Malachi:  When the Creation Argues with the Creator

Malachi: When the Creation Argues with the Creator

Message from Malachi

A Prophetic Warning to the Church

When the Creation Argues with the Creator

“If then I am the Father, where is My honor?
And if I am a Master, where is My reverence?”
Malachi 1:6

As I was studying in Malachi this week I was struck with the realization that much of what we do on Sunday, much of what I do on Sunday, despises the Name of the Lord.  Now, I know that may sound harsh, but hang with me a minute and let’s unpack a few of these verses together.

The prophecy of Malachi is built around two pillar statements of God.  The first: “I have loved you” (Mal. 1:2) and the second: “I do not change” (Mal. 3:6).  God begins by affirming His love for Israel, the descendants of Jacob, and He does so by declaring His choice or election of them as His own possession.  He tells them, “Was not Esau Jacob’s brother?  Yet Jacob I have loved; but Esau I have hated” (Mal. 1:2-3).  He reaffirms, time and time again, that His love for His children is unconditional and will not change.

But what about the love of His children for God?  What was the response of Israel to God’s love?  What did they feel?  How did they show their love and gratitude for His grace?  And let’s make this personal:  What about us?  How do we show God how much we love and appreciate Him for what He has done for us?

If you will look closely, I think you will see the words spoken to the priests of Israel in Malachi’s day could also be spoken to the church today— to you and me.

Let’s look at the heart of God when faced with ungratefulness in His children.

The Sin of Ingratitude

God begins by quoting an ancient proverb: “A son honors his father, and a servant his master” (Mal. 1:6) — which is true.  Son’s generally honor their fathers and servants, or employees, generally honor their masters, or employers.  So what’s the deal?  I’m sure we can all agree on this statement.

But God begins to move quickly towards building His accusation against the ungrateful objects of His love:  “If (or, since) then I am the Father (and He is), where is My honor?  And if I am a Master (which He is), where is My reverence?” says the Lord of hosts (Mal. 1:6).  In other words, since a son honors his father and a servant his master, and since I am the Father and Master, no… since I am God the Father, where is the honor due Me that any ordinary father or master would receive from you?  Why am I being treated with less respect and honor than you treat each other?  What’s your reason for your contempt of Me?

The word for honor in this verse means “glory and majesty” and the word for reverence means “fear, terror or the sense of awe that brings respect.”  So God is asking Israel, specifically His priests, why they are not giving Him the glory and majesty due His name and why they refuse to respect Him for Who He is.  Again, it’s the insanity of the created despising the Creator.

God then brings into clear focus those who are leading the charge against His glory, those, as in the day of Jesus, who cry out in the courtyard, “Give us Barabbas!” (John 18:40).  And it’s, of all people, His priests.

If then I am the Father, where is My honor?  And if I am a Master, where is My reverence? says the Lord of hosts, to you priests who despise My name (Mal. 1:6).

No, Not the Priests

How can this be?  How can those chosen by God to lead His people into worship and to bring the Word of God to them be the ones that despise His name?  The word despise, as used here, means “to hold in contempt, to disdain, to disrespect.”  How can this be?

Now, I don’t know about you, but if the Lord told me I was despising His Name and had little reverence or honor towards Him, and that He has no pleasure or delight in me (Mal. 1:10), I think I would immediately fall on my face and beg His forgiveness.  Wouldn’t you?  I’d be frightened, actually horrified, to think that God thought I viewed Him with contempt or that I disdained or hated His very Name.  How could I feel that way about the One Who chose me “from the foundation of the world” to be His own? (Eph. 1:4).

That’s how I would respond.  But that’s not how the priests in Malachi’s day responded.  They defiantly held on to their innocence and self-righteousness and demanded God give them some examples, some evidence, to prove what He was saying about them was true.  They refused to admit their guilt but chose instead to argue and debate with God about the validity of His accusation.  Really?  That’s nothing more than the creation shaking their puny fist in the face of God and demanding from the Creator…again?  They were, in effect, calling God a liar.

