Tag Archives: Religion

Why the World Hates Jesus of Nazareth (3 of 7)

“If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first.”  Jesus, Jn. 15:18

In the previous installment, I discussed two reasons the world system hates Jesus. Jesus Proclaimed the Kingdom of God and Jesus Was Not Patriotic.

When you’re a part of the world system that glorifies one worldly kingdom over another, you oppose the transnational Kingdom of God.

Likewise, when you respond to the good news by following Jesus in radical discipleship, you oppose nationalism and the politics of Caesar. You become an enemy of the state. Sooner or later you’ll find yourself hated like Jesus.

As I said in the introduction, I’m using seven provocative statements to summarize the radical life and teachings of Jesus as recorded in the NT.

If you’re a skeptic, I hope that you will seriously consider the historical Jesus of the Gospels. If you count yourself among the church, I pray that you will rethink what you thought you already knew about Jesus of Nazareth.

Now, let’s look at another controversial, and oft-neglected, aspect of Jesus’ teaching and example. This specifically involves the religious leaders and the hatred Jesus incited among them for rejecting their religion.

3. Jesus Was Not Religious

The word “religion” derives from the Latin religio, which referred to a binding obligation. In first century Palestine, the word was not used the way we use it today. In the time of Jesus, if someone said something was “religio to me”, it meant that they had a special obligation to it.

This obligation could be anything from a commitment to cults of the gods, to something more “secular” like oaths to family, government, military, etc.

Whatever the oath involved, this special obligation was about life and identity. Therefore, it meant that this “religion” involved a set of rules, regulations, and rituals that provided cultural meaning and purpose.

The danger of religion, in ancient or modern times, is that LIFE is said to be found in a system of behavior and beliefs.

This requires that a person root their identity in the ideas and boundaries set by the religious community. You don’t want to buck the religious system.

For this very reason, second temple Judaism could not contain Jesus. The religious leaders, and guardians of their sacred religion, demanded strict adherence to their own system of correct behavior and beliefs.

Consider some of the ways that Jesus rejected their religion:

  • He healed on the Sabbath, violating their religious code (Matt 12:9).
  • He ate with enemies and sinners (Matt 9:11; Mk 2:16).
  • He touched “unclean” people, they touched him (Lk 5:12, 8:43).
  • He turned over the tables of the Temple (Mk 11:15; Jn 2:15).
  • He challenged religious traditions (Mk 7:3-5).
  • He challenged traditional interpretations (Matt 5:38-48).
  • He despised religious prayers (Matt 6:5-8; Lk 18:11).
  • He rebuked religious authority (Matt 23:13; Lk 12:1).

While Jesus was certainly a good Jew, a true Israelite (Jn 1:47), it can’t be denied that he opposed religion’s threat against the Kingdom of God. And for this act of sedition, the religious leaders wanted him dead (Mk 12:12).

Since religious people get their life from the rightness of their behaviors and beliefs, anyone who challenges them, is a threat to their life. Their response is to stop the threat, violently if necessary. We call them fundamentalists.

Jesus said that religion is merely a self-righteous platform by which a person can judge others who aren’t like them. It’s bad for the soul. It creates obstacles for people, even repelling them from coming into the Kingdom.

Not only did Jesus oppose this club mentality, invariably found within religion, he rebuked the religious leaders, saying that they themselves didn’t live up to their own standards of behavior and belief.

“The teachers of religious law and the Pharisees are the official interpreters of the law of Moses. So practice and obey whatever they tell you, but don’t follow their example. For they don’t practice what they teach. They crush people with unbearable religious demands and never lift a finger to ease the burden.” Jesus, Matt 23:1-4 NLT

Religious people crush others with their religious demands, and they are a burden as they stand at a distance condemning people that don’t share their beliefs and practices. All the while they’re dirty on the inside.

“What sorrow awaits you teachers of religious law and you Pharisees. Hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs—beautiful on the outside but filled on the inside with dead people’s bones and all sorts of impurity. Outwardly you look like righteous people, but inwardly your hearts are filled with hypocrisy and lawlessness.” Jesus, Matt 23:27-28 NLT

The words of Jesus recorded in Matthew 23 has to be the strongest rebuke by Jesus in all of the Gospels. In fact, nothing quite compares to Jesus’ rebuke of religious hypocrites. It’s no wonder they hated him.

“Snakes! Sons of vipers! How will you escape the judgment of hell?” Jesus, Matt 23:33

Jesus taught that if you want to escape the doom of religious people doing religious things, then you must repent of religion. Stop trying to find LIFE in your system of “right” beliefs and behaviors, even in the Bible. And instead root yourself in the One of who is LIFE:  Jesus Christ of Nazareth.

