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God Has Good News for You!

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Article copyright by Bob Rogers

It seems like we constantly hear bad news: mass shootings, hurricanes, war, terrorist attacks, racial strife, and on it goes. No wonder it is so encouraging that Paul’s Letter to the Romans starts by letting us know that God has good news for us! In Romans 1:1, Paul says he was called and set apart for “the gospel of God.” The word “gospel” simply means “good news.”
He goes on in the next few verses to explain the content of this gospel, the impact of the gospel, and the urgency of the gospel.
The content of the gospel.
A great tragedy occurred in 1982 in Chicago, Illinois, when people went to the grocery store to buy a bottle of Tylenol. Someone laced some of the capsules with cyanide, and seven people died. They went to the store believing they were buying Tylenol. They had belief, but their belief was not sufficient, because the contents of the bottles had been tampered with. Likewise, if somebody tampers with the contents of the gospel, it is dangerous to our spiritual health.
Paul explains in verse 2 that it was promised in the Old Testament scriptures, then in verses 3-4 he points out that it is fulfilled by Jesus Christ through his death and resurrection as the Son of God, and in verses 5-7 he emphasizes that it is received by grace through faith. This sums up the contents of the gospel: it must be based on prophesied Messiah, Jesus Christ, who died for our sins and rose again for our eternal life, and it must be received by his grace, not be our good deeds, but by our faith.
The impact of the gospel.
Next, Paul explains the impact that the gospel of Jesus has. He says that it spreads everywhere, commenting in verse 8 that the whole world had already heard about their faith in Rome. Then he talks about the encouragement of the gospel in verses 9-12, as he discusses how mutually encouraging it will be to him and them when they meet as brothers and sisters in Christ. Finally, he notes in verse 13 how the gospel bears fruit, as he looks to see a harvest of souls among them when he preaches there in Rome. We are seeing that today, as millions of people are turning to faith in Jesus Christ, particularly in sub-Saharan Africa, China, South Korea, the Philippines and many other places around the world.
The urgency of the gospel.
Third, Paul explains the urgency of sharing the gospel. He says in verse 14 that he is under obligation to share it with people of every culture and race, “Greek and barbarian.” How dare he not share such good news! But he doesn’t just see it as a duty, but he sees it as an opportunity. In fact, he says in verse 15 that he is eager to share the gospel to them. Are you as excited to talk about the gospel as you are about your favorite ball team or hobby?
Dr. Tony Evans shared the experience of a seasoned chess champion touring an art museum. While passing through the gallery, his attention was drawn to a painting that involved chess. The artist had painted a match between Satan and an outwitted young man. The picture frozen on canvas showed the two engaged in a chess game being played out for the man’s soul. The man was in obvious panic as the adversary’s hand is shown making his final move. The artist’s work is simply titled Checkmate. The chess champion stood and observed the painting for a long time. His scowl of concentration was finally softened by a slight smile. He turned to the curator and said, “I’ve got good news for the man in that picture. He still has a move.” Satan, the father of lies, has convinced far too many people that he has placed them in checkmate, but thanks to the gospel of the grace of God, every person “still has a move,” if we only believe in Christ. That’s good news!

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Three keys to the restoration process

LifeFromDeath

Article copyright by Bob Rogers.

When someone falls into sin, we often speak about repentance and a “restoration process.” But what should the restoration process look like? Having been through the process myself, I believe that it requires three things:

1. The restoration process requires a balance of grace and truth. See Psalm 85:10-11. This usually means counseling (strong on grace) and accountability (strong on truth). It is imperative that the fallen person have people pour both grace and truth into their lives very early in the restoration process.
2. The restoration process requires a “renewing of the mind” (Romans 12:2). This is the literal meaning of the Greek word for repentance, metanoia. There are three parts to this new way of thinking:
A. First, one learns to focus on praising God, which lifts from depression. See Psalm 42.
B. Second, one learns to forgive oneself. This usually takes time. C.S. Lewis said, “If God forgives us, we must forgive ourselves. Otherwise, it’s like setting up ourselves as a higher tribunal than Him.”
C. Third, one learns to reject living in the past. See Philippians 3:13-14. Frank Pollard says, “To dwell on past sins is to invite one of two things: thinking about it will lead you to sin again, or you will spend your time in self-destructive despair. God has placed our sins in the sea of His forgetfulness and has put up a sign: ‘No Fishing Here.’”
3. The restoration process requires activity. A fall into sin usually results in being cut off from an activity the person loved; the sinner is acutely conscious of what he or she can no longer do. Within a few weeks of the fall, they must become busy doing something good to replace the former activity; otherwise, they can fall from idleness to depression and worse sin. This is the replacement principle found in Matthew 12:43-45. For example, a fallen coach can volunteer to help Little League baseball, a fallen pastor can volunteer to teach the Bible at a prison. Charles Spurgeon said, “Sedentary habits have a tendency to despondency.”