And this is where I want to take a paragraph or so and show how these words fit the church today, fit you and I.  When God chastises us or brings a charge against us for a blind spot in our character, or when He reveals what we thought were hidden sins that He lays open, public, for all to see— what is the proper response to God?  How are we to respond to His hand of correction in our lives?

You know the answer:  it’s with sorrow and confession and repentance— and the begging of God for forgiveness.  It’s not with self-justification or with accusing God of not having thick enough skin or for getting His feelings hurt too easily.  We don’t make light of our sin by accusing the One who revealed our sin to us.  It doesn’t work that way.

But that’s exactly what we often do in the church.  We are far less concerned about what God wants and thinks than we are about what we want.  It’s all about our desires, our demands, our preferences, our lusts, and our wants.  We want the sermon to be something that will make us feel good about ourselves, we want to hear music that we like on the radio, we want to meet in a comfortable building, sit in plush chairs, and keep the AC no higher than 72 degrees.  After all, it’s all about us in the lukewarm age of Laodicea.

We want to be affirmed as an individual, we want to be honored for just giving our time and coming each Sunday, and we don’t want to feel guilty or challenged to do more.  The fact that we’re here, well, that should be enough.

And when God confronts us with the hypocrisy of our devotion to Him, we respond much like the priests in Malachi’s day.  We argue, we debate, we scream, we pout, we vote, and we get a new pastor— one that will tell us what we want to hear (2 Tim. 4:3-4).

Sound familiar?  I thought so.

Several years ago Todd Agnew summed up the thinking of the modern church in a song he wrote called, My Jesus.  Listen to the song and follow along with the lyrics, and pray that you and I will no longer despise the Lord’s name as His priests did in the time of Malachi.

Enjoy.
[powerpress url=”http://leavinglaodicea.com/podcast/music/MyJesus.mp3″]

My Jesus

Which Jesus do you follow?
Which Jesus do you serve?
If Ephesians says to imitate Christ
Why do you look so much like the world?

‘Cause my Jesus bled and died
He spent His time with thieves and liars
He loved the poor and accosted the arrogant
So which one do you want to be?

Blessed are the poor in spirit
Or do we pray to be blessed with the wealth of this land?
Blessed are they that hunger and thirst for righteousness
Or do we ache for another taste of this world of shifting sand?

‘Cause my Jesus bled and died for my sins
He spent His time with thieves and sluts and liars
He loved the poor and accosted the rich
So which one do you want to be?

And who is this that you follow
This picture of the American dream
If Jesus was here would you walk right by on the other side
Or fall down and worship at His holy feet? Holy

Pretty blue eyes and curly brown hair and a clear complexion
Is how you see Him as He dies for Your sins
But the Word says He was battered and scarred
Or did you miss that part?
Sometimes I doubt we’d recognize Him

‘Cause my Jesus bled and died
He spent His time with thieves and the least of these
He loved the poor and accosted the comfortable
So which one do you want to be?

‘Cause my Jesus would never be accepted in my church
The blood and dirt on His feet might stain the carpet
But He reaches for the hurting and despises the proud
And I think He’d prefer Beale St. to the stained glass crowd
And I know that He can hear me if I cry out loud

I wanna be like my Jesus
I wanna be like my Jesus
I wanna be like my Jesus
I wanna be like my Jesus

Not a poster child for American prosperity, but like my Jesus
You see I’m tired of living for success and popularity
I wanna be like my Jesus, but I’m not sure what that means
To be like You Jesus

‘Cause You said to live like You, to love like You
But then You died for me
Can I be like You, Jesus?
I wanna be like You, Jesus
I wanna be like my Jesus

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Podcast 254:  The Two Most Important Questions Asked of Jesus

Podcast 254: The Two Most Important Questions Asked of Jesus

The first of the two most important questions asked of Jesus is:  Who are You? (John 7:12)
This question can be asked of Him as long as He is with the crowd, as long as He’s at arms length to each of us.  But when He invades our world, everything changes.

Now we are faced with the second most important question asked of Jesus:  Can we believe what You say?  Are Your words true?  And what exactly are You saying to us? (John 7:16-18).