“You study the Scriptures diligently because you think that in them you have eternal life. These are the very Scriptures that testify about me, yet you refuse to come to me to have life.” Jesus, Jn 5:38-40 NIV

Many evangelicals are convinced that they are getting their LIFE from Jesus, but instead they continue to drink water from a well that has been condemned by Christ. They drink insipid water. And the symptoms of this religious disease is pride, arrogance, intolerance, and a judgmental spirit.

“The Kingdom’s revolt against religion, including the Christian religion, is on a totally different level. It is a revolt against all attempts to get Life from particular beliefs—including true ones. For where God truly reigns over an individual or a community, their only source of Life is God, not the rightness of their beliefs.” Greg Boyd, The Myth of a Christian Religion, pg 60.

It is quite clear from the Gospels that “religion” is part of the world system. When Jesus said the world hated him first, religion is a part of that world.

Those who repent of religion will stand out like Jesus, and be known for their love, justice, mercy, and forgiveness (Matt 23:23; Jn 13:34-35).

Like Jesus who led the way, his followers may be dubbed a liberal, sin-loving, blasphemer by those who are invested in the religious system, but they will be called the greatest in the kingdom of God.

D.D. Flowers, 2013.

Read the next post:  4. Jesus Rejected Materialism.


Church Drama or Christ Dogma?

There seems to be a great deal of drama surrounding the church today. It would appear that many Christians believe that more talk about church practice will lead to a fruitful end. Apparently, arguing over church forms and methods are going to lead us to unity in the Body of Christ, and that through pragmatism we will be able to obtain a church utopia on earth.

Many believers have been fooled into thinking that more emerging conversations will give birth to a glorious epiphany in our ecclesiology. I don’t have to defend my statements with statistics. Anyone paying attention to the church climate in this generation can see the ridiculous mess we have created for ourselves.

Pagan Christianity: Exploring the Roots of Our Church Practices by Frank Viola and George Barna is causing the much expected firestorm of debate. We are even seeing Christians persecuting Christians. It is proof that history does indeed repeat itself. In the middle of the conversations I am hearing the way in which the bruised up and world-intoxicated church should conduct herself when she gathers together.

Primarily, I hear conversations centered around “forms” and “models.” When bloggers and the occasional “anonymous” writers are not trying to make judgments against a book they have not read, they pull out old arguments to ease their conscience and defend their uncontested and undigested presuppositions concerning the church. I would laugh at some of the things I am hearing if I wasn’t so deeply disturbed in my spirit.

The church is torn and caught in a whirlwind of drama, and the one thing we should be talking about is being replaced with narcissistic ecclesiastical conversations perpetuating the feeling of utter despair.

In my review of PC and in all of my comments elsewhere, I have stated over and over that this book is not about “doing” church or about “forms.” This book is about returning to the person and work of Christ–it is about spiritual revolution, not religious reformation.

When we examine the New Testament without bringing the last 1700 years of church practice with it, we will see a church that gathered around Christ in simplicity.  We see a church consumed with all things Christ, not self-absorbed in a crazy array of emerging church practices.

When it comes to the historical research and work presented in PC, we must be willing to accept that the pagan origins documented in this book sound an alarm that should result in great concern from us. We must be open to a paradigm shift and be willing to lay aside many things before we will hear the clear exaltation of Christ in his Body the church. And this is the purpose of the book: “to make room” for Christ!

A person should not hear the authors as trading one church form for another. All readers should take a mature view of the message undoubtedly being presented in this book. There is a clear cry of spiritual revolution back to the centrality, supremacy, and headship of Christ in the church.

The way by which we are able to remove our preconceived notions concerning the church, is by a complete emersion and commitment into rediscovering the Christ of the Gospels.

Out of Christ is born the church. Out of Christ is born this house church “form” many readers see Viola describing. It is natural to first see this as strictly being forms, I know. I was distracted by the “doing” in the beginning. Nevertheless, if a person will continue to seek the Lord in spirit and in truth, in time, you should see things differently. In time, the Lord will bring more light that illuminates himself, not the church.

Many readers may not agree with the premise of the book because they ultimately have not taken the time to rethink Jesus’ words. Church history and its 1700 years of accumulating paganism speaks for itself. The reason for documenting these facts of history is to clear the stage for a narrative ecclesiology built upon Christ. In order to have a correct ecclesiology, we first need a renewed christology.

