December 14, 2017

Read it again…and don’t skip the hard parts

read.jpgLet’s be honest. A lot of Christians have no idea what to do with the Gospel accounts of Jesus’ ministry. What does it mean? What does it have to do with evangelism, church growth and “having a great life now?”

Many of the readers of Internet Monk are familiar with my interest in the Gospel of Mark. I started seriously studying Mark in 1982, in my second year at seminary. I’ve continued reading and studying Mark ever since, in much greater depth than any other Gospel.

Since I came here, I’ve had the opportunity to teach the Gospel of Mark 2-5 times a year for a 9-12 week term for 10 of my twelve years here. The Gospel of Mark has really become a part of my mental furniture, and I know my friends have logged plenty of eye-rolls when I reference the Gospel at every possible opportunity.

I admit that it’s a habit, but it’s also a way of thinking, and that way of thinking is increasingly feeding my conviction that the Gospels- in particular the ministry of Jesus in the first half of the synoptics- need far more attention than they typical receive from the typical church or Christian.

When I first started studying the Bible seriously, I studied the epistles. I had no idea where to fit the teaching and miracles of the Gospels into my Christianity. Preachers took the miracles and turned them into all kinds of things: outlines, illustrations, allegories. There was a sense that the Gospels were full of things that just didn’t matter all that much when compared to the efficient, memorizable outline of the Roman Road or the practical teaching of the epistles and the pastoral letters.

My Pentecostal/Charismatic friends, of course, had a slightly different take. They believed the things Jesus did in those miracles were things we ought to be doing now. Didn’t Jesus tell his disciples they would do greater works than he did? So no matter what I thought about it, the Pentecostals who were praying for healing and miracles did seem to be taking the Gospels themselves more at face value.

My own church had pointed me into Scofield-style dispensationalism, and that unique approach meant that much of what Jesus did in the Gospels didn’t really matter for today. Either Jesus was presenting the Kingdom to the Jews of his time, or he was teaching a “Kingdom ethic” for the distant future. Either way, it was easier to go to the writing of Paul, where the questions and answers were more straightforward.

Now, many years later, I have as much appreciation for Paul as ever, but I have begun to suspect something about our uneasy relationship with the Gospels.

Jesus makes things very complicated for American Christians. If you simply follow him around in the Gospels, you are going to get into trouble. Why? Because he isn’t just talking evangelism. He’s talking about a whole life of Kingdom-dominated, life-transforming discipleship.

Let me use an illustration. Years ago, I found myself in a young adult men’s Sunday School class at the church I was serving. I was joining in for some fellowship with men my age, and I wasn’t teaching. The lesson that day was on Matthew 19:21-24. Jesus tells the rich young ruler to sell all he has and give it the poor, then come follow him. The young man refuses, and Jesus says it is very difficult for the wealthy to enter the Kingdom.

There was a tangible discomfort in that room full of young doctors, lawyers, realtors and entrepreneurs. They didn’t consider themselves “rich” by American standards (which is absurd,) but the text hit close enough to home that the discussion quickly took the tract of “Well….of course, he didn’t mean that we should actually do that. Right?”

I don’t want to critique those guys. I just want to note that when the Jesus of the early chapters of the Gospels gets loose at the party, things don’t head directly to the subject of church growth or the latest evangelism tract. He gets inside ylur suit, and he irritates you. He wants things to change, and it makes us nervous.

You see, Jesus is proclaiming the arrival of the Kingdom of God (Mark 1:14-15), and at the heart of it are two things that are fairly challenging to all of us in the materialistic, prosperous west.

1) The announcement that a climactic time has arrived, and the present age has come to it’s fulfillment point. In other words, a new world, a new creation, is arriving with Jesus. Something happens. “Personal Savior?” I don’t think so.