Or, to summarize CS Lewis’ statement in Mere Christianity:

A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher.  He would either be a lunatic—on a level with the man who says he is a poached egg—or else he would be the Devil of Hell.  You must make your choice.  Either this man was, and is, the Son of God: or else a madman or something worse.  You can shut Him up for a fool, you can spit at Him and kill Him as a demon; or you can fall at His feet and call Him Lord and God.  But let us not come with any patronising nonsense about His being a great human teacher.  He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to.

Want to know more?  Then keep listening.

The following is a study on John 7:15-24.

Download this episode (right click and save)

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The Pain of an Unbelieving Family

The Pain of an Unbelieving Family

Sometimes I get a bit depressed when I look at my extended family and see their unbelief.  Don’t get me wrong, it’s not as if they haven’t been exposed to the truth or know the truth, because they have.  They just simply don’t believe.

We pray and witness to them and they either reject the message of Christ outright or they claim to believe something that they made up in their head, on the spot, that fits with their own world view but has nothing to do with the Bible or the Gospel or, well… much of anything.  And days turn into weeks and weeks into years and nothing seems to change.

But today, while I was preparing for our Tuesday night Bible study, I was struck by the fact that Jesus was somewhat in the same situation with His own family.  He had four brothers, actually half-brothers, and at least two sisters, maybe more (Mark 6:3).  These were the natural children of Mary and Joseph that were born after their journey to Bethlehem.  His sisters are not named in the Scriptures but His brothers are.  Jesus’ half-brothers were: James, Joses, Simon, and Judas, or Jude (Matt. 13:55).

Try to imagine what it must have been like to have Jesus as an older brother.  He never sinned, never lost His temper, never disobeyed His parents and never made less than perfect grades in school.  He was perfect in a way that would tend to make you jealous at best and angry at worst.  In fact, the Psalms tell us that Jesus did not have the kind of relationship with His siblings that He probably wanted.  He was, to quote our phrase, so “heavenly minded that He was of no earthly good.”  Psalm 69:8-9 states:

I have become a stranger to my brothers, and an alien to my mother’s children; (why) because zeal for Your house has eaten me up, and the reproaches of those who reproach You have fallen on me.

Not a happy home for the Lord.

So after 30 years of obscurity Jesus embarked on His ministry defined by signs and wonders and healings and revolutionary teachings (John 6:2).  John the Baptist declares Him to be the “Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world” (John 1:29).  He easily feeds 5,000 men, plus their wives and children, with a boy’s sack lunch (John 6:4-13) and has to fight to keep the crowds from declaring Him King (John 6:15).  Multitudes of thrill-seekers constantly follow and press all around Him and the religious establishment continually searched for ways to destroy Him out of jealousy or hatred (John 7:1).  Everyone had an opinion about Jesus and He was the trending topic on their social media for years on end.  Not too bad for the brother of James, Joses, Simon and Judas.

Near the close of His ministry, only six months before He was to be betrayed and crucified, Jesus’ brothers wanted Him to go with them to Jerusalem to celebrate the Feast of Tabernacles.  Jesus declined.  His brothers said, “Depart from here and go into Judea, that Your disciples also may see the works that You are doing.  For no one does anything in secret while he himself seeks to be known openly.  If You do these things, show Yourself to the world” (John 7:3-4).

Note the “if” in their statement:
If You do these things, show Yourself to the world.
Or If You can really do the things the people say You can, prove it to us.
Or if this is not all a sham or some slick sleight of hand.
Or if You really are who You say You are.
Or if there is some reason for all this notoriety and popularity, or if… whatever.

Their doubt and unbelief is painted all over their statement to Jesus.  It wasn’t about Him, it was about their doubts, their wanting more proof, more evidence, of Jesus being who they really knew He was.  They just simply refused to believe.

