesting times.

 

Christians in the United States are becoming somewhat frustrated at the erosion of their religious liberties. Unlike believers in other parts of this world, there has developed within the United States an attitude of entitlement based on legislated freedoms found in the founding documents of the United States.

"Sign" of the times!

                               “Sign” of the times!

 

It seems the very blessings for which we as believers in Jesus Christ enjoy have made us complacent. I find it interesting the number of parallels between our situation in 21st century America and the Israelites under the Law in the Old Testament.

 

Yahweh-God gave the Ten Commandments (more accurately, the ten words) to the Israelites not as a means for them to perfect themselves, but rather as a stark reminder they were imperfect and could never approach the perfection God demanded. Apart from their relationship with Yahweh-God—demonstrated through the shedding of sacrificial blood through sacrifice (which only covered but did not remove sin)—the Israelites should have realized their innate imperfection and sinfulness the more they attempted to keep the Law!

 

Unfortunately, this never occurred. The aphorism, “Possession is nine-tenths of the law,” seems to have come into play in their minds. They had the Law. They were a people chosen by God through Abraham. They measured themselves by a comparison to others who may or may not have the Law. Those without the Law (and a relationship by blood to Abraham) were “dogs” and Gentiles. Those “under” the Law were subjected to a hierarchy of means measuring those who did have Abraham: “I keep seven commands and you keep only four therefore I’m better than you.”

 

The gift of the Law by Yahweh-God—allowing the Israelites to see their need of God’s grace and their inability to keep the Law—should have caused both humility and a greater dependence on God’s grace.  Instead, their response was not an acknowledgement of their need of God; their response was to elevate the importance of the keeping of the “rules” of the Law. They forgot the biblical principle James enunciated in James 2:10: “Whoever keeps the entire Law, yet fails in one point, is guilty of breaking it all.”

 

Now keep in mind, this was no easy task. Every aspect of their worship spoke of the holiness and majesty of the Lord. From the delineation of the sacrificial system, to the preparation of the sacrifices to the clothing and methodology necessary for the priest to enter into the Holy of Holies—the presence of God—all of their worship emphasized the person of God, His majesty and His holiness!

 

Yet they ignored it all and focused on themselves, their performance and how they could create a hierarchy in their society and relationships.

 

Here is the parallel I mentioned earlier: American Christianity has over the course of the years of freedom has forgotten the difference between freedom and grace, between the person of God and the mechanism He provides for blessing.

 

Yahweh-God in His wisdom has allowed Christianity in America to flourish for almost two full centuries virtually unopposed. God did this by providing founders of this country who were both believers in Jesus Christ and who were deeply influenced by a Judeo-Christian philosophy.

 

Our Founders even produced something called a “Bill of Rights,” which is a singular example of a clear enunciation of not merely human rights, but the source of those rights. While over the course of the first 200 years there have certainly been times when a complete lack of wisdom has been demonstrated by those we would refer to as “Evangelical Christians,” the United States has been an incredibly effective and fruitful source for worldwide missionary activity.

 

Yet even acknowledging all of the good American believers have accomplished, now we are seeing a huge swing of the pendulum away from the biblical moorings which traditionally anchored this country to what is nothing more than an emphasis on erotic liberty (which is driving almost all of the changes now).

 

We in the United States are now seeing the beginnings of the erosion of religious liberty. Should we use all legislative means at our disposal to fight these losses? Yes we should because God has given us all of these; the freedoms, the means and the methods for us to protect laws and to even pass new ones.

 

Sometimes we as believers act as if we think God is in Heaven looking down and thinking, “Wow, I didn’t see that one coming!” God is sovereign and He is the One who gave us a country rules through the democratic process.

 

When Jesus Christ was on this earth He stated often, “You have heard,” referring to what the Law stated and then He went on to radically apply the Law in a way emphasizing our relationship with God through Him! There was no “keeping the rules,” people would no more be able to measure themselves against others. Jesus wanted people to see our thoughts and motives is what drive our actions!

