Quit Asking Jesus Into Your Heart

“Accept Jesus into your heart so you can go to heaven when you die.”

First of all , if Jesus doesn’t invite you into his heart , no amount of asking him will do.  You will remain lost and bound to face the dangerous holiness of God in the upcoming eschatological judgment.  

No one can come to me unless the Father draws him.” John 6:44

Second. In America today asking Jesus into one’s own heart has acquired almost the status of mantra or the Protestant equivalent of placing faith in crucifixes and holy water. 

Third. Ask Jesus into your heart is an expression foreign to the New Testament.   Neither Jesus nor the Apostles ever preached that way. It is a misguided strategy since it ignores the heavy demands of Jesus to totally surrender to him, even to die.  Another thing.  Jesus not only wants to be in our hearts , but in our minds too. And reality is that many Christains are scarecrow believers, all emotions and no mind.  Christ is absent from their brain matter. These Christains could never begin to tell others about Jesus because they do not even understand nor care to know the ABC’s of the faith.  

Fourthly . And then there’s the matter of inviting Jesus into church (Revelation 3:20). Why is Jesus not invited to church?  Ask and look around and you will eventually discover that Jesus isn’t a member of some churches. He was either sacked or never invited over.  Christ-less churches is perhaps in keeping with the phenomenon of all the things we want lacking in our lives. Sugar-free, caffeine -free, gluten-free, preservative-free, hassle-free, religion-free, God-free.  Godless.  By all indications, godless is what some Chriatsians are because they invited Jesus into their hearts one time but Jesus never made it through inside.  He was locked out by a rebel heart and disposition.  And so it goes that these Christains have a reputation of being thieves,  liars, cheaters, homophobes, and racists and are still loved and accepted by congregations. In reality these folk are simply homophobes, racists, cheaters, liars , and thieves who think they are Christains.

Fiftly and last.  Going to heaven when you die is hardly the be-all,  end-all of the Christ Way.  This reductionism merely presents the faith in the lowest common denominator, namely to gain security, a form of buying fire insurance to forestall falling into that awful hot place .  What about the other things essential for a hard, painful , and sweaty path towards discipleship ?  Those directives of Jesus that ask us to follow him sacrifically are usually left out in evangelistic efforts, or rendered almost invisible by the tiny print at the bottom of a leaflet. Jesus is about everything, not just heaven and bliss.  If we profess Christ we have to question our motives to discover the real reasons we are drawn to Christ.  Possibilities might be that the Christ we profess is not the Christ we posses: 

Examine yourself to see if you are in the faith” 2 Corinthians 13:5

I never knew you. Depart from me” Matthew 7:21-23

Quit telling Jesus to come into your heart.  Pray to him instead that he allows you into his heart because in the end that’s the action of God which saves. 

The Guy Who Wouldn’t Stay Dead

HE IS RISEN.  Matthew 28:6

A man who dies and comes back alive is up to something.   

The riddle of all ages has been cracked.  The resurrection of the Son of God opens up brand new possibilities for life’s meaning now and the future.  His advent from deathland points to a loving God who made a universe of intricate beauty and boundless goodness and vows to heal and restore it (Romans 8).  Our existence is no mere laboratory for philosophical materialists.  Death is not final and total. Matter alone can’t be the supreme value where everything else hinges.  The Christ Way isn’t exclusively about pie in the sky for when we die: It’s about EVERYTHING.

Had Christ stayed dead we could have surmised he stood for religious ideas rather than immortality and bliss.  We have numerous religions, spiritualities , and figureheads.  Some of them defunct, some barely clinging to life, and others, like the Big Five ( Islam, Christianity, Hinduism , Buddism, and Judaism) claiming devotees by the millions.   Yet only one  arose from the conviction that its founder slew death itself and passed on the other side , alive.   Therefore all religions can not be equal.  Anybody can be born, but not everybody can rise from the death.  If Christ truly is alive , it follows that he unlike the others, negotiates a broader spectrum of reality and  resists the strait jacket of adhering to impersonal religious maxims that have no correspondence to real life. 

This Easter Sunday people will be in pews tuning in to preachers rant about how we can resuurect our finances, bring to life stray children hooked on drugs, resuurect  a new career and opportunities after a stint in the slammer, about twelve steps to jolt our marriage back from the death (if you can jerk your corpse spouse out of bed , don’t miss that one) , and about how we can revive a snuffed out romantic flame from the throes  of weeping and heart break. 

All good and dandy.  We have mastered the language of resurrection to fancy our individualism and egotism.  We have gained proficiency at exploiting Christ’s resurection to sooth our egos and promote our causes.  Nothing wrong with trying to make relevant the message of Scripture. The New Testament speaks broadly about the implications of  Easter for advancing hope in the world: curing AIDS, feeding starving children with bloated bellies, preventing war.  But we shouldn’t start with the human element. The resurrection of Christ is not primarily about us , mind you .  It is foremost about Christ and his upcoming project for all creation.   The resurection is not advice. It won’t teach you how to weave more colorful patterns on Easter eggs. It is a Royal announcement that someone immortal , yet like us, is in charge and intends to undo deviant hearts and rescue a lost world steadily spiraling into the jaws of sin and death.  