2) The call is not simply to believe some short form outline of “How to get saved,” but to repent and believe the good news. There is a reorienting/rebirthing of life at fundamental levels. Big questions get asked and answered: What is your God like? Who is your neighbor? How does the Kingdom look when you live in it? Will you follow Jesus to the cross?

These concerns are present in the epistles, but the Gospels go far beyond the epistles in putting the Kingdom in front of us, because everything Jesus says and does is dominated by this Kingdom he is announcing…..and his actions and words make it very clear what kinds of changes must take place. The disciples are blown away by it all, and that’s our cue to get our helmets on as well.

So when you read the Gospels, Jesus is including the excluded, healing the hopeless, remaking Israel, reaching out to the pagan, overturning the religious professionals, redefining all the predictable terms, shocking those who know all the answers and, in general, making it unmistakably clear that the Kingdom isn’t just about forgiveness and “heaven,” but about the life we are living- and will live- in the Kingdom here, now and in the future.

Most of our study of the early chapters of the Gospels ignore what Jesus is doing, and leave the impression that Jesus wandered around Galilee proving that he was the Son of God, so that when he died we would get the whole, “God’s Son died for your sins” thing. We don’t seem to get the purpose of all of this. It’s not the warm-up act for the cross: it’s the Kingdom. It’s what Jesus came to bring, and to give to us. It’s a Kingdom with a crucified and risen Messiah, but it’s always a Kingdom where believing and belonging mean revolution.

In fact, Jesus is teaching, eating, doing miracles, staging prophetic announcements and performances, shocking the authorities, teaching on a reborn/remixed Israel, training disciples, telling stories and all the rest for the express purpose of saying that if God is here now, and his Kingdom is present now, then YOUR life is going to be deeply transformed. God himself is going to give your life an entirely different definition and direction.

When you break down Mark’s Gospel, it is fascinating to see how discipleship becomes the focus AFTER Jesus brings the cross into view (Mark 8:31, Mark 9:31, Mark 10:33-34) In chapters nine and ten, the disciples are following Jesus to Jerusalem, and he’s made it plain what is going to happen. But they are debating with one another which of them is the greatest, and asking really contemporary questions like this whopper:

Mark 10:32-37 32 And they were on the road, going up to Jerusalem, and Jesus was walking ahead of them. And they were amazed, and those who followed were afraid. And taking the twelve again, he began to tell them what was to happen to him, 33 saying, “See, we are going up to Jerusalem, and the Son of Man will be delivered over to the chief priests and the scribes, and they will condemn him to death and deliver him over to the Gentiles. 34 And they will mock him and spit on him, and flog him and kill him. And after three days he will rise.” 35 And James and John, the sons of Zebedee, came up to him and said to him, “Teacher, we want you to do for us whatever we ask of you.” 36 And he said to them, “What do you want me to do for you?” 37 And they said to him, “Grant us to sit, one at your right hand and one at your left, in your glory.”

It’s pretty safe to say that “..we want you to do for us whatever we ask of you” wasn’t what Jesus had been working toward in the lives and hearts of these men. But this is typical of what Christianity becomes without the Cross, the Kingdom and Discipleship. It becomes a way for us to get “whatever we want” from God.

Listening to the first part of the Gospel story is vital if we are going to understand what Jesus was presenting in “the Gospel” of the Kingdom. It is vital that we will hear, so we will stop trying to find ways to get out of it, and make Christianity into a way to get the best seats for the entertainment and fun that we want so much.

Let me be honest. Currently setting atop the New York Times Bestseller List is “1. YOUR BEST LIFE NOW, by Joel Osteen.”

Joel Osteen and thousands upon thousands of other Christian teachers, authors and pastors, are telling Americans how to get their “best life now.” This has about as much to do with the Kingdom of Jesus Christ as we see it in the Gospels as a Big Mac, fries and a shake have to do with a healthy dinner.

