(This post is in response to a video by Jeff Bethke called, “Why I Hate Religion, But Love Jesus” Click HERE for the link if you haven’t seen it. Approximately 21 million have viewed it over the last 6 months. It is a rapidly growing sentiment, which has been driving many subtly off course in the pursuit of their redeemer.)
“The truth shall set you free.” The words of Christ to those who believe in Him to understand what it is to be his disciple. These days the truth seems harder and harder to find. It comes in carefully calculated packages. It comes in strategically marketed offerings. The truth has been couched in relativity, seasoned with perspective and punctuated with opinion. We’ve come to a place where semantic liberation has replaced the truth that sets us free.
The Church in America is facing a high degree of this type of semantic confusion. It has a multiple of emerging ideas where nuances become the main mission and personal appeals where emotion conquers theology. It has become a place where so many confusing messages traverse across the landscape of understanding, that the found become lost in a battle of relevant rhetoric for the soul. Sooner or later in this environment, more people end up following their idea of God rather than God as He truly is.
Following one’s own ideas of God rather than his ideas of Himself, like in the Jeff Bethke video, isn’t a newfound truth about following the Savior over the mechanisms of religious activity. It isn’t about the distinctions of the work of God’s hand over that of man’s. It isn’t a modern interpretation of the John 8, “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” – It is a foundation for misdirection where people reject religion for the spiritual, a pseudo-gnostic awakening of self, and the anti-religion called “we’re not religious, we just follow_________ .”
These circles of the Christian sub-culture are filled with people who can’t admit their Christians without an asterisk. Rather than shed biblical light into the misconceived persona of who God is, there is more effort spent in the redefining of self from the world-perceived stereotypes of what being a Christian is all about. It makes for a people, who talk more about who they are in and of themselves, than the Christ which lives within them leading with action rather than explanation.
Unfortunately, there are a large number of people in this world who have been hurt by Church, or alienated by a Christian, or offended by an action perpetrated in the name of God. It has created a mass of people who use sin and brokenness as a connective element rather than the hope that lives in them through their salvation.
A culture of enlightened perspectives becomes the path of the believer in these circles. An echo of the secret society obsession in American culture, the response regularly has been to subjectively redefine who God is and emphasize specific elements of his ministry as a priory. This solution creates a format for following Him which isolates and encapsulates. It holds to a more acceptable Jesus who calls people to a transformed experience of life, more often than a transformed life.
Whatever one’s experience is in Christendom past, there is hardly a case built in the bible for a Christ which stood against the existence of the religion of the Jews. In Matthew 5 we hear Him say, “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them.” The true level of continuity lies in Pharisees who did not want Jesus as He was, but wanted the temporal conquering, societal validating messiah who connected to their efforts of righteousness. The pharisaical animosity to the true Messiah is encapsulated in Him not being the Christ they conceived, coming they way they wanted, and preaching the news that they saw as “good.”
The result is the same in the culture of today: A partially biblical, partially relevant crusader for social justice, purpose and contentment has become the embodiment of the non-religious Jesus. He offers place where obedience is condoned but not required, judgment is withheld during “the journey” of the follower and the true embrace of the new life is born out of the personal desire to be close to God, rather than his desire to draw us closer to Himself and his desires. It lives on the back theological astuteness, but wants to casually embrace it, so no one gets uncomfortable.
Sadly, it is very popular. It embraces a variety of temporal constructs without eternal consequences and eternal connection without ongoing obedience. In a societal melting pot of redactionists, revolutionaries, realists, relevants, and rhetoric; the new path to a more vibrant connection is marketed, hyped and turned into a conference to “unpack “ the reinvented well-spring of hope.
While tired of the public persona of religion in the world & this is an appealing effort at taking faith and spirituality out of religious hands. This is the widening of the gate, dismissing substance for the addictive appeal what we may be missing out on. But God didn’t set up his Kingdom on a book of secrets; He didn’t hide the essentials of understanding so we would have to blindly follow his impersonal truth.
This derailment of humanity hasn’t changed since the garden. The Serpent’s message that says, “Experience this and be like God. Have your eyes opened to the truth. Once you understand, vibrance will replace monotony and understanding will provide peace,” carries no more truth today than it did in Eden. The effort to replace what God intended to fill our lives with, through our own abilities is alive and well in the 21st century. The Deceiver is still standing quietly over shoulders whispering, “Are you sure? That’s not as important as this is. You can figure it out for yourself. You can find a new way; a better way…”
We must be bold enough to not stand behind the asterisk of isolation. Christ is not at the mercy of our conception or in need of our ability to dress Him up for mass appeal. In a place where emerging constructs of identity and belonging are tools used to manipulate allegiance or drive emotional appeal; every Christian must be cautious and conscious of the implications of their participation.
When we stand before the Almighty, no asterisk will accompany us in the justification of our belonging to Him. We will not be embraced as those who ascended to the higher concepts and inner circle of the Kingdom. We will not be given a blank to fill out whom we follow. We will be seen as crucified with Christ or burdened by our sacrifices. We will be presented with Christ in us, the hope of glory, or isolated in Adam, clothed in humanity. Let us be in Him, let us be one of his people; and we will know the freedom of the truth. The truth of who He is and what He desires, rather than who we are and what our desires want Him to be.