Why Study the Word? (Part 3)

For the follower of Jesus Christ, it is important to understand Jesus’ emphasis on the importance of studying the Scriptures. To truly be His disciple, it only stands to reason one will accept His perception of the Scriptures. First, however, a few considerations are in order.

  • The Scriptures read in the synagogues in His day were copies of copies. Jesus trusted   not only the written words of the Scriptures but also the divine preservation of them. 
  • Jesus considered the Old Testament accounts as literal, factual history. That is, He did not interpret the Scriptures allegorically.
  • Jesus teaches that the Scriptures are authoritative, completely trustworthy, and eternal, absolute truth. 
  • Jesus, who is the Word (see John 1:1-3), equates His words to being on par with the authority of the Scriptures.

The following are Jesus’ teachings about the Scriptures.

“These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you, that everything written about me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled.” Then he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures. ~ Luke 24:44-45 (ESV)

For truly, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law until all is accomplished. ~ Matthew 5:18

Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away. ~ Matthew 24:35

It is easier for heaven and earth to pass away than for one dot of the Law to become void. ~ Luke 16:17

And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself. ~ Luke 24:27

“Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.” ~ Matthew 22:36-40

Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth. ~ John 18:17

We also observe Jesus’ application of the Scriptures in the midst of temptation and spiritual warfare. When He was being tempted by the devil in the wilderness, Jesus repeatedly referred to the Scriptures. Then, when Satan also quoted Scripture, twisting them, Jesus was able to see through the deception because He had studied the Word (see Matt. 4:1-11; Luke 4:1-13).

This brings us to the third reason to study the Word: the Scriptures, if we build our lives upon them, will give us a secure foundation. Jesus tells us,

Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on the rock. And everyone who hears these words of mine and does not do them will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell, and great was the fall of it. ~ Matthew 7:24-27

Notice, both the wise and foolish face major storms in their lives; however, it is the wise who have prepared and built on a solid foundation. Friend, is your life being built securely on the foundation of God’s Word?

Encourage Your Pastor

One of the sad (but true) jokes in churches is that many families will have roasted pastor for dinner after Sunday’s service. However, the pastor who is genuinely called by God and is trying to lead a congregation in the ways of God has a tremendous responsibility. Furthermore, he does so many things behind the scenes ministering to others most are unaware of. Contrary to popular belief, pastors do far more than “just prepare for sermons and preach.” They serve as counselors and comforters, and many are on-call 24/7.

Pastors are not perfect (although they are to be godly). They have feelings and passions. They experience fear, sadness, discouragement, and anger. Many are husbands and fathers trying to be good In these roles (these are difficult for them too), and often people expect their families to be picture perfect. Dysfunction brings their calling, character, and credibility into question.

Pastors must deal with conviction and accountability to God for how they behave and handle the Word of God. They must deal with their own consciences making them aware of their failures and inadequacies. And pastors have “a target on their backs,”  more so than the average Christian, because if Satan can influence them to fall into gross sin and scandalous activities, then congregations can be divided, confounded, and even faith being shipwrecked of some.

I have read of the following statistics:

  • 97% of pastors have been betrayed, falsely accused, or hurt by their trusted friends.
  • 70% of pastors struggle with depression.
  • 1500 pastors quit each month.
  • 10% will retire as pastors.
  • 80% of pastors feel discouraged.
  • 94% of pastor’s families feel the pressure of ministry.
  • 78% of pastors have no close friends.
  • 90% of pastors report to working 55-75 hours per week.

The primary tasks of a pastor is studying/teaching God’s Word and devoting himself to earnest prayer. Christians can say they “love God’s Word,” but pastors make a lot of people mad when they do truly preach God’s Word!

If you have a godly (albeit imperfect) pastor who strives to be faithful to Jesus Christ, His Word, and the Great Commission; and if he seeks to minister to the congregation and is burdened for the souls of people, then you are truly blessed. The Bible says this of such individuals:

Let the elders who rule well be considered worthy of double honor, especially those who labor in preaching and teaching. ~ 1 Timothy 5:17 (ESV)

And,

Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls, as those who will have to give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with groaning, for that would be of no advantage to you. ~ Hebrews 13:17

Do you give honor—even double honor—to your pastor? Or do you nit pick his flaws, give him grief because he did not call you on your birthday, and roast him because he preached against your beloved pet sin(s)? If the latter, how is this of any benefit to you? What gain is there in wounding and making the work difficult of one who loves you? Sadly, often pastors pour themselves out (sometimes at the expense of their families) only to meet with continual resistance, roasting, and betrayal from congregants. 

