September 29, 2020

The Question is God; the Answer is Jesus

Anything that one imagines of God apart from Christ is only useless thinking and vain idolatry. 

– Martin Luther

* * *

It’s been a very interesting day. I can’t tell you much about it, but I can tell you something.

When a discussion starts about God, the Christian is not faced with the same choices as other people.

Most people can go wherever they want in the discussion. They can talk about “God as I understand him” or “my higher power” or “my church says that God….” and so on. Really, the choices are practically infinite.

The Christian, on the other hand, must immediately think about Jesus. Jesus from the pages of scripture. Jesus the light, the revealer, the image of the invisible. Jesus in his own words, in the Gospels and in the totality of scripture.

Jesus reveals God, and from there, the discussion can go on.

You can explore the Bible, or you can place Jesus into a moral issue or various cultural settings. You can apply what you know of Jesus to what you don’t know of God. You can pray, sing, preach. There are plenty of roads open NOW. But only after we come to Jesus.

It truly breaks my heart to hear, see or read anyone who is a Christian approaching the subject of God, God’s will, God’s guidance, God’s message—without going to Jesus and camping right there with no intention to move or be impressed with anything else.

There are dozens, hundreds of ways to avoid Jesus when talking about God. There are dozens, hundreds of ways to manipulate Jesus to a less than defining place.

Many of these are fun. Some have the approval of important and powerful people. Some are wrapped in scripture verses. Many are surrounded by books or endorsed by ministers.

But at bottom, Jesus isn’t defining the God conversation. So the conversation is on the wrong foot and making a wrong turn. It may not be worthless, but it isn’t reliable.

You can dress your opinions about God up in whatever language you want. You can validate it with experiences, signs and wonders. You can claim miracles, voices and confirmations in the mystical realm.

When the smoke clears, you’ve explored your own imagination or otherwise missed Jesus.

If you are going to think about God, go to Jesus and start there, stay there and end there.

This simple rule is too simple for the religious, the worldly wise, the power seeking and the proud.

It is infuriating to those who want to manipulate for money or distract for some personal agenda.

Jesus will break our idols, complicate our assumptions, overturn our tables and put himself squarely in the center of every question. He is the way, the truth, the life. He is the answer. He is the one way we think about, know, love, worship and relate to God.

When you think about God, go to Jesus.

Now you know.

Comments

  1. Amens to iMonk and Fr. Ernesto. The more one talks about God apart from Christ, the more we drift toward atheism. Liberals started the process by not talking about the trinity but merely the great spirit, etc. Modern-day pragmatists took it to the next step by not talking about God at all but merely godly principles. Perhaps faith-prosperity teachers took it to its logical end, by showing how we all can become gods, wielding ultimate cosmic power through positive faith confessions.

  2. Yes — the demons all know Jesus the Nazareon. But they also have many servants preaching Jesus and the Bible, leading many astray.

    Reread Matthew 12 — He’s dealing with the Pharisees and tells them about the dangers of post-conversion — “When the evil spirit goes out of a man ….”

    He explained to them what had happened to them all. They all as young men were moved to devotion by the Spirit, but, “the final state of the man is worst then the first.” They went around preaching the Christian God and didn’t even recognize Him when He was a man standing right in front of them.

    Today’s Pharisees no longer preach “MOSES, MOSES, MOSES …”

  3. Just ’cause I am a Christian, have a personal relationship with Christ, study the scriptures does not mean that I necessarily know God better than a non-Christian. I don’t know God more than Moses or Jeremiah or Samuel or the authors of the Psalms. Of course I know more about salvation history and the love of God in Christ – which are infinite aspects of God (which I don’t fully appreciate), but do I know God better than any of the OT prophets?

    Jesus is the Way and the Life and the Truth – no question here, but isn’t knowledge of God a grace, which God can give to whomever He wants?

  4. Surfnetter,

    Is it possible that you are hearing in the this talk of Jesus something that causes you to imagine a big haired guy on the tube repeatedly saying JAEEEESUSSSSS!!!!!!!!!!!!!! as if the name is a magic incantation that somehow validates whatever it is he is trying to sell that day. If this is what we are doing when we speak of Jesus, I’ll gag along with you.

    I don’t find it necessary to say Jesus every 30 seconds when a conversation arises between myself and a non-believer. Eugene Peterson does an interesting take on this in his latest book “Tell It Slant”. He comments on the kinds of conversations Jesus has when he travels among those outside the “churchy” people between Jerusalem and Galilee. He points to the way Jesus seldom even uses the word God in his speech, but talks instead of farming and similar things that are familiar to everyone and part of everyday life. He reveals God to those he encounters in the most common elements of the creation. Of course, I think he has something of an advantage over most of us in that he is something of a genius in such things. But your point is illustrated in these passages of Jesus’ conversations in the book of Luke.

    But something huge occurs in the personal realm when Jesus becomes the living center through whom God is made present to us. God is not made more real by how many times we say the name of Jesus, but as in Paul’s Damascus experience, our own world, understanding, and views of God is changed in ways beyond comprehension after an encounter with the living Jesus.

    I spent a few days at the Little Portion Retreat Center this past fall. It is a Catholic-based monastic community begun by the musician John Michael Talbot near Eureka Springs Arkansas. I attended three or four masses while there. Each was led by a priest I assume to have been in his seventies. In each of the masses, he spoke in various ways of the personally present Jesus Christ. In the more formal Sunday Mass, he spoke sharply of his anger at his teachers who had never told him of this personal Jesus. Until whenever it was that he encountered a living Christ, he only knew of God as a distant and impersonal deity. His life was obviously deeply impacted by finding God in Christ. I was deeply moved by his testimony to a living God that is present and available to all in Jesus in Christ.

