As always, you can find all our previous posts in this series, going through the Gospels chronologically to find the real Jesus, here.
And as always you'll find the scriptures for today are here. (Note that you can change the human-translation version on this scripture page, as suits you. I have NO theological or other tie to the online-bible site I use for this blog – it just lists many human translations to choose from, including the NASB, KJV, The Message, and the NRSV, which are the ones mentioned by those I chat and email with.)
This week, we see Jesus back among those He grew up with – and we find them so ignorant of God's truth they not only refused to recognize God standing right in front of them, but also refused His blessing and healing. If we look, we can easily see the same thing in ourselves, and in what's most loudly called itself "The Church" through the centuries.
Now, at least partly we can understand their failure to really see who Jesus is. They had known Him when He was just a boy, watched Him grow up, known Him as part of His biological family and the social culture of this town. In some ways, it may have been harder for them to recognize who He really was and could do because they'd grown accustomed to understanding Him within a certain mold: son of Mary and Joseph, brother to His brothers and sisters, a craftsman low in social and financial status who made and sold simple, practical things of metal and wood with His family.
Indeed, when Jesus came back He was anything but the guy who used to sit in the dirt and repair plows for the local farmers. Now Jesus was a miracle worker and a wise man, far different from how they wanted to keep understanding Him. And they didn't just ignore or write Him off – they actually got offended. And as we learned last Gospel study, Jesus' healings and blessings matched what people were willing to believe about Him. Therefore, those who should have been closest to Him got almost nothing from Him at all.
Today we make huge mistakes like this all the time, with all sorts of people. We often continue to understand people in the awful ways they were before, ignoring or getting crappy if they seem to be above and beyond that now. In some ways, it's offensive to us when someone stops boozing it up, or backbiting, or stepping on others to get ahead, or rejects living the materialistic lifestyle we're taught to see as "success" (and even as "God's blessing"), if that's the thing we still want to keep doing. Like, how dare someone prove what a life of falsehood and crud I'm choosing, by choosing what's better than that!
But there's another way we do this, a way easily far more dangerous to our souls, if we've been raised in what calls itself "The Church".
For those of us who've grown up in "The Church", or who came to it later and have embraced it long enough to absorb its way of interpreting Jesus, the message of the real Jesus can seem incredibly foreign – and even threatening. We've grown up in the "hometown" of what most loudly calls itself "His Church", and we rest our whole identity on our "hometown" understanding of Jesus, certain beyond certainty that OF COURSE we understand Him better than anyone else – WE GREW UP WITH HIM!
But that understanding is just as flawed as was the understanding the people of Jesus' physical hometown had 2,000 years ago. And when we're confronted with the huge difference between the Jesus we think we know better than anyone and the real Jesus of power and wisdom, oh boy can we get offended! People of "The Church" have turned their backs on, kicked out, born false witness against, attacked, tortured, and even slaughtered people for centuries, all because these other people challenged their "hometown" understanding of Jesus Christ. Sometimes that's just been "hometown" people fighting other "hometown" people over some stupid theological doctrine that means nothing to God. But sometimes it's been "hometown" people just simply refusing to allow Jesus to be who He really is.
Why? Why would "hometown" people refuse to accept Jesus for who He really is?
- Sometimes we refuse because we like the gilded dirt hole we've committed years of our lives and our egos to. We like the human hierarchy, the remakes of the old covenant temple, the live-in-a-box spirituality that tells us we're doing God's work even though we're not doing it, or we're passionately doing it for all the wrong reasons (which Jesus says doesn't count). Those things make us "feel spiritual" and "connected to God" – even though they are exactly opposite anything Jesus and the rest of the New Testament said to do or live. We forget or ignore that all religions make their members "feel spiritual" and "connected" – so it isn't the feeling that saves us, but following the real Jesus and doing what He says, that actually makes us real Christians.
- Sometimes we refuse because our "hometown" "church" has taught us to fear any thinking that would challenge its authority over our minds and hearts. We shake our heads when we hear of cults that have lead their members even to death – but then we follow, just like the people of 2,000 years ago, our "church" when it leads us even to spiritual death.
- Sometimes we refuse because if we accepted the real Jesus, and did what He really said, then we'd have to give up pretending to live godly lives, while our hearts were just full of ourselves. So-called "ministers" are most guilty of this. "If I actually accept the real Jesus, then I'll have to give up the position, authority, money, retirement fund, extra-respect, and extra-honor I went to minister-school to get!" But others do this as well, "If I actually accept the real Jesus, then I'd have to give up my pride of position in church, and I'd have to stop chasing money, and I'd have to do more than just kick in a few bucks in the collection plate to be right with God." In this case, we don't "get" the real Jesus, and we even get hugely offended by Him, because our worldly goodies depend on our not "getting" Him.
