Jesus: Change We Have A Hard Time Believing In

jesuspres08If you follow my blog, you know I believe there is something terribly wrong with the Christianity that we have embraced in America. And I wanted to share some quick thoughts particularly on our misplaced confidence in government and our so-called “duty” to vote. Just some thoughts really. Take it or leave it.

Please be forewarned that his one has a bit of a “tone.” You know, a “tone” that is interpreted as “angry” or “anti-American” or something like that. So please read knowing that I am in-fact a bit… hmm… how do you say… fed up. But, I assure you my sorrow far outweighs any sort of anger.

I am working on it. I still haven’t managed to dress up all of my actions in the garb of the hippy Jesus who wears the façade that says, “I am holy because I do not get angry.” I prefer the stance that says, “I am angry because I am holy.”

In other words, I believe any frustration and concern that I express ought to be shared among all who call themselves “disciples of Jesus.” Hopefully, this momentary expression of anger and sorrow will mature into a renewed Christology that will give us all more reason to trust in Jesus instead of ourselves.

And so I give you my thoughts.

Jesus: Change We Have a Hard Time Believing In

I am convinced that our political “freedoms” are instead a bondage that leads us to reject Christ’s methods of change… only to turn and accept the world’s methods of exhorting power over people. I can see that this marriage of the church to the state by acceptance of its methods only produces a nominal Christian “religion” where we can all live comfortable while we overcome evil with a vote.

We can walk away feeling like we have done someone a favor with our vote. Like we have made a difference by playing in to the system of suppressing evil through law and violence. As if we have been called to confront evil in this manner.

Mark my words:

The intermarriage of church and state is the greatest tragedy in the history of Christianity. It violates the heart of the Gospel of Christ.

The church has been sidetracked. Duped is more like it. We have been misled to believe that we have been called to save the culture and remind the sinners that God is watching them like a drunk abusive Santa Claus figure.

Somehow the mentioning of God on monuments, money, and in our many assemblies means that God is pleased. I just don’t get it. You took prayer out of schools? Well, God is ticked now. Watch out! The culture will go to hell in a hand basket because you have quit stamping the god of deism on worldly institutions for political reasons.

Clearly, we have been deceived into thinking our God “blesses” nations when they talk about him and he “curses” when they don’t. I’m not buying this anymore. It is no longer consistent with the Jesus I know. Shouldn’t we have learned this lesson with Israel in the Old Testament through the prophets like Amos and Jeremiah?

You don’t get points for looking religious and embracing sin in your hearts. You don’t escape the judgment of Christ and receive his blessings just because a worldly empire decides to speak Christianese and mix its agenda with God’s plan through the church. How have we missed this?

Is a worldly kingdom “blessed” because it has material abundance? Does it cease to be “blessed” because it stops using the generic name “God” around town? What sort of God in Christ do we have? It’s time we see things rightly about how God deals with worldly kingdoms and how he deals separately with his church. We need to apply his Word appropriately.

God has always used worldly kingdoms to suppress evil and judge other nations who have become corrupt. They are agents of wrath (Rom. 13:4). God then turns around and judges that nation for its own sin and corruption. Assyria, in the 8th century BC, is a perfect example of God using worldly empires as a “rod” of his wrath. He then punished Assyria and held her responsible for her actions and all of the iniquities found in her.

The story of Israel in the Old Testament, and the church in the New Testament today, is to be set apart and to operate under a different set of rules—to count yourself as a citizen of another other-worldly kingdom with a King who is jealous for our allegiance. All along he has wanted his people to recognize that there is no other King beside him. Jesus is Lord, not Caesar.

If Caesar wants your taxes and you are required to carry a drivers license and obey the laws of the land, fine! But give to God what is God’s. Your spirit, soul, and body belong to him. Your efforts and energies are to be spent investing in a Kingdom that is eternal. Kingdoms of the world are temporary systems that are on their way out. Their methods of changing the world are coming to an end.

The church should not be a part of this endless cycle of worldly kingdom violence and her partisan politics of corruption.

The church’s work should engage the injustices of the world in ways that do not violate the principles of the Kingdom of God. This is what we should be discussing in the forums. This is what ought to be on our minds. Forget the glory of Rome and his Caesar. Sure, honor him, but fear God only (1 Pet. 2:13-17).

Of course, pray for these worldly leaders, but do not concern yourself with putting your hand to the political plow of power. It will take your heart captive and sow evil where pride, arrogance, and all forms of hatred hide (Titus 3:1-7; 2 Pet. 2:11-12). We must give ourselves fully to Christ’s manner of engaging the injustices of this cruel world. This means we recognize that Christ is the only candidate worthy of our campaigning.