The restoration process can reclaim fallen people to service. Just ask Moses, David, Peter and Paul! But it will take time and personal investment in their lives.

The Biblical way to deal with difficult people

Copyright 2017 by Bob Rogers.

Your child is wronged by another child, and when you try to talk to her parents, they tell you off. A friend gets angry with you and refuses to talk to you. A fellow worker never shows you respect, always going over your head. How do you deal with difficult people? My grandfather loved to answer this dilemma with Romans 12:18, “If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.”

This verse recognizes two important facts about dealing with difficult people: 1) we should live at peace with people, and 2) it’s not always possible. In fact, Romans 12 gives us four ways to deal with difficult people when peace is possible, and four ways to deal with them when peace is not possible.

When peace is possible

Romans 12:14-16 gives us some practical ways to live at peace with difficult people.

1. Be a blessing (v. 14)

Paul says, “Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse.” This statement, like several others here, refer back to Jesus’ word in the Sermon on the Mount. Jesus told us, “Love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you” (Matthew 5:44).

Paul must have remembered his own past with this statement, for many years before, Paul was the young Pharisee named Saul who held the coats of those who stoned to death the first Christian martyr, Stephen. Acts 7:60 records that as he died, Stephen said, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them.”

2. Be empathetic (v. 15)

In verse 15 he adds, “Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn.” This is more than sympathy; it is empathy. It is identifying with those who hurt.  This is a critical response to a difficult person, because when we can identify with them and understand why they act the way they do, then we will be much better at relating to them.

3. Be agreeable (v. 16a)

Verse 16 begins, “Live in harmony with one another.” Literally, the Greek means to “have the same mind toward one another.” We can disagree in substance and still be agreeable in spirit.

4. Be humble (v. 16b)

Sometimes the reason that the other person is so difficult to deal with us because the problem is within ourselves! Thus Paul reminds us, “Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position. Do not be conceited.” As Proverbs 3:7 says, “Do not be wise in your own eyes.”

When peace is impossible

Paul said in verse 18 to live at peace “if it is possible” and if “it depends on you.” He was recognizing that there are times when it is impossible for us to bring about peace in our own power. So what do you do when there is no peace? What do you do when it’s out of your hands?

1. Do not seek personal revenge (v. 17a, 19a)

Although I have listed this under the category of “when peace is impossible,” it probably fits under both categories. This is a principle that goes both ways.

Verse 17 says, “Do not repay anyone evil for evil…” Verse 19 says, “Do not take revenge, my friends…” Jesus also taught the same thing in the Sermon on the Mount. He said, “If someone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also…If someone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles” (Matthew 5:39, 41). Jesus was not talking about social injustice; He was making reference to personal insults. As Proverbs 12:16 says, it is wise to ignore an insult.

2. Do what is right (v. 17b)

We do not need to let the meanness of another person drag us down to their level. Thus verse 17 continues, “Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everybody.” We must decide that even when the other person refuses to do what is right, that we will do what is right. Even when we cannot keep the peace, we can keep our integrity.

3. Let God avenge (v. 19b)

Verse 19 begins by saying, “Do not take revenge” but the verse goes on to say, “leave room for God’s wrath.” That is, we do not take revenge for personal insults and injuries, but we do make room for God to work his vengeance, particularly against social injustice.

When the Hebrews fled across the Red Sea and Pharaoh chased them, God allowed the Egyptians to drown in the sea, and Exodus 15 records the song of rejoicing that Moses sang at their defeat. Proverbs 11:10 says that “when the wicked perish, there are shouts of joy.” While it is a virtue to overlook a personal insult, it is not a virtue to overlook a social injustice. The former is gracious; the latter is gross negligence.

4. Overcome evil with good (v. 20-21)

Paul says, “’If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.’ [A quotation of Proverbs 25:21-22.] Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.”

We can read Romans 12:20-21 on two levels: On a personal level, “kill him with kindness.” If your enemy is hungry, feed him. Let his evil be in such contrast to your goodness, that evil will be conquered by good. You may change his heart. On a social level, God will bring about the vengeance, often by using the judicial system, law enforcement and the military to bring about justice. In this way, you are leaving room for God’s wrath.

To sum up, how do you deal with difficult people? If possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with them. If possible, be a blessing, be empathetic, be agreeable, be humble. Respond to their personal insults with personal kindness. And if none of those things are possible, you may just need to walk away and let God deal with them.

How does God want you to deal with your difficult person?

Book Review: “The Shack”

theshackmovie

The Shack is a motion picture being released on March 3, 2017. It has a Christian message, yet some Christians are calling the movie heresy. What’s going on?
The movie is based on the bestseller of the same name by William Paul Young. (This is a review of the book. You can read my review of the movie by clicking here.) It is a deeply emotional story about why God allows suffering. The main character, Mack, gets a note from God, asking him to return to the shack where his young daughter had been murdered. Mack goes, and finds answers to his questions and doubts about God’s goodness. Sounds inspiring, doesn’t it? Then why the controversy?

