NO MORE “SAFE” JESUS!
Does the world around us look more evil than it was say 50 years ago? One hundred years ago? Do you long for a safer, less contentious time, where Christians are more accepted, even respected? I have to say that I’m not sure such a time has ever existed. Even when Jesus walked this earth, there were many who hated Him and anyone who followed Him.
I struggle with the fact, though, that things seem to be deteriorating in our culture. I shake my head in disgust when I read statements from men I admire, like Dr. R. Albert Mohler Jr., who states that “Erotic liberty has been elevated as a right more fundamental than religious liberty.” Yet, I have to agree with that observation of our society. Moreover, part of me rebels as I see the downward trend in American morality. One that states there is no absolute right or wrong. One that says we should not be judgmental but should be inclusive, tolerant. Except when it comes to those Christians…who say there is a right and a wrong. Hmmph! The intolerable height of intolerance! And I know in my head that the Bible says to expect that the world will become ever more sinful as we approach the end times. But in my heart, I hate to see the hurt being caused, the lives wasted as people adopt the ways of sin and call them “good.”
But then I read something that causes me to cling to some hope. Dr. Jared C. Wilson, who is affiliated with the Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Kansas City, helped remind me that God has this all under control…and maybe the end times are not quite around the corner…God has others who still need to receive His salvation.
Wilson wrote about how polarizing Jesus was (and still is) and cites MT 12:30 where Jesus says Himself that “He who is not with Me is against Me….” The point of this article is that the modern Christian church, at least in some places, is trying to diminish that polarization by preaching a softer version of Christianity. The problem: “The safe version of Jesus of modern evangelicalism is not offensive, but neither is He very compelling.” No, Jesus drew a line in the sand, which forces a reaction from each of us. And some people will reject that, sometimes with hostility. “The gospel forces the issue,” Wilson says. There’s only one way to God and salvation…His name is Jesus.
Yes, there is terrific rejection of the truth claims of Jesus in our society. So what encourages me here, you might ask? Wilson makes an interesting observation of “a quiet revival in New England…,” which he calls the least-churched region of the nation and the home to untold numbers of people who love so-called inclusion/tolerance. Wilson looks at Boston specifically and notes that, “Since 1970, the population of Boston has declined, but the number of churches in the city has almost doubled.” Similarly, he says, the number of people attending church has more than tripled in that same timeframe. And not just any church: “Across New England, conservative churches are on a slow increase, while all others are in a continuing decline.” As Wilson says, “…the safe Jesus” is found in these liberal mainline churches, but the compelling Jesus, who speaks effectively to the hearts of men, is found in the conservative, evangelical churches.
Why should this polarizing Jesus be what people are after? Wilson’s answer is that the real, line-in-the-sand Jesus, not the soft-baked Jesus, offers a security not found in the liberal church. There’s “…a certainty of divine will and atonement,” where Jesus is the only way to salvation, Wilson says. He says further that Christianity is the only religion that offers such certainty: believe in Jesus and live. In Wilson’s considered opinion, all other religions are built on “a treadmill of hoop-jumping.” The uncertainty plays out this way: one can never know how many hoops are enough to “make it.” I guess one just keeps jumping until one falls over dead, and then you hope for the best! It seems to me that the only certainty there then is that your legs get figuratively tired! Sounds suspiciously like “works” to me.
I agree with Wilson when he says that conservative (read Bible-based) Christianity is built around grace. The security and certainty that people are seeking comes from the love of God Himself. According to Dr. Wilson, “…refuge from God’s wrath is only found in God Himself. And there is no place more secure than God Himself.” Amen to that.