Therefore, how ridiculous is it to talk about “our country” and use language only reserved for the church as if it applies to nations that have been instituted by God for the sole purpose of executing wrath. God “bless” America? I’m sorry, I have a hard time hearing the apostle Paul say, “God bless Rome.” And apparently, many Christians can’t understand the absurdity in a statement that takes such pride in the kingdoms of this world.

Are we really prepared to say that the answer to the failing economy and the culture wars is to vote the all-inclusive “God” back in to the world’s vernacular? Sorry, don’t buy that at all. The Christianizing of a pagan culture by worldly methods will only produce a pagan “Christian” culture that knows how to talk religious and make a profit off of religious products.

Which is what we have done in the past. We have a luxury Jesus didn’t have? Times are different? I have a duty to vote and play a role in this mess? I think it is time to question these clichés and begin a revolution back to the Gospel of the New Testament.

I am convinced it is time for Christians to lose these “rights” they are told to “exercise” and be left with nothing but the wealth and security of Christ.

It doesn’t seem to bother many of us that Christianity has found favor among the God-haters. As long as we can rest easy at night knowing we still have our “rights” and that gays won’t be able to marry, who cares about the status of their hearts and reaching out to them as Christ would. I guess it doesn’t really matter that the pregnant teenager really needs someone to take her in, not a picket sign in her face telling her she is going to hell or a meaningless vote in a private booth that you were told makes you a “good” citizen.

It’s much easier to believe in a version of the Kingdom of God that is able to advance through politics; that way we don’t have to get our hands dirty—at least not in the sense of touching people who are in spiritual and physical need. Besides, if we take Jesus seriously, we may actually have to talk to some of those folks. We might be asked to love them to change and stop relying on the methods of the world to stir up their flesh to sin more.

It really is a matter of overcoming evil instead of suppressing it. Laws don’t save people. They only provoke the sinful nature of man. Those without Christ need them, but it is the purpose of those institutions of man to use those methods. You think we would have learned that by now.

It is the world that looks for change through politics.

It is the world that believes that peace will come by legislation and the wisdom of generals and political orators. Who are we to mingle with that rabble? What business is it of ours to hop in the very vehicle that will rise against Christ and make its final stand on that last day.

You know the last time I checked, politicians make great anti-christs. Keep that in mind when you are tempted to join in the partisan politics and play this silly game leading up to November 4th 2008. Where is Christ in it all? How did he engage the worldly systems of his day? I’m willing to bet the answer is much clearer than we would like it to be.

Why then? Why so blurry? Because we have grown accustomed to our life here in Corinth. And as Paul said to the original Corinthians, he would say to us, “the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God” (1 Cor. 1:18).

Will we trust the way of the cross? The kind of winning that happens by dying? The battle plan that calls for everyone to lay down their arms and fight with love? Will we reconcile ourselves to a Gospel that demands we operate in an upside-down Kingdom or will we call it foolishness and forfeit our inheritance? How will the church respond in my generation?

I believe she will have that opportunity in this country real soon. Many will be unprepared, I fear. They will be shocked when the veil falls from their eyes and they actually are given no choice but to stare into the blinding light of Christ’s Gospel in the midst of suffering.

I am nervous at the thought of it. Yet, I am confident that our faith will undergo a great transformation. We will tap into a power we have not been acquainted with in these worldly chains we have prematurely dubbed “freedom.” I long for that day. Come Lord Jesus, come!

“And they admitted that they were aliens and strangers on earth. People who say such things show that they are looking for a country of their own. If they had been thinking of the country they had left, they would have had opportunity to return. Instead, they were longing for a better country– a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared a city for them.” Hebrews 11:13-16

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About David D. Flowers

David received a B.A. in Religion from East Texas Baptist University and a M.T.S. in Biblical Studies from Houston Graduate School of Theology. David has over 15 years experience as a pastor and teacher in and outside the church. He currently pastors an Anabaptist congregation in Virginia. View all posts by David D. Flowers

19 responses to “Jesus: Change We Have A Hard Time Believing In

  • ded

    Enjoyed your post very much. Not only do I agree with the content, but you have a ring to your tone that makes this English teacher glad.

    I identified with your words on a personal level, as well. Jesus delivered me from homosexuality and substance abuse in 1979 and continually since then. I married and my wife and I of 27 years have five children together. The youngest one is a pregnant teen living at home. We all err.

    Sorting out what is and isn’t appropriate involvement with man’s kingdom is needed. I am very entrenched in man’s kingdom. I am on the state payroll as a public school teacher. Paul never said, “God Bless Rome” (zinger to be sure–make a great bumper sticker); but he did use his citizenship when it served the purpose of the moment. Not that I see him as opportunistic, just wise and resourceful.

    Were I your editor, I would only suggest one rewrite; and that possibly only as you are aware of a different level of audience:

    You wrote, Hopefully, this momentary expression of anger and sorrow will mature into a renewed Christology that will give us all more reason to trust in Jesus instead of ourselves.