Negative elements in the book
Many people are bothered by the portrayal of the Trinity in the book. God the Father appears as a black woman who goes by the name “Papa,” Jesus appears as a Middle Eastern man, and the Holy Spirit appears as an Asian woman named Sarayu (Sanskrit for “wind”) whom you can see through. Although they appear as three persons, they are shown as completely one, as they answer Mack in unison from time to time, and whenever he has a conversation with one of them, they always continue the conversations he had with the others. “Papa” reminds Mack that God is spirit, and since Mack had a poor relationship with his own father, he chose to reveal himself to Mack as a woman to get around his resistance. In fact, (spoiler warning: don’t read this next statement if you don’t want to know too much about the novel’s plot…) at the end of the book, after Mack is reconciled to his own father, “Papa” appears to Mack as a man.
Some people will be put off by a few uses of profanity in the book in the dialogue. There is one use of S.O.B., and a few other milder profanities spoken mostly in passages where the speaker is angry.
The most troubling part of the book occurs on page 182. Jesus is talking to Mack, and he says, “Those who love me come from every system that exists. They were Buddhists or Mormons, Baptists or Muslims, Democrats, Republicans and many who don’t vote or are not part of any Sunday morning or religious institutions…” At this point, Jesus appears to be teaching universalism, that everybody will be saved. It appears that Jesus is saying that He has taken people from any background and transformed them. Notice the next words that William Young has “Jesus” speak:
“…I have followers who were murderers and many who were self-righteous. Some were bankers and bookies, Americans and Iraqis, Jews and Palestinians. I have no desire to make them Christian, but I do want to join them in their transformation into sons and daughters of my Papa, into my brothers and sisters, into my Beloved.”
“‘Does that mean,’ asked Mack, ‘that all roads will lead to you?’
‘Not at all,’ smiled Jesus as he reached for the door handle to the shop. ‘Most roads don’t lead anywhere. What it does mean is that I will travel any road to find you.'”
Perhaps this is universalism, or perhaps it means that Jesus is the only way, but He will do what it takes to reach us. The only thing that is clear is that it is left unclear.

Positive elements in the book
The book does a beautiful job of showing that following Jesus is more a matter of relationship than religion. It illustrates how suffering cannot be understood because we cannot understand all of God’s purposes, thus we simply must trust God.
(Spoiler warning: skip this paragraph if you don’t want to know too much of the plot…) Perhaps the most powerful part of the book is when Mack is asked to “play God” and decide which three of his children will go to hell and which two will go to heaven. Mack’s reaction to this awful choice helps him see how God works through suffering.
There are several good quotations in the book:
“Grace doesn’t depend on suffering to exist, but where there is suffering you will find grace in many facets and colors.” (p. 185)
God says, “I am a verb. I am that I am. I will be who I will be. I am a verb! I am alive, dynamic, ever active, and moving. I am a being verb.” (p. 204)
God says, “Forgiveness is about forgetting, Mack. It is about letting go of another person’s throat.” (p. 224)

Conclusion
This is a review of The Shack, the book. The movie has several differences, so see my follow-up review of the actual film by clicking here. The movie has no profanity, and has fewer implications of universal salvation, as some of the above conversations that imply universalism are not in the film. Also, the depiction of God the Father as a woman is explained earlier and more clearly in the film.
Whatever your opinion about the depiction of the Trinity and other controversial elements in the book, it is an inspiring message of how God works through suffering that reminds us how we ultimately find hope not in the shack, but in the cross.

Top blog posts in 2016

In case you missed them, here were my top blog posts and top new blog posts in 2016, in order of the most visits:

TOP THREE POSTS OF 2016:

1. Blessing the food: ways to say “Grace”: https://bobrogers.me/2013/10/25/blessing-the-food-ways-to-say-grace-before-meals/

2. Four great truths from the creation account in Genesis: https://bobrogers.me/2013/10/14/four-great-truths-from-the-creation-account-in-genesis/

3. Why I am changing Bible translations: https://bobrogers.me/2012/04/17/why-i-am-changing-bible-translations/

TOP THREE NEW POSTS OF 2016:

1. In this weird political year, be a patriotic prayer warrior! https://bobrogers.me/2016/05/05/be-a-patriotic-prayer-warrior/

2. Twisted scripture: “by His stripes, we are healed”: https://bobrogers.me/2016/08/07/twisted-scripture-by-his-stripes-we-are-healed/

3. Twisted scripture: “God doesn’t put on you more than you can handle”: https://bobrogers.me/2016/06/10/twisted-scripture-god-doesnt-put-on-you-more-than-you-can-handle/

 

 

The Closet of Mirrors

Mirrors

Copyright 2014 by Bob Rogers

I was comfortable in a dark closet

Thinking dark thoughts

Doing dark deeds.