Have you ever thought about this? We are living in the most fabulously wealthy, excessively entertained and unimaginably prosperous nation in the history of the world. We have a standard of living, and a level of comfort, that much of the rest of the world cannot imagine. We have so glutted ourselves with pleasure, comfort and excess that we are morphing into a nation of fat kids hooked up to video games being fed pizza by the servants.

Yet Christian pastors like Osteen are preaching on how YOU can GET MORE. MORE!! Better! How YOU can have your “best life now.” Having a great life in this culture of ours is a major concern of Christians. It’s insane. It’s as if God has lost his mind, and American Christians think it’s great. Jesus is the savior of the world, and his Kingdom is going to last forever, but we want a God who will sign the invoice for a Humvee, a cabin by the lake, and breast enhancements for Mom’s birthday.

Tens of millions will buy Osteen’s book that includes descriptions of how God helped him get a great parking place, how his children want to lead his Lakewood Church to a bigger facility than the $82 million Campaq Center, and how God’s blessing almost always manifests itself in a great new house for people of faith. This is the Kingdom of Jesus….The American dream for white yuppies in suburban Texaas.

Osteen’s book is on the top of the best-seller list because thousands of Christian are convinced that this God of increasing American prosperity is the God of the Bible. They are clueless, even with their Bible’s open, because their pastors have found ways to shut Jesus up and make him the servant of the American dream.

How can we break the news to these folks? They are wrong. So wrong, so deeply wrong, that their religion of “Lord, give us whatever we want…now,” has almost nothing in common with what Jesus is saying and doing in the Gospels. The Kingdom he is bringing overturns this nonsense. The Jesus of the Gospel proclaims the promises of prosperity, real estate and parking places to be empty. If we will listen. He’s just as discomforting now as ever, unless we render him the harmless servant of our desires.

Rather than telling us about your best life now, Jesus talks over and over about persecution, sacrifice, voluntary poverty and laying down the images and symbols of success for the lasting worth and influence of the Kingdom of Jesus. People who believe the Father of Jesus Christ gives life meaning don’t hand him a list of goodies and demand that he fork over the stuff. The read the Beatitudes, and the Lord’s Prayer, and the example of Jesus with their hearts open to what these things mean in their most obvious sense. No games or exceptions.

Osteen and other American evangelicals believe there is a crisis afoot over whether God is good enough for Americans to believe in him. Jesus demonstrated the goodness of God by including the outcasts and accepting the last, lost, least and overlooked. Evangelicals want God to make their life great…now. Jesus called us to a life of giving someone else a taste of the life they had missed; a life of finding our Joy in the Spirit, not in the flashy trash of the culture. There is joy in the Kingdom of heaven, Jesus said. Joy over one sinner who repents.

It is the older brother of the prodigal son who insists that his Father hasn’t done anything for him lately. The Father invites that son to a resurrection celebration for his reclaimed and restored son. The joy of the Father was there to be had, but entering into it meant entering into the “work” of the Father.

That is what Jesus was doing. John 5 makes it very clear: we are invited to see the Father doing what we see Jesus doing in the Gospels. Then we are invited to that Kingdom and to that same discipleship. Living the life. Making the sacrifices. Repenting. Reaching across the barriers. All of life pointing to Jesus, and to his Kingdom now and from now on.

We are getting a lot wrong. Our ministry should look like the ministry of Jesus. Our “Christianity” should grow right out of those first chapters of Mark. Our goal should be lives that embrace what Jesus shows us during those months in the dusty, desperate villages of Galilee. We need to return to the Gospels believing they matter, and quit avoiding the tensions created by Jesus as he lived the ultimate “purpose-driven” life in the real world.

If our theology has desposed of the Gospel accounts of Jesus’ ministry and teachings (before the Passion,) then lose your theology. Pick up the book and read again, and don’t skip the hard parts.