Think about it, no people on the planet knew more about the sinless life of the Lord Jesus than those in His earthly family: James, Joseph, Simon and Judas.  Yet, as John tells us, they did not believe (John 7:5).  Why?  Scripture is silent about their reasons.  Maybe they, like the rest of the fickle masses that followed Him, wanted Jesus to be their political King, their man in the White House, their delegate before God.  Or maybe His brothers wanted Jesus to jump through another couple of hoops for their entertainment, to prove Himself to them to their satisfaction, to call down fire like Elijah or part the sea like Moses or walk across their swimming pool.  But whatever their motives were, Jesus would have no part of it.  He was on His own divine timetable and would not bend to the agenda of  His family or the crowd.  Jesus would not be rushed.

I know you are wondering how this relates to my situation with my extended family.  Simply this: Jesus had done all He could to show His brothers the truth about Who He was and yet they rejected Him and His message.  They chose to walk in darkness, in committed, radical, unbelief.  In the face of overwhelming evidence to the contrary, they willingly chose the wide road that leads to destruction and damnation and forsook the narrow gate that leads to life (Matt. 7:13-14).

But they didn’t do this forever.

After Jesus was raised from the dead and ascended into heaven, the early church met in the upper room waiting for the promise of the Holy Spirit (Acts 1:4-6).  After the Twelve are listed, less Judas of course, the Scripture states:

These all continued with one accord in prayer and supplication, with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with His brothers (Acts 1:14).

Did you catch that?  In addition to the hand picked Twelve (Luke 16:13-16), Mary and Jesus’ brothers were part of the formation of the early church.  And it was these, James, Joseph, Simon, and Judas that also experienced the Acts 2 infilling of the Holy Spirit.  They went from unbelief in John 7 to a committed follower by the time we enter into the pages of the Acts.  In addition, they grew mightily in their faith in their half-brother, the Lord Jesus Christ.

James became the head of the church in Jerusalem and penned the book in the Bible that bears his name (James 1:1).  And Judas, or Jude, also added His words to the cannon of New Testament scriptures (Jude 1:1).

Not too shabby for the sons of Mary and Joseph.

If Jesus can turn his unbelieving brothers into pillars of the early church… well, I guess He can do the same with my extended family.  After all, He is God.  And if He can save and redeem my family, then He can do the same for you and your family.

For me, I take great encouragement in that.

So I will continue to pray and witness and talk to them about the grace of God found only in Christ Jesus and trust that, in His time, He will bring those that belong to Him to Him.  I will joyfully do my part and leave, and I mean really leave, the results up to Him.

After all, He is God.

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Feed My Sheep

Feed My Sheep

These words could have been written today about us today.  This is timeless wisdom from Oswald Chambers and cuts deep into our desire to be about the things of Christ— but not actually about Christ.  Often we find ourselves doing “busy work” for the kingdom and not sitting in obedience to the King.  It’s classic Mary and Martha, the good versus the best, kind of stuff (Luke 10:39-42).

Read and be blessed, as I was, and resolve to make disciples of Christ and not converts to our own way of thinking.

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Jesus did not say— Make converts to your way of thinking, but look after My sheep, see that they get nourished in the knowledge of Me.  We count as service what we do in the way of Christian work; Jesus Christ calls service what we are to Him, not what we do for Him.  Discipleship is based on devotion to Jesus Christ, not on adherence to a belief or a creed.   “If any man come to Me and hate not …, he cannot be My disciple.”   There is no argument and no compulsion, but simply— ‘If you would be My disciple, you must be devoted to Me.’  A man touched by the Spirit of God suddenly says— ‘Now I see Who Jesus is,’  and that is the source of devotion.

Today we have substituted credal belief for personal belief, and that is why so many are devoted to causes and so few devoted to Jesus Christ.  People do not want to be devoted to Jesus, but only to the cause He started.  Jesus Christ is a source of deep offence to the educated mind of to-day that does not want Him in any other way than as a Comrade.  Our Lord’s first obedience was to the will of His Father, not to the needs of men; the saving of men was the natural outcome of His obedience to the Father.  If I am devoted to the cause of humanity only, I will soon be exhausted and come to the place where my love will falter; but if I love Jesus Christ personally and passionately, I can serve humanity though men treat me as a door-mat.  The secret of a disciple’s life is devotion to Jesus Christ, and the characteristic of the life is its unobtrusiveness.  It is like a corn of wheat, which falls into the ground and dies, but presently it will spring up and alter the whole landscape

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Did you get that?  Our Lord’s first obedience was to the will of His Father and not to the needs of men.