Then a brilliant burst of light revealed

That I’m in a closet of mirrors

I see my ugly, naked body everywhere

I cannot escape in any direction

Every wall is a mirror.

Outsiders can see me through the mirror

But I cannot see them

I wonder what they think and what they see

But I can only see me—

The one person I do not want to see.

I want to cover myself

But I have nothing.

I want to drive a nail through the mirror

But I have nothing.

I fall to my knees, curl into a tiny ball

Wailing, whining, whimpering.

Oh, God, kill me! I have nothing! I need you!

Ting…ping…ping…ting…

Softly a nail falls by my side, skipping on the glass

Then two…three…ten…fifty…a hundred…

Nails crash down, crack open

Cutting me — and covering me.

But now I have something

I have a covering—a covering of rusty nails.

And the mirror is broken at last.

x

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(If you see a video ad below this post, please understand that I have no control over these ads, and that I do not necessarily endorse the product. If you see an inappropriate ad, you can email me at BobRogersThD@gmail.com.)

Blessing the food; ways to say “grace” before meals

BOU202915Copyright 2013, 2017 by Bob Rogers

In the Lord’s Prayer, Jesus taught us to pray, “Give us this day our daily bread.” (Matthew 6:11)
Jesus also blessed the food and gave thanks for it when He fed the 5,000, and when He instituted the Lord’s Supper. Thus Christians all over the world make it their regular practice to pray a prayer of blessing and thanks before their meals. But scripture does not record the words Jesus prayed, which is probably a good thing, as it has allowed Christians to develop many different prayers. Here is a collection of prayers I have found from various sources. Of course, it is best to pray from the heart, and avoid getting in a rut. But perhaps by sharing these prayers, it will prompt you to pray some fresh thoughts as you thank God for His blessings each time you eat. Here are the prayers. Where I know the source, I list it in parentheses:

GENERIC PRAYERS

“Thank you, Lord, for the food we are about to receive, and for the nourishment to our bodies. For Christ’s sake, Amen.”

“Humble our hearts, Oh Lord, and make us thankful for these and all our blessings. In Christ name Amen.” (Shared by Brenda Holloway and Darren Thomas)

“Lord, bless this food to our nourishment, and us to Your service. In Jesus’ name, Amen.” (Traditional prayer I heard in my family.)

“Bless us, O Lord, and these Thy gifts which we are about to receive, through Thy bounty through Christ our Lord we pray. Amen.” (Traditional Roman Catholic prayer.)

CHILDREN’S PRAYERS

“God is great, God is good. Let us thank Him for our food. By His hands, we are fed. Give us, Lord, our daily bread. Amen.” (Traditional children’s rhyme.)

“ABCDEFG Thank you, God, for feeding me.”

To the tune of Superman Theme: “Thank you God for giving us food. Thank you God for giving us food. [Both hands pointed up.] For daily bread, that we are fed. [One hand moves to the hip on ‘daily bread’ and then alternate with other hand on ‘we are fed.’] Thank you God [hands up], for giving us food” [hands move to the hips and voice deepens.](Shared by Joseph & Beth Copeck)

“Thank You for the food we eat, yum yum! Thank You for the friends we meet, ho ho! Thank You for the birds that sing, a-ling a-ling! Thank You, Lord, for everything, Amen!” (Robin Anker Peterson of Perth, Scotland, sang this happily to his young children.)

HUMOROUS PRAYERS

“Good food, good meat, good Lord, let’s eat. Amen.”

“Lord, bless this bunch as they munch their lunch.”

“Grace in the kitchen, Grace in the hall, please O God, don’t let them get it all.” (Shared by Buddy Wasson)

“Lazarus rose, Moses led, Noah built, Jesus fed. Amen.” (Debbie T. Alsup)

PRAYERS MENTIONING FAMILY AND FRIENDS

“Heavenly Father, bless this food, and bless our friends and family who’ve come to dine with us today. Amen.”

“God, we give you thanks for the delicious food on our table, for the loved ones gathered around, and for you, who make it all possible. We are humbly grateful. Amen.” (Norman Vincent Peale, A Prayer for Every Need)

“Dear Lord, we’ve gathered to share good times, good conversation, good friends, and good food, which we thank you for all. Amen.”

“Bless the food before us, the family beside us, and the love between us.” (Shared by Lynda Easterling Stinson)

PRAYERS REMEMBERING THOSE IN NEED

“Give us grateful hearts, O Father, for all thy mercies, and make us mindful of the needs of others; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.” (1928 Book of Common Prayer)

“For food in a world where many are in hunger; For faith in a world where many walk in fear; For friends in a world where many walk alone; We give you thanks, O Lord. Amen.” (Huron Hunger Fund, Anglican Church of Canada)

“Oh Lord, make us grateful for this food that we are about to receive, as we remember those who do not have enough to eat. Amen.”

