Category Archives: Christology

Deep Listening

In the last couple of weeks I have been reminded of the radical polarities within society, culture, and the church. I have especially noticed this when it comes to Christians trying to have conversations about theology and ethics.

We must learn to stop thinking from within the extreme positions of any given issue, and discover a third way. Continually responding to our brothers and sisters as if there are only two camps of thought is dishonest and destructive.

This is the way of politics, but it’s not the way of Jesus. The way out is through the practice of deep listening.

“Answering before listening is both stupid and rude.”  Prov 18:13 MSG

There are many issues today that are threatening to tear the church apart. We can’t hope to overcome these challenges without learning to listen before we speak. This means that we come to the table in order to listen and learn.

We do not come simply to share our own thoughts and convictions, assuming that we know the other person and their journey. This will require humility and a desire to want to understand our neighbor for Christ’s sake.

Let’s remember that while some of us may have (or believe we have) a more pure & authentic understanding of Jesus than our neighbors, no one person or group has the corner market on truth and the fullness of Christ. We serve a multi-faceted, multi-dimensional, cosmic Christ that can’t be contained in your (or my) theology or denomination.

Therefore, we need each other. We belong to each other (Eph 4:1-5). There is NO other way forward. The Kingdom is coming, and will come, through ONE Christ and ONE church (Jn 17:20-24).

After we have listened to the person from across the table, it is possible that we simply disagree on the matter. That’s fine, but at least we listened and sought the good of the other. We’re always seeking the good of the other. I think that’s what the third way of deep listening is all about.

Deep listening should always lead to a greater understanding and love for our neighbor, even if our neighbor turns out to be our enemy.

And in that case, we love them and pray for peace.

D.D. Flowers, 2014.


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

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

In the previous installment, I made the case that Jesus was both loving and intolerant. Jesus regularly made truth-claims (theological, philosophical, moral, etc.). These exclusive claims naturally placed competing worldviews outside the realm of divinely revealed truth (Jn 14:6).

I also stated that Jesus saw certain thoughts, actions, and behaviors as sinful. His response was to love sinners out of their sinful bondage.

God’s love operates out of truth, not despite the truth.

You can’t have real love without an objective standard of truth by which love operates. There is no love without truth. And there is no truth without love. They are inseparable. Jesus ministered with this mindset.

I began this blog series by laying out seven provocative statements that would serve to summarize the radical life and teachings of Jesus. My desire has been that the follower of Christ would rethink what it means to be a disciple, and that the skeptic would open up their heart and mind to the beauty of the Kingdom of God that Jesus displayed in his life and ministry.

In this final installment, I will bring together all of the material covered in this seven-part series, and show how the many pieces form a cohesive portrait of a new humanity revealed in Jesus of Nazareth.

 7. Jesus Revealed the New Way to be Human

Jesus was (and is) the only begotten Son of God. He was sent from the Father to show the world the truth about God, to save us from our sins, and to reveal the Father’s will for all of creation (Jn 3:16; 6:38; Col 1:15; Heb 1:3).

“For I have come down from heaven to do the will of God who sent me, not to do my own will.” Jesus, John 6:38 NLT

The will of God for Jesus was first and foremost to live perpetually by the Father’s divine LIFE (Jn 10:38; 14:10-12). Everything we see from Jesus on the earth is what it looks like when God reigns in a human being.

According to Jesus, if you want to be fully human you will…

  • Love God with heart, mind, soul, and strength (Mk 12:29-31);
  • Love your neighbor and enemy (Matt 5:38-48; Jn 13:34-35);
  • Do unto others what you’d have them do unto you (Matt 7:12);
  • Uphold justice, mercy, and faithfulness (Matt 5:7; Lk 11:42);
  • Abhor physical violence (Matt 5:39; 26:52);
  • Be peacemakers in the world (Matt 5:9);
  • Freely forgive and not judge others (Matt 18:21-22; Lk 6:37);
  • Bless the poor and needy, visit prisoners (Lk 6:20; Matt 25:36);
  • Practice true righteousness (Matt 5:6; 6:1-4);
  • Heal the sick and drive out demons (Matt 10:8);
  • Seek unity and reconciliation (Matt 18:15-20; Jn 17:20-23);
  • Pray “Thy Kingdom come” in everything (Matt 6:5-13);
  • Not worry about life and material stuff (Matt 6:25);
  • Seek first the Kingdom of God (Matt 6:33).

