The Feelings Train Has Left The Station

facts faith feelings 2

 

I love me a good ‘satire-as-truth’ article, so here’s a little bit of reality-based humor from over at the Babylon Bee:

SEATTLE, WA—After reading several chapters from the gospels over the weekend, local progressive believer Wendy Butler reportedly published a Patheos blog post in which she criticized Jesus of Nazareth for “not being very Christlike.”  

The blog post took Jesus to task for His “unloving and problematic” teachings.“He devotes entire sections of His sermons to ranting about archaic religious concepts like hell and the last judgment instead of just coming alongside the marginalized and affirming their sins,” Butler said. “Very little of what He did on earth I would describe as life-giving. Frankly, I do a better job of being Christlike than Christ Himself.”

Zing! Is anyone offended?

Our experiences lead the way when defining how we think about God, its partially true. It isn’t right, but it’s true. How can some have such a reverent outlook while others dismantle Jesus down to nuts and bolts only to put Him back together how they’d like to see Him? To be fair, it plays out on both sides of the fence, the end result being the same, a kind of build-your-own-Jesus that never really resembles the real one.

I’ve known people whose Jesus still lives up on a cross , defeated and sad. They revere Him but know none of His power. Others take a more charismatic view, Jesus is their sandal-wearing buddy, here to serve or comfort in time of need. We conveniently take certain passages from the Good Book and use them to reinforce ‘our Jesus’. Each side has their go-to verses they like to use: “He hung out with sinners!” vs. “He turned over the tables in righteous anger!” and everything in between.

Here’s the rub: we are all human with vastly differing views and experiences. The minute we start trying to form the Word to suit our agenda is the moment we might as well toss in the towel. We have to begin with Jesus. He is our starting place. We don’t need to pull out passages that prove our point, we need to just point to Him.

Jeremiah 29:13 says “You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.” 
We are told in Proverbs that wisdom and knowledge is found when we seek it out like treasure and when we cry out for discernment (2:3-4). We do have the answers, and they actually are kind of a “one size fits all” in the sense that Jesus is who He is. Now, of course He deals with us on a most personal level and it is a beautiful thing, because we are certainly not one size fits all people. He knows our life road map that got us where we are, our quirks, our wounds, the silly stuff we believe that may not be entirely true, He gets it. He just offers us all a clear lifeline out of the muddy waters and into the Living Waters of truth.

There’s a lot of buzz lately in Christian (especially womens) circles about the need to be brave and fierce and true to your ‘tribe’. It’s all about that ‘tribe’. That’s all fantastic, provided your tribe is grounded in the truth of God’s Word. We are meant to support one another, but we are not meant to replace Jesus for someone else. That’s the thing about following the feelings, they aren’t solid and what’s true today may not be six months from now.

There’s a lot of truth to the satire, we decide we know whats best and what Jesus really meant when He said such and such. We tweak it a bit to fit our desires. And it takes off like wildfire into the next thing and the next, and before we know it, Biblical Jesus is a blurry image in the rear view mirror and we are taking off full steam ahead on the feelings train that we have no business driving. When you have voices inside Christianity doubling down on distorting the gospels to fit a hurting culture, you wind up with half the listeners believing a lie and the other half left either in fear of speaking up or disgusted confusion.

“Your Jesus is meeeeaaannn. I don’t like mean. I like tolerance. Jesus loves everyone. It isn’t right to hurt and exclude people the way you do.” 

“Your Jesus is a hippie. The real Jesus stood for truth and justice and would never put up with sin. It isn’t right to be so permissive of outright sin.”

While we’re busy firing off cheap shots at the other camp, that ugly snake slithers away hissing and grinning at having performed his duty to perfection.

When Jen Hatmaker and others came out in support of gay unions as godly and permissive, the church understandably fired back. I read a LOT of the responses and fallout when this happened and I can honestly say the disagreement was for the most part, civil but strong. Her response to it all was to attack the ‘Christian Machine’ that oh so predictably called her out on her claims. There were many heartfelt, well thought out responses to their very heartfelt departure from Biblical teaching. I’m not attacking her, I’m pointing out that when we place our self and feelings at the center of our arguments its a losing battle. When the argument becomes about ‘you’ it’s over. The vast majority of people weren’t attacking her, they were standing up for long-held Biblical truth, which, by the way, we are supposed to do in love. If our response is to shut others down and (like the lovely young lady in the satire article) imply we have the upper hand on compassion that Jesus Himself doesn’t seem to have, well then, prepare for some healthy debate coming your way.

We are all fallible and prone to wander. We all want the latest hot take of how to make this life thing work to our advantage. Most Christians I know of, Hatmaker included, want to mend hurting hearts and bring people to Jesus. Nobody wants to be smacked upside the head with a hard cover King James and told they’re scum. And those who have been pulled from the ledge will tell you they don’t want to be coddled in their sin either. (See Rosaria Butterfield’s beautiful essay on that topic if you want to be encouraged about speaking truth in love).

