Sunday, August 12, 2007



Over the centuries there has been a "Christianizing" effect placed on Jesus in such a way that Jesus has been diminished and even caricaturized throughout the world. In other words, I think one of the most damaging things that has ever happened to Jesus is that He has been Christianized to the point that He has become unrecognizable in most circles.

Much of this Christianizing effect has been passed on by what I call the Christian rumor. These rumors are taught and re-taught as "truth" without any personal questions as to its veracity. Since we've been taking a fresh look at Jesus, we are amazed and shocked at what we've been simply accepting as the "truth" throughout the years without question or thinking.

For instance, the byline of Christianity has always been that the goal for all Christians is to reach out to non-Christians and encourage them to believe in order to go to heaven someday. The whole theme has been to "get out of here", yet this is not the direction that Jesus and other New Testament writers teach. Instead of us going to heaven, God is coming down here on earth to dwell. We'll discuss this more thoroughly later.

In order to examine the Christianization of Jesus and learn how to de-Christianize Jesus, it is vital that we debunk several myths. Today is the first one-the myth of religion vs relationship.

In our Jesus journey we have come to understand that Jesus is without borders, being universally attractive and all-inclusive to all cultures and religious backgrounds. On the other hand, Christianity is limited to a certain cultural upbringing and is to be understood as another religion in our world. Jesus is not owned or limited by Christianity. He is matchless and pre-eminent. There is no one who comes close to His equal.

When I was speaking on university campuses around the world, the frequent byline we used was: "Christianity isn't a religion; it's a relationship!" All of us who used this mantra were right in our thinking. What we were presenting was not a religious system of do's and don'ts; we were presenting a personal relationship with God through Jesus. Yes, we were right in our thinking, but our practice was way off base. As soon as a person expressed interest and faith in Jesus we instantly moved them into a church and taught them that they must be very religious. The personal relationship did not remain the focus. The Person of Jesus was the door and once inside the focus shifted to a list of do's and don'ts to check off and a set of beliefs to embrace. I watched this happen time after time in how we "discipled" others and then I saw it in my own empty life. Jesus was missing to a great extent; religion was in.

There is certainly nothing wrong with growing up in a Christian culture. It's through this culture that I found Jesus. But for me to think that I am the only culture the Creator-God created or cares about is the peak of haughtiness that God hates.

Package this cultural expression of man to find God as the only way, requiring all other cultures to bow down and become a Christian and you have essentially declared war on all other peoples, cultures and religions of the world. This is why Christians sing "Onward Christian soldiers" going off to war. The battle is not so much against the Evil One as it has become against all those who are not yet Christians. It's no wonder the non-Christian world deeply resents and hates the "Christian West". You see, Christianity isn't the way to God; Jesus is. Therefore Jesus must be separated from Christianity, so that He can be lifted up and relate most clearly to the other cultures of the world.

Even in the Old Testament Scriptures the Jewish people had strayed so far away from a heart relationship with God. It was so bad that God, who set up an elaborate sacrificial system to be followed, said, "I don't want your sacrifices, but would rather have your heart of compassion." It seems to be man's nature to drift away from a personal relationship and become more and more religious.

Jesus is all about welcoming you into a personal relationship with Him. In fact, this is at the foundation of why Jesus came to earth in the first place.

C. S. Lewis, the great literary scholar, was originally an atheist, then became more of an agnostic regarding God. In his agnostic state he often mentioned, "How absurd it is to think that a human could have a personal relationship with the Creator." He said, "It's as absurd as Hamlet having a personal relationship with Shakespeare." After Lewis became a believer, he saw it differently. He said, "Shakespeare could have had a personal relationship with Hamlet, if Shakespeare had written Himself as a character into the play." This is precisely what the Creator-God has done. He has written Himself into the play of life as a character to establish a personal relationship with Him. His name is Jesus. Jesus is all about a relationship and has very little to do with religion.



One of the most familiar quotes about results is credited to Albert Einstein. It is "Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results." Results are rarely neutral. Either you have great expectations for certain positive results or you have great dread about the possibility of certain negative results.

Results seem to come in three versions-good, bad or none at all. Sometimes it's the "none at all" that can be most difficult. I really like the t-shirt that says: "For every door that closes there is another one that always opens, but the hallways can be hell."

Results are everywhere. They cannot be avoided. Results are the consequences of life, whether we cause them or they just happen to us. Results do happen!

Not only do we all have life results that we feel we must negotiate, the bible is filled with the good, the bad and the non-results in the lives of the many characters. Ananias and Sapphira had some very good results. They sold a piece of property and made a lot of money. However, these good results were made into bad results when they acted as if they were giving the entire amount they gained into the local treasure, yet were holding out on God. They lied in an attempt to gain some praise and affirmation. Daniel was being faithful to God by praying daily and through the conniving of some jealous men in the kingdom ended up in the lions' den. Bad results for sure, yet God was at work in the midst of these bad results and saved Daniel's life.

Then in Hebrews 11 there is an interesting paragraph regarding a great men of faith who experienced a lifetime of non-results: 13 All these people (Enoch, Noah, Moses, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob) were still living by faith when they died. They did not receive the things promised; they only saw them and welcomed them from a distance, admitting that they were foreigners and strangers on earth. 14 People who say such things show that they are looking for a country of their own. 15 If they had been thinking of the country they had left, they would have had opportunity to return. 16 Instead, they were longing for a better country-a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared a city for them.

There are two basic problems with results. The first problem is that there is a tendency to wallow in the bad results which ends in depression. The second is to rely on the good results, relishing in them as if they were produced by us, resulting in pride. So, we end up trusting and hoping in our results, gambling on them to be the answer to our problems.

If you focus on your results, you will never be free from the stresses of it all. Here are some thoughts on how to handle your results: FIRST-Do the best you can do. This is your primary responsibility and nothing more.

SECOND-Leave the results entirely in the hands of God. You can't control your results anyway. In fact, results are none of your business. I am convinced God is personally at work in the midst of your results.

With Jesus it's always personal. This is why He continually makes it clear to those who are listening who He is. His many I AM statements and claims about Himself place Him into the middle of your life results.

Jesus uses results in your life to do the following: 1. To teach you something through it. 2. To work together with something else for God's glory and your good. 3. To get you through the worst of it all. He delights in getting you through it.

So, there are three cautions: 1. Don't allow yourself to be slammed by the bad results. 2. Don't allow yourself to take credit for the good results. 3. Don't allow yourself to be discouraged by the lack of results.

Jesus is the only result worth your time and energy!