Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Christ, Sin, and Why I Believe!

The enigma of the Christian lifestyle has taken many forms and garnered many attacks, some even justified. It is these justifiable attacks, usually the result of false teaching or loose living, that give fuel to the fiery assaults. They also give rise to continuing opposition. Marx was quick to convey his opposition to religion in the following manner:

Religious distress is at the same time the expression of real distress and the protest against real distress. Religion is the sigh of the oppressed creature, the heart of a heartless world, just as it is the spirit of a spiritless situation. It is the opium of the people. The abolition of religion as the illusory happiness of the people is required for their real happiness. The demand to give up the illusion about its condition is the demand to give up a condition which needs illusions. Karl Marx, Critique of Hegel’s Philosophy of Right

Marx was somewhat correct in identifying that people have problems and they reach out in many directions to try and find resolve and that resolve is often illusory. But his conclusion for all people is just as illusory as his incompetent premise. True Christianity is not a Band-Aid for those who struggle with life, but rather, it is a solution to the root of humanity's condition. It is that condition that has created the struggles we have in life. We are fallen from God and we live in a fallen world that continues to build an empire on a crumbling foundation. That empire has no answers to deal with sin. Instead it builds another layer of bricks to try and cover its fallen condition. But the problem is the weeds of sin keep poking up through the bricks. If we eradicate the weeds in the world then over time, we can eradicate the oppressive situations of the world. Marx's statement, "The abolition of religion as the illusory happiness of the people is required for their real happiness," is blatantly false and is to be an expected opinion of one who lacks the indwelling of Holy Spirit of God. But he was not alone. Even in Jesus' day there were many who were unable to comprehend who He was, his solutions to life’s ills, and the things He taught concerning the Holy Spirit; they also walked away from following Him. This issue is approached in the passage below:

62 What then if you should see the Son of Man ascend where He was before?
63 It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh profits nothing. The words that I speak to you are spirit, and they are life.
64 But there are some of you who do not believe." For Jesus knew from the beginning who they were who did not believe, and who would betray Him.
65 And He said, "Therefore I have said to you that no one can come to Me unless it has been granted to him by My Father."
66 From that time many of His disciples went back and walked with Him no more.
67 Then Jesus said to the twelve, "Do you also want to go away?"
68 But Simon Peter answered Him, "Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.
69 Also we have come to believe and know that You are the Christ, the Son of the living God." John 6:62-69 (NKJV)

The Beauty of Heaven
Jesus spoke of true life, true living, and true existence, to be of the spirit not of the flesh. It is this single most foundational element that the world is missing and or cannot comprehend. It is this interaction of Jesus, heaven, and the Holy Spirit intersecting with humanity that drives the true Christian to be, to do, and to believe the things she does. True Christians do not need to place opium on the same level as their belief. True Christians have realized their fallen condition and like Peter above, have realized there is no cure in this fleshly existence to be found. So they agree with him as he responds to Jesus with, "Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. Also we have come to believe and know that You are the Christ, the Son of the living God."

A simple testimony to His touch …why I believe

In the haven of the space of earthly existence we often catch glimpses of what the Christian calls heaven. They are moments of peace and tranquility. We see them in the stillness of a placid lake, the giggles of an innocent child, a new mother as she gazes with wonder into the eyes of her newborn, the wife as she looks with eyes of adoration to the one she is betrothed, and many, many more. All of us have our little glimpses of heaven, but unfortunately, they are confined within the boundaries of a fallen world and a temporal existence–both fading as every second ticks by. It is these glimpses of love and the good life that often keep us spellbound  into never thinking beyond them …even as our life begins to fade. We always need that moment and we build our lives around seeking it. I remember as a teen thinking of those days near life’s end. It didn’t take long for the thoughts to dissipate. Why think of them; they are so far away. But as I get older I begin to think of them more often. They prompt me to wonder just what it is that chases the thought of eternity away from the minds of so many. Seriously, why do so many repel against the thought of where they will spend eternity?

