Monday, July 18, 2005

Property of Jesus

I ran across an interesting set of comments the other day while I was blogging. The blog’s author had apparently been getting a lot of spam. It was one thing, he said, to get unsolicited e-mail from pornographers or someone selling sedatives, but the “Christian” spam he’s been getting went over some invisible line of decency he had drawn:

“But, the line for inappropriate spam needs to be drawn somewhere and I suggest we draw it at religious spam. Over the last six months or so my inbox has occasionally been in receipt of Christian spam. I’ve received emails notifying me that up to seven bibles (notice the symbolic number) are reserved for purchase under my name. I’ve been presented the opportunity to mingle with “Christian singles in your area.” I’ve been offered a “Christian mortgage.” And I’ve even been invited to attend Christian “meetings” where I can only imagine people gather to pontificate on Jesus Christ’s pivotal role here on planet earth.””If Christians firmly believe that Jesus is so great and important, why are they flagrantly and shamelessly defying the third commandment? Seems like sending spam email that invokes the name of Christ would qualify as taking the Lord’s name in vain. I’ve never put any stock in the third commandment, even while being raised as a Christian. Who is God, anyway? Woody Allen?”

The author’s post evoked provocative comments. A couple of them follow. First, there is this little gem:

“You see, Andrew, the distributors of porn, erectile dysfunction pills, and Christianity are all essentially the same. They all view women, profit, and recruitment (if you will) exactly the same. They think with one mind. They see with one eye. But they have many faces to show you to make you think they are more than one.”

And then there’s this:

“They probably would use the excuse that they are trying to be “fishers of men.” I don't know how “Christian Real-Estate” counts, though. Not only is it a violation of blasphemy, but it is a violation of commandment 2: no graven images.”

Part of me understands their irritation. I don’t like getting unsolicited e-mails pitching products or ideas. It is irritating, but it’s only a minor irritation. I’ve found the best way to handle that stuff is to identify to my e-mail host as spam, delete it, and then go on with my daily routine.

I think there’s more to this than meets the eye. “Why, I ask myself, would pornography be alright and Jesus be offensive?” Is it really Christians that have these folks up in arms or is it something or someone else?

Jesus is really unique. He is both the most revered and the most hated man who ever lived. He is embraced by billions and at the same time he is reviled by a significant portion of the world’s population.

In all the furor there was one commenter who asked, I believe unknowingly, the right question – “Who is Jesus?” The answer to that question is at the heart of the issue. This has little to do with spam. It’s got everything to do with who Jesus was, and is! This has far less to do with Christians behaving badly than it does with Jesus’ life and His claims on humanity. This man and the Cross of Calvary are still the crux of the issue today.

Jesus, unlike the pornographer or the salesman, offers only two choices to those who have heard Him. One can either accept or reject him. There is no middle ground. C.S. Lewis, “the apostle to the skeptics,” put it this way:

“A man who was merely a man and said the things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic-on a level with the man who says he is a poached egg-or else he would be the Devil of Hell. You must make your choice. Either this man was and is, the Son of God; or else a madman or something worse. You can shut Him up for a fool, you can spit at Him and kill Him as a demon; or you can fall at His feet and call Him Lord and God. But let us not come with any patronizing nonsense about His being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to.”

It is Jesus’ unique claim to Deity that is bothersome to the skeptic and the unbeliever. And, for those who are bothered by it to claim otherwise is patently false. Jesus either was who He said he was or He was a fraud. That’s what troubles them!

In the discourse that follows Jesus asked His followers what others believed Him to be and then followed that question by asking them who they themselves believed Him to be. The questions and the answers to the questions couldn’t be clearer evidence of what Jesus and those closest to Him believed:

Matthew 16:13-18 (New Living Translation)

Peter’s Declaration about Jesus
13When Jesus came to the region of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?”
14”Well,” they replied, “some say John the Baptist, some say Elijah, and others say Jeremiah or one of the other prophets.”
15Then he asked them, “Who do you say I am?”
16Simon Peter answered, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.”
17Jesus replied, “You are blessed, Simon son of John,[
a] because my Father in heaven has revealed this to you. You did not learn this from any human being. 18Now I say to you that you are Peter,[b] and upon this rock I will build my church, and all the powers of hell[c] will not conquer it.”

But Jesus not only claimed Deity, He also claimed to be the only way to God. Toward the end of His earthly life He had these words of comfort for His followers. They clearly demonstrate the exclusive nature of Jesus’ belief and message:

John 14:1-10 (New Living Translation)

Jesus, the Way to the Father
1”Don't be troubled. You trust God, now trust in me. 2There are many rooms in my Father's home, and I am going to prepare a place for you. If this were not so, I would tell you plainly. 3When everything is ready, I will come and get you, so that you will always be with me where I am. 4And you know where I am going and how to get there.”
5 “No, we don't know, Lord,” Thomas said. “We haven't any idea where you are going, so how can we know the way?”
6Jesus told him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one can come to the Father except through me. 7If you had known who I am, then you would have known who my Father is.[
a] From now on you know him and have seen him!”
8Philip said, “Lord, show us the Father and we will be satisfied.”
9Jesus replied, “Philip, don't you even yet know who I am, even after all the time I have been with you? Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father! So why are you asking to see him? 10Don't you believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me? The words I say are not my own, but my Father who lives in me does his work through me.”