Do you pray for your pastor’s well being? Have you encouraged your pastor (and his family) lately? A gift, a note of appreciation, and the like could be of great encouragement to him. It might even be that needed spark to help him keep from giving up. Encourage your pastor. He experiences the stresses of life and loss, just as you, all the while putting these aside ad he tried to minister to others. The weight and burdens he carries with him you will never understand. He needs your prayers and encouragement more than you can ever know.

Why the Message is Often Ineffective

It would seem as though the Gospel message is losing its potency here in the West, but let us not be deceived. The Gospel is just as powerful as it has always been, but it is people’s tampering with it that weakens its effectiveness. People are told that God “loves us as we are” (implying there is no urgency to respond or change). And behaviors and attitudes the Bible declares as sinful are often passed by as not really being all that bad, let alone sinful and evil. Mind you, I am not talking only of the supposed “big” sins of the world, but the cradled sins in the church too (e.g., pride, presumption, idolatries, apathy, desire for control or prestige, etc.).

Oswald Chambers notes, “There must be a sense of need created before your message is of any use.” The Gospel of Jesus Christ is very useful and relevant, but how can it be received as such when many would-be messengers state otherwise? Or put it this way: why do I need a Savior if I can simply come as I am, I’m loved as I am, and my disposition(s) are not bad?

Indeed, we are loved. And we are to come as we are (we can come no other way). However, we are to come with repentance and an expectation to be changed by God’s transforming grace. Our pride, gossip, lying, hypocrisies, idolatries, immoral thoughts and acts, drunkenness, blasphemies, etc. are all bad—really bad.

But your iniquities have made a separation between you and your God, and your sins have hidden his face from you so that he does not hear. ~ Isaiah 59:2

For the wages of sin is death. ~ Romans 6:23a

But as for the cowardly, the faithless, the detestable, as for murderers, the sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars, their portion will be in the lake that burns with fire and sulfur, which is the second death. ~ Revelation 21:8

Jesus states, 

Do you think that these Galileans were worse sinners than all the other Galileans, because they suffered in this way? No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish. ~ Luke 13:2-3

Elsewhere He says,

Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God. And this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil. ~ John 3:18-19

We tend to think we are “good” because we have not done this or that, yet we think nothing of the way we have spurned God’s holiness and rejected His ruling over our lives. We pride ourselves in not killing anyone, but oblivious the hundreds we have wounded by our razor-sharp tongues. We do not see ourselves as idolaters, all the while refusing to bow to the authority of the King of kings and to His eternal Word.

Consider also the ingratitude and sense of entitlement of our society, and the way these reflect in people’s perception of God.

For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened…. Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves, because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen. ~ Romans 1:21, 24-25

The message of the Gospel, indeed, is powerful, but God’s love can only be appreciated when it is not taken for granted. Grace is amazing only when we realize our depravity and helplessness. Jesus will only be adored when we realize our sinful passions keep us enslaved but He has come to set us free. The Gospel is not simply spiritual vitamins. Rather, it is radical heart surgery.

Faith Requires Enduring Patience

Sometimes faith is treated like a sprint—fast, exciting, then over. However, biblical faith is more like a marathon. There are times the miles are long and the perseverance is quite strenuous. There are times when life’s terrains test persons to their limits, and when God’s promises seem like mirages. One sees the promises in the distance, but they seem to disappear when one draws closer.

It is both all to easy and all too common for persons to give up. “It’s too hard,” some say. “It’s not fun,” others complain, who never really understood the meaning of redemption to begin with. There are times when faith is hard. There are times when it is not fun. Preachers do a great disservice to persons when they portray the Christian life as a never-ending party, because in reality it is often (spiritual) warfare. And we are expected to hold true to the faith even in the trenches. One of the prophets writes:

And the Lord answered me: “Write the vision; make it plain on tablets, so he may run who reads it. For still the vision awaits its appointed time; it hastens to the end—it will not lie. If it seems slow, wait for it; it will surely come; it will not delay…. the righteous shall live by his faith. ~ Habakkuk 2:2-4

The prophet, too, wrestled with faith, life, and the workings of God (or apparent lack thereof). He begins his brief book as follows:

O Lord, how long shall I cry for help, and you will not hear? Or cry to you “Violence!” and you will not save?Why do you make me see iniquity, and why do you idly look at wrong? ~ Habakkuk 1:2-3

Who among us have never pondered such questions? Nevertheless, God tells His prophet—and us—that His promises are faithful and will come to pass. Do not give up, my brothers and sisters, because you have come too far. Remember His faithfulness in the past. God will remain faithful in years to come.