    I’m not Catholic, and have no idea how this relates to your own experiences within Catholicism, but I’d find no problems becoming Catholic if I could be with a community like this hidden one within the Ozark mountains of Arkansas.

  5. I’m referring to someone else’s earlier post when I use the repetition. The topic of this thread is, as I understand it, when talking about God we should be talking about Jesus or it’s worthless conversation.

    The revelation of Jesus Christ was not so much in the name “Jesus” as it was in the very person of Jesus of Nazareth. He revealed the Father in his very being. There is great benefit in calling on His name, meditating on His name, as long as who you are identifying is the One who by His very nature and character revealed the Father. But religious and political leaders have used and are using that Holy Name to justify all kinds of bad policies and behaviors, twisting His message by misapplying Scripture and incorporating nonsensical dogma.

    On the Mount of Transfiguration it was revealed that this Jesus was the One who was informing the the Law and the Prophets and not the other way around. Everything must be understood by what He did and said and His attitude behind His actions and words. There were times when He just came out and revealed Himself and other times when He ordered His followers “not to tell anyone” who He was or the miracles He had done. To make a blanket statement that every spiritual conversation must be forcefully turned to Jesus is not in keeping with the revelation of Jesus. It’s just not.

  6. I’m not going to turn off comments and I don’t have time to moderate them, but can I say I think the points saying I’m wrong have all been made repeatedly? Since I’m not going to pull the post or debate the matter, I don’t see the point of beating a dead horse.

  7. “In him are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge”. I have not begun to fathom the depths of Jesus Christ or his great love through which we can know him.

  8. Well, that’s not what I read from the original post. Honestly, your second paragraph (SN’s)does not in any way that I can see conflict with the spirit of what IM posted. I don’t see a suggestion that the name of Jesus be forced unnaturally into every conversation about God, but that God, for the Christian, is revealed fully in Him, in the Person of Jesus. Not that every spiritual conversation must speak His name, but that the lens thru which the person speaking sees God must be Jesus for the big picture to be anything approaching accurate. The hypothetical conversation with the OT scholar Jewish friend doesn’t have to be peppered with the Name, but in order for it to be intellectually and spiritually honest for the Christian, he must know that the entire OT points to God and therefore Jesus. The Jew would certainly agree that the OT is about the relationship of God to His people and the coming of the Messiah…why would a Christian have to deny their understanding of Jesus/Messiah/God being intertwined to converse?

  9. Er, tried to quote Surfnetter’s last post. Didn’t work…sorry, still figuring out this format. Thanks for your patience with me.

  10. Imonk,
    Don’t worry, any time you contend for Jesus alone you will get the but you have to be wrong. This is because if Jesus is as he says he is the summation of scripture, we are no longer looking at a blessed and glorious life in this world, but a cross, and not one of your own choosing. It means Christianity is probably more about suffering than overcoming. It means having to be forgiven, when we aren’t ready to be forgiven but still want to pull it off on our own. It means having to be forgiven when we aren’t ready to get rid of our sinful pride. It means denying self and decreasing as he increases.
    People tend not to want to hear that. They want to hear how God is going to use them to conquer the world, come back and set up the righteous kingdom he rejected for the cross the first time around.

  11. I agree with IMONK. The genuine Christian can only preach ‘Jesus and Him crucified’ to the lost (not doctrine, tradition, philosophies, popular programs, and so forth).
    I don’t believe he meant one would debate Jesus as the Messiah with a Jew who is not, at this point in time, spiritually capable of hearing the ‘Gospel of the Kingdom.’ God told Isaiah to tell them…you are given ‘eyes’ that can’t see…’ears’ that can’t ‘hear’…to this day.’ These will continue to argue that Elias has not yet come. It is not that this portion of Jews WILL NOT HEAR….it is that they CANNOT HEAR. According to Revelations…they will both ‘see’ and ‘hear’ (spiritual ‘knowing’) Elias (Elijah) as he and Moses (two Witnesses)) preach the ‘Gospel of the Kingdom’ to the remnant of God’s covenant people. At that time, they will choose Jesus as their Messiah and Redeemer….as did their fellow kinsmen who were left open to recognize Elias and Messiah at their First Coming.(Matthew 24:14 ‘this gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness to all nations; And then shall the end come.) The rulers of the nation of Israel ‘cannot’ accept Jesus until Elias comes the Second time just before Christ’s Second Coming.

  12. After spending 15 years in Messianic Judaism and seeing too many friends and family decide that Jesus is unneccessary in favor of legalism and/or traditional Judaism, I’ve gotta say this is probably the most important post I’ve read on iMonk. I’ve come to the conclusion that without Jesus we’re just playing dangerous, stupid games (there’s a graphic phrase I’d rather use, but I’ll be nice here hehe).

    Here’s the irony to me. Outside of a few circles (such as some folks in Judaism), you’ll rarely find anyone who doesn’t like/admire Jesus. He’s a great teacher, etc, etc. But once we insist in Jesus’ Godhood, or once we insist on actually following his lead, people get turned off.

    And that’s what I’m looking for… Jesus-shaped community. Jesus-shaped religion. Jesus-shaped life.

    Thanks, Michael

  13. …this may be the best piece I have read this new year. Leave it to you Michael. Any time Jesus is lifted up there will always be those who object.

    “Many of these are fun. Some have the approval of important and powerful people. Some are wrapped in scripture verses. Many are surrounded by books or endorsed by ministers.

    But at bottom, Jesus isn’t defining the God conversation. So the conversation is on the wrong foot and making a wrong turn. It may not be worthless, but it isn’t reliable.”

    Amen and amen.

    I’d only argue that it’s all worthless when it isn’t about Jesus. It is God who makes it about Jesus after all.