Comments

  1. Excellent!! I will read the words in red again and again

  2. AMEN, AMEN, AMEN AND AMEN!

    You’ve said exactly what I’ve been thinking for quite awhile but in so much better a way then I ever could. I think that a verse that really convicts me of this calling is “seek first the kingdom of God…”. I think that the fact that a lot of churches emphasize the “and all these things will be added to you” illustrates your point. I’ve come to realize that if I’m interested in what “all these things” are then I’m not seeking his kingdom. Seeking first his kingdom is such a difficult calling. Thank God for his grace and mercy. It’s nice to hear that there are others out there that realize what the call is. Thanks

  3. Put this one in the IMonk Hall of Fame. One of your best yet, Michael.
    Puts both Jesus and Osteen in their proper place.

  4. Amen! A very lucid piece on a topic that is CRITICAL for American Christians today. I’m fortunate enough to attend a church where we are getting a lot of preaching along these lines (Episcopal).

    It drives me to liberalism when I’m among supposed Bible-believing Christians who turn themselves into pretzels trying to get out of the hard teachings of Jesus Christ. I don’t want to become a liberal, but I don’t really want to shut up in the face of this weak husk of Christianity that we are so proud of. The cheap grace doctrine is an insult to our savior who showed us the way.

    You are sounding pretty anabaptist here, Michael–the idea that the kingdom of God is now for the believer. (I like!)

    I’m interested in your thinking about miracles. You start discussing those, but I’m missing what your conclusion is about them. What is their significance?

  5. Eric:

    >You are sounding pretty anabaptist here, Michael

    Eric, I appreciate the compliment, but I wonder if we can ever get to the point that we walk away our commitment to our “teams” when we read the gospels, because Jesus is really calling us away from “religious teams.”

    Miracles:

    I think the Synoptics make it very clear that the miracles are signs of the presence of the Kingdom. Eschatological reality arrives with Jesus. They show what Yahweh is doing now, and how The Son is the co-worker of the Father. SO look for 1) the nature of the Kingdom, and 2) the identity and meaning of Jesus.

    Lots more to say, but I’m out of time.

  6. Michael,

    I just discovered your site a while back and have really enjoyed your posts. I think we have a LOT in common.

    I thought I’d chime in a with a hearty AMEN to what you posted. When I was younger I was part of the Joel Osteen type of gospel thinking. My main influences at the time were Kenneth Copeland and Kenneth Hagin but Joel’s father, John Osteen, was also in the mix. Thankfully I didn’t spend long mixed up with that bunch as the Lord had mercy and grace upon me and gave me some eyesalve so I could see.

    This type of gospel appeals to the spiritually immature and also to those who are carnal and fleshly. In fact most of the American expression of Christianity is nothing but glorified religous flesh. I think God tolerates this behavior to some degree because He sees us as babies. The problem is that we are adult babies who should have grown up long ago.

    The modern materialistic gospel has done great harm to the cause of Christ. Not only here in America but all over the world. The world is not blind! They see us for what we are. A nation of self-worshipping gluttons who use God’s name in vain to achieve our own personal goals and objectives. And we wonder why the Muslims hate us! sheesh!

    This is really the result of a crossless Christianity and Kingdom subjugation (morally). You are right in pointing out that the cross comes “before” discipleship. We cannot become true disciples until we first learn the meaning and the depth of the cross.The cross eradicates the old man so that the new can come forth fashioned after Christ our master.

    If you keep posting such radical ideas you’re likely to get crucified yourself Michael! Keep it up!

    Your brother in Christ,

    Kevin Pearson
    aka Philologus

  7. Outstanding work, Monk. I wrote about you at my blog. Peace.

  8. Excellent work, as always. Responding blog post coming soon. One question, and I’ll get into this more later: Are the people who swallow Osteen’s bit yuppies or are they middle-class folks who have issues? I’m willing to believe either one, but in my own experience, the Osteen crowd is, frankly, not as wealthy or yuppie. Hence the reason to buy into his lame message.