 

I am thankful for the rights we as believers in Jesus Christ have been granted through the Constitution of the United States. Yet I do not worship the Constitution. Through God’s grace and His choice of me, I worship the God who gave us this document and allowed it to exist for this time. There will come a time when God will no longer need this document to aid the furtherance of His kingdom. When that occurs, the Constitution, and perhaps even America, might well be gone.

 

Yet just as God was active in the first century Church, He will continue to be active in the lives of believers in America—just as He is active in the rest of the World today.

 

Yet is this what God must allow to happen before we really make Jesus real in this world?

 

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About Jim Grieme

Pastor of Sunset Hills Baptist Church; Disciple of Jesus Christ, husband and owned by five cats--they also occasionally allow me to play tennis between feeding, brushing, puke clean-up & litter box cleaning . . . . . ; )

Posted on March 31, 2016, in Apologetics and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 13 Comments.

  1. Great post. I have a slightly different perspective, which I wrote about in The Wisdom of Religious Liberty and Legalism and the Decline of the American Church. What I say in these posts is that our religious liberty depends on protecting against government imposed sectarianism. At the same time, I acknowledge that our government and core values are very much Judeo-Christian. Unfortunately, our culture is shifting from those values. My point though is more that we need to do a better job as a church at living out the love of Christ and spreading the Gospel message. Instead, the church has come across as judgmental and hypocritical and, in my opinion, has added fuel to the fire. The church is known more for what she is against than for what she is for. So, my take is we should focus less on forcing Christian behaviors through legislation and more on changing hearts through the Gospel. When legalists wanted Jesus to condone stoning the adulterous woman, He didn’t encourage enforcement of law; rather He attacked legalism and told the legalists who were without sin to cast the first stone. Now, He also told the woman to go and sin no more, but what we don’t see is Jesus getting caught up in the legal structure. I see great wisdom there, as Christ was focused on Kingdom building. Thanks for you thought provoking message.

    • Your point is good regarding changing hearts. Yet even then we must never lose sight (I must anyway) that it is God who changes hearts. My task as a pastor is to faithfully and clearly communicate God’s Word in a useful & applicable manner! Thanks for reading and following!

      • 1 Corinthians 3:5-9 What, after all, is Apollos? And what is Paul? Only servants, through whom you came to believe—as the Lord has assigned to each his task. I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God has been making it grow. So neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but only God, who makes things grow. The one who plants and the one who waters have one purpose, and they will each be rewarded according to their own labor. For we are co-workers in God’s service; you are God’s field, God’s building.

  2. Charles Creech

    Just read your most recent post “Making Jesus Real in an Unreal World, Part 2”. Keep up the good work!!

    WALK IN HIS LIGHT

    Charles And Carmen Creech

    11875 NC Highway 39

    Zebulon, NC 27597-7223

    (919) 269 8877

  3. If Jesus existed, he would not need our help making himself real.

    What freedoms have been taken away from believers?

    • First, I really appreciate and am humbled you have chosen to read this.

      Second, believers “make Jesus real” when people see Christ in our lives as we obey the tenets of Scripture. Face it, too many people claim to know Jesus yet they provide no evidence in the living of their lives that He is real.

      For right now I’ll dispense with a full-throttle reasoning for Christ. Josh McDowell’s “Evidence that Demands a Verdict” would be interesting to you perhaps.

      Finally, since the founding of this country, Christianity has enjoyed the freedom to engage the culture without fears of litigation or other acts which impinge on the “free exercise of religion.” This, today, is no longer the case.

      Notice I did not say our rights have been taken away, merely our freedoms. Freedom can be expressed as freedom to move, to exist, to talk or even to think. In almost every instance (but not all by far) we have lost our freedom to freely express Christianity in our culture.

      A right exists because it is a part of who we are as humanity. I’m a theist. Therefore I accept our creation by a sovereign, all-powerful, all-knowing and ever present God (and yes, you have the freedom to disagree). Because of this right, I choose to exercise my “freedoms” to continue to obey the commands of God in our culture as long as I am able to do so. I will remain able until God–in His plan and for His reasons–may choose to take them away.

      Thank you again for reading. I would be willing to further intelligently discuss any questions you raise. I will always respect a differing opinion. I believe the Bible teaches I cannot change you. Only God can.