Jesus revealed the new way to be human. This radical new life, in the face of the old world system, eventually led to his death on the cross. But God vindicated the life and ministry of Jesus by raising him from the dead.

“For we died and were buried with Christ by baptism. And just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glorious power of the Father, now we also may live new lives.” Paul, Romans 6:4 NLT

Jesus was the firstborn of God’s new creation (Rom 8:29). He is the beginning of a new humanity. For he calls out to the world to be reborn.

“Christ is the Son of God. If we share in this kind of life we also shall be sons of God. We shall love the Father as He does and the Holy Spirit will arise in us. He came to this world and became a man in order to spread to other men the kind of life He has — by what I call “good infection.” Every Christian is to become a little Christ. The whole purpose of becoming a Christian is simply nothing else.”  C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity

Herein lies the greatest threat the Kingdom revolution poses to the world.

By the power of the Holy Spirit, Christ continues to further the Kingdom, amidst the forces of darkness in this fallen world, through his called-out community of faithful followers, known as the ekkelsia (church).

“His intent was that now, through the church, the manifold wisdom of God should be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly realms, according to his eternal purpose that he accomplished in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Paul, Ephesians 3:10-11 NIV

The mission of Messiah Jesus was to do the will of the Father in bringing about God’s good purposes for creation—right in the middle of this present evil age! The resurrection of Jesus is evidence of God’s future breaking into our present. God’s new world was launched in Christ.

Jesus brought Israel’s story to her climax, and now he is reigning through the church. In order to follow Jesus, you must give up on the world system and commit to God’s Kingdom revolution at work through the church.

You have to leave the old world and the old life behind.

“For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me and for the gospel will save it.” Jesus, Mark 8:35 NIV

Our hope in Christ is that he will return in the future to consummate heaven and earth. In the meantime, his followers are called to further the Kingdom by the power of the Spirit, and increase the new humanity upon the earth.

Listen to the invitation that Jesus has extended to us:

“Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.” Jesus, Matthew 16:24 NIV

Will you follow him?

If the world hates you for following Jesus, remember that it hated him first.

You’re not alone. There is a growing Kingdom revolution that can’t be stopped, not even by death itself. For Christ has overcome the world.

“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” Jesus, John 16:33 NIV

Viva La Revolution!

D.D. Flowers, 2013.


Why the World Hates Jesus of Nazareth (6 of 7)

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

In the previous installment, I showed how Jesus challenged worldly wisdom on several levels. His entire life and ministry was an affront to the wisdom of the age. The person of Jesus is a major obstacle to the worldly mind.

At the heart of this challenge is Jesus’ own claim to be more than a man from Nazareth. His greatest offense was in aligning himself with God—both in his Kingdom mission and divine identity (Matt 21:33-46; Jn 3:16; 14;9b).

There was (and is) nothing palatable about Jesus Christ of Nazareth to those who love the world and have made their home in it. There is simply too much to stumble over when Jesus is not accepted on his own terms.

If you’re just joining this blog series, I said in the introduction that I’m using seven provocative statements as a way of summarizing the radical life and teachings of Jesus. This is why the world system hates Jesus of Nazareth.

And why the world hates those who follow him.

Before we wrap up this series with a final statement and overview of what has been covered, we must consider yet another controversial and often misunderstood aspect of the gospel of Christ. This concerns Jesus’ attitude toward sin, and a world that refuses to repent of it for the Kingdom.

6. Jesus Was Loving and Intolerant

Jesus lived in a Roman world that prided itself in the so-called “tolerance” of others. You could see this tolerance most clearly displayed in the Pantheon—a sanctuary of religious tolerance—that housed all of the gods of empire.

