Tag Archives: Discipleship

Shapeshifting Hippie Jesus

A popular progressive blogger recently said that Jesus “doesn’t lay heavy teachings on people” in connection with his yoke being easy and his burden light (Matt 11:28).

So if Jesus’ teaching seems too heavy and hard for folks (Lk 9:23), does this mean that they merely need to reinterpret Jesus or soften his commands in order to ease their discomfort? I sure hope not.

I prefer Bonhoeffer’s sentiment that those who accept Christ’s commands are the ones who find his yoke easy and the burden light, but to those who resist them (him) his yoke is hard and the burden too heavy for anyone to carry. Just ask the rich man, or those listening to the Sermon on the Mount for the first time.

Jesus didn’t say, “accept yourself and take up your sword and follow me.”

Which translates this way today: I’m fine the way I am and I’ll fight (by whatever means necessary) anyone who says otherwise.

This seems to be particularly reflective of our narcissistic, morally relativistic American society still experiencing the destructive political and social consequences of the 1960’s. We can easily see the error of the tactics used by the Religious Right in the 1980’s to promote a power-over, politicized Jesus, but it was the social “hippie” revolution that completely emasculated Christ and transformed him into an anything-goes “love” guru.

If you follow my writings, you know that I’m not down with the cage-fighting Jesus. I’m an Anabaptist. I believe that Christ is love (agape) and peace as revealed on the cross, but these truths are understood in their purest form after letting Jesus define them for us in word and deed, even in the hard stuff.

It doesn’t happen, and will never happen, by shaping Jesus to fit a new cultural trend, what is politically correct, or what the current zeitgeist (spirit of the age) would have us believe about ourselves, the Messiah, and the sacred Scriptures.

Anyone who reads the Gospels will hear Jesus teaching a radical repentance to come into the Kingdom (Matt 3:8; Mk 1:15; Lk 5:32; 13:1, etc.), but our shape-shifting of Jesus to accommodate our cultural presuppositions about ourselves and our world appears to be keeping us from actually repenting of anything.

Jesus didn’t lay heavy teachings on people? No, quite the opposite. But this is where we are today: well-intentioned folks fed up with fundamentalism not realizing how dangerously close they are to reshaping Jesus to further their own interests and agendas—another version of fundamentalism, the libertine sort.

As Jesus said, “produce fruit in keeping with repentance” to those who lived by the law. I’d say it equally applies to those who use fancy-free language that make folks feel better about their sin in order to promote an easy believism, or a moral therapeutic deism. They both stink to high heaven!

To be clear, I don’t think the one who said Jesus “doesn’t lay heavy teachings on people” really believes that the love of Christ is an “anything-goes” sort of thing, but this misleading rhetoric inevitably sets a person on a trajectory of disaster. It’s not the pathway of repentance for the inheritance of the Kingdom.

Christ ought to be forming us into his image, not the other way around. That is the critical difference. It’s certainly what has made all the difference in my life.

What do you think? When you read the Gospels, is Jesus laying down some hard stuff? Do you hear Jesus extending a high invitation and high challenge to those who would join him?

D.D. Flowers, 2014.

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How Not To Make Disciples

A couple years ago Francis Chan spoke on discipleship with the VergeNetwork. Listen to Francis talk about how not to make disciples in this brief clip.

What do you think it looks like to “go and make disciples” today? How do we create a disciple-making culture in our local churches? What things need to change in our churches to do what Jesus said?

D.D. Flowers, 2014.


Anabaptism 101 (Sermon Series)

Hello blog readers!

This past Sunday I finished preaching through an exciting 6-week sermon series entitled Anabaptism 101 at Christiansburg Mennonite Fellowship (CMF) in Virginia, where I’ve been pastoring since the first of the year.

The series focuses on the historical roots and current convictions of Anabaptism. As many of you know, I didn’t grow up within an Anabaptist tradition. And since half our congregation didn’t grow up Anabaptist, this sermon series seemed like a good place to begin as pastor.

 

Here is a brief outline of each message in the series:

  1. Beginning of a Movement—A general overview of key persons, events, and issues that led to the “radical” 16th century Anabaptist movement. What does “Anabaptist” mean? Where does the name “Mennonite” come from? Where is Anabaptism going today?
  2. Radical Discipleship—The Anabaptist view of discipleship in detail. What does it mean to follow Jesus? Did Jesus really expect us to follow his teachings from the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7)? What is so different about the Anabaptist view versus the popular evangelical view?
  3. Word Made Flesh—The Anabaptist view of the authority of Scripture, and a Christo-centric hermeneutic (interpretation) of the Old Testament. Do Anabaptists hold a high view of Scripture? What is so different about the Anabaptist view of Scripture versus the popular evangelical view?
  4. Church as Kingdom Community—The Anabaptists saw the church as a missional, counter-cultural family of Kingdom citizens. What is the meaning and purpose of baptism? What is the meaning of communion? Why live a simple life? What does it mean to embrace “the other”?
  5. The Politics of Jesus—The most controversial and oft-misunderstood aspect of Anabaptism: non-violence and the politics of Jesus. In what ways did Jesus resist empire? How far do Anabaptists take Jesus’ message of peace and reconciliation? How do Anabaptists understand church & state? How subversive is the NT?
  6. Triumph of the Lamb—Answers to the most common objections concerning the non-violence of Jesus. Didn’t Jesus come to bring a sword? Didn’t Jesus tell his disciples to buy swords? Finally, does the portrayal of Jesus in Revelation contradict the Jesus of the Gospels? How will the way of the crucified Lamb conquer evil in the end?

You can download and listen to each message by visiting our sermon archive. We will be archiving all sermons on the new church website once it is up and running. Please stay tuned for that.

There was Q&A after each message, but you can only hear it following the Triumph of the Lamb. Our small groups are going through The Naked Anabaptist for further discussion and study. If you’re looking for a good overview of Anabaptism, or Neo-Anabaptism, check out Murray’s book.

If you have questions or comments, please let me hear them here at the blog.

D.D. Flowers, 2014.


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.


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