The Church of Whatever We Want Jesus to Be

Paul's Letter
Valentin de Boulogne – Public Domain

If ever there was a person who was an authority of the Christian gospel, it was the Apostle Paul. Author of one-third of our New Testament, Paul penned letters to the churches in Rome and Galatia, both of which have become premiere sources for our understanding of the gospel.

Notice how Paul begins his letter to the Romans:

Paul, a bond-servant of Christ Jesus, called as an apostle, set apart for the gospel of God…. Romans 1:1 (NASB)

This verse provides a point of convergence for all Christians. Would any of us dispute Paul’s calling—or his authority for that matter? We all might also agree that the gospel (good news) is integral to the Christian faith. Even those who do not consider themselves to be evangelicals still revere the centrality of the gospel.

Christ's Resurrection
Noel Coypel – Public Domain

Professing Christians begin to diverge when it comes to the heart and purpose of the gospel. Jesus came to earth as God incarnate—that is God in the flesh, in human form. The Son of God walked amongst us as the Son of Man. After fulfilling a supernatural ministry on earth, Jesus suffered a torturous death on a wooden cross as a substitutionary sacrifice for the sins of all men and women. But death could not hold the Son of God! On the third day following, Jesus rose in power from the grave, never to die again.

Sadly, there are some professing Christians who would disagree with this Biblically-based representation of the good news of Jesus Christ. They might say, “Humans aren’t all that bad and are able to please God by being good people and doing nice things—like helping little old ladies across the street.” They might say, “Sure, Jesus was a great moral teacher, but he never believed himself to be God. A few misguided souls simply misunderstood his teachings.” Further still, they might say, “Jesus never performed any actual miracles and we all know the resurrection to be scientifically impossible.” “Of course, these things are recorded in the Bible, but the book is more of a teaching tool intended to help modify human behavior than it is the inspired word of God,” they might say.

It is not my goal to be rude, but I can’t, for the life of me, understand how such a perspective can be called “Christian” when it attempts to strike a dagger in the heart of the Christian faith. If we remove the reality of Christ’s miracles and His subsequent resurrection, we lose the power to transform human lives. Christianity, then, becomes more of a humanistic self-improvement project than the radical, life-changing movement it was intended to be.

I understand that some people find certain tenets of the Christian faith to be repulsive. Seriously, how many of us relish the thought of needing a Savior to remind us that we are thoroughly inadequate in heaven’s eyes? The picture of a bloody sacrifice does little to make me feel warm and fuzzy. And, of course, dying to my own selfish desires has never been at the top of my bucket list!

I disagree with the theology of Unitarian Universalists but I do respect them for their honesty; they don’t claim to be Christian. On the other hand, I really struggle with those who profess Christianity but deny the substance thereof. It is one thing to disagree about the meaning of Scripture. It’s a totally different issue to deny its authority.

Church of WhateverWe live in a world in which the title “Christian” means just about everything; therefore, it means nothing. What makes this state especially sad are the precious human lives adversely affected by such confusion. Would we, perhaps, be better to make a distinction between those who embrace the supremacy and authority of Christ, and those who would like to reinterpret the Bible according to their own desires? We could call one group the church of Jesus Christ and the other the church of whatever we want Jesus to be.

I realize that the abrasive tone of this post breaks from my usual pattern but I believe there are times when we sacrifice honesty for the sake of nicety. If you would like to make your own religion, have at it! Enjoy yourself! Do it up right! Create whatever makes you feel good. But let’s not forget that Jesus Christ is the head of His church and that He will form and shape her according to His desires—not ours.

What Does the Bible Say?

Photo by RoganJosh - morgueFile

This blog series and the ensuing conversations have centered around the relationship between Christianity and homosexuality. We’ve had some interesting dialogue about a lot of issues, but this discussion can in no way be complete without taking into account a Biblical perspective. After all, apart from the Bible, Christianity means almost nothing.

I’ve read (and reread) passages of Scripture that deal with homosexuality. I’ve poured over commentaries and studied word meanings from the original languages. I’ve tediously worked my way through uninspiring books on the subject. I’ve visited various websites to gain additional perspective. I’ve listened to people from the gay community share their painful struggles. I’ve even turned my attention to representatives from the LGBT camp who explained what the Bible really says about homosexuality.

Because of the high stakes involved, I can’t just accept verbatim what leaders from either camp proclaim. I want to make absolutely sure that I find God’s heart on this issue.

However, the deeper I dig into the Scriptures (doing my best to allow the text to speak for itself), the more I find myself an advocate of traditional marriage. When I examine the Biblical arguments in opposition, I find generally unsound methods of interpretation.

Without going into a deeper analysis of any specific text, I want to present in a small nutshell the summation of my perspective on this critical issue.

Mankind’s relationship with God is based upon a series of covenants which only God has the authority to institute and change (Galatians 3:15). Historically, every time God made a change in covenant He communicated both the reality and the terms of that change in a very clear manner.

The Law of Moses, for example, was integral to a specific covenant between God and man. The 613 commandments found in the Law of Moses were intended to last only until the establishment of the New Covenant (unless they were somehow reaffirmed). By His lifestyle, sacrificial death, and resurrection power, Jesus fulfilled the Law and established the New Covenant. The old system of rule-based righteousness was no longer necessary. This is all quite clear in the Scriptures.

Photo by balleyne - CC BY-SA 2.0

When God created Adam, He expressed the need for man to have an intimate companion, and so He created Eve. God then established the covenant of marriage between one man and one woman (Genesis 2:24-25).

Regardless of what mankind has done through the ages, God has never changed the terms of the marriage covenant. Instead, the marriage covenant between one man and one woman is affirmed more than once under both the Old and New Covenants (Mark 10:2-9). From a Biblical perspective, sexual immorality constitutes any type of sexual activity outside of the bounds of the marriage covenant between two individuals of the opposite sex.

The Bible stands strongly against all types of sexual immorality (Hebrews 13:4), but primarily because of what it stands for. In addition to being the best design for healthy societies, the marriage covenant stands a metaphor for our union with Christ (Ephesians 5:31-32). In other words, sex is sacred because of the sacred nature of our relationship with God.

In more than one passage the Bible equates sexual immorality with idolatry. Both are violations of fidelity to unchangeable covenants—covenants established by God Himself.

Sexual purity has nothing to do with picking and choosing which of the 613 Old Covenant laws we want to enforce. Instead, the terms of our covenant relationships transcend Old Covenant law. Both idolatry and sexual immorality stand as critical issues in the New Testament as well as the Old (please read Acts 15:1-29).

I realize that this perspective is grossly out of step with our cultural norms, but I contend that our culture is accountable to God—not the other way around. We all have fallen desires, many of which are sexual; and I am so thankful for the resurrection power of the cross to help us overcome!

I once heard of sex being compared to a beautiful, majestic river. As long as that river stays within its banks, it remains an exciting source of joy and life. But if that water overflows its boundaries, the resulting devastation can be foul and deadly! By God’s wise and loving decree, the boundaries of sexual relationships are to fall within the banks of a marriage covenant between one man and one woman. We may not totally understand God’s design, but we put ourselves in grave danger trying to conform it to our desires!