Instead, the "Church" we see most easily around us, and which we may have spent many years growing up in, is a purely human reinvention of God's real plan. It uses Jesus' face, and pretends to do His work with His heart, but points those who live in its "hometown" to the Jesus IT knows, and the Jesus IT isn't offended by. If you want to understand why "The Church" so easily supports and participates in war, economic oppression, sexism, racism, homophobia, materialism, and more, the answer is here: that "Church" is not and never has been about the real Jesus. Instead, it's primary function has been to enjoy, pass on, and protect its own limited and sinful understanding of Jesus.
So it's no wonder this "Church" only gets and falls for "miracles" from the devil, if it gets "miracles" at all. It's no wonder its members feel so comfortable in a "faith" no different in real substance than any other pagan faith, full of good religious feelings but completely devoid of the real Jesus Christ. "The Church" today, whether it calls itself "Roman Catholic", or "Methodist", or "Baptist", or "Nondenominational", or whatever, is no less God-rejecting and pagan than is polytheistic "Mormonism", Jesus-denying "Jehovah's Witness", Bible-twisting "Christian Science", or New Age "Ascended Masters".
The real Jesus Christ offends these "Churches" – and so the real Jesus has nothing to give them.
What about you? Where are you in moving out of the limited and sinful "hometown" mentality that finds the real Jesus something to ignore at best, and offensive at worst?
In my own life, I spent a lot of years in that "hometown". I soaked in all the teachings of the False Church, in its various manifestations in Roman Catholicism and its Protestant daughters.
First, I didn't even know enough to realize I'd been duped. I was quite comfortable in what my human elders preserved for and taught me. Sure I was living the godly life, I was most in danger of hellfire at this time – not because God wanted me there, but because, despite my insistence to the contrary, I wasn't really choosing God. I was like someone who claims to be going to Boston, but keeps insisting on traveling a road that only goes to Sacramento.
Later, God blessed me with a growing dissatisfaction with "The Church". Something was wrong, though I couldn't figure out why. Something was "missing". I wasn't as "fulfilled" any more. At first, as you might guess, I thought the answer was to become MORE in and about "The Church". I didn't just do the learning, I learned it all. I didn't just do the Roman or Protestant rituals, I did them ten times over. I didn't just pray, I prayed all day. And at first, it seemed to work – but it would always fail again and that nagging dissatisfaction came back into my heart. I prayed for God to make it go away, even to restore my "faith" - but He proved His love for me by making it grow worse and even more nagging, with each passing day and year.
It was that blessed irritation, that sanctified dissatisfaction, that slowly began to make me realize my spiritual life and heart was full of human junk – not Jesus. It was God's gift of stamina, and my willingness to go it alone at times, that helped me wander out of the gilded dirt hole of what most loudly calls itself "Christianity" so that I could seek and find the real Jesus Christ.
What about you? Are you still in the gilded dirt hole, or wishing you could be? I'd guess that if you're here, reading this blog, then you at least have a tiny bit of that blessed irritation, that sanctified dissatisfaction, that God's using to get you up out of the dirt and into Jesus' (real) arms. Otherwise, you'd be too offended by my "disrespect" for what claims most loudly to be "The Church" and its "ministers" to stay.
Are you afraid of going it alone? Of being without "a church"? Jesus said He would be with you always. He also said His real followers would have to give up even their closest relationships if those relationships block His followers from Him. Trust Jesus! And look for those others who are also wanting to be just about Jesus. They are His real church – they are your real family.
Are you still craving the religious doo-dads and goodies you get from only-faking-Jesus "Christianity"? Are you TRULY willing to trade eternal heaven with God because you like the pride, the trancing out, the rituals and do-goods you could get from participation in ANY religion (which means all your "godly" feeling is actually nothing special at all)? Jesus isn't kidding around – and neither is the devil. Drop those religious things and titles and so on like the hot hell-rocks they are, and fill yourself with the real Jesus!
If you'd like to talk more or pray about this, and you don't have a local no-junk-just-Jesus sister or brother to fellowship with, email me and let's talk. Going after the real Jesus can be a shorter walk when you don't have to find the whole way yourself without others who've already made more of the trip and can help you with the signposts along the way.
Jesus didn't come to earth and die so that we'd be stuck in fake temples and wearing Jesus-masks. He came to earth to completely shake things up – to heal people others don't believe worth healing, to put first people others think should be last, and to cancel religion and its inevitable path to forever-death.
Find and keep the real Jesus Christ.
He's waiting for you!
This article written by Lynne at http://NoJunkJustJesus.blogspot.com/. You can contact Lynne at NoJunkJustJesus@gmail.com.