31Again the Jews picked up stones to stone him, 32but Jesus said to them, “I have shown you many great miracles from the Father. For which of these do you stone me?” 33″We are not stoning you for any of these,” replied the Jews, “but for blasphemy, because you, a mere man, claim to be God.” 34Jesus answered them, “Is it not written in your Law, ‘I have said you are gods’? 35If he called them ‘gods,’ to whom the word of God came—and the Scripture cannot be broken— 36what about the one whom the Father set apart as his very own and sent into the world? Why then do you accuse me of blasphemy because I said, ‘I am God’s Son’? 37Do not believe me unless I do what my Father does. 38But if I do it, even though you do not believe me, believe the miracles, that you may know and understand that the Father is in me, and I in the Father.” 39Again they tried to seize him, but he escaped their grasp. 40Then Jesus went back across the Jordan to the place where John had been baptizing in the early days. Here he stayed 41and many people came to him. They said, “Though John never performed a miraculous sign, all that John said about this man was true.” 42And in that place many believed in Jesus.
I’d like to preface today’s thoughts by adding one final point to what I said in yesterday’s meditation. In the context of John 10:22-30 Jesus is talking to his opponents. They were questioning him as to His identity and He answers quite emphatically, and unmistakeably. Well, while there may still be an evangelistic tone to these statements, there is also exhortation. You see, it is no longer his ‘opponents’ who primarily read this Gospel, but His Church. These words, then, are spoken now to the Church. An important question to ask, with this in mind is this: Why would Jesus need to remind the Church that ‘He and the Father are one,’ and that His ‘sheep listen to his voice’? He also says, ‘I know them,’ and ‘they follow me.’ This only deepens the level of accountability we have to Jesus because if He ‘knows’ us, then how can we do anything apart from Him? How can we hide anything from Him? Does anything escape His carefully watching eyes? Or does the Scripture say, ‘then I saw a Lamb, looking as if it had been slain, standing in the center of the throne, encircled by the four living creatures and the elders. He had seven horns and seven eyes, which are the seven spirits [ Or the sevenfold Spirit] of God sent out into all the earth’ for no apparent reason? (Revelation 5:6, NIV).
In fact, nothing in the church escapes the Son of Man who ‘walks among the Lampstands’ (Revelation 1:12-13). The problem with a lot of church leadership nowadays is that at a very fundamental level they think Jesus is unaware of what’s going on in the church, they do not believe He is ‘still in charge,’ or, worse, that He will do anything about it if He is in charge. The reason? Well, on the one hand they have a profoundly deficient view of who the Biblical Jesus is and, on the other hand, they do not have sound biblical preaching teaching them what the Bible says. These two in tandem produce a church that tolerates the the pathetic non-gospel preaching of such folks as Joel Osteen, and tolerates the pressures from homosexual activists fighting for God-blessed ordination and inclusion in the Body of Christ apart from repentance.
I was debating with a man the other day who made it quite abundant that he ‘is’ a Christian. We argued back and forth until he finally confessed that he has no confidence in the biblical witness at all suggesting that Jesus was not really crucified, but ‘hanged’, and that the Bible has ‘historical contradictions’ in it. But he still calls himself a Christian, but what kind of Christian? And is this a valid assumption to make about oneself when the very Scriptures that define us are called into question, disrepute, and reproach? There is only one kind of Christian and that is the kind, said David Wells, that is ‘constituted and defined by the Word of God.’ He goes on, ‘There is a core that identifies Christians in every age, and every culture. It is this Biblical confession that has to be preserved.’ There is no Christianity apart from a Biblically defined, Holy Spirit revealed, Christ centered, Christianity. The only way this will realistically happen is if Christians, beginning with preachers in the pulpits, start preaching the Jesus of the Scripture and none other.
Funny thing about his opponents: They got it! They didn’t believe it, but they got it! They understood perfectly well that Jesus was saying, “I am God.” Their response was typical: they tried to stone him (31), accuse him of blasphemy (33) and, they tried to seize him (39). But they would not take him at face value. I’m convinced that the Biblical Message about Jesus will make at least as many enemies as it makes ‘many who believe.’ It’s a hard message, and according to John MacArthur, “Hard to Believe.” But no one could seize Jesus for proclaiming the truth; and didn’t he say that no one can snatch us from the Father’s hand? So why we shrink back when it comes to the Gospel?
Again, it comes back to the church because these words, evangelistic though they undoubtedly are, are primarily in existence for the teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness of the Church. What is he saying about the church when he says these things? Has it so come about that the church is now full of opponents of Christ? I have another example that I saw at another blog (www.alittleleaven.com). There’s a church in Minnesota advertising a new sermon series to be preached soon: The Gospel According to the Police (a secular music group). A Little Leaven wrote:
Another church has sadly sold out to the demon god of relevance.
This time it is Oak Hills Church in Eagan Minnesota. Their upcoming sermon series is entitled The Gospel According to the Police.
