Realize The Value of the Tree.
I’m 44. I’ve been a Christian since November 1985 – coming up 31 years.
Currently I don’t go to church every week. I’d like to, but it’s not always easy. When I do go, I’m not well known or easily recognised these days. I sit and pray, listen to the Word being taught and worship with all my heart. Sometimes when I worship I even join in the songs.
I’ve met one of the pastors once or twice personally, but I’m not known by them – or them by me. I simply go when I can to be around other Christians.
I usually get raised eyebrows when I “confess” my current non-member status of a local church. I’ve applied for jobs where I’ve been rejected because I don’t have a “current” pastor and the last Pastor I had is not in “ministry” any more so apparently he’s not a good enough reference. I’ve been self-employed most of the last 20 years, but organisations want the reference of my last employer or manager.
Eventually it always comes down to one thing when I tell people I write a Christian Blog and I’m working on a book.
“What makes you think you’re qualified to write or talk about God in your current ‘spiritual condition’?”
There is much in my life I don’t share with everyone. There’s a good reason for that. It’s none of their business.
What I do share s what Jesus in my life means.
I didn’t become a Christian so I would avoid Hell – and yes, I do believe there’s a literal Hell. I didn’t become a Christian because I wanted a comfortable life. Or a good job. Or no problems.
Or a million other reasons than people who don’t really know Jesus think I became a Christian for.
I asked Jesus into my heart at the age of 13 because I knew I was terribly broken, and He could fix me. The break was something missing. I recognised I needed a relationship with God to be whole. And no matter what I did on this earth it would never be enough to earn that relationship.
I realised the value of the Cross.
I read an article about a man who described himself as a “secular follower of Jesus” a few days ago. He said how he was better for living by following Jesus’s example. He befriended prostitutes, the homeless, the broken. He made time for veterans begging on street corners in his city. He refused to judge people by their skin colour or religious background. He simply went about doing “good”.
And missed the point completely.
But the other, answering, rebuked him, saying, “Do you not even fear God, seeing you are under the same condemnation? And we indeed justly, for we receive the due reward of our deeds; but this Man has done nothing wrong.” Then he said to Jesus, “Lord, remember me when You come into Your kingdom.”
And Jesus said to him, “Assuredly, I say to you, today you will be with Me in Paradise.”
The thief on the cross next to Jesus didn’t go out and make friends with the poor. He never even compensated the people he’d stolen from. All he did was accept Jesus as Lord. He realised Jesus’s Kingdom was not of this world, but rather was a place beyond and above this mortal coil. He didn’t go and embrace the LGBTQ (and any other letter they want to add) community.
All he did was realise the value of the tree Jesus was hanging on.
I’m looking forward to meeting that guy. I’m longing to know his name. But I know his story. His story is my story. He realised he was broken and the only was to find the relationship He realised in his dying moments he needed was to embrace the one hanging next to him. Jesus.
Somewhere in the last 150 years we’ve lost sight of the Cross.
How did it happen? How has the central message of Christianity become so sidelined by false issues?
We’ve become so politically correct in the way we treat one another we’re afraid to say anything for fear we’ll offend someone.
A few years ago I worked in property maintenance for a while. I loved the job, but the best part was the friendship with my boss, Duncan. We used some tools manufactured for American companies although we were based in England, and the safety instructions were amazing. All the instructions were in cartoon form – no words. There was a cartoon of a man chopping his fingers off by putting them into the rotating blades of a lawnmower.
Now I may not be the sharpest tool in the work-shed academically, but I don’t need instructions, cartoon or otherwise, to tell me if you have a razor sharp blade rotating at 300rpm underneath a solid steel plate which wraps around it and holds it close to the ground that it’s probably not the best idea in the world to flip it over and put my fingers into the path of the blade.
What does that have to do with Jesus?
It’s an example of how we’ve become so obsessed with coddling people. The manufacturer of the mower was sued by a man who cut his fingers off by putting his hand in the path of the blades while it was running. 75 years ago he’d have been called an idiot for doing such a daft thing. But 20 years ago, he won the case.
Because of a side issue.
The real issue was his foolishness to put his hand into a moving lawnmower. The case made it about the manufacturer not putting adequately visible warning signs to keep fingers clear of the moving blades.
Our real issue is we are inherently sinful and consequently separated from God – He even gave us an instruction manual we call “The Bible” outlining what the real issue is and how to circumvent the consequences.
The sheep mentality of the 21st Century has spent all it’s time screaming about women’s rights (which would be advocated in a truly Christian society), whether Bush was a good President, whether Obama was a good President, why the Republicans chose Donald, whether Hillary should be wearing a pantsuit, what went wrong with Brad and Angelina, can Justin Bieber sing, is the Hulk stronger than Thor and most importantly, will there be another “Harry Potter” book.
Incredibly, the fact that Islam is a false religion that leads people away from relationship with God and back into slavery of religious duty has become a dirty statement for Christians to make. What God says about sexuality – which He designed in the first place – has been decried as outdated and anyone who dares mention out loud that the Bible says God never changes, that He is the one constant, is now called a heretic. We’ve had 30 years of “famous” preachers who have become household names. Those who have stuck to the Biblical teaching are ridiculed and those who bow to the tide of public opinion instead of the declared, known Will of God on the topic are lauded as the “real” christians because they don’t “judge” people for their choice.