Readers must not confuse the thesis of this book with “doing” a different “model.” The book’s claim is that the “organic” church is born out of the natural faith of Christ (i.e. life and teachings) and the institutional church is born out of man’s wisdom in applying pagan models of leadership and acquiring all sorts of religious practices. 

I would rather people become even more upset by this, then they hear something else and be upset for the wrong reasons. Again, the purpose of PC is to spur us on to removing all church models and forms in order that our reactions to Christ would produce a church life that reflects his person and work.

This is the church that gathers in the “New Testament fashion”–the church gathered around the centality, supremacy, and headship of Christ.

I am now very cautious when recommending this book to people who have not already come to a place of total dissatisfaction with the Christ and the Christianity that is taught and practiced in America. The book could build up walls that prevent any real search for the authentic Christ from ever happening. And then again, it may be the shot in the pants that many professing believers need. Time will tell.

It was because of my own experience with church drama and the discontentment I felt with the Christ presented in the traditional church… that I was even open to a renewed Christology.  It is by the mercy and grace of God that I found Christ instead of latching on to forms, methods, and movements, and being distracted by them.

It is quite a thing, I know, to claim that the reason people react harshly to the message presented in this book is because they are not “hungry for more of Jesus.” However, I have given this a great deal of thought. I am certain that this is the case.

If a person can quickly pass off the Christ-centered message presented in PC, or any Christ-centered book for that matter, then it is apparent that there are things coming before Christ. These things, whatever they may be, are keeping people from their heart’s desire. These people may find that Christ is not the sum of all spiritual things wherever they are at in life.

The truth of the matter will only be found in discerning with the Spirit of Christ that indwells the spirit of man. When all is still and quite within a man’s soul, a person can know if Christ is truly first in the matter.  The Holy Spirit longs to exalt the Lord above all other pursuits and things that stand in the way of his absolute centrality and supremacy.

The purpose of this article is not to defend PC or the authors who are but mere men. The purpose is to sound a call for all believers to be consumed with Christ dogma instead of church drama.  It is a plea for the church to see the need for spiritual revolution (i.e. return to Christ), instead of religious reformation.

Before anything else is said or written, we must be aware of the fact that we are so easily misled into hype and drama with talks of methods and movements.  It is time to trade in our methods and movements dialogue for a renewed understanding of Jesus.

I’m afraid that much of the talk today about the church has little to nothing to do with Christ’s headship.  It would appear that many believers are taking the devil’s bait.  The evil one has the church talking about everything but Christ. He can’t keep us from noticing the problems, but he can keep us busy trying to solve those problems with some “new” way of “doing” church.

There is a revolution rising. The men and women who make up this revolution want to give the church back to Christ. However, if we do not concern ourselves with the centrality and supremacy of Christ, we will no doubt continue the drama that has lasted for over 1700 years.

The drama is evidence that there are many who have not concerned themselves with the centrality, supremacy, and headship of Christ in the church.  If Christ was central and supreme, we would be patiently discussing his person and works with each other instead of debating forms and methods.

Where will the church go from here? What voices will she listen to in this generation? Will she settle for reform and be persuaded by man and his movements or will she press on to her Lord and aid in the tearing down of the kingdom of hell?

There is only one road that leads to Christ, that is the way of the cross. If the church is willing to press on to Christ, she must ready herself for a major shift in the culture. For when the church is founded on the rock of Christ, the mighty winds of persecution will blow. And in the storm we will find peace.

May the Lord give us a continual hunger for his centrality and supremacy in all things. May Christ be our primary pursuit, the centerpiece of our conversations, and the subject of our personal meditation and reflection. Let us set our hearts to learning Christ, and we will be led to a normal “organic” church life that is born out of knowing the person and work of Christ Jesus our Lord.

“He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For by him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things were created by him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. And he is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything he might have the supremacy.”

Paul, Letter to the Colossians 1:15-18

D.D. Flowers, 2008.


Jim Caviezel to the Church

james-caviezelI had the wonderful privilege of hearing Jim Caviezel speak last night. No, he was not greeted with chants of “Hosanna!” and the waving of palm branches while riding in on a donkey. Yet, I must say that that would have been funny.

He walked on stage in a black leather jacket and black jeans sporting a new hairdo. He was given a warm welcome and no one pressed the stage to be healed. Jim began by sharing how he came to play Jesus in the 2004 film, The Passion of the Christ.

He spoke on the making of the movie and the many trials he went through while playing the part of the Suffering Messiah. His words were honest and inspiring as scenes from the film played on the big screens behind him. The entire audience was moved as Jim shifted everyone’s focus off of himself and onto Jesus of Nazareth.