The proof Jesus offered to substantiate these claims were his death and subsequent resurrection from the dead.

That’s the Christian message! I can see that how profoundly disturbing it is. I spent fourteen years of my life professing atheism. It was a disturbing message when I heard it too. I realized that it called on me to make a decision about my temporal and eternal destinies. I realized that I had a choice between heaven and hell. It was as simple as that. Disturbing, but simple.

And, even worse for the skeptics, Jesus seems to be in the business of redeeming people even today. Our church has been having great success with those who live on the margins of life. The reason we’ve been having such success is that we’ve been proclaiming the simple message Jesus commanded us to bring to our communities. On almost any given Sunday we hear from people who have been caught in the ugly grip of drugs, pride, deceit, lust, greed, or any other sin you can name. Yesterday, for example, we listened to three people describe a “chance” encounter they had at a local Taco Bell. Two of our members, who had once been caught up in the drug scene, pulled up to the drive in window to order some food. When the Taco Bell employee opened the service window and asked for their order they could see, because of their history, that the young man had a drug problem. They gave him their order, then the window closed. Once it did the two said a very brief prayer for the young man inside the store. A few minutes later the window opened. The young man gave them their food and then said something very strange. I’ll describe it in his words. “I came to the window and I felt that “somebody else” was there with us. I’d never felt anything like it. I looked at these guys and all I could think to say was the serenity prayer. I knew then that I had a choice to make about my life. I could either go on being a slave to the drugs or I could let Jesus redeem me.” That was the extent of the things that were exchanged at the window – a short prayer, a few tacos, and these words:

“God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change; courage to change the things I can; and wisdom to know the difference.”

It didn’t seem like much, but that was just the beginning. A week or so later the young man decided to attend a Narcotics Anonymous meeting here in town. When he arrived he saw that the two young men who had prayed for him were also there.

The rest is now history, as testified to by the young man who was redeemed from the scourge of drugs. The gospel was shared. The young man accepted the salvation offered. He is now drug free and “happier than I’ve ever been in my life.”

Our church is being filled with these types of stories. People that the “wise” or the skeptical have rejected have now found their way home. Further, their tormentors and enablers have a few less “customers” to abuse.

I’m sure that the skeptics also find that profoundly disturbing. It’s one thing to say that Jesus did things a couple of thousand years ago. But when it happens in twenty-first century America it becomes a mirror against which the skeptics can see their own lives. And they, like the young man at Taco Bell, like Jesus’ followers of old, like the blind men He healed, the lepers He cleansed, have a choice to make. Jesus either was or was not who He claimed to be. Those who have embraced Him have found that He is indeed who He claimed to be. The skeptics, sadly, are dead in their trespasses and sins.

That is a message both profoundly filled with hope and profoundly disturbing.

I normally try to abide by a “live and let live” philosophy. But I feel compelled to let those skeptics and unbelievers who might be reading this post know exactly where they stand in life. I’m going to share my feelings, not because I don’t care about what happens to them, but because I do. I hope the words hit them at a very deep, personal level.

I’ll put it very simply. You’re lost and you’re losers. The Man you mock and reject has become, as Holy Writ well puts it, a stumbling block to you. He’s offered you love, peace, and salvation and you reject it. You’ve become hardened, uncaring, and unfeeling. You’ve become so hardened that you’ve now got a brick stuffed up inside your chest where your heart ought to be.

Your sad estate has been put into rhyme and song. Read the words and you’ll see yourself mirrored there:

“Go ahead and talk about him because he makes you doubt,
Because he has denied himself the things you can’t live without.
Laugh at him behind his back just like the others do,
Remind him of what he used to be when he comes walkin’ through.”

“He’s the property of Jesus
Resent him to the bone
You got something better
You got a heart of stone”

“Stop your conversation when he passes on the street,
Hope he falls upon himself, oh, won’t that be sweet
Because he can’t be exploited by superstition anymore
Because he can’t be bribed or bought by the things that you adore.”

“He’s the property of Jesus
Resent him to the bone
You got something better
You got a heart of stone”

“When the whip that’s keeping you in line doesn’t make him jump,
Say he’s hard-of-hearin’, say that he’s a chump.
Say he’s out of step with reality as you try to test his nerve
Because he doesn’t pay no tribute to the king that you serve.”

“He’s the property of Jesus
Resent him to the bone
You got something better
You got a heart of stone”

“Say that he’s a loser cause he got no common sense
Because he don’t increase his worth at someone else’s expense.
Because he’s not afraid of trying, ‘cause he don’t look at you and smile,
‘Cause he doesn’t tell you jokes or fairy tales, say he’s got no style.