Does Jesus’ Skin Color Matter?

I am somewhat humored when people debate Jesus Christ’s skin color. Not very long ago a man decried the belief in a “white” Jesus, as this is merely a form of “white supremacy.” Now, I doubt Jesus was white or black, considering He was a Galilean Jew. Regardless, I would have liked to ask the man decrying Jesus’ “whiteness” if he was living his life for Jesus. While it is doubtful Jesus was either white or black, it is certain He was not American, European, or African. He was neither Republican nor Democrat. No group of people can ever lay claim to Jesus as if He was some sort of beast to be tamed.

Let’s say Jesus was either white or black, does it matter? Either way He calls you and I to repent of sin (our sins might be quite different, but it is still sin). He commands us to love God with all our heart, mind, soul, and strength; furthermore, to love our neighbor as ourself (see Luke 10:27). He calls us to take up our cross and follow Him; to forgive those who have sinned against us; to love our enemies and pray for our persecutors; and to treat others the way we want to be treated. None of these are color or ethnic issues. Regardless of His skin color, are we obeying Him and abiding in Him?

In the Gospel of John, Jesus makes seven “I am” statements:

  • I am the bread of life (6:35)
  • I am the light of the world (8:12)
  • I am the door (10:9)
  • I am the good shepherd 10:14)
  • I am the resurrection and the life (11:25)
  • I am the way, and the truth, and the life (14:6)
  • I am the true vine (15:1)

No matter the tone of His pigmentation, Jesus makes some radical declarations. Furthermore, His color is not important. Rather, it is His being that is of utmost importance. He is the living God who took on human form. We relate to Him not because of our skin color but His humanity. And taking on our humanity He paid the penalty for our sins on the cross—the sins of persons of every color and culture.

For me, I do not care what color Jesus was, nor do I care that He was a Jew. These make no difference to me whatsoever. I am just grateful that He loves us and died for us, no matter our color or ethnicity. Perhaps someone reading this is convinced Jesus was either white or black. Either way, the real issue is this: Are you yielded to Him? And is He your Savior?

Problems with Critical Race Theory Infecting the Church

Before addressing some of the problems with Critical Race Theory (CRT) infecting the church, allow me to first define what I mean by the church. What is the church? Is it those who adhere to Roman Catholicism? Is it white evangelicals who believe in a “white man’s” religion? Heaven forbid! The church is comprised of followers of Jesus Christ who believe that He is the God-Man (fully God and fully man) who bore the sins of humankind, and was raised from the dead, and gives eternal life to all who turn from sin and believe on Him. Thus, the church is made up of people of every color, tribe, and nation. Understanding this is of supreme importance.

After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands, and crying out with a loud voice, “Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!” ~ Revelation 7:9-10 (ESV)

When CRT (i.e., various ideas about “systematic racism,” the evils of “whiteness,” the false dichotomy of the “oppressors and the oppressed,” etc.) infects the church, such infection creates major theological problems that must not be ignored. The issue is not simply that churches are poisoned but that the very Gospel of Jesus Christ and biblical theology are distorted and denied.There are five particular problems I will address concerning Critical Race Theory in the church: 1) The philosophical aspect; 2) the image of God; 3) the perception of authority; 4) sin; and 5) the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

First, from a philosophical perspective, the very infrastructure of CRT is founded on Marxist ideas. Marxism is an extremely secular-materialistic and atheistic philosophy. Wherever you find Marxism, you will find division, rebellion, and lust for power. How ironic whenever Marxists accuse other systems as being these. Marxism is godless and ruthless to the core (listen to anyone’s account who has suffered under communistic regimes). To try to mix such ideas with Christian teachings is like trying to mix oil and water. The apostle Paul gives followers of Christ a stern warning:

See to it that no one takes you captive by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the world, and not according to Christ. ~ Colossians 2:8

The next issue is crucial, as we consider the image of God. What is the image of God? Is it dependent on intellect, ethnicity, gender, or morality? What does the Bible say?