  9. I think Daddy’s crowd was less yuppie, but I think Osteen will increasingly appeal to Yuppies. Of course, the word-faith movement, and Pentecostalism in general, has always been more of a lower- to lower-middle religious expression, so I think you will always see that. Some of the most gullible people in these movements are people who are in a mess and want to hallelujah their way out.

    And I really need to make it clearer- Thousands of seeker sensitive pastors push the same garbage. The Life Management Jesus who gets you a raise, a promotion and a new car.

  10. Michael, well, I’m glad you don’t see sounding anabaptist as an insult!

    As for teams, I still cross a lot of lines–Catholic, evangelical, anabaptist, episcopal. I’m not impressed by any group so much, but the individuals who have impressed me are going in the same direction.

    As for the groups, I am impressed by pretty much all of the denominational founders–all speak to very real problems of their time and place. I do think anabaptism provides a lot of what is needed at this time–a conservatism that is humble and servant oriented–but it is hardly the only way to get back to the gospels.

    I’m not too happy among any group of Christians that affirm me (and my possessions!) as I am without challenging me to something more.

  11. Amen AMEN!

    You said it great. Thank God I am in a PCA church where the Gospels are preached and the real Jesus presented!

  12. Bob Myers says:

    I’m reading a couple excerpts of this piece in my sermon tomorrow. I’m preaching Matthew 11 on Jesus View of Greatness. John the Baptist has been languishing in prison for ten months and is doubting who Jesus is. “The Jesus of the Gospel proclaims the promises of prosperity, real estate and parking places to be empty. If we will listen. He’s just as discomforting now as ever, unless we render him the harmless servant of our desires.”
    Can’t say it better, so I’m quoting you!

  13. http://homepage.mac.com/cawley/filechute/Driscoll%20Live%20From%20Seattle.mp3

    Interview of Mark Driscoll where he comments on Osteen. It’s hilarious. Driscoll is pastor of Mars Hill Church in Seattle. He has some great stuff to say about being “Seeker Insensitive” too.

  14. Michael – thanks for clarification as well as the link to the Driscoll piece. Hilarious and thought provoking.

  15. luke warm says:

    Some comments here smack of pride, as I’m sure mine does also.

    Jesus said, “If you were blind, you would not be guilty of sin; but now that you claim you can see, your guilt remains.

    Michael, if you’re listening, thank you for your effort put into this website. I did not realize how many others there are like myself that feel like we don’t fit in with the churches in our area. The feeling that I may be too worldly because I don’t agree with the churches and “Christians” that live around me has dominated my thinking lately. I have increasingly felt this way over the last few years.

    I am worried that I will become cynical, bitter and useless to God without the fellowship and accountability that comes with being a part of an organized church. I know that a church is not a requirement for the kingdom but I am weak and could use the help and support.

    Now that you and others have pinned down the problem of the (majority) of the current churches what can be done about it? Do we light a light or curse the darkness, or both? How can I find a place to worship God and have fellowship with others that care about these issues? How do I continue to run the race and persevere?

    Besides my immediate family and my in-laws I know of no others in the PA area where we live that I can agree with on just basic bible doctrines. Everyone is wrapped up so tightly in secondary doctrines and non-issues that the point of the book has been missed. I admit I have at times fallen into this trap but I am aware of it now and hopefully I can avoid it.

    I am much better at cursing the darkness and pointing out problems than I am at providing solutions, so here I sit -frowning.

    What is the Christian who doesn’t fit in supposed to do?

  16. Right on, Michael – I agree with you about this “prosperity gospel” heresy – but I’m wondering if you can elaborate on how to integrate the gospel with a “householder” lifestyle, i.e. someone who is not a wandering ascetic but has family responsibilities and wants a stable life in a non-impoverished community. I’m not talking megachurch yuppies, just folks like me who own a house in a small town and want a middle-class life for our families. Is it wrong to have those things when there’s anyone in the world who lacks them?