PRAYERS MENTIONING THOSE WHO PREPARED THE FOOD

“Thank you, Lord for this food, and bless the hands that prepared it. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.” (Traditional prayer I heard in my family.)

“God, many hands made this meal possible. Farmers grew it. Truckers drove it. Grocers sold it. We prepared it. Bless all those hands, and help us always remember our dependence on you. Amen.” (Norman Vincent Peale, A Prayer for Every Need)

“You are mighty Lord, and all providing. We thank you for this food we have been given for nourishment and delight. We ask a special blessing to those who prepared this meal with love and care tonight. Amen.”

PRAYERS IN OTHER LANGUAGES

An old Scottish blessing: Some hae meat and cannae eat. Some nae meat but want it. We hae meat and we can eat and sae the Lord be thankit. Translated: Some have meat and cannot eat. Some no meat but want it. We have meat and we can eat and [so the Lord be thanked].
Read more at http://www.beliefnet.com/Health/2002/07/Bless-This-Food.aspx#MqG6G842Slf51mw8.99
Some hae meat and cannae eat. Some nae meat but want it. We hae meat and we can eat and sae the Lord be thankit. Translated: Some have meat and cannot eat. Some no meat but want it. We have meat and we can eat and [so the Lord be thanked].
Read more at http://www.beliefnet.com/Health/2002/07/Bless-This-Food.aspx#MqG6G842Slf51mw8.99

Some hae meat and cannae eat. Some nae meat but want it. We hae meat and we can eat and sae the Lord be thankit.” (Some have meat and cannot eat. Some no meat but want it. We have meat and we can eat and so the Lord be thanked.) (Scottish blessing.)

Alles das wir haben (All that we have), Alles ist gegaben (All of it is a gift), Es kommt, O Gott, von dir (It comes, O God, from you), Wir danken dir dafuer. (We thank you for it.)” (German blessing.)

Cristo, pan de vida (Christ, bread of life) Ven y bendice esta comida. Amen. (Come and bless this food.)” (Spanish blessing.)

My mom tells the story that when I was a little boy, a family member asked me to say the prayer at a large family gathering. I gave thanks for everything on the table and everything else in sight, and as my prayer went on and on, my mom tried to bring me to an end by interrupting with an “Amen.” I looked up and said, “But I’m not finished praying yet.” I suppose there are two lessons in that story. On the one hand, we need to keep our public prayers short and sweet. But on the other hand, we should never be finished praying from the heart. As scripture says, “Pray without ceasing” (1 Thessalonians 5:17, KJV).

CLICK BELOW TO READ SOME OF MY OTHER BLOG POSTS ON PRAYER:

In this weird political year, be a patriotic prayer warrior

Prayers for the sick

ABC’s of praying for missionaries

The Prayer Life of Jesus Christ, Part 1: Times and Places He Prayed

The Prayer Life of Jesus Christ, Part 2: Words that He Prayed

The Prayer Life of Jesus Christ, Part 3: Lessons Learned

NOTE: If you see a video ad below this post, please be aware that I have no control over which ads appear, and I do not necessarily endorse the product.

The cycling pastor eats humble pie

LongLeafPrentissToddBob Five years ago I started riding a mountain bike a few miles in the morning to work out at the YMCA. I figured with gasoline at $4.00 a gallon, I could pay for the bicycle in gas saved and be exercising while riding. Soon I was addicted to cycling, and started riding longer distances on Saturdays for fun. When I got up to nearly 20 miles, serious cyclists told me I should upgrade to a road bike, and I was blessed to receive one on permanent loan from a friend. Soon I was riding 30 and 40 miles on the weekends on the road bike, which is a lot easier and more fun to ride, with its light weight and narrow tires.
Then my brother, who lives in Louisiana, got into cycling. We decided that we would ride the 41-mile Longleaf Trace (near our parent’s home in Hattiesburg, Mississippi) over the Christmas holidays. Since I had been cycling a lot longer than Todd, I was sharing my expertise with him and comparing notes on Facebook and in phone calls. Soon he was riding 40 miles each weekend. I got up to 52 miles on my longest ride.

A couple of months before the ride, it dawned on me that my brother was going that distance on a mountain bike, while I was riding a road bike. I decided to be fair to him, I should also ride the slower, heavier mountain bike, and I started training again on my mountain bike. I had never been farther than 22 miles on a mountain bike. A couple of weeks before our ride, I got up to 35 miles on my mountain bike, and I thought I was going to die.
I should have seen what was coming, but my pride got in the way. On December 31, our Dad dropped us off in Prentiss at the beginning of the Longleaf Trace, with our mountain bikes. (That’s a picture of the two of us on this page, with Todd on the left, and me on the right.)