I heard an expert apologist and author speaking on the radio on my drive home from work this week. He was speaking about why most atheists become that way. He stated as I remember, that most of them at one time or another and often early in life, faced some sort of trauma; a prayer unanswered, the death of a parent, or the dishonesty of a pastor or youth leader. They allowed the event to turn their hearts as far away as they would let them go. If you inquire of what they read, you will often find they study books written by other atheists all with supporting arguments. They often do their homework in a more studious fashion than most Christians. That’s another conundrum I find. Isn’t life is full of them?

In thinking of these things I asked myself what it was that made me turn my heart to Jesus at an early age. The answer is quite simple really. I learned to fear God early on. By that, I do not mean fear as in run and hide, or be terrified. I mean it as a moral dread of the result of sin. Sin terrified me. Evil terrified me. The horrors of wicked actions and injustice toward others enraged me and still do. I came to acknowledge that these things were so because of sin. Sin is the ultimate narcissism because it thinks of no one but self. It is why so many others are hurt and even destroyed in its wake. The world has no good answer for sin and its presence. Psychologists will try to explain it away as neurological and others as non-relevant. The attitudes displayed by those who live in it are often, “leave me alone.” “Stay out of my affairs.” Mind your own business; I will mind mine.” Toward others it is, “That’s his business.” “If it makes them happy so be it. It is none of my business.” In these simple statements or derivatives thereof, you can see that the pronoun, Me, is at the heart of its existence. 

The Love of Jesus!
At an early age I knew what sin was. Before I ever read a verse of Scripture I remember the hurt and unhappiness I caused in another if I lived selfishly or hurt another’s feelings. Sin became a reality that exposed within me an emptiness that I could not find a cover for no matter where I sought. As a very young child, one Sunday I stared at a mural in the fellowship hall of a Presbyterian Church in the small town I grew up in, Scammon, Ks. It was a painting of Jesus and a gathering of little children around Him. I loved that picture. It was to me the first time I heard, or rather saw the gospel. It truly pictured what I sought after; an answer for sin. I will forever cherish the witness. At that moment I was quickened in my spirit to realize that if Jesus really existed, then He must have the answer. And as I read the Scripture, I found that He did. You see, my faith was not conditioned upon the world around me, with all of its injustice, and wrong. Could injustice produce a clean heart? Neither did I let what someone promised or how someone performed or did not perform affect my worldview. If I prayed about something, I knew that leaving it with God was all that mattered because He was my Father and my Father knew best. My faith was founded upon the love I saw in Jesus. As I studied the Scripture I also found that His love was not limited to little children. I found He loved all people, young and old—healthy and unhealthy—rich and poor, and that to Him, ethnicity did not matter. As I read more I saw around Him the poor often gathered but even Jesus did not try to make all of them well or fill all their stomachs at every instance. Humanity’s needs go much deeper than a slice of bread or a straightened limb. 

Jesus came from another realm. The Greeks used the word “οὐρανός” or ouranos to describe this place, we simply call it heaven. To them, it meant a covering or the all encompassing expanse above. Thayer succinctly put it this way,” heaven is the opposite of earth.” On earth was sin; but in heaven only righteousness dwelt. That is where Jesus came from when conceived in Mary’s womb, and where He returned on Resurrection Sunday.

One day Heaven is a place I will see
A place where sin will never be
It’s not my arrogance
That will lead me there
But by His grace it’s ours to share

Without Christ, humanity will continue to deal with the ongoing corruption and destruction of lives that comes as a result of sin in their own worldly fashions. Another sin will pop up and another brick will be thrown at it. Until Jesus returns from heaven to setup His kingdom this will be so. But if you look to Him now, and recognize your own fallen nature, and your need for cleansing, you can look toward heaven now—casting your eyes toward Jesus, where you will find He awaits with His open arms of love. Won't you allow Him His place in your life today? What is stopping you?

Bro. Mike