Locos, Locas

According to the medical intelligentsia, one out of five Americans  suffers from a mental disease.  It follows that if  you are in a room with four other people and they seem normal, you are the crazy one.

We can’t escape addressing mental illness without plunging into taboo territory.  It is hardly flattering to be regarded as crazy in all its permutations.   In an alternative universe crazy could have merit, but last I heard, distorted minds deserve our concern, even derision.

atomic clownAtomic Clown. Google Images 2016

Mental disorders are as real as cancer and diabetes.  To deny their existence is to delve into denial and a callous surrender of concern and compassion.   As a matter of procedure it takes the keen maneuvering of a lawyer to pin point insanity, if it was a legal context where mental competency was at stake, and only a shrink could competently expose the psychotic among us. Outside of the domain of legals and medics, designating a person as mentally ill is as daunting as trying to pin jello to a wall. Either you are crazy and you don’t know it.  Even scarier is that you are and everything about your weirdness causes detriment to the rest of us.   One option is that you have lost touch with reality while cruising in  Lulu Land.  You think you are Napoleon incarnate, the Muffin Man, or the next Diva to be.

If we inspect longer and deeper, we will realize that more people are bordering into crazy than appears to be the case.  It could be us.  For example, one way we portray mental instability is the way we go about pursuing romance and singleness.  It is possible to pursue singleness with the radicalism of a homophobic hermit and social outcast.  You want nothing to do with your fellow men and are inclined to decline friendship and love.  You are unwilling and unable to be vulnerable and intimate.

Crazy Love

Have you ever observed a friend or acquaintance and question  their viability as loving partner?  Men and women go about thinking they deserve the One who will “save” them, who will fulfill all sensual and material fantasies.  It is easy to have Cinderella dreams and visions given the constant barrage of propaganda to which we are exposed, but reality is a different slice of cake.   The Prince in shining armor might be no other than a deranged fool wrapped in aluminum foil.  Get over it.  It is not going to happen.  Even if you managed to get married to Jesus, he would deconstruct your romance fantasies.  Jesus didn’t always attempt to solve people’s illusions , capriciousness, or problems (Luke 12:14, Matthew 20:21).  What would Jesus do?  He would rather you engage in serious soul searching and ask that you remain single because the heat of marriage and love would burn you.

Admittedly there are times when we can’t ask for help.  We have crossed a threshold.   We are in danger, hoisted on the thread of insanity beyond the pale .  Some forms of personality are merely manifestations of full fledged madness.  The more people you are connected to, the more you will spot crazy. Inevitably people’s frame of mind have a way to transfer to relationships. Relationships can be lethal.  Love, literally, does and often kills.  But don’t hurry to shift blame and point the accusatory bony finger.  Your man or woman may not be fully cognizant of their actions, or if they are, they lie below the radar of responsible awareness. The Christian duty is to get help for them.  A common caricature is that guys stay insane until about age thirty, after which they grow up and stop looking for a mom. On the flip side, girls sink into mental illness once a month, depending on hormonal fluctuations.  Stereotypes as these have a ring to it, if you happen to fall within the spectrum of dozed mentality or you know someone who does.

Fear Factor

And then there is the fear factor.  You might not be mentally ill. Your problems lie in the relentless preoccupation with all things fearmongering.  It may look like this: you are hunkered down on your own world, isolated and paranoid, believing that the world conspires against you.  We all have our fears and foibles.  Yet beyond the curve of normality exists this extreme condition called paranoia and psychosis of fear.

Fear is one phenomenon that we love to exploit or we abhor to have.  As long as I have been alive I have been told that there is something to fear.  Many  fears (terrorism, ISIS, Alqada, Swine Flu, UFO’s,  Ebola, the IRS, Global Warming, communism, and even bacon), prove eventually to be unfounded, based on statistically insignificant data or half-baked understanding of real facts.  Unscrupulous media pundits and politicians know all too well how to dig into people’s emotions that they venture into playing fear games in order to manipulate the uniformed, naïve, and impressionable masses as a means to bolster support, votes, purchases, and ratings.

If you are devoted to finding things to fear, be my guest, the world has plenty horror in it for you to freak out.  Is it fearful to be single?  It will be fearful if you want it to be: think of the night-long loneliness, the silence, the possibility of perpetual isolation.    Maybe you are one of the commitment phoebes and you can’t get around to forming meaningful relationships.  The reason?  You don’t believe anybody is worthy of you.  You are afraid.  You fear rejection, intimacy, and genuine love.  You are afraid that love will lead to your undoing.  That is a real possibility, but have you thought of the alternatives?  Staying single can lead to your demise.  Isolation has never been an optimal condition in terms of promoting longevity.  Married people outlive singles.

