[I always thought when the time came to broach this subject I’d reference tipping sacred cows. Now, a comment on yesterday’s post brought it to the top, and it seems a bit out of place. Oh well.]
Satan uses secrets to keep us in bondage. Dungeons are places of darkness. Satan keeps us shackled in the dark. He especially prefers to keep us in the dark so we can’t see those chains are actually cheap plastic and the bars aren’t even bolted to the wall.
But we don’t know that. Our secrets are our reality. They are dark and deadly and terrifying. They are shadowy memories, vile smells, creepy touches, and voices that make us shudder. They are the confusion of loved ones who hurt us. And lies mixed with truth.
The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he hath anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor; he hath sent me to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised,
To preach the acceptable year of the Lord.
- good news to the poor
- deliverance to the captives
- recovering of sight to the blind
- liberty for them that are bruised
- the favorable season of the Lord
Later He said:
But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth.
A witness is someone who has personally seen something happen and can testify with absolute certainty it is true and actual fact.
Our Christianese has diluted and even somewhat twisted the meaning of this word “witness.” We think of “witnessing” as “sharing the gospel” with a “lost” person. That whole sentence has a Christianese subtext. Like watching TV with the subtitles. Here’s what it means in Christianese:
”Present to an unchurched person, a memorized, scripted dialog learned in in a soul-winning or outreach class. The purpose of this dialog is to manipulate the unchurched individual through a set of Scripture verses intended to reveal to him his state of wretched sinfulness, eternal damnation to hell, utter dependence on Jesus’ death, burial and resurrection for an eternity in heaven instead of hell. The goal of this exercise is to gain the unchurched party’s assent to repeat a scripted prayer acknowledging these facts, accepting Jesus Christ into his heart as his personal Savior, thereby assuring his eternal salvation.”
Depending on your denomination that subtext may vary slightly. But that’s pretty close.
But that’s not actually what the Word says if you read it without the subtitles.
If you look at these two passages where Jesus Himself clearly stated His purpose in coming to earth and then where He gave us our mission, some things can be seen that are very different from the Christianese version.
Remember, we can only be witnesses of what we have personally seen and experienced. If you haven’t personally seen and experienced God at work in your life – you need to go back to square one and wait for God. You have nothing to testify about because you have witnessed nothing. That’s the first thing.
All that bit about the memorized script and fire-insurance prayer – no good. I can’t say God won’t use it. God used Balaam’s donkey. But that is not what God intended. (And I probably just offended about a jillion people. That was not my intention.)
Jesus is our Savior. YES! But what did He save us from? Did your mind just go back to the script? Or did it go to the Luke 4 passage?
Quick doctrine class –
Before the fall of man, God walked with man in the garden and they had a close friendship relationship. What was the consequence of the Fall? There were a variety of consequences for Adam and Eve’s little blame-game, but the consequence for eating of the forbidden tree was death:
But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die.
Physical death began. Spiritual death was immediate, demonstrated by the fact that man no longer walked with God in the garden in close friendship relationship.
So then, what did Jesus die to accomplish?
And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of man be lifted up:
That whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have eternal life.
For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.
Next question: what is eternal life?
Back to that Christianese – the answer is, where you’re going after you die; heaven or hell.
Wrong answer. What does the Bible say?
And this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent.
The Greek word used for the word “know” there mean to know absolutely, like through experience, as a Christian husband and wife (in a godly marriage) know each other. Not like you might know all about Abraham Lincoln. It is the most thorough knowledge it is possible to have – a knowledge gained through witnessing the life of someone else up close on a daily basis.
So, how does this relate to our passages back at the top of this article?
Jesus is our Savior. He clearly stated His mission. It didn’t include anywhere in that list, “make sure to lead people in the sinner’s prayer so they can go to heaven when they die.” Now why is that? Especially if that is supposed to be one our primary goals in leading people to Jesus as their Savior? (Yeah, I ask the hard ones. God has been putting up with that for a long time.)
As with all the other attributes of God, such as Redeemer, they do not describe an action He has done in one specific circumstance. Who God is, is Who He is all the time. So if Jesus is our Savior, He is our savior all the time. He is the savior of our everything. He is the savior of our eternal future and the savior of our today.
He came to save the poor in spirit by bringing them the riches of Himself for their poverty.
He came to save the captives from their bondage by providing the answers to the secrets that keep them bound.
He came to save the sight of the blind who cannot see the truth that will make them free (Jn 8:32).
He came to save the abused from those who daily batter their souls.
He came to bring the favorable season of the Lord – something different than time has ever known.
But Jesus called them unto him, and said, Ye know that the princes of the Gentiles exercise dominion over them, and they that are great exercise authority upon them.
But it shall not be so among you: but whosoever will be great among you, let him be your minister;
And whosoever will be chief among you, let him be your servant:
Even as the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many.
And as I have known my Savior to be these things in my life, I am a witness.
My God has saved me from these things. I have been captive in those dark places. Even though sometimes it’s a little rough being open (like yesterday’s post), secrets are Satan’s stronghold. And a witness brings light. If my witness can bring light to someone else’s darkness, so they can find the same salvation I have, there can be nothing better than that. Only walking with God in and through those places can bring freedom. There is no other way.
There is some help out there. Psychology offers a lot. But complete light in the cobwebby corners? Freedom? Joy? God is the author of wisdom, even the wisdom that psychology offers. Jesus is the Savior. And because He has been my Savior, I can testify about what I have witnessed Him doing in my life.
I believe that is the fulfillment of the Great Commission.
[And one wee word on hell, lest anyone think I’ve thrown it out with the bathwater:
Is God good? Think again about the attributes of God. Is goodness something He does or is good Who He is? If good is Who He is, does anything good exist outside of God? Good is Who God is.
As a side note, this would mean when anyone, even a non-believer does anything good they are acting out of the fact that they are created in the image of God. All that is good is a reflection of God’s nature – and remember Balaam’s donkey. God can use anything, anyone, anytime, anywhere.
If God is good, and eternal life is relationship with God, what is eternal life without God? Think for about five minutes about what that would have to be like. No, I’m not kidding. Do it. If you can seriously do that without crying, you’ve got a strong stomach. Now, put that into a specific place, add to it the characteristics God has given the place labeled Hell in the Bible, and there you have it.
Hell is, quite simply, a place where God isn’t. A specific place described in the Bible. It is alone. Remember, relationship is with God! Each person who does not enter into relationship with God chooses to spend eternity alone, without God – and that will be hell, in every literal way. If you think about that long enough it should change a lot of preconceptions about hell in interesting ways – but still remains faithful to the Word.
Not a place I want to go. But, avoiding it is also not the motivation for accepting Christ as Savior! Never, not once, not ever did Jesus use that as a motivational tool for the people He ministered to. Jesus had harsh words for the religious leaders only. He rebuked Satan at work in Peter. But he did not speak this way to the people he was ministering to. And He didn’t hold the threat of an eternity in hell over anyone’s head.]
Filed under: abuse and the church, The State of the Church, Theology | Tagged: abuse, abuse and the church, Christian theology, Great Commission, heaven, hell, salvation, Savior, sinners prayer, Theology |