  17. I was discussing your entry with my house church and we thought that it was right on but I wanted to add something. I think that A LOT of churches who have this “vending machine theology” (insert your quarter here, get your miracle) tend to bend it towards God fufilling every emotional need. I’ve heard sermon after sermon that goes into detail about God’s comfort for the suffering and joy for the faithful. While I think that most of this is true I think that there is an over emphasis on these things. Over emphasizing something that is true is a very easy trap to fall into and more difficult to notice. The problem with this case in particular is that it fails to call us towards holiness and encourages weak worldly Christians (and in some cases non-Christians that think they are Christians) to feel good about themselves. Verses like “the joy of the Lord is your strength” need to be in place in the context of scripture. God’s blessings are for his faithful. Pep talks breed complacent Christians. I think that this is very big problem that I’ve never seen anyone address.

    P.S. Please don’t misread this. I’m not saying that the faithful will not suffer emotionally. I’m just trying to say that God’s not going to bless you with emotional health if you don’t care much about his kingdom.

  18. Rose: Excellent Point

    Jendi: First, all sincere Christians should do a check of their mind and heart for fanaticism. Romans 10:1-2, Galatians 6:14-16. I have written on this issue in other IM essays.
    http://www.internetmonk.com/homexz.html

    Second, realize that Jesus did not call everyone to sell all they have, give it to the poor and live like St. Francis. Those who were well off learned to live in joyful ministry to others, but they did not all take vows of poverty and live in tents. (Job, beginning and end, Abraham, etc.) This is because we recognize the Providence of God, and that those more materially blessed can do much to use those resources in ways they couldn’t if they simply abandoned them. If I can make millions….I should. For the Kingdom’s sake.

    There is nothing wrong with normal life.
    http://www.internetmonk.com/guilty.html
    Be ware of those whose spirituality takes away the created, God-blessed nature of life, home, work, parenthood, leisure, recreation, art, loafing, talking, hobbies, music, etc.

    Find ways to be involved in serving and working with the poor. We work at a Christian boarding school. We also support Gospel for Asia, VOice of the Martyrs, Samaritan’s Purse and World Vision. ANd I buy books, cameras, music. I go to baseball games….a lot. And I don’t feel guilty. THis isn’t prosperity theology.

    The Old Testament has a very earthy, joyful theology of blessing, as well as a cause for justice and mercy to the poor. We don’t have to become hair shirts to love people. Jesus was a businessman for 30 years, and it wasn’t sin.

  19. Michael, some great thoughts and I have just a few comments. I am in the middle of teaching a Sunday School class on Mark, Chapter 8 for this week, so since I am new to the IM, I donÂ’t mind you going off on the gospel of Mark. You get me thinking new things every time.

    First, when I stop to think about it, what was Jesus preaching in the early chapters of Mark? He was not preaching the gospel yet, he had not died and it seems He was only revealing to his disciples that he was even going to die. So the message that He was dying for our sins was not yet being proclaimed. As you mentioned, He was preaching repentance and that the kingdom of God was at hand.

    Second, what do you see when you look at the types of miracles and things that Jesus did; healing, raising people from the dead, forgiving sins, redefining the law and feeding the 5000? You see God. A God who is reversing the curse of sin and death on mankind, a God of the OT feeding his people with manna, you see a God with a message of forgiveness. You see Jesus not only proclaiming that the kingdom is at hand, but proclaiming His deity. And He is doing it in far deeper ways than just doing magic tricks. He was not running around as a show off, doing all weird things like making gold dust fall out of the air.

    Finally, I believe you are right on target with the idea that we as American Christians are to focused on materialism and getting it all from God now. We do not realize that being a Christian is not just about faith, but also about works (to quote James, brother of the Lord). I have been personally challenged by the book of James lately, challenged to think how I as a middle-class American am living out my faith. The Osteen ilk have gotten off the track, as have a lot of us.