The idea was to ride in each other’s draft, taking turns leading one another. I led the first seven miles, with Todd right behind me in my draft. It was largely uphill, and then we took a break. I felt fine, but Todd said my pace seemed slow. He led the next 12 miles. Forget about staying in his draft, after about 5 miles, it was killing me to keep up with him. I had to make a decision: was I going to be in pain trying to keep up his pace, or just enjoy the ride? I decided to enjoy the ride and soon he was half a football field ahead of me, constantly looking back. After the next stop, I was feeling humiliated. I had to put the bicycle in a low gear to handle the slightest uphill slopes, while Todd started meandering on the path, over to the left and then to the right, just to slow himself down and keep from going over the horizon out of my view. Then he started telling me that he needed to reset his music on his mp3 player, and told me to go on ahead and he would catch up. Soon he was flying past me. I felt like the little engine that could, but I wasn’t so sure that I could. The last 10 miles were pure pain and determination. I think I saw a turtle pass me. After five hours and 41 miles on the trail, I finally crossed the line, muttering that I HATE mountain bikes. My brother was circling around the parking lot waiting for me, saying he could go another 5 miles. But I couldn’t be mad at him, because he was trying to be nice about it the whole time, thanking me for riding with him and saying how much fun we had. That evening he went out to a movie. I took ibuprofen and rubbed my sore thighs and knees at home.
The experience reminds me of the way we often see ourselves spiritually. We think we are really good people. We compare ourselves with others, and we look pretty good. But the Bible says, “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” (Romans 3:23) When we compare ourselves with God, He runs circles around us, and leaves us in the dust. It’s an humbling realization, but an important lesson for us to learn.
That long ride on mountain bikes with my brother taught me that I’m not nearly as great a cyclist as I think I am, and also encouraged me to keep on training. Getting a glimpse of God’s glory should teach us a similar lesson: we aren’t nearly as holy and good as we think we are, but we have a loving God who is waiting on us up ahead, accepting us for who we are encouraging us to do better.
However, there is also a difference. My brother can do nothing to help me, except give encouragement. My God can give me power to do what I cannot do myself. “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” (Philippians 4:13)
I’m looking forward to the ride with God in 2013.

UPDATE: When I got back to Georgia, I noticed that my rear tire was lose and rubbing against the rim, so I took it to my bike repairman. He said the bearings were shot, and he said, “I don’t know how you even finished 41 miles with a wheel in that bad shape.” Soooooo…. maybe, just maybe, I wasn’t in as bad a shape as I thought! Looks like I need to challenge Todd to another ride on the Longleaf Trace!

Why Jesus Is Dangerous

Copyright 2012 by Bob Rogers

Jesus is dangerous.

He is so dangerous that we read in Mark 3:6 that the Pharisees and the Herodians, who were total opposites and enemies of one another, plotted together to get rid of Him.

Of course, that a long time ago. Jesus is pretty harmless today, isn’t He? No, He’s not! Not the real Jesus. The real Jesus is more dangerous today than He was two thousand years ago.

As the Gospel of Mark tells his stories of Jesus in chapters 2-4, we see exactly why Jesus is dangerous.

I. Because He upsets our social status (Mark 2:17)

One of the most popular movies in 2011 was The Help. It is historical fiction, based on the novel by Kathryn Stockett. Set in Jackson, Mississippi, in the early 1960’s, it tells about life when black women worked as maids for white women all over the South, and were often treated as less than human. The help were never allowed to sit at the same table or even use the same restrooms as their employers. Yet the maids were the ones who actually brought up the white children. One of the maids repeatedly tells a little white girl who is neglected by her mother, “You is kind, you is smart, and you is important.” Even though the maid was being treated as unimportant herself, she reminds the little girl that she has value.

Jesus upset the social taboos of His own day when he went to eat dinner at the house of a tax collector named Levi. We read in Mark 3:15: “While He was reclining at the table in Levi’s house, many tax collectors and sinners were also guests with Jesus and His disciples… When the scribes and Pharisees saw that He was eating with sinners and tax collectors, they asked His disciples, ‘Why does He eat with tax collectors and sinners?’”

Notice that the same phrase is repeated three times: “tax collectors and sinners.” When they used the word “sinners,” they were using it as a technical term. This was a category of people. “Sinners” were people who failed to follow the religious law. Pharisees said the word with disgust in their voices. And nobody liked tax collectors, because they cheated people and worked for a foreign government.

Yet Jesus was eating with “those people.” The Pharisees tried to pressure Him to stop. The Old Testament law said to keep oneself pure. How could Jesus associate with such people?

Jesus said in verse 17: “Those who are well don’t need a doctor, but the sick do need one. I didn’t come to call the righteous, but sinners.” Today, that would be like saying, “I came to call prostitutes, not Sunday School teachers.”

Do you see why Jesus is dangerous? Why, if we acted like Him, we might have to go down to Savannah and love on homeless people. If we acted like Him, we might have to go out in the streets of Rincon and hand out food to people, and tell them, “You is important—to God.” This gets way outside our comfort zone. Dangerous stuff.