    “A renewed Christology…” is language the regular guy who has become a Christian within the culture, and though he loves Jesus to the degree he understands has given little thought to the issues you raise, will be isolated from your message by such theological language. Even allowing for the position that God knows the heart and keeps the blinders on some people for His reasons, your work in the Kingdom of God to help others know Christ may cause some who might listen to the message back away from your language.

    What if in leaving the embrace of a religious Christianity to more fully walk in the reality Jesus come to dwell with us, we developed an understanding of and clearly articulated speech for living the new life as a spiritual man through communion with the Holy Spirit of Jesus in-dwelling our hearts? Your own sentence in review contained the thought itself. …will give us all more reason to trust in Jesus instead of ourselves.

    I think we need to point those who are truly brothers and sisters but for whatever reason remain institutionalized in a direction which will remove the scales from their eyes. Many of those for whom I feel concern are not able to wrap the brain around Christology while they are mesmerized by religiousity.Only a moment before the living God will suffice. Can our language not be direct about the fullness of the gospel, “Christ in you, the hope of glory?”

    Just a thought. Keep up the good work! I’ve added you to my blogroll.

  • David Speights

    I have said it before and I will say it again. For those of you who would like to look into this subject in more depth please check out the book: “The Myth of a Christian Nation” by Gregory A. Boyd. Enjoy.

    By the way, GREAT blog.

  • David D. Flowers

    I have written a great deal on what “Christology” is all about. I have also gone to great lengths in my blog to discuss the indwelling Christ. We are in total agreement. Please check out my post “The Problem With Modern Day Preaching”. I address these concerns.
    Thanks for commenting and sharing my burden. I appreciate the pointers.

    Peace,
    David D. Flowers

    P.S. I have a suggested reading list at the end of my blog post “Rethinking the Two Kingdoms” that many of you may want to take a look at. Boyd’s book is one of them.

  • ded

    Forgive me for not having read all your previous posts before I spoke into your writing. I tend to wax didactic.

    Thanks for all your hard work on behalf of a true love for the King.

  • Vern Hyndman

    I believe we may be twins separated at birth.

    -vern-

  • Sara

    My former pastor left my church, after getting very political and legalistic. He left on his own accord. Now the interim pastor is trying to get the parishioners to get involved in church and do something instead of just sitting around like they have been for 30+ years. If they practiced this theology, I think their brains would implode. Too much change. I still fantasize about bringing placards to church stating “No Fat Sheep.”

    There is an awakening going on and too many are fighting it because it doesn’t fit with “tradition.” Seems rather familiar with several other moments in history. Your young men/women will prophesy and your old men will dream dreams. Are you open to following the spirit and listening to a new voice? Which is the same voice as it has been? Just not your own?

  • CovenantBride

    EXCELLENT…so tired of hearin christians fight over candidates…glad ot know someone else is bein called outta babylon and renewed mind is cryin out fa the real and gloried Jesus Christ…we comin outta this worldly kingdom and mindset and we gonna see the Lord as He is, not how he been perpetrated by the world and world church…be bless my brotha…keep postin… -g-

  • Janet

    Love this post… and your comment on Al Hirsch’s blog brought a tear to my eye. You write so well. Thanks.

  • John

    Where were you in 1980? If we could have seen the long-term impact of the Moral Majority, Christian Coalition, etc on the Church, maybe we wouldn’t be the self-righteous bastards we are today.

  • David D. Flowers

    John,
    please help me to understand what you take issue with. I believe this “long-term impact” is what has added to the breakdown of the Gospel in America. I’m not sure how that makes me (or anyone else who recognizes the error in advancing the Kingdom of God with methods of the world) a “self-righteous” individual. What is it that makes a person “self-righteous”? Is it sitting idly by while the church slits her wrist with knives wielded by people like Pat Roberson and Jerry Falwell? Or is it by taking a stand against the prostitution of its members?

    And to answer your question… I was in my mother’s womb in 1980. It wasn’t long after that I opened my eyes and read a little bit of history; history of the world and the church. I also have spent a significant amount of time meditating on Jesus’ life and teachings.

    I wonder, would we tell Jesus he has nothing to say about the wickedness of the Pharisees because he wasn’t around when they first began their work to reform Judaism? I sure hope not. Not only did Christ speak out against their evil, he told them their methods did not reflect the heart of God. I have yet to find the error in continuing the work of Jesus by the authority he has given us.