  20. I actually believe that Mark 1:14-15 is the Gospel, but that Mark presents Jesus with a “Gospel with a Secret” in 1-8, then the Gospel with a Crucified Messiah” after that, and finally, a Gospel with a resurrected Messiah. It all is the TRUTH about the Kingdom of God, which Jesus always preached, but also unveiled progressively. Key passage: 8:31ff. You are RIGHT about who I am (Messiah), but you are wrong about HOW GOD WORKS through that Messiah. It is not through miracles, etc….but through death/rez.

    John’s Gospel is all over this, of course. The “Glorification” of the Son is the Cross and the Glory of God is most clearly seen on the cross.

    Osteen isn’t the cause. He’s just the latest- and most noticable- symptom

  21. As always, on target. I’ve been fortunate in being able to teach teens – which includes heavy doses of hard questions. Some complain, some fall out, others excel.

    Last year, an old high-school friend who day-to-day is surrounded by atheists in his life asked me to go see Mel Gibson’s Passion – after wards he invited me to some pizza, beverage, and a series of very difficult questions … not as a test, but I think so he could defend his new found faith amid his old skeptic family members.

  22. I am typically reluctant to post here, but I wanted to say a bit.

    At a Catholic Mass, the Gospel reading is the most important part of the Liturgy of the Word. The whole congregation stands and sings Alleluia when it is time for the Gospel. I would argue that Catholics at least have a good idea of the importance of that part of the Bible…

    As far as living it goes, we all make choices as to how we approach our faith. Some people are still pretty immature as Christians and need to be led by the hand, allowed the excitement of the “spiritual rush”, and given the opportunity to be exuberant about their faith. The real problem is probably that some people have the idea that this is the entirety of the Christian faith. We encourage children and give them simple explanations because that is all they are ready for. With kids, we remember that the point is for them to grow and be capable of far more. With discipleship, that needs to be the focus, too.

    I once spoke with a buddy about the 40 Days of Purpose he was doing with his church. I told him that Catholics also have 40 days of purpose every year and have had for ages. 40 days of spiritual reflection and challenge to ourselves. 40 days of self-denial and focus on the faith. We call it Lent. He thought it was a joke. Thing is, I’m dead serious.

    Anyway, that’s my take from a different perspective.

    -Patrick

  23. From the perspective of someone who is hearing sermons about being in the spiritual sweet spot…right on!

  24. One suggestion Michael.

    I think it would be great if at the bottom of every article you write in which you criticize someone, you should have the following:

    “Do you think that I should not openly criticize this person? If so then click on this link.”

    Now it might be tempting to then send to Landover Baptist or Rotten.com, but I would suggest that when they click on that link they are taken to one of your pages on why you feel that Christians should take a stand against false/zero teaching. That way you won’t have to keep dealing with people who keep posting or emailing saying “Doesn’t Jesus say don’t judge?”

  25. “You are sounding pretty anabaptist here, Michael…”

    Wow, we’ve come a long way when this is being given as a compliment! 🙂 But why do you refer to anabaptism as conservative, Eric?

    Michael, excellent post. May be one of your best.

  26. You’ve hit the nail fairly and squarely on the head. With surgical precision, you have disected and laid bare the farce of modern evangelical approaches to the Gospels, and to Jesus.

    Whatever you do, never, ever, stop writing!

    To God be the Glory!
    Adam

  27. I’m not American, so I don’t know a lot about the “materialistic” intepretations of the gospel that some people are alluding to here. But I really liked this piece.

    I wonder, Michael, if you’ve read any of the Catholic Church’s social encyclicals?

    Another Scriptural passage that some people might find difficult to swallow: Amos 4.

    On a personal note, I feel fortunate that in my own Christian walk I’ve been blessed with powerful reminders of the message of the Beatitudes–and I mean LUKE’s version (Luke 6:20-26).

    And on one final note … no offense meant to anyone, but for majority of the world (I live in a 3rd world country), making millions does not constitute “normal life.”