II. Because He replaces our religion (Mark 2:27-28)

Later in chapter two, Mark says that Jesus makes a shocking statement about the Sabbath, showing Jesus replaces our religion.

The Fourth Commandment says to keep the Sabbath Day holy (Exodus 20:8-11), because God rested on the seventh day of creation. The word Sabbath means “rest.” The Sabbath was very unique to Jews. No other religion had a day of rest like the Jews, and keeping the Sabbath set them apart from all other people. We need Sabbath rest today. With the craziness of our busy lives, we could all benefit from times of rest, worship, and reflection. But over the years, the Jewish rabbis had made up hundreds of rules about how to not work on the Sabbath. The rabbis had rules about how far you could walk before it was considered work, and how much you could harvest or cook before it was considered work. Their rules went to ridiculous extremes. So Mark 2:23 says that Jesus disciples picked some heads of grain on the Sabbath and ate it, and the Pharisees cried foul. “You can’t do that! That’s working on the Sabbath! You harvested wheat!”

Jesus replied, “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath.” This statement in verse 27 is only found in the Gospel of Mark. The Sabbath was supposed to help people rest, not to be a burden to them. But it had become a rat race. Lily Tomlin said the trouble with the rat race is that even if you win, you are still a rat. (David E. Garland, The NIV Application Commentary: Mark, p. 124)

Unfortunately, religion often becomes an end in itself. People think if they keep all the religious rules, they are right with God. Jesus upsets the apple cart, and says it’s not about religion. Then He goes even farther, and claims that He Himself has authority to change it all, as He says in v. 28, “So the Son of Man is Lord even of the Sabbath.” Remember, “Son of Man” is Jesus’ term for Himself. So Jesus is saying, “It’s not about religious rules. It’s about a relationship with Me.”

Do you see why Jesus is dangerous? If this kind of teaching gets out, people will think they don’t have to keep the religious rules. They might run wild! They might think they can work on Sunday and who knows what else they might do.

III. Because He passes over our politics (Mark 3:6)

We are in the middle of a presidential election. Later this fall, the Republicans and Democrats will be fighting it out. In Jesus’ day, they had political parties, as well. The Pharisees were the defenders of traditional values. They stood for the nation of Israel, independent from Rome. The Herodians were the supports of Herod the Great and his family who ruled after him. King Herod were under the authority of the Romans and supported the empire.

In Mark 3:1-5, what Jesus said about religion turned political. It was against their rules to heal on the Sabbath, but Jesus asked whether it was lawful to do good or evil on the Sabbath, and then He went ahead and healed the man. That was more than the Pharisees could take. So they went out and made an alliance with their political arch-enemies, the Herodians. Read it in Mark 3:6: “Then the Pharisees went out and began to plot with the Herodians how they might kill Jesus.”

Wow! Jesus was considered so dangerous, that it could bring the Republicans and the Democrats together for a joint session and a unanimous vote. Kill Him!

No political party has a monopoly on Jesus Christ. Politicians should not think they can press a certain hot button and have the evangelical vote. Christianity cannot be contained as a wing of a certain party and told to behave and sit down. When the Republicans are wrong on an issue, Christians must speak out, and when the Democrats are wrong on an issue, we must speak out. We must pray for our president, but our ultimate loyalty is not to him. Our ultimate loyalty is to Jesus Christ, not a government. Jesus is Lord over the Sabbath, and He is also Lord over all political alliances. Christ passes over politics.

That’s dangerous talk. People might think they don’t have to obey the government if we keep talking like that. Didn’t the early disciples say to their government, “We must obey God rather than men!” (Acts 5:29). Jesus is dangerous.

IV. Because He scares us about our sin (Mark 3:28-30)

Jesus said something in Mark 3:28 that may be the most dangerous thing we have read yet. He said, “I tell you the truth, all the sins and blasphemies of men will be forgiven them. But whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit will never be forgiven; he is guilty of an eternal sin.”

Wow! The unpardonable sin. That is a frightening thought, that we could commit an eternal sin that could never be forgiven. We read about it again in 1 John 5:16: “There is a sin that leads to death.”

There have been all kinds of speculation about what is the unpardonable sin. Many people think it is murder or rape or child molestation. Some churches teach that suicide is unpardonable, since it is self-murder and there is no opportunity to repent afterwards. But according to Mark 3, none of these are the unpardonable sin.

Look at the context of Jesus’ words. The Jewish religious leaders took another pot-shot at Jesus in Mark 3:22. They said the reason he had driven out demons was that Jesus was demon-possessed Himself. “By the prince of demons he is driving out demons,” they said. It was in response to being accused of being a demon that Jesus said that blasphemy against the Holy Spirit cannot be forgiven. Then just to make it clear this applied to the words of the religious leaders, read Mark’s comment in verse 30: “He said this because they were saying, ‘He has an evil spirit.’”