So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. ~ Genesis 1:27

For every kind of beast and bird, of reptile and sea creature, can be tamed and has been tamed by mankind, but no human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison.With it we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse people who are made in the likeness of God. ~ James 3:7-9

Again, what is the image of God? The image of God is the human race. This includes men/women, adults/children, black/white, European/African, gay/straight, Christian/atheist, Democrat/Republican, the wise/foolish, the kind/cruel, etc. The issue here is not about right or wrong, but whether certain groups of people are superior or inferior to others. There are behaviors and attitudes that are wrong; however, the person him/herself is still created in the image of God. CRT tends to view “whiteness” as morally inferior, etc. However, by trying to deal with racism, it only perpetuates it. CRT simply seeks to turn the hourglass upside down, not to break it altogether.

Third, consider the perception of authority. CRT equates authority with oppression, but is authority always wrong and oppressive? Are those under authority, by default, oppressed? Is corruption and abuse of power limited to one type or group of people? Authority itself is not bad. In fact, God is the one who has established levels of authority, from the home to government. Indeed, authority can be—and often is—abused, but the same can be said of most things. Nevertheless, authority is intended to serve good purposes.

Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by GodTherefore whoever resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment.  For rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad. Would you have no fear of the one who is in authority? Then do what is good, and you will receive his approval, for he is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword in vain. For he is the servant of God, an avenger who carries out God’s wrath on the wrongdoer. ~ Romans 13:1-4

Even in the home, God has ordained the family structure with the man being the head (see Eph. 5:23), and churches have pastors, elders, deacons, and overseers (see 1 Tim. 3:1-13). Authority is meant to be good; however, too often it is misused. But is the perversion of authority limited to one certain group of people? Is it limited to color, gender, or even religion? Admittedly, there is abuse of authority in many churches, but are congregations to rise up and do away with pastors and the like? My point is this: it is not simply black or white husbands, pastors, leaders, city officials, government officials, etc. Each is intended by God to be beneficial to those who are under the authority. For CRT to view authority as wrong and oppressive is to kick against what God Himself has ordained. Unfortunately, the human heart has a natural propensity for perverting anything good. This brings us to the next problem.

CRT makes a moral distinction between the “oppressed and the oppressors.” The “oppressors,” by default of the color of their skin, and since they have had such an influence on society, are by nature racist, oppressive, barbaric, and brutal. On the other hand, the vices of the “oppressed” are viewed simply as a result of the “oppression.” However, it is here where the infection of CRT begins to directly affect the Gospel. Perversion, corruption, brutality, etc. are not issues of color but of the heart of every human being which is infected by sin. Furthermore, sin stems from the perverse and evil desire of being independent of God and His rightful Kingship.

And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a debased mind to do what ought not to be done.They were filled with all manner of unrighteousness, evil, covetousness, malice. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, maliciousness. They are gossips, slanderers, haters of God, insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, foolish, faithless, heartless, ruthless. Though they know God’s righteous decree that those who practice such things deserve to die, they not only do them but give approval to those who practice them. ~ Romans 1:28-32

What then? Are we Jews any better off? No, not at all. For we have already charged that all, both Jews and Greeks, are under sin, as it is written: “None is righteous, no, not one; no one understands; no one seeks for God. All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one.” “Their throat is an open grave; they use their tongues to deceive.” “The venom of asps is under their lips.”“Their mouth is full of curses and bitterness.” “Their feet are swift to shed blood; in their paths are ruin and misery, and the way of peace they have not known.” “There is no fear of God before their eyes.”….  The righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction: for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,  ~ Romans 3:9-18, 22-23

Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all menbecause all sinned—for sin indeed was in the world before the law was given, but sin is not counted where there is no law. Yet death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over those whose sinning was not like the transgression of Adam, who was a type of the one who was to come. But the free gift is not like the trespass. For if many died through one man’s trespass, much more have the grace of God and the free gift by the grace of that one man Jesus Christ abounded for many. And the free gift is not like the result of that one man’s sin. For the judgment following one trespass brought condemnation, but the free gift following many trespasses brought justification. For if, because of one man’s trespass, death reigned through that one man, much more will those who receive the abundance of grace and the free gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man Jesus Christ.~ Romans 5:12-17

So, for whom did Jesus Christ die? Let us be very careful here. Jesus died for sinners, and it is only sinners who can be redeemed. Did Jesus die for blacks and whites? Of course He did. Then what does this reveal? It reveals that each of us are sinners. Furthermore, only human beings made in the image of God are redeemable. Fallen angels are sinners, in the technical sense of the word; however, they are neither made in the image of God nor are they redeemable.

