October 21, 2017

iMonk Classic: The Question Is God, the Answer is Jesus

Classic iMonk Post
by Michael Spencer
From January 2009

“Anything that one imagines of God apart from Christ is only useless thinking and vain idolatry.” – Martin Luther

• • •

It’s been a very interesting day. I can’t tell you much about it, but I can tell you something.

When a discussion starts about God, the Christian is not faced with the same choices as other people.

Most people can go wherever they want in the discussion. They can talk about “God as I understand him” or “my higher power” or “my church says that God….” and so on. Really, the choices are practically infinite.

The Christian, on the other hand, must immediately think about Jesus. Jesus from the pages of scripture. Jesus the light, the revealer, the image of the invisible. Jesus in his own words, in the Gospels and in the totality of scripture.

Jesus reveals God, and from there, the discussion can go on.

You can explore the Bible, or you can place Jesus into a moral issue or various cultural settings. You can apply what you know of Jesus to what you don’t know of God. You can pray, sing, preach. There are plenty of roads open NOW. But only after we come to Jesus.

It truly breaks my heart to hear, see or read anyone who is a Christian approaching the subject of God, God’s will, God’s guidance, God’s message—without going to Jesus and camping right there with no intention to move or be impressed with anything else.

There are dozens, hundreds of ways to avoid Jesus when talking about God. There are dozens, hundreds of ways to manipulate Jesus to a less than defining place.

Many of these are fun. Some have the approval of important and powerful people. Some are wrapped in scripture verses. Many are surrounded by books or endorsed by ministers.

But at bottom, Jesus isn’t defining the God conversation. So the conversation is on the wrong foot and making a wrong turn. It may not be worthless, but it isn’t reliable.

You can dress your opinions about God up in whatever language you want. You can validate it with experiences, signs and wonders. You can claim miracles, voices and confirmations in the mystical realm.

When the smoke clears, you’ve explored your own imagination or otherwise missed Jesus.

If you are going to think about God, go to Jesus and start there, stay there and end there.

This simple rule is too simple for the religious, the worldly wise, the power seeking and the proud.

It is infuriating to those who want to manipulate for money or distract for some personal agenda.

Jesus will break our idols, complicate our assumptions, overturn our tables and put himself squarely in the center of every question. He is the way, the truth, the life. He is the answer. He is the one way we think about, know, love, worship and relate to God.

When you think about God, go to Jesus.

Now you know.

Comments

  1. Michael hit that one out of the park.

    Someone once said (I forgot who), “That apart from Jesus Christ, God might as well be the devil.”

    • No no! It is not the case that God is against us and Jesus is for us. It is not the case that Jesus saves us from God. It is not that God is the devil if not for Jesus – can you imagine Jesus making this claim?

      Jesus is significant because He reveals the Father. The Grace and Mercy and Love we experience via Jesus is from God the Father. Jesus doesn’t modify God, he reveals Him.

      • I think what Steve is getting at is that apart from Christ, our experience of God (because of our sinful nature) is accusatory, condemning. That is not what God wants for us but it is what we feel, the conviction of the law. Only in Jesus do we see/feel things differently.

        • Thanks, Rob.

          You understand me (and whoever is responsible for that quote) correctly.

          All attempts to understand and know God apart from the cross of Christ and His grace and mercy for sinners, will only result in God’s wrath.

          • Thanks Rob and Steve for the clarification – if I understand you both the quote means to convey our perception of God, not His reality. It still isn’t something I would say but it no longer strikes me as horrifying.

    • Think it was Martin Luther who said that … At any rate I’ve seen it attributed to him.

      Take care & God bless
      WF

    • This quote was obviously put forward in good faith. It may well be true. I wouldn’t use it though (at least not without explanation), due to the likelihood that someone like me, who doesn’t have much knowledge of Luther or reformed theology at all, might misunderstand it. I would think that, well, Satan lies, steals and destroys, whereas God does none of those things. The meaning i get from reading this quote would be profoundly unhelpful

  2. This is why I miss Michael Spencer. The iMonk site is still very much an oasis for my soul, far better than any other place on the net, but it’s still missing Michael’s voice.

    • Another Mary says:

      I am in complete agreement. I so miss those direct burst of light and truth that so characterized Michael Spencer’s posts.

  3. David Cornwell says:

    In the end Jesus tells us all we need to know about God.

    • …and for me, whatever seems logical, comfortable, and normal about Jesus is almost always dead WRONG! When my agenda, plans, hopes, and judgements are being turned on their heads, THEN I may be getting a clue. It is not fun and I don’t always want to listen, but, “Where else could we go? YOU along have the words of everlasting life.”

  4. John 14;8,Phillipsaid to Him,”Lord, show us the Father, and it is enough for us. Jesus said to him,”Have I been so long with you and yet you have not come to know Me, Phillip?He who has seen Me has seen the Father;” Yes it’s all about Jesus, He is our role model.

  5. We are not saved by what Jesus taught, and we are certainly not saved by what we understand Jesus to have taught. We are saved by Jesus himself, dead and risen. “Follow me? he says. It is the only word that finally matters.

    Robert Capon, from chapt. 6, The Parables of Grace

    T

  6. The code for didn’t work for the “me” of “Follow me?”

    t

  7. Dang, it still filtered out the underline code…..

  8. Michael nailed it. Our message is about Jesus. As much as I believe there is much common ground to be found with other religions and even atheists, all leads to the feet of Jesus. Our ultimate message is based upon the presupposition that this is a visited planet, where the gracious God stepped with human feet. It is a stumbling block. Even Paul had attentive audiences until he started speaking of Jesus and the resurrection. There is no candy-coating of this by presenting Jesus as a great moral teacher, a successful CEO, or motivational speaker. This is the mistake liberal theologians made centuries ago, and now evangelicals are doing it. Jesus as anything less than the Son of God is of no help to anyone.

  9. Thank you, for your comment to a very simple and comforting message. I am one who gets distracted from the One who keeps me grounded and settled. I was able to share with a grandson the simple fact of Jesus this evening. He is “out there” and I keep trying to figure out how and what to do, even what to pray. When I am reminded of the simplicity in Christ as this post provided…it becomes very clear and very freeing. Point the wanderer to Jesus. And I need to remember the same for myself. Thank you, mr ox, mr Steve, Chaplain mike, and our Lord Who gave Michael Spencer the inspiration to start IM. I am one who is blessed.

  10. Well this is how this old Hippie and follower of Jesus thinks what “Jesus”is answer” might mean:

    As friend of mine once said that without Jesus as fully human and divine, the Cross and the resurrection is the most insane and cruel story in the world. For Christians, anything short of Jesus being the Second Person in the Godhead and forever “God with us”, would mean that God is simply playing games with us.

    If Jesus was not one who love us, knows us , completely suffers suffers with us, conquers with us, models who we must strive to be, than what happened of the cross is simply a matter of “God slapping Himself in the face” and still leaving us lost.