Please note: The Police are not a Christian Band. Their lyrics are not on par with the scriptures and their ‘gospel’ (if it could even be called that) is a different gospel than the gospel of Jesus Christ. But who’s going to let these pesky little details get in the way of a ‘culturally engaging’ sermon series designed to help grow a church?
Obviously, not Oak Hills. Here is what their site says about the series:
Each week we’ll explore the music of the band “The Police” and the questions they raise about life. Sermon/song titles include:“Hole in My Life”: Everyone has to make the decision to follow Christ and stay on the path to full devotion.
“Spirits in a Material World”: We have to plug-in to God and others at our weekend services.
“So Lonely”: We have to charge-up to become like Christ in small group gatherings.
“Driven to Tears”: We have to live-out our faith by serving at Oak Hills or in our community.
“Message in a Bottle”: Live a missional life.
Well this would be just fine and dandy IF the church was called to explore the questions of life raised by secular rock bands. But it’s NOT. Instead, the church is called to preach the word of God, preach Christ and Him crucified for sinners and teach that which is in accord with sound doctrine.
And isn’t the author right?
I think I know what it is. You see if we start preaching this Jesus who claimed to be God then we will no longer be relevant. But as Jesus takes center stage in our preaching, we will become more potent, faithful, and biblically relevant. Maybe we’re afraid that people will treat us the way they treated Jesus: with contempt, accusations, violence. Maybe they won’t want to hear anything we have to say if we talk about sin and repentance and judgment. Perhaps we’re afraid we’ll be threatened—And we will! What is worse: A person who is not a Christian at all? Or a person who is a ‘wrong’ Christian, an error filled Christian, an unsaved Christian, a deluded Christian who thinks he is saved but in fact is not? Churches must stop persisting in the delusion that we are helping people by keeping them ‘in the Pew’ and ‘out of Christ.’ I’m convinced, in agreement with David Wells, that even though there are variations on certain biblical concepts that cause disagreement, that there is a core to our belief that does not change from generation to generation. There is such a thing as orthodoxy that begins and ends with Jesus, the Son of God.
Let me speak metaphorically for a moment. These opponents of Jesus resorted to violence because of their opposition to Jesus’ claims (in this case, that He Is God). I wonder if the Church hasn’t done the same? Do you think the church believes that it can actually improve the message of Jesus if it just tweaks it here and there a little? If we leave out essential, biblical content like Jesus’ divinity, Jesus’ sacrifice, Jesus’ radical, counter-cultural call to discipleship, judgment on sin, repentance, Jesus as the Only Way to Eternal Life, then maybe we can attract a little larger crowd and keep them around a little longer, but have we ‘helped’ them? I don’t think that will work, nor do I think it is right. I wonder if the church doesn’t done violence to Jesus when we try to ‘shut him up’? I wonder if we are actually his opponents when when we challenge his teaching? The short and long answer is, ‘Yes, we do.’
I’ll close with two thoughts from David Wells that I believe address this concern.
“Christ’s Gospel calls sinners to surrender their self-centeredness, to stop granting sovereignty to their own needs and recognize his claim of sovereignty over their lives. This is the reversal, the transposition of loyalties that is entailed in all genuine Christian believing” (God in the Wasteland, 82).
“The Church is called to declare the message of the cross, not to uncover God’s hidden purposes in the world or the secrets of his inner therapy. It is called to tell the world what God has said about sin, not to guess at what he might be saying through daily circumstances or whispering in private intuition. And it is called to make known the coming judgment. God’s glory requires this judgment, and the church awaits in hope the moment when truth will be put forever on the throne and error forever on the scaffold” (God in the Wasteland, 185).
I wrote in the margin, next to the second comment: Amen! Amen! Now is the business of those called to preach to make known this message to the world. But judgment begins with the house of God. First we declare this message to the church and in His powerful Name set the church free to belong to Him only. Then to trust that the Spirit of Jesus will ratify these truths in our hearts so that we will have the authority and courage to preach to the lost world. What I’m saying is this: Until the Church recovers the courage and backbone to preach the entire counsel of God, as Jesus did, then we have no right to preach at all and the church will continue to fall under judgment. Until we have the nerve to leave nothing out of the proclamation, we have no moral or theological authority to say anything about anything. We have a derived authority that comes from the Word of God. Until the Word of God is preached, the Church is a meaningless collection of misfits. But when the Word of God is declared boldly, in its entirety, then the Church is a powerful force to be reckoned with on this planet, and the very gates of Hell will mount no defense against the Church. Until then, we will continue to be overrun, overturned, and rather shallow.
A Call to Preachers: If You Sincerely desire your church to be what the Bible declares a Church to be: Preach the Gospel, in season, out of season. Leave nothing out of the proclamation. Mince no words. Pull no punches. Leave nothing to chance. Fearlessly declare the Gospel of Jesus Christ, without shame, without fear. Preach the Gospel of Jesus, the Biblical Jesus; Jesus, the Son of God.
Soli Deo Gloria!