Lord, help us focus our ministry and our lives towards You and not towards what makes us feel good or look good in the eyes of others.

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Megachurch Madness

Megachurch Madness

The early church had a problem.  Peter had just preached a scathing sermon that was sure to rile the ranks of those who rejected the message of personal responsibility for the death of Christ.  His climactic statement is found in Acts 2:36:

“Therefore let all the house of Israel know (and that includes you) that God has made this Jesus, (here it comes) whom you crucified, both Lord and Christ.”

Now the crowd was split.  There were some who rejected Peter’s message as vehemently as they had rejected Jesus some 2 months earlier.  But the Scriptures don’t tell us much about this crowd.  Then there was the other group, the ones who were “cut to the heart” in guilt and conviction and cried out in desperation, “Men and brethren, what shall we do?” (Acts 2:37).

The message to them was simple and direct. “Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit” (Acts 2:38).  And they did— 3,000 of them in one day!  They had grown from the faithful 120 (Acts 1:15) to what we would now call a mega-church after one sermon.

So what was the church to do now?

I know, they would probably do what all large churches do today.  They would form a committee and try to determine the best way to keep the crowds coming.  They would:

•  Immediately move into a building plan for new facilities.  After all, “you can’t have a church without a church building.”

•  They would segregate their congregation by age and then hire paid professionals to take care of their needs.  They would employ young youth pastors, with tight fitting shirts, fledging facial hair and NY Yankees flat bill ball caps, to take care of the teenagers.  They would need children’s pastors, with exaggerated expressions and over-the-top mannerisms, to babysit the children while their parents worshiped in “big church” on Sunday.  Oh, and they also had to be pretty good at puppets.  Music?  Well, that’s a category all by itself.

•  They would send out questionnaires to determine what kind of secular music the congregation was listening to before they came to Christ and, instead of trying to direct them to music that glorified the Lord and edified each of them, they would just mimic the world’s music but change a few of the lyrics so they could sleep well at night and still call it Christian.  You know, go with the rock band theme: long hair, skinny jeans, pulsating lights, loud music designed to elicit an emotional or physical response and then try to pass it off as something spiritual.  “Wow.  Sure felt the spirit today. Our worship band rocks!”  Ahem.

•  They would come up with a Mission Statement.  “All organizations need a Mission statement, right?  I mean, that’s what they taught us in Marketing Class.”  Exactly.  Marketing Class.  Ahem, again.  And the Mission Statement needs to be broad in order to cast a large net, broad to press all the hot buttons of those believers they want to attract, and broad so as not to exclude anyone.  The Mission Statement is their sales pitch, it tells their prospective clients, their new members, what they want to hear about the church, whether they actually live by their statement or not.  It tends to be the statement that helps them perform their mission:  which is to get you to come and stay loyal to their church… uh, er… I mean Christ, in order to help them grow.

•  They would develop a Statement of Faith.  And this, for the most part, needs to be simple.  The statement of faith in a megachurch has a tendency to drive people away rather than draw them in.  So, let’s keep it simple, something that no one can disagree with.

Our Statement of Faith:  We Love Jesus, and We Love You.  Aw, how sweet.

•  They would then need to come up with a logo and a brand and a website.  They would have to hire professionals who would design the best color schematics for their church brand.  And then they would need to take their logo and brand and build identity and loyalty to the church…again, uh… I mean loyalty to Christ.  They would print their logo and website on their t-shirts, bumper stickers, pins, flash drives, hats, tote bags, chip clips, key rings, refrigerator magnets and on and on ad nauseum.  Why?  “Because we want our people to feel a part of something bigger than themselves, to recognize who we are, to market our church to their friends, you know, to become repeat customers.  We want our church to have brand recognition like Starbucks.”