“Say that he's a loser 'cause he got no common senseBecause he don't increase his worth at someone else's expense.Because he's not afraid of trying, 'cause he don't look at you and smile,'Cause he doesn't tell you jokes or fairy tales, say he's got no style.”

“He’s the property of Jesus
Resent him to the bone
You got something better
You got a heart of stone”

“You can laugh at salvation, you can play Olympic games,
You think that when you rest at last you’ll go back from where you came.
But you’ve picked up quite a story and you’ve changed since the womb
What happened to the real you, you’ve been captured but by whom?”

“He’s the property of Jesus
Resent him to the bone
You got something better
You got a heart of stone”

Bob Dylan – “Property of Jesus”

It’s up to you, the skeptic, to decide. You’re a free moral agent. You have enough information about Jesus and His message to make your choice. You know where Jesus stands. You know where you stand. You can delete the message like the spam in your in box or you can open it. Your choice will determine whether or not the gulf that exits between you and the Almighty still stands.



Kathryn St.Clair said...

this was a thoughtful non confrontational post. especially liked the song by dylan.


James Fletcher Baxter said...

"Good boy, Dillon!"

This was a thoughtful confrontational post; a choice between Heaven or Hell. No middle ground. (Middle-grounders go to Hell.)

Human opinion based on ignorance is meaningless and not worthy of any degree of 'loyalty' or defense. Yet, what else does the non-value humanist have?

As long as folks post their e-mail address others will recognize it as a receptive invitation and those folks will receive public mail. (Me too.)

Spam is mass-mailed commercial messages. All other mail is not spam - requested or not. Delete but quit whining and Shut Up/Pipe down! In America it is free speech. Delete! And, go tell mommy to change your didy and go play patty-cake! Ideas are fair game for adults; Grow Up!!!

"Multitudes, multitudes in the Valley of Decision for the Day of the Lord is at hand in the Valley of Decision." Joel 3:14

Have you decided? Is your choice based on Ignorance or Knowledge?

No one will go to Heaven against their will.

Those who do not choose at all will go to Hell.

To go to Heaven you must choose Jesus. He has already chosen you - but He will allow you to make the final election...

Eternity is a forever time to think about a dumb choice.


angel said...

Very intersting post. I really liked it. Keep up the blogging!

Gone Away said...


Andrew Tavani said...

First of all, I'd like to thank you for referring to me as an "author." I believe that makes you the first to do so.

Secondly, I think you may have missed the point of my post (or maybe I didn't articulate it well enough).

I have no problem with Jesus and at no point did I criticize him or his father. I directed my criticism at the PEOPLE who co-opt his name and commercialize him to either a) sell me a product, or b) try to convert me. I also pointed out the irony in these peoples' similarity to the practices that their counterparts employ, whom they stand on a moral highground above.

In short, I don't understand Christians compulsion to "sell" Christianity to the world. If something is truly a great buy, it should sell itself.

Wayne Newcomb said...

What a great blog. I really enjoy reading your articles.
Equippers Network

Orikinla Osinachi. said...

Thank you for the sermon on the blog.

The mystery of Jesus Christ as one with the Father Almighty God and the Holy Spirit is clearly explained in simple sentence in JOHN 1 of the KJV HOLY BIBLE.

Jesus Christ made himself very down to earth to to the poorest of the poor and to the richest of the rich.

If there is anyone who should doubt Jesus Christ, its I who has lost hope in all creation. But, I have seen horrors and terrors 99% of humankind have not seen. Darfur and Rwanda and the holocaust are nothing compared to hell. I have met the devil and I have rejected the devil.

On those usisng the name of Jesus to market their Christian merchandise. May God forgive them.

Jesus Christ never sold any product. And let me tell everybody on earth. The only thing you need in this world is the WORD OF GOD as written in the true Holy Bible. All these spin pastors and spin doctors harassing you to buy their books and indulgences are doing so for their own merchandise.


Just accept Him and ask for His Holy Spirit to help you. And do your best to obey the Word of God.
That's all. No other formula and no other algebra and it is not the amount of offering you give.
"Obedience is better than sacrifice."

The hood does not make the monk.

Miss Cambria, 1892 said...

Excellent post! It brings up ideas that most of us don't even think about..breaking the 3rd commandment by using his name frivolously.

morealyera said...

these days it seems that people (in general) associate the term "religion" with "fanatic"... and that is a shame.

Every "religion" has extremists who make the news and color society's views about the majority of members of the religion, who really don't deserve to be stereotyped that way.

For further explanation, how about 2 Timothy 3:1-5 (from the New World Translation of the Holy Scriptures)

1) But know this, that in the last days critical times hard to deal with will be here. 2) For men will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, self-assuming, haughty, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, disloyal, 3) having no natural affection, not open to any agreement, slanderers, without self-control, fierce, without love of goodness, 4) betrayers, headstrong, puffed up [with pride], lovers of pleasures rather than lovers of God, 5) having a form of godly devotion but proving false to its power; and from these turn away.