For CRT to be true, then there must be superior and inferior people. If this is the case, then what is the significance of the image of God? If whites are sinful by default, and others are sinful due to oppression of whites, then what exactly is original sin? Do the latter truly need a Savior? And if they do not, then how can they be redeemed, since Christ died for sinners?

It is true, racism and oppression are real. But to create a dichotomy between blacks and whites, and to treat as though one has a monopoly over oppression and brutality, is to deny what the Bible actually teaches. Whether you go into a predominantly black society or white, you will find corruption, oppression, deception, and brutality. At the same time, you will witness people made in the image of God whom Christ died for. May the Holy Spirit use His holy scalpel of truth to cut out the deadly infection of the deceitfulness of CRT.

The Relevance of Christianity

There are some who claim that “Christianity needs to change” and that biblical teachings are “outdated and irrelevant.” However, neither of these claims are correct. It is not Christianity that needs to change; rather, sinful, unbelieving hearts are what need to change by the regenerating and transforming power of the Holy Spirit. Furthermore, if people actually believed the dire predicament of the human condition and the redemptive work of Jesus Christ, and truly put into practice the teachings of Jesus (without “tweaking” them according to their own preferences), there is nothing more practical and relevant than Christianity.

Our world is ravaged by selfishness, pride, disrespect, xenophobia, greed, deception, slander, hatred, violence, immorality, and the like. All of this is a result of original sin.

Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned. ~ Romans 5:12

This corrupting and destructive power of sin can be likened to Gollum and the ring in, The Lord of the Rings. The ring, like sin, distorted his original nature and being, poisoned his mind and perception, and created a love and addiction to the very thing—his precious—that was destroying him.

The term “progressive Christianity” is both erroneous and deceptive, as well as stating, “making the church relevant.” So-called progressive Christianity ignores the reality of what the Bible calls sin—in all of its forms. The same for those who claim to promote relevance. The tendency, really, is to try to “have one’s cake and eat it too.” Often, these are mere attempts to gain God’s heaven apart from renouncing sin and yielding to Christ’s lordship. These remind me of the words in U2’s, “The Wanderer”:

“I stopped outside a church house
Where the citizens like to sit,
They say they want the kingdom.
But they don’t want God in it.”

This is why we are seeing so many churches and movements, feigning the name of Christ, all the while endorsing goddess worship, homosexuality, abortion, rebellion against any authority, rejection of the trustworthiness of the Scriptures, dismissal of holiness, etc. Many profess to condone these in a spirit of love; however, they misunderstand the true concept of what it means to love. Genuine love does not dismiss the seriousness of sin and its consequences, truth, or justice.

He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God? ~ Micah 6:8 (ESV)

And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son[d] from the Father, full of grace and truth. ~ John 1:14

[Love] does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. ~ 1 Corinthians 13:6

Furthermore, we are told:

But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law. Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy,drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. ~ Galatians 5:16-24

The truth of the matter is this: if people truly believed on Christ, renouncing sin and selfishness, and surrendered to the Holy Spirit and the Scriptures, we would see a cleaning up in politics, wholesomeness, in Hollywood, homes being restored, and peace in our streets and communities. Again, Christianity does not need to change, people do. If people were to accept Christianity’s effect throughout the ages, they would see that it is far more relevant and productive than what it is given credit for.

At This Point, Do You Walk Away?

In the sixth chapter of the Gospel of John, Jesus miraculously provided food for over five thousand people. Wow! So far, so good. At this point, Jesus is cool and life is good. It’s sort of like today, is it not? Jesus is cool and all is good if He is dishing out blessings, grace, encouragement, and forgiveness.

When Jesus and His disciples departed from the area and crossed the sea, we are told that the next morning many of the people also crossed the sea and sought after Jesus. Again, so far, so good. They are seeking after Christ. Like today, it is good when people are seeking after Him. 

When they found Him, Jesus confronts them with their motives. They were not seeking after Him, but for His blessings. They did not desire Him; rather, they simply wanted their needs met (see vs. 25-27). This is still like today. Many people do not truly desire Jesus, but the luxurious life televangelists promise, or peace of mind of going to heaven, or a healing, or warm fuzzies during a church service.