Jim is a very serious and sincere man. If you have watched any of his films, especially behind the scenes, you will know this to be true. He is very serious about his work as an actor—not for acting sake—but in order to portray good versus evil and judgment versus redemption. I was thrilled to be able to hear his heart as he spoke of his own faith in Christ and how that faith is to be lived out in all the dark places in our world.

I believe what stuck out to me the most about what he shared was what I would call a prophetic message to the church. Jim mentioned the increasingly hostile world that we live in and how persecution and suffering was coming to the church. He referred to this as God’s way. If I remember correctly, he said, in reference to suffering, “This too is from God.”

He reminded the audience that all of the saints who have gone on before us were all acquainted with this one thing: suffering. He went on to encourage the audience to be the Lord wherever they are at and to not be concerned about what others think. He said:

“We may never win an Oscar or be known by men, but we are known by God and that’s all that matters.”

I met Jim after the talk to have him sign something. Relax, it was the only way to speak to him. :-)  Since I’m aware that he is serious and that he seemed to be tense from all the attention, I thought I would break the mood with some humor.

I shook his hand and said, “Jim, I just want to know one thing… how hard was it not to laugh in your interview with Ron Burgundy?”  (If you don’t know what I am talking about, you can watch the interview on You Tube.)  He laughed and replied, “You know… you didn’t see all of the outtakes. It wasn’t easy.”

I laughed with him and shook his hand one last time.  As I shook his hand to leave, I said, “Keep being a light in a dark world.” His serious look returned with an expression that conveyed appreciation and at the same time a hopeful brother in an evil place; a brother who understands what it means to be in the world, but not of it.

Finally, I just want to say that I was moved by the Spirit of Christ in the hearing of Jim’s words. I was moved enough to stay up until three in the AM to tell you about it. I truly believe the Lord spoke through Jim Caviezel in a powerful way. I just hope that the Christians in the room and those reading this blog are receiving the “heads up” on what God is getting his people ready to endure.

Soon we will have a new context in which to live out our Christianity. Soon and very soon, Christians living in the empire will experience the purification of God’s people on earth; to bear the marks of Jesus on our bodies and identify with him through suffering. May those of us who have long enjoyed the security of the world be ready for what is to come.


The Sermon on the Hill

WARNING: RELIGIOUS SATIRE!

The Sermon on the Hill (The American Beatitudes)
Matt. 5:1-16

One day as he saw the politicians gathering, Jesus went up the steps of the capital and stood behind a podium with The Statue of Freedom looming overhead. The Senate gathered around him, 2 and he began to address them.

 

The American Beatitudes

 

3 “Blessed are those who have a military-industrial complex and realize their need to secure their economic interests in the Middle East, for the kingdoms of the world are theirs.

4 Blessed are those who are hedonistic, for they will be satisfied.

5 Blessed are those who are proud and arrogant, for they shall rape and pillage the whole earth.

6 Blessed are those who lust for power and prosperity and call it “justice,” for they will have comforts.

7 Blessed are those who show no mercy, for they will never be in need of it anyway.

8 Blessed are those whose hearts are peacefully wicked, for they shall be gods.

9 Blessed are those who kill for peace, for they will be called the “good” children of God.

10 Blessed are the persecutors of evil men (i.e. those who threaten Pax Americana), for the kingdoms of the world are theirs.

11 Blessed are you when people burn your precious flag and curse you because you destroyed their homes and killed their loved ones.  These evildoers simply have not understood the power and salvation of redemptive violence.  My followers must understand, when we talk about war… we are really talking about peace.

12 Be happy when people curse you for this!  Be very glad!  For great is your reward on earth.  And remember, every empire before you was cursed for the same things.

13 You and you alone are the salt of the earth.  But what good is salt if it has been corrupted by dirty Mexicans from the South and cave-dwelling Muslims from the east?  They should be shot like the Indians and dumped in the sea like slaves.  They are worthless!  This is your manifest destiny!

14 You and you alone are the light of the world—an idolatrous city on a hilltop that cannot be hidden.

15 No one buys alcohol and gets drunk alone.  Instead they share their maddening wine with everyone in the world until everyone has had their fill!

16 In the same way, let your American ways spew out for all to taste, so that everyone will embrace carnal living and let freedom ring!”


* This article was published in Christian Ethics Today (Winter 08/ Issue 068). See more of my satire “John Calvin 3:16-21″ and “Romans 13: The Patriotic Version” at CET: www.christianethicstoday.com


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