Thus, they committed blasphemy against the Holy Spirit because they said Jesus had an evil spirit. Clearly, the unpardonable sin is rejection of Jesus Christ.

That scares us. This goes completely against politically correct thinking. This means murderers and rapists and child molesters can be forgiven. It means a person can be forgiven of suicide. It also means that a law-abiding citizen who rejects Jesus Christ will not be forgiven and will go straight to hell. How narrow-minded is that? The world thinks we’re crazy with that kind of thinking, but that’s what Jesus says.

We would like to think that we can handle our own sin. We think as long as we’re not murders or something we don’t need to worry about our sin. But Jesus says we can’t handle it without Him. Without Him we’re hopelessly lost. Dangerous stuff.

V. Because He petrifies us with His power (Mark 4:41)

Yet there is one more reason that Jesus is dangerous. In Mark 4:36 we read that Jesus and his disciples got in a boat on the Sea of Galilee. The Sea of Galilee is 700 feet below sea level, and is surrounded by mountains. Mt. Hermon, located only 30 miles north of the sea, is 9,200 feet high. The cold air rushing down from the mountains hitting the warm air coming up from the water can turn into a sudden storm, and that is what happened to Jesus and His disciples that day.

Mark 4:37 calls it a “furious squall” that nearly swamped their boat. But verse 38 says Jesus was at the stern, sleeping on a cushion.

But what happened next was even more amazing. Jesus got up, rebuked the wind and waves, and said, “’Quiet! Be still!’ Then the wind died down and it was completely calm.”

You know what most Sunday School classes do with this story? They spiritualize it. The teacher says, “Jesus calmed the storm.” Then the teacher looks around the room and says, “What storm are you going through?” Then people talk about Jesus helping them through their problems. But this is not a story about Jesus making us comfortable when our problems make us uncomfortable. This is a story that says with Jesus, we’ve got an even bigger problem.

When the storm started, the disciples were afraid. Jesus even asked them in verse 40, “Why are you so afraid?” But when Jesus showed His power to still the storm, verse 41 says they were “terrified.”

There is a story of King Canute, the King of Denmark in the eleventh century. His courtiers were flattering him excessively, and he said, “Am I divine?” He walked to the seashore and said, “Stop,” but the ocean waves kept coming in. What he was saying was, “Only God can stop the sea, and I’m not God.” (Timothy Keller, King’s Cross, p. 50).

If Jesus is Lord over the storm, He’s Lord over everything. We can’t tuck Him away during the week and pull Him out on Sunday. He won’t stay tucked away. He is Lord over our social relationships and Lord over our religious rules and Lord over our politics. But He is much more! He is Lord over our eternal destiny and able to pardon us forever to Heaven or sentence us forever to an eternity in Hell for rejecting Him, because He is Lord over all.

The storm had a power they could not control, and Jesus had infinitely more power, and they had less control over Him. That’s dangerous. No wonder they were terrified. But here’s the difference. A storm doesn’t love you, but Jesus does.

A storm is indifferent; if you are in the path of the wind, you get blown away. But if you are in the path of the untamed love of Jesus, you are filled with His protection and care. A storm doesn’t love you, but Jesus does.

Likewise, social rules and social taboos don’t care about you. If you don’t fit in with the right crowd, then tough luck. But Jesus cares about you and accepts you; He will break the social barriers to get to you and love you.

Religion doesn’t care about you. If you don’t fit into the rules, you’re out. Religion doesn’t love you, but Jesus does. He didn’t design the Sabbath to burden you; He designed it to give you rest in His grace. He said, “Come to me, and I will give you rest.”

Political parties and political machines don’t care about you. When they don’t need you, they will discard you. Political parties don’t love you, but Jesus does. Make Jesus your resident president and you will never have to fear the unpardonable sin. In fact, you will be pardoned, forever.

Timothy Keller says that if the disciples had really understood that Jesus was both powerful and loving, they would not have been scared. They thought if Jesus loved them He wouldn’t let bad things happen to them. They were wrong. He can love somebody and still let bad things happen to them, because He is God, and He knows better than they do.

Keller says, “If you have a God great enough and powerful enough to be mad at because he doesn’t stop your suffering, you also have a God who’s great enough and powerful enough to be have reasons that you can’t understand…. If you’re at the mercy of the storm, its power is unmanageable and it doesn’t love you. The only place you’re safe is in the will of God.” (Timothy Keller, King’s Cross, p. 52)

Yes, Jesus is dangerous; you cannot control Him. But in the storm, there’s no safer place to be than in His arms. He’s dangerous, but because He’s so powerful, He is able to take care of you. Will you trust your life to Him?

Preached at First Baptist Church, Rincon, GA January 15, 2012 A.M.

Dr. Bob Rogers, pastor.