If I were you, I’d ensure my mental affairs are in working order.  A wholesome and meaningful life flows from a healthy mind.   So long as there is a way out to redemption and healing, there  is no shame in the admission that we are sick in the mind. Ignorant and cruelly stupid people would use your condition against you  in order to shame and humiliate. If that is the case, know that the Devil has good allies in the accusatory leagues and is therefore in your best interest that you prayerfully stay away from negative forces that detract, rather than enhance your happiness.  Life could be a lot more significant if your state of mind anchored on health and virtue rather than vice and self-destructiveness.   Life is worth living on sanity’s side.  Make it count.  We have enough of madness already.

 

 

The World’s Most Dangerous Name

lambCredit: Google Images, 2016

I watched as he opened the sixth seal. There was a great earthquake. The sun turned black like sackcloth made of goat hair, the whole moon turned blood red, and the stars in the sky fell to earth, as figs drop from a fig tree when shaken by a strong wind. The heavens receded like a scroll being rolled up, and every mountain and island was removed from its place.

 Then the kings of the earth, the princes, the generals, the rich, the mighty, and everyone else, both slave and free, hid in caves and among the rocks of the mountains. They called to the mountains and the rocks, “Fall on us and hide us from the face of him who sits on the throne and from the wrath of the Lamb!  For the great day of their wrath has come, and who can withstand it?”  Revelation 6:12-17

 

Utter the name of Christ in a crowded room, among polite company, inside a business meeting.  Wait and watch the awkwardness, the tension, the sweaty palms, the raised eyebrows, the sneers.  What is it about that name?  Does it denote shame, anger, disgust, holier-than-thou self-righteous propaganda the speaker is trying to push on everyone else?

In the post Christian West, no less than in America, the name of Jesus Christ has become synonymous with cursing and cussing and blatant contempt either against real and imagined enemies, the system, politicians, the insane driver who cut us off, bad luck, uncongenial circumstances, bad weather, a cheating spouse, etc…. It is the grand intrigue of history that Christ’s influence in human affairs has extended to the domain of profanity.   Jesus has to posses something pretty darn remarkable about him in order for his name to be used as a term of derision millenia later.  Can anyone imagine the name of Buddha or Mohammed employed in  similar fashion?  In the case of Mohammed, expect your name to be added to a death list should you dare to cuss Islam’s prophet.

The name of Christ threatens us.   Christ’s name invokes accountability.  We know of Christ the Savior.  Many people are fed up with that already. We have turned salvation vocabulary into meaningless and sentimental platitudes and slogans on bumper stickers:  “I got saved from working overtime this weekend,” “I got saved from my demon husband by divorcing him,”  “I got saved from the IRS,” “DANGER: SAVED AND RAPTURE READY.”   We pay sufficient lip service to the notion of Christ the Savior and salvation from sin that we don’t believe it anymore because we are uncritical consumers of religion, not disciplined followers. Or we take Christ for granted.  Admitting that we need salvation implies we have a problem, a sin problem, and sin by all practical purposes, is regarded by the current intelligentsia as seriously passe, an old fashioned idea whose time and progress has rendered irrelevant in light of modern science, education, and overall human enlightenment.  So we think.

A nagging feeling persists about Jesus Christ.  The doubts and suspicion about him hasn’t stop public dialogue and debate. It is not going to stop anytime soon.  Jesus is disturbing.  He was dangerous to the social establishment of his time to the degree of being designated a threat to public order.  He wasn’t merely promoting a new form of religious experience (the Romans could careless about Jesus’ new private spirituality), he was creating a brand new platform of human existence affecting every area of life both private and public.  Little wonder he got himself executed. All that talk about him being the Way, the Truth, and the Life.  It sounds arrogantly exclusive and narrow minded and we can’t live with that. The ancients could not handle that claim either. We want our options open, our religions tolerant, our lifestyles free from religious constraints.

Jesus challenges all of that.  Jesus remains a danger, firm and final because he is in charge now and his moral compass guides the universe (Matthew 28:18).  If that were not so, anything goes.  Let’s lie, cheat and steal with no consequence. Let’s murder. Let’s engage in child rape and human sacrifice.  In the great scheme of things of an amoral universe, Hitler and Mother Theresa would be equals. But the boundaries have been drawn.  There are parameters to living in God’s creation.  Everything we say and do is of consequence.  The baby Jesus in the manger, the pet Jesus, the meek and mild One and feeder of thousands doesn’t present an imminent danger to our peace of mind and prospects for the future.  We treat him more as fire insurance than Lord.

It is rather the Christ of judgment, the wrathful Lamb, the Christ with the whips at the Temple in Jerusalem who is unsettling.  Christ as judge we find both uncomfortable and disturbing,  inglorious to a degree that make us squirmy, furious and indignant.   This is the Christ we find unbecoming, unpalatable, unwelcoming.  This is the Jesus Christ who pierces our ego and look upon as the great cosmic kill-joy, the disrupter of our show and status quo, the arbiter who won’t let us get away with our dreams of selfish ambitions and self- determination.  We don’t want to embrace him in the mode of judge and critic.  Until then, Christ will continue to resemble us modern self-designated civilized decent folk: Tame and tolerant and tenacious when it comes to getting our way in the world.   Human nature resists transformation and eschews insecurity and threats.  So long as Christ stays dangerous, we will hide from him at our own peril.  How then can we be saved?