Rome boasted that it was the land of the free. There was freedom to celebrate religious and cultural diversity. As long as people played the system, followed the rules, and habitually pledged their allegiance to Caesar, they could live a relatively peaceful life—reaping benefits of empire.

While tolerance never made it to any written list of cardinal virtues, it was expected of every good citizen. Be tolerant in so much as the Roman way is protected and preserved. Rome defined tolerance and guarded it by force.

But the limits of this tolerance would become visible if and when someone threatened the Pax Romana (peace of Rome)—the Roman way of life. They would surely suffer Roman ridicule and violence, even a Roman cross.

Whether it be in ancient or modern times, a rejection or intolerance of societal norms is seen as ignorance and bigotry. The world’s tolerance ultimately requires that the only standard be no standard at all.

“Tolerance is the virtue of the man without convictions.” G.K. Chesterton

It is good to be informed about differing opinions and respectful of another person’s point of view, but the tolerance of the world goes further by denying a fundamental basis for truth. It scoffs at objective truth claims.

It’s an old question. “What is truth?” Pilate asked Jesus (Jn 18:38). A few chapters earlier, Jesus said this to his disciple Thomas:

“I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” John 14:6 NIV

In the original Greek, the words of Jesus are emphatic on himself being the way, the truth, and the life. It should read like this: “I MYSELF am the way, the truth, and the life” (εγω ειμι η οδος και η αληθεια και η ζωη).

This exclusive claim is anything but tolerant, according to the way the world defines tolerance. It is this very claim of Jesus that the early Christians upheld when they said they belonged to “The Way” of Christ (Acts 9:2).

It is no wonder that Christianity could not be tolerated by Rome. Seen through the eyes of a Roman, Jesus and his followers were intolerant, hateful bigots, and a subversive threat to a “civilized” society.

Jesus made an exclusive claim to be the only way to God. It’s the sort of thing you would expect from a guy that believes he is God in the flesh.

Therefore, it’s no surprise that Jesus uses his authority to speak on the destructive nature of sin as human disfunction which misses the mark of God’s holy design. Sin distorts the image of God within the individual and breaks community with God and others. It’s a misuse of human energies.

“In a world that has lost a sense of sin, one sin remains: Thou shalt not make people feel guilty (except, of course, about making people feel guilty). In other words, the only sin today is to call something a sin.”  Christopher West

Jesus, the sinless savior, loved sinners (Matt 9:13; Rom 5:8). He saw the world before him being held captive by sin and the devil (Mk 10:45). Because of this he loved the most wretched of sinners and treated them as victims. He didn’t come to condemn the world, but to save it (Jn 3:16-17).

“Who needs a doctor: the healthy or the sick? I’m here inviting outsiders, not insiders—an invitation to a changed life, changed inside and out.” Luke 5:31-32 MSG

Out of this love Jesus was motivated to confront sin at work in people. Jesus heals the sick and says things like, “Stop sinning or something worse may happen to you” (Jn 5:14b NIV). This willingness to call out sin was not like that of the self-righteous, law-loving Pharisees. Jesus means to redeem.

Recall the story of the woman caught in adultery (Jn 8:1-11).

The religious leaders bring the frightened woman to Jesus. They want to know if he will follow the letter of the Law and stone her to death. Jesus writes something cryptic in the sand, causing all of those ready to execute her to drop their stones and leave. He says, “Let any one of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her” (v.7). BOOM!

Pay careful attention to what Jesus says next.

“Then Jesus stood up again and said to the woman, “Where are your accusers? Didn’t even one of them condemn you?” “No, Lord,” she said. And Jesus said, “Neither do I. Go and sin no more.” Jn 8:10-11 NLT

Jesus rebukes those who are self-rightous, and he reveals that his followers are to get down in the dirt with people. You open the sinner’s heart with God’s merciful love, so that repentance may give way to new life.

Jesus is showing the way to repentance for all who desire the Kingdom.