  • Daniel

    So happy to hear other followers of Christ who recognize the futility and absurdity of thinking that the Kingdom of God can be advanced through electing certain politicians, or passing particular legislation. If the Law that God handed to Moses on the mountaintop was incapable of restoring man’s relationship with God, and thus required Christ’s death on the cross, then why on earth would we think that we can achieve some shining “City on a Hill” by writing a constitution and employing democracy? There is however, a REAL city on hill, that is yet to come, the New Jerusalem, where the King will live with his people, and there will no longer be any night, and there will be no temple. That is where our true citizenship lies, as we live here on earth as foreigners in a strange land….

    Daniel

  • John

    Wow, was i ever MISunderstood! I am in almost total agreement with you. What I was trying to say was I wish you had been around in 1980 when I was getting sideswiped by the above mentioned groups, telling me I could fulfill the great commission by voting republican. And the self-righteous bastards quote is from the website of Revolution Church in Atlanta (founded by Jay Bakker). I used it to describe the perception the rest of the world has for Christians since we have “taken the moral high ground and snubbed our noses at all those godless liberals…”

    I sure am sorry I didn’t communicate this as well.

    John

  • David D. Flowers

    John,

    Oops! It’s not the first time. I appreciate you clearing that up. Thanks for the comment, bro.

    David

  • Kim Droptiny

    Wow! Blessings to you. You eloquently said what has been in my heart for a long time. I am living in Berlin, Germany evangelizing and excited about doing church according to HIS PLANS and ways. The average East Berliner has no conception of church…..so it can be done fresh new ways!

  • tracy

    Amen, Amen, too bad I don’t have others around me who see these things as you and I do and I have to listen to all their religious garbage, which is what it basically is. May be a harsh word, but not worse than anything Jesus ever said about religion…dead men’s bones, etc. God has revealed to me over the last few years his LOVE for others, not his judgment. I see God and religion in such a different way. What you said about the homosexuals and pregnant teenagers is so on target, as these seem to be two very hot spots for Christians to get fired up on, but also apply to so many others the religious people reject for their lifestyle. The sad thing is, the these people say and think they are believing in grace but not works; but the teaching in the pulpit and attitudes of religious people is the opposite. The sad thing is, when you really get right down to it, most Christians are living in fear that these other lifestyles will rub off on them and their children some how. They don’t have faith in their beliefs and what they’ve taught their children that they can be in the world but not of it. And literally in, not just around and on the fringes.

    Jesus showed me one time when I was watching Taxicab Confessions of Las Vegas (yeah, you heard me) that if he appeared here today that is where we would find him. On the streets of Vegas, not in some church building building holding a crusade so all his people could come sit and listen to him, have all the ministers sit on the platform with him, and sell all his teaching tapes in the lobby for us to listen to but never do. (No, that’s where we would find the devil probably, in the pulpit.) Most Christians are too afraid to go to the people and do the things Jesus would do if he were here with the lost. Look at who he hung out with in the Bible. If you put most Christians in those same scenarios, they would not be there. They would be at the temple with the Pharisees praying to God that they are too good to be with the heathens.

    I liked what Daniel said about the City on a Hill. Always like that phrase from the Bible and you really gave me some great perspective on it. Thanks.

  • Andrew B

    David,

    On the question of Jesus and political authorities – I have recently been reading the Gospel of John in big chunks in order to get the big picture and the main themes it is presenting.

    One of the things that struck me is the build up in Jesus’ conflict with the authorities. Remembering that for the Jewish people at that time their religious and civil authorities were one and the same. The authorities see Jesus as a threat to their position both as religious leaders and as political leaders. The people see that too and some are afraid to come out openly for Jesus because of the threat of the authorities.

    The point is, Jesus did not try to reform that political and religious system from the inside. He did not get into the system where he would have the chance of being appointed High Priest or member of the Sanhedrin. He announced the Kingdom of God. And invited those who believed in Him to join Him in that Kingdom and not to try to seek their salvation in the kingdoms of this world.

    This is, of course, one of your main points. I found it interesting that it just jumped out of the pages of John’s Gospel.

    (And Gregory Boyd’s book is in my pile of new books, but I didn’t get to it yet.)

  • David D. Flowers

    Thanks Andrew! It is exciting to hear what the Lord has shown you from a simple rereading of the New Testament. The Gospel begins to take on a dangerous and radical form when we see it engaging the times. For too long Christians have ignored this aspect of the Gospel and there has never been a greater need to recognize it like there is right now.

    I definitely want to recommend you check out a few books on my suggested reading list at the end of “Rethinking the Two Kingdoms”. This list reflects my own journey of discovering the political nature of Christ’s message. I have written reviews of most of the books there. You can to to them through my link to Amazon.

    Peace,
    David D. Flowers

  • Jason Kerr

    I’ve got to say it raises a friendly smirk to read a rant against the effective value of expressed volition from a self-tagged Anabaptist – hmmm.

  • David D. Flowers

    Thanks for reading Jason. I hope you will hear my sincere concern. I have accepted the fact that I will often be misunderstood.

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