|Posted on 2 February, 2017 at 19:45|
I had a little revelation about one of our core values today. We aim as a church to be "Jesus Destined". That really means Jesus is where we are going. And sometimes we fall into the trap of thinking and believing that Jesus is the vehicle to the place that we are going, not the vehicle and the destination. So our destination can actually be "peace", or "forgiveness".
Those are great things, but they are benefits of Christ, not the destination. And if they become our destination, we will happily jump on a cheaper or more comfortable vehicle if it seems to be going to the same destination. It is a subtle difference, but it really does make all the difference in the end.
Once when I was teaching High School Scripture I said to the youth in the class “who would become a Christian today if I gave you $10?” Not a lot of responses, so then I made it a little more generous and offered $50 (stay with me here, I’m not being underhanded there is a point to the story). At that point a whole lot of kids put their hands up.
So I said “here’s why I’m not going to do that. It’s not that I couldn’t find the money, I’m sure I could find a few thousand dollars for a good cause. And it’s not that I don’t want you to follow Jesus. I want that more than anything. The reason I’m not going to pay you $50 to follow Jesus is that if you buy in for $50 you’d buy out for $100. If Jesus is worth $50 to them, I wonder how much Buddha is worth? Or what I could cash in a New Age belief voucher for?”
I don’t know what impression that story made on them. I hope it’s a help for this question in some way. Peace is a good thing, but it is not the best thing. Love without strings is wonderful, but even it is not the best thing. Here’s what we believe as Jesus people, it’s amazing stuff: Jesus is the best thing. And as the best thing, He holds peace in His hands and gives it as a gift to His people when they make Him their destination. Jesus is even called the Prince of Peace in the Bible (Isaiah 9). And He is the author of Love without strings, so He gives that to us even before we believe, and even more after we do trust and follow Him (see Romans ch 8:38-39 for that one).
Romans 8:38 For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons,[k] neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, 39 neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
The writer names a heap of the common strings attached to love, and then says NONE of them will separate us from God’s love.
I get tempted to present God as a means to an end. Just being honest with you. Offering peace, forgiveness, healing and some of the other benefits of Jesus is pretty appealing. Sometimes I accidentally focus on Jesus as the vehicle only, and forget to mention He is the destination. The thing is, though, that Jesus is the source of all the other things. So without Him they don’t hold together. There is no lasting peace without the Prince of Peace, because peace is a theological reality and a choice we make, not a feeling. There is no eternal or wholistic healing without Jesus either, because as Blaise Pascal, the 17th Century Scientist, described, we are all born with a “God shaped hole” in our hearts which only God can heal. There can be healings we receive and ways we grow to know and love ourselves and others without God (or without directly asking God). But if you believe that in the Bible God is telling the truth, then we need our destination to be Jesus if we are to find healing. Or forgiveness. Or peace with God. One of Jesus most famous statements, which would be controversial if people wrote it, but the people who wrote it heard the man who said it, and the man who said it was Jesus. He said “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except by me.” He said to us that He is the destination.
It is a kind rebuke to me from God, to keep my eyes on Jesus and who He is, and let Him take care of all these other things in my life (and in the life of His church in Gloucester) as they take their right place.