Jesus was no legalistic Pharisee. But he also wasn’t a libertine either.

According to Jesus, freedom isn’t about doing whatever you want, or even living in a society that does what it pleases. Instead, Jesus lived and taught that the gospel of the Kingdom is that salvation is received by grace, actualized through faith, and worked out in obedience to his commands.

True freedom is found in the cruciformed-looking Kingdom of Christ. It’s the new world God is shaping. And he’s doing it one disciple at a time.

If you’re going to follow Jesus, you need to know that the world doesn’t tolerate those who are intolerant of the Zeitgeist (spirit of the age), whose real leader is Satan himself (Jn 12:31; 16:10-12; 2 Cor 4:4; Eph 2:2; 6:12).

Jesus-followers should speak the truth and act in love for the sake of reconciliation and redemption. Like Jesus, we are willfully intolerant of the world system, because some things are just stupid and sinful.

D.D. Flowers, 2013.

Read the final post:  7. Jesus Revealed the New Way to be Human.


Why the World Hates Jesus of Nazareth (5 of 7)

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

In the previous installment, I made the case that Jesus rejected materialism.

Jesus defended the poor and preached a word of warning to the rich. In his words and actions, Jesus rejected the idol of consumerism. Contrary to the economy of empire, King Jesus seeks to establish a Kingdom on the earth that is about giving and sharing, not taking and accumulating.

In God’s economy, the poor are blessed (Lk 6:20). This aspect of Jesus and his ministry especially threatens those in powerful positions of affluence and privilege. The gospel of Jesus undermines their way of life, and denounces their way of carving up the world for their own personal pleasure.

As I said in the introduction to this blog series, I’m using seven provocative statements as a way of summarizing the radical life and teachings of Jesus as recorded in the NT. It is my deepest desire that the Christian and skeptic alike will come to embrace the true beauty of Christ’s Kingdom, while being ever-mindful of the real cost of discipleship. We must count the cost.

For this is why the world hates Jesus and his good news. And why those who belong to the world system will hate those who choose to follow him.

5. Jesus Challenged Worldly Wisdom

The apostle John writes in his Gospel that Jesus is the logos (Word) of God.

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.”  John 1:1-5 NIV

John has in mind two big ideas by referring to Jesus as the logos of God.

In Jewish perspective, Jesus is the Word of God (spoken & written) in human form. No doubt an idea that was (and is) unthinkable to Jews. From a Hellenistic Greek perspective, Jesus is the Wisdom of God—the perfect mind behind the universe. He is transcendent above the material world.

Jesus is also the Wisdom of Proverbs personified (Prov 1:20-33). He is Wisdom in the flesh! The apostle Paul testifies that in Jesus is hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge (Col 2:2-3). He is the divine mind.

“Wisdom, God’s blueprint for humans, at last herself becomes human.” N.T. Wright, The Challenge of Jesus, pg. 120

The Gospel of John would have us know, from the very beginning, that Jesus of Nazareth was and is the Creator of all that is seen and unseen. He came from God, and is God in human form—the invisible made visible.

“Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father [God].”  Jesus, Jn 14:9b

This is just the evidence you would think all religious people and skeptics would need to repent and believe in the One that God sent in order to make himself known. However, John tells us that Jesus “came into the very world he created, but the world didn’t recognize him” (Jn 1:10 NLT).

Why did the world not recognize him? Because God’s wisdom is foolishness to those who refuse to repent of worldly wisdom (1 Cor 1:18).

“Where is the wise person? Where is the teacher of the law? Where is the philosopher of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not know him, God was pleased through the foolishness of what was preached to save those who believe.” Paul, 1 Cor 1:20-21 NIV

The life and ministry of Jesus can certainly be viewed as foolishness.