Beginning in verse 35, Jesus states that He is the bread of life, and He will provide life to those who come to Him. Furthermore, those who believe in Him He will resurrect in the last day. Here, the people began to grumble. Driving home the point of dependence on Him, Jesus says, “Unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you” (vs. 53). Ah, this demand and this exclusivity is too much, but Jesus does not budge from His position. We then read:

After this many of his disciples turned back and no longer walked with him. ~ John 6:66 

Today, talk about Jesus’ deity and exclusivity; talk about the cross, repentance and renouncing of sin, holy living, and sound theology. Furthermore, take out the lights, the programs, and excitement, and watch the masses turn away. Mind you, this does not necessarily mean people will stop attending church. We are forewarned,

For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths. ~ 2 Timothy 4:3-4

When the Gospel message begins calling you to turn from sin, to deny yourself, and to surrender unto Christ wholeheartedly, do you continue to follow and pursue Christ or do you, at this point, turn back and no longer walk with Him?

“Liking” Jesus but Not the Church

There is a book entitled, They Like Jesus but Not the Church, (note: I do not endorse the author or the movement he is part of). Certainly the church is not perfect—far from! However, is the author correct? Jesus is not at all concerned with whether people like him or not. We are told in the Gospels:

But Jesus on his part did not entrust himself to them, because he knew all people and needed no one to bear witness about man, for he himself knew what was in man. ~ John 2:24-25 (ESV)

People are fickle. They can like a person one day and betray him the next. Or they can be infatuated for a season only to have the infatuation replaced by the coldness of winter.

What does Jesus say about people’s thoughts about Him and His people? He tells His disciples (men who struggled with ambition, pride, anger, prejudice, fear, etc.),

If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you. ~ John 15:18

Elsewhere, He explains:

The world cannot hate you, but it hates me because I testify about it that its works are evil. ~ John 7:7

A common complaint is churches are “filled with hypocrites.” As opposed to what? Politics? Hollywood? Realms where people are applauded and idolized—in spite of blatant hypocrisy! Furthermore, while hypocrites exist in many churches, there are also many wonderful, godly, honest, humble, and compassionate persons (but no one wants to give any credit to these). Yet, it is these that are just as much irritants to those who supposedly “like” Jesus. Notice what Jesus said, the world hated Him before it ever hated His people. And why does it hate Him? Because He testifies about it and its evil practices.

The apostle John declares,

We love because he first loved us. If anyone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen. And this commandment we have from him: whoever loves God must also love his brother. ~ 1 John 4:19-21

And Jesus says plainly,

If anyone loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him. Whoever does not love me does not keep my words. And the word that you hear is not mine but the Father’s who sent me…. This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. ~ John 14:23-24; 15:12

Jesus’ call has never been to follow His followers. Rather, He bids each of us to pick up our cross and follow Him. For someone to say he “likes Jesus but not the church” is merely a smokescreen concealing rebellion against the very One he claims to “like.”

A Score Is Being Kept

Politics and major businesses are filled with corruption and all kinds of wickedness. So much evil is applauded, justified, and covered up—all for the love of money and power. Nevertheless, the people of God are told:

Fret not yourself because of evildoers; be not envious of wrongdoers! For they will soon fade like the grass and wither like the green herb. ~ Psalm 37:1-2 (ESV)

Furthermore, we are told to:

  • Trust in the Lord, and do good (vs.3);
  • Delight in Him (vs. 4);
  • Commit our way to Him (vs. 5);
  • Be still before Him and wait patiently for Him (vs.7).

Although the wicked see themselves  as invincible and untouchable, and they boast, “There is no God” (Ps. 14:1), and “The Lord does not see; the God of Jacob does not see” (Ps. 94:7), the Lord is keeping score. He is keeping track of their lies, bribes, coercion, thefts, extortion, and murders. He is preparing judgment for their persecution of the righteous and silencing the cries of the innocent.

Like pins standing proudly at the end of a lane, God’s wrath is going to charge down:

Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment, nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous; for the Lord knows the way of the righteous, but the way of the wicked will perish. ~ Psalm 1:5-6

Dear ones, the days might become difficult, but let us keep our eyes on the Lord and our faith anchored on Him. Trust in, delight in, commit your way to, be still before, and wait patiently for Him. In the end, God will preserve His own, and the wicked will face the horror of the consequences of their gross rebellion against Him.