      • I appreciate your reply and your book recommendation. I’ll be sure to look into it, as I’m in the middle of putting together a reading list consisting of books arguing both for and against the existence of a deity.

        I only wonder what you mean by the freedoms that Christians have been able to enjoy that they no longer can. If you mean things like holding class prayer in public schools, it’s only fair that that is withheld since children in public schools aren’t to be subjected to specific religions. If you mean something like a child or teacher’s freedom to pray while they are at public school, then that’s a personal religious right that shouldn’t be taken away since they aren’t forcing anyone else to join in.

      • The latter would be my meaning. Class prayer must be understood in regards to the contextual culture. As long as the culture approves, then fine. Yet nowhere in Scripture are we commanded to forcibly subject others to faith in Yahweh-God. You’ll enjoy McDowell’s book. I would also recommend Ravi Zacharias’ “Can Man Exist Without God.” Also Albert Mohler, Jr and John Piper (I believe you would find his book Christian Hedonism interesting!)

    • “If Jesus existed, he would not need our help making himself real.”

      In this post, the word “real” is rendered as the word “relevant,” and the notion that the state of existence belies the need for relevant application is nonsensical. Given that you can verify with your own five senses the existence of the Constitution of the United States (presumptively, therefore, you agree it exists), its need for a relevant and modern application (“making itself real”) leads to the answer to your question:

      “What freedoms have been taken away from believers?”

      Most recently, in Trinity Luthern v. Comer (cite omitted)(June 26, 2017), the opportunity to participate in a grant program for playground improvement for a daycare was denied believers. SCOTUS precedent has clearly held the principle that an organization that otherwise qualifies for a governmental benefit cannot be denied that benefit simply because it is a religious organization. Nevertheless, the State of Missouri excluded a religiously-affiliated daycare center from consideration for its grant program specifically for that reason. Other lost freedoms, restored only through the relevant intervention of the courts, will be happily provided upon request.

      That the Constitution needs relevant application to modernity in no way denies its existence; rather, it affirms it. In like manner, the relevant application of Christ’s teachings in the lives of His followers underscores His existence to a degree almost as deep as those who would deny His place present the need for it.

      • Nicely worded! Excellent!

      • I’ve heard of that case. I wasn’t aware of the phenomenon that you can’t be denied a grant just because you’re a religious organization. I see how it is a difficult decision though. On one hand, it is a school in need of money for a playground, but at the same time, it would be a tax-exempt organization that is religiously affiliated, and government grants toward it would be reminiscent of favoring that specific religion. I don’t know what I would have chosen if I had sat on that jury.

        I’m not convinced by your analogy of God and the Constitution needing to be applied to be relevant, even if they both are real. The fact is that God is supposed to be all powerful and able to intervene in our world (hence theism and not deism), but the Constitution isn’t a living entity. So God should be able to intervene without us doing it for him, meanwhile a document can’t do that.

      • See, that’s just the thing: The government can’t disfavor an organization just because it is religious without actually discriminating against it on that basis. In the same way, it should not be allowed to discriminate against a religious speaker for that reason alone; excluding religion from the marketplace of ideas in the name of Separation of Church and State is hostility–not neutrality–toward religion. Nevertheless, believers have lost much that they shouldn’t have lost. While I agree that holding class prayer in public schools is an impermissible establishment of religion, believers face a level of hostility in society today that is unprecedented in America.

        In my experience, God’s intervention in our world most often takes place through His people, e.g., rather than personally showing up to feed a hungry person (whatever that might look like), God will use his people to directly feed them or fund an organization which does so. Jesus specifically told us that whatever we do unto the least of these, we did to Him. (Matt. 25:40) This is in the context of the original post which spoke to applying Christian principles in a world that has become “unreal.” For the record, and not to be pedantic, the notion of a “living, breathing” constitution has been the nexus for the development of a host of new rights in modern society not anticipated by the framers like the right to privacy that extends to a woman’s body advanced in Roe v. Wade. In the strict sense of this example, both God and the Constitution are “speaking” to a social issue via the voice of people and not by (literally) voicing themselves from whatever we consider their appearance might be.

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