  • Jesus was born of a virgin (Lk 1:26-38),
  • Lived in obscurity for most of his life (Lk 2-3),
  • He was single with no interest in marriage (Matt 19:29),
  • Took up the role of rabbi with no formal education (Jn 1:49; 7:15),
  • Rejected by his family and friends (Mk 3:20; Lk 4:14-30),
  • He was a wandering homeless man for three years (Lk 9:58),
  • Performed miracles and casted out evil spirits (Mk 5:9; Jn 2),
  • Forgave sins with the authority of God (Mk 2:5-7),
  • Proclaimed that he and God were one and the same (Jn 10:30),
  • Emphatically claimed to be the only way to God (Jn 14:6),
  • He raised Lazarus from the dead (Jn 11),
  • Crucified as a condemned criminal (Lk 23:33; Jn 18:30),
  • Followers said he was resurrected in a radical new body (Lk 24),
  • Believed he would return to consummate the Kingdom (Matt 24).

“Blessed is anyone who does not stumble on account of me.” Jesus, Matt 11:6

First and foremost, Jesus challenges worldly wisdom with his self-proclaimed divine identity, and heaven-born mission. Jesus’ self-awareness is most clearly expressed in The Parable of the Tenants (Matthew 21:33-46).

It can’t be denied that Jesus sees himself as the son of the vineyard owner. The son (Jesus) is sent to the tenants (religious leaders) of the vineyard (Israel), after the tenants had already killed others (prophets) the vineyard owner (God) had sent to collect the harvest. The son will also be killed (crucifixion). Jesus then tells his audience that the Kingdom of God will be taken from the religious and given to others that will receive it (v.43).

Jesus not only claimed to be the only begotten (i.e. one of a kind) Son of God that comes to take away the sins of the world (Jn 3:16), he proved that his wisdom was from another place. This wisdom incited hatred.

The leaders of Israel believed Jesus and his followers were dangerous. They made repeated attempts to trap Jesus with their wisdom, but he always confounded them with his wisdom from above (Matt 22:20-22; Jn 8:6).

“Stop deceiving yourselves. If you think you are wise by this world’s standards, you need to become a fool to be truly wise. For the wisdom of this world is foolishness to God.”  Paul, 1 Cor 3:18-19 NLT

It wasn’t just his “new teaching” that intimidated the religious leaders (Mk 1:27), it was something more—something they couldn’t quite put their finger on. He seemed to have someone helping him. It appeared to be the power of God, but still they stumbled over their own wisdom and rejected him.

Even the folks back in Nazareth were mystified at his great wisdom and miracle-working. Nevertheless, they hated him for his claims to be the eternal, omniscient Son of God (Matt 13:54; Lk 4:28-30).

And that’s the thing about Jesus, isn’t it? He does not allow anyone to separate his “wise” teachings from his self-identifying claim to be the Lord of the universe. C.S. Lewis said it best in Mere Christianity, pgs 40-41:

“I am trying here to prevent anyone saying the really foolish thing that people often say about Him: I’m ready to accept Jesus as a great moral teacher, but I don’t accept his claim to be God. That is the one thing we must not say. A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic — on the level with the man who says he is a poached egg — or else he would be the Devil of Hell. You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, the Son of God, or else a madman or something worse. You can shut him up for a fool, you can spit at him and kill him as a demon or you can fall at his feet and call him Lord and God, but let us not come with any patronizing nonsense about his being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to.” 

Worldly wisdom scoffs at the idea that Jesus is the Messiah—the savior of the world. Those who embrace the wisdom of the world have constructed a system that doesn’t allow for the Creator of the cosmos to make himself known in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth.

The world today sees faith in Christ as a threat to human progress. The wisdom of God, as expressed in Jesus, and now through his followers, can’t simply be left alone. Jesus challenges the “wisdom of the wise”—religious pluralism, scientific naturalism, and political imperialism.

And he calls for a Kingdom revolution of the heart and mind.

Therefore, God’s wisdom may have it that many of his peaceful followers walk a road of suffering, even death (Lk. 11:49; Rev. 5:10-11).

If they crucified the Son of God for challenging conventional wisdom and cultural expectations, what will they to do those who follow him?

D.D. Flowers, 2013.

Read the next post:  6. Jesus Was Loving and Intolerant.


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