•  Also, they would need to promote their pastor as a celebrity.  It’s his picture and his blog and his books that they prominently display on their website.  They need him to become bigger than life so the crowds would continue to come, week after week, to hear him speak, to dress like he dresses, to drink the coffee he drinks, to think and look and act just like him.  After all, they are a personally driven church and it’s the pastor’s personality, and not Jesus, that “keeps ’em coming” each Sunday.

•  Finally, because no one can do it better than their celebrity pastor, they would need to franchise their church, their brand, their pastor, out to other locations.  They would set up satellite campuses all over the city and park their people in front of a HD, 1080p image of their celebrity pastor “doing his thing” on a flat, two dimensional video screen.  And they proudly call that community, fellowship, koinonia.  But in reality, it’s not about the people who will never meet the pastor let alone actually talk with him when they have a problem in their life.  No, it’s about the church, the institution, the brand and the budget, and how they can grow their business bigger.  It’s spiritual entrepreneurialism at its worst.

That’s how we do it today.  But the early church did things different, completely different.

Listen to what they devoted themselves to (and it’s not the church or the brand):

And they continued steadfast in the apostle’s doctrine and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in prayers (Acts 2:42).

In addition, they sold their possessions so they could take care of others.  There was no sermon on tithing “because we are short on the budget this year.”  Acts 2:44-45 states:

Now all who believed were together, and had all things in common and sold their possessions and goods, and divided them among all, as anyone had need.

Sounds like us today, doesn’t it?

They also didn’t just show up for the Sunday service once a week and feel like they had done their duty to God.  No, they met together daily in the temple for worship and they took their meals together in each others’ homes (Acts 2:46).  They simply loved being with each other.  In other words, church was not something they did, but something they were.  They wanted to look each other in the eye, they wanted to share each others’ burdens (Gal. 6:2), they wanted to get their hands dirty together in ministry for their Lord.  And they wanted to do that together.  Fact is, you can’t do any of this sitting in an auditorium watching a well-rehearsed 60 minute show on Sunday morning.  Especially when you view that show on a video screen sitting cheek-to-cheek with people you have never met before nor will probably ever see again.

So what appeals to you?  The early church or the megachurch?

I guess that all depends on what you’re looking for in church.  If you crave the show, the feel-good messages, celebrity pastors, Madison Avenue branding, and the like— I think you’d better check the megachurch box on your church preference form.  But if you’re looking for true intimacy, a church family, a pastor that you can invite over to your home for a meal (and he will actually come), life-long friends you worship with each Sunday and hang out with the rest of the week— then you’d better check the box for the church that only has as many members as you can personally know.  And if the church you attend grows to the point that you can’t possibly know all the people, well, it’s probably time for a church strategic split and the birth of a new church with a new pastor.

I think it’s called growth by getting smaller.

Something to consider.  It’s the Acts 2 way.

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Church:  Bread and Games

Church: Bread and Games

John 6 is the longest chapter in the book of John at over 70 verses.  And of those 70 plus verses, over half of them are the words of Jesus, the red print as we like to call it.  The chapter begins with two great miracles of Jesus: one, the feeding of the 5,000 (John 6:1-14) and, two, Jesus sending His disciples away and then walking on water to them (John 6:16-21).  From there, the rest of the chapter shows the difference between the true followers of Jesus, the true Believers, and those who sought Him only for the bells and whistles, the temporary trinkets and toys, the loaves and fish that He gave them in the first miracle.  They were the fickle thrill-seekers who wanted Jesus as their Genie in a Bottle and not as their Lord.

“Feed me Lord, and I’ll follow you anywhere.”
“Take care of my needs, Lord, and I’ll love You as long as You continue to take care of my needs.”
“Make me number one in the world, Lord, and I’ll make You number one in my heart.  Uh… that’s until You and I clash over something You want me to do, then I’ll be number one and You’ll be… well, not number one.  You’ll be my co-pilot.”  Just like the bumper sticker says.

But nestled between these two miracles is a captivating verse that sets the foundation for all the subsequent teaching, the red print, that completes the chapter.  That verse is John 6:15 which reads:

Therefore when Jesus perceived that they were about to come and take Him by force to make Him king, He departed again to the mountain by Himself.