What they actually do is become sightless guides, leading people into a pit.
Now we’re not called to judge people, but we are called to recognise them by the fruit they bear as to whether they are from God. Jesus spent His time talking to prostitutes, tax-collectors, adulterers and Samaritans. But it didn’t mean He was making use of the prostitute’s services, swindling the people out of their money, cheating on people’s spouses or abandoning God. It meant He saw in each of those people a fertile soil for the seed of His Word to grow in and lead them away from the actions that pulled them away from God.
That’s what the Cross was about. Rebuilding relationship with a Loving God who created us specifically in His own image so we could have a relationship with Him.
The “progressive” message is insidious in it’s phrasing. It starts with a measure of Truth: Jesus wouldn’t reject this person because he/she is gay/queer/trans/Muslim/etc. I completely agree – He wouldn’t. He would offer them unconditional Love. What He wouldn’t do is leave them in the place He found them – which is what the “progressives” want us to do.
Take the woman brought to Him from the very act of adultery. Probably at least partly naked. Terrified because this mob wants to kill her. Thrown to the ground in front of this man known for His Holiness, His righteousness. The Law is clear…
So this Rabbi turns away from her a little, crouches down and begins to write in the sand.
Everyone looks at Him. What wisdom is He writing? Why has he crouched there?
How tender. How merciful. A moment before all eyes were on her – and her nakedness. Now everyone’s attention is on Him. She has a chance to cover herself. She has an opportunity to restore some dignity.
He stands and turns back to her. What is most significant now is what Jesus doesn’t say.
He doesn’t say “Where is the one she was with?”
He doesn’t tell them “The Law says do it!”
He turns the accusation back on the accusers.
However, when they persisted in questioning Him, He straightened up and said, “He who is without [any] sin among you, let him be the first to throw a stone at her.”
John 8:7 (Amplified)
And they walk away.
Then He turns to the woman.
Again, Jesus doesn’t ask who she was with. Or if it was a man or a woman. Or for the details of what they did. He knows what they did was sin – that’s all that matters to Him.
Straightening up, Jesus said to her, “Woman, where are they? Did no one condemn you?” She answered, “No one, Lord!” And Jesus said, “I do not condemn you either. Go. From now on sin no more.”
John 8:10-11 (Amplified)
The “progressive” attitude omits His last sentence. “From now on sin no more.” But that’s the key to the real issue. Sin separated mankind from God. Trusting Jesus, giving our life to Him and really nailing our past to the Tree with Him, is what restores that relationship. Sin no more.
Every time Jesus talks to someone crippled because of sin He tells them to stop that sin. In one case he even warns something worse may come. (John 5:14)
Forgiveness without repentance. It’s the “progressive” gospel, but it’s a lie. Unconditional acceptance is not the message of Jesus. There’s one condition: repent. Repentance means realising the significance of the Cross. It means accepting Jesus and the price He paid for us and as a mark of that acceptance, turning away from our past life. An outward manifestation of this Salvation is Regeneration – a change in behaviour, speech, even associations.
But the lie of the “progressive” movement is that you’re saved and forgiven. It’s a lie of omission. To be forgiven we must repent. To show we are saved we must demonstrate the regeneration inside us.
For the geeks out there, imagine Dr Who goes through his regeneration and is still exactly who he was before. He looks the same, he talks the same. He is the same. Now for fans who like David Tennant (or Tom Baker if you’re my age) that might be a good thing, but the story doesn’t change. There’s no difference. It’s as though the regeneration never happened.
I never imagined I’d quote Dr Who in an article here.
But it’s a brilliant analogy. Each regeneration of the Doctor changes his character. Tom Baker’s Doctor was nothing like William Hartnell, Patrick Troughton or John Pertwee before him, and Peter Davison bore no resemblance to Tom Baker and so on. The character changed when the regeneration happened.
So our character should change – be restored actually – to what Jesus intended it to be when He designed us and gave us the Gifts we carry. I’m still quick tempered now, like I was before I committed my life to Christ, but what I get angry about has changed. Mostly. Like everyone I’m a work in progress. As Andrew Wommack is fond of saying in his sermons, I may not have arrived – but at least I’ve left! Praise God!
Go to the Cross.
Right now. Go there in your heart.
Look at it. Really see what Jesus did.
I have no words better than Isaac Watts, so I’ll leave with this thought:
When I survey the wondrous cross
On which the Prince of glory died,
My richest gain I count but loss,
And pour contempt on all my pride.
Forbid it, Lord, that I should boast,
Save in the death of Christ my God!
All the vain things that charm me most,
I sacrifice them to His blood.
See from His head, His hands, His feet,
Sorrow and love flow mingled down!
Did e’er such love and sorrow meet,
Or thorns compose so rich a crown?
Were the whole realm of nature mine,
That were a present far too small;
Love so amazing, so divine,
Demands my soul, my life, my all.