We are mandated, by Jesus Himself to love our neighbor (Mark 12:31) AND honor Christ as Lord, being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; doing it with gentleness and respect (1 Peter 3:15). So the two dueling-Jesus guys actually do meet up in the middle! They both exist! Let the truth speak for itself. We miss so very much when we try and mold Jesus to be how we want Him to be. Let the entire Word of God be your home base, your safety, your map; the real Jesus will show up in ways you’d never expect.

 

 

Christian Leaders Who Drift and a God who Never Will…

It’s been a week filled with all kinds of hoopla in Christian blogger-land. I believe the issue is much bigger than the players involved, so I’ll stick to the bare facts for starters. On one side, we have an ultra popular Christian author for (Jen Hatmaker) who came out on her blog in support of traditional marriage last year but has since deleted said post and apparently done some rethinking. She did an interview affirming her support for gay unions, and lamenting the Christian church’s response to them as a whole, not being inclusive enough, etc. Not surprisingly, she got called out. Lifeway dropped her books. Other Christian bloggers countered her arguments. And it takes off from there.  I really want to address the bigger issue of what is happening right now which is the idea of Christian compromise. Is it the crazy election year that seems to have brought all this bubbling to the surface? Perhaps. As the world demands more “tolerance” out of believing Christians, the shake up is inevitable. The days of just drifting by are coming to an end. Christians are either standing up or walking away – those really are the only two choices. Can we stand up for truth and not be hateful? Yes. It’s not up to us if the world receives the message or not, but it is not hateful to disagree, it is sometimes necessary.

“People do not drift toward holiness. Apart from grace-driven effort, people do not gravitate toward godliness, prayer, obedience to Scripture, faith, and delight in the Lord. We drift toward compromise and call it tolerance; we drift toward disobedience and call it freedom; we drift toward superstition and call it faith. We cherish the indiscipline of lost self-control and call it relaxation; we slouch toward prayerlessness and delude ourselves into thinking we have escaped legalism; we slide toward godlessness and convince ourselves we have been liberated.” DA Carson

Like a steady rain shower, the slow but relentless stream of compromise is eroding our very foundations. What started out as well-intentioned tolerance has become full-fledged spiritual dilution. We’ve been told our beliefs are passé at best, hateful and bigoted at worst, so we stop. We quit speaking truth in love. Attacked from every side, we cave. Not because we don’t love God or desire to be a light for Him, we simply don’t value His word above the worlds voice. Period. The truth seems harsh. God’s way is confusing to a world so given over to selfishness and sin. It requires surrender.

I’ve read enough of Jen Hatmakers books and blogs to know that she has a heart to help people who are hurting. She has a magnetic wit and humor and compassion for people that most of us wish we could muster up. Thats a calling.

Here’s the inevitable “but”… When we live man-centered instead of Christ-centered, we are bound to go down the road of compromise. Well-meaning Christians can empathize to the point where they actually take on everyones burden. Instead of walking along side someone and directing them OUT of their sin (through prayer and God’s Word), it’s more acceptable (and easier) to SIT DOWN with them in the midst of it and embrace it for what it is, accepting it and sometimes even celebrating it.

Timothy warned us of this compromise saying many would come who “have the appearance of godliness, but denying it’s power.” (2 Timothy 3:5) People who claim Christ but deny His power to do anything to really help the situation. The logical conclusion to that thinking is to just embrace the sin and compromise your once held beliefs.

This isn’t just about Jen Hatmaker or about the gay rights debate. This is about how we as Christians deal with sin and compromise. It’s increasingly difficult to reconcile what God’s Word says with a world so diametrically opposed to Him. Every time we compromise some of His truth to fit the world’s ever-changing idea of what is acceptable, it gets more fuzzy. Suddenly, here we are. Well-respected Christian authors and leaders jumping ship and changing their tune to the dismay of some, and the relief of others.

When we don’t abide in God’s Word, the world comes to abide inside us, and the world is hostile to Jesus. We drift. We absorb whatever comes at us. We seek out other truths. As crazy as it sounds, we begin to embrace the world’s sin and question whether Jesus really meant what He said.

We don’t need to smooth out the gospel for anyone. We also shouldn’t ever put so much stock in one human beings opinions and writings as to be totally knocked over when/if they stumble.

Perhaps the Jen Hatmaker ‘debacle’ of this week can teach us at least this – we are all human and susceptible to drifting towards all kinds of idolotry when Jesus isn’t in His proper place in our hearts and lives. This world (and modern progressive Christianity) will squeeze us dry if we let it. We must thirst for the Truth and understand that “God does not lower His standards to accommodate us. He will not tolerate a compromise of character” (RC Sproul). Jesus said it is the TRUTH that sets people free, and I think He meant it. Like a plant that isn’t getting enough water or sunlight, we suffocate under compromise and watered-down Christianity.

 

Friends, we are called to be salt and light. Truly knowing God and His character leads us to desire holiness. Real love never rejoices in sin but in the truth (1 Corinthians 13:6). Don’t be rendered passive, church. Compromise can be seen a mile away if we are rooted and grounded in Jesus and His Word. Never allow anyone’s words to have more power over you than those spoken by the One who created you.