Think about it, the feeding of the 5,000 led the stuffed, overfed multitude to demand that Jesus serve as their King, as the Head of their government, as the Commissioner of their IRS, as their Food Stamp Administrator.  And as King, He obviously would want to make His subjects happy by supplying them with bread and fish and whatever else they wanted whenever they were hungry.  He was to meet their every need and want when they beckoned Him to do so.  After all, isn’t that what He did for them earlier?  Of course.  And that would mean they wouldn’t have to work or save or budget or want… because Jesus, as Head of their government, as their King, would exist to meet all their needs and all their demands.  He would be like their personal ATM machine spitting out $20 bills as fast as they could punch in their PIN and their balance would never be depleted nor their account overdrawn.  Cha-ching, cha-ching and cha-ching.  Wow!  This is great!  Cha-ching, cha-ching, cha-ching.  I can “live long and prosper” or exercise my right to “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness” or I can have “My Best Life Now.”

“Come on Jesus, I’m bored.  What are You going to do to wow me now?  And hey, what’s for lunch?”

Sound familiar?

This same message is often preached from some of the most prominent pulpits in America to some of the largest crowds.  It’s like the ancient adage from the Roman Caesars to give the people “bread and games” and appease the masses.  As Rome ruled to feed its own belly and its insatiable appetite for entertainment, so the church today exists to do much of the same.  We’ve embraced church branding and marketing, self-affirming messages that make us feel good about our sin and lukewarmness, cutting-edge light shows and pulsating music that make us think we are at a rock concert, or the sensual, highly choreographed dance routines that are the envy of any Broadway producer all point to the fact that we “have left our first love” (Rev. 2:4).  We, the church, seem to desire the praise and affirmation of the world rather than the pleasure of the Lord.  And to desire to be a “friend of the world” brings with it horrific consequences (James 4:4, 1 John 2:15).  Remember?

“Panem et circenses.”  Bread and circuses.  Just bread and games.

When Jesus saw the crowd begin to want to make Him their personal Servant by force, He purposely put His disciples on a boat and sent them away from the cultural mindset of the day so they would not become tainted or contaminated or deceived by what they heard others say.  Like a loving parent or a faithful Shepherd, Jesus was protecting those He loved.  Did He not say that He would lay His life down for the sheep, for those He loves? (John 10:15).

And what about us?  Instead of shielding our young and impressionable from the deceiving lusts of the world, we open wide our church doors and say, “Come on it!  Show us how to draw a crowd in here like you do out there.”  And the world has gladly accepted our invitation, and we have enthusiastically embraced the carnality of the world and the culture, and the holiness of the church has suffered much.  In fact, holiness has become a byword among Believers.  It is banished, taboo.

One final thought, when the crowds caught up with Jesus the next day and wanted to know what He was going to do for them to satisfy their craving for excitement and wonder and awe, He did not give them an answer, but instead, a rebuke:

“Most assuredly, I say to you, you seek Me, not because you saw the signs, but because you ate of the loaves and were filled” (John 6:26).

Jesus revealed to them their heart.

In essence, you did not come to Me because of the signs I performed that pointed to the reality that the Father and I are One, that I am the Messiah, the Christ, Who has come into the world.  Or the simple fact that I am Emmanuel, God with us (Matt. 1:23).  No, you came because you wanted another free meal, another discount coupon, another paid day off from work, another $20 bucks out of the ATM machine so you could go and have yourself a good time.  You wanted Me to take your breath away like a trapeze artist at the circus.  You wanted another feel-good thrill, more goose bumps, a tingling up your spine.  But that’s not why I came.

Never has been.  Never will be.

Oh, and how about you?  What are you seeking from Jesus?  Do you seek Him as Lord and Master, on His terms, following Him through the narrow gate? (Matt. 7:13-14).  Or have you created a Jesus that works for you?  A hip, cool, politically correct Jesus who died just to make your life better now?  You know, a Jesus you wouldn’t feel uncomfortable introducing to your friends?  Which one is it?

Because please understand, one Jesus leads to eternal life and the other to a life of torment in Hell.  Two roads, but only one way.

So, which one is it?

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