If “believers” in our Western culture have truly been “inoculated against Jesus” how did it happen? Was it an intentional plot or was it the result of neglect?
The Panhandle Poet made an intriguing observation about the development of the vaccines used to fight the flu. He noted that the researchers “kill” part of the virus so it infects the person vaccinated with just enough of the virus to create the antibodies but not enough to develop the full blown disease. Using this as an illustration, what about the life and message of Jesus has been “killed” in order for so many Western believers to have such a “mild” case of faith.
Steve Dominy suggested that what has happened is that our people have been raised on the the milk of “cheap grace” as Bonhoeffer described it. This “cheap grace” set the stage in Germany for the established church of Germany to embrace and accept a psychopathic killer like Adolf Hitler. Liberal theology had so weakened the resolve of the church that it chose to play the part of the priest and Levite in Jesus’ story of the “good Samaritan” and simply walk by on the other side of the road when they saw the “Jew” between and left naked beside the road. “Cheap grace” robs the church of its back bone and reduces Jesus to a moral teacher or principle, but not the Son of God sent into the world with a sword. The Jesus of “cheap grace” loves and plays with sinners, but never stalks injustice like the Lion of Judah.
Has “cheap grace” inoculated the Western Church to the point that the Jesus we preach does not even look like Jesus of Nazareth. If Jesus stepped into the pulpit in the average church in America and preached his “Sermon on the Mount” would we simply dismiss him as an effective teacher needs to get out into the real world more. If Jesus proclaimed himself as “the way, the truth, and the life—the only way to the Father” would the average worshiper in the pew dismiss Him as narrow minded and simply out of touch. The Jesus of the West has become a “nice guy” much like Mr. Rodgers of my childhood. He sits down puts on his sweater and white tennis shoes, and wishes you a “good day”. Let’s face it, no one would ever crucify Mr. Rodgers—Jesus was nice but far from a nice guy—Jesus is God.
The ancient church sought to protect itself from “cheap grace” and a fake Jesus by nailing down the Apostles Creed the basics:
I.I believe in God the Father, Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth.
II. And in Jesus Christ, His only begotten Son, our Lord;
III. Who was conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the virgin Mary;
IV. Suffered under Pontius Pilate; was crucified, dead, and buried; He descended into hell;
V. The third day He rose again from the dead;
He ascended into heaven, and sitteth at the right hand of God the Father Almighty;
From thence He shall come to judge the living and the dead.
In the Nicene Creed the church father were even more direct in confronting threats to the gospel and the historicity of Jesus Christ when they declared:
I believe in one God, the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth, and of all things visible and invisible.
And in one Lord Jesus Christ, the only-begotten Son of God, begotten of the Father before all worlds; God of God, Light of Light, very God of very God; begotten, not made, being of one substance with the Father, by whom all things were made.
Who, for us men and for our salvation, came down from heaven, and was incarnate by the Holy Spirit of the virgin Mary, and was made man; and was crucified also for us under Pontius Pilate; He suffered and was buried; and the third day He rose again, according to the Scriptures; and ascended into heaven, and sitteth on the right hand of the Father; and He shall come again, with glory, to judge the living and the dead, whose kingdom shall have no end.
Sadly even in churches where these creeds have been memorized and quoted week in and week out Jesus has been painted in pastel colors and robbed of the bold, striking colors that stir the heart and create a movement that would shake the very foundations of hell itself.
Paul warned the Galatians in on uncertain terms:
6 I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting the one who called you by the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel– 7 which is really no gospel at all. Evidently some people are throwing you into confusion and are trying to pervert the gospel of Christ. 8 But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other than the one we preached to you, let him be eternally condemned! 9 As we have already said, so now I say again: If anybody is preaching to you a gospel other than what you accepted, let him be eternally condemned! Gal 1:6-9 (NIV)
Paul understood full well what was at stake and he saw absolutely no room for compromise when it came to Jesus and His gospel of the cross. Jesus came to start a revolution that would establish the Kingdom of God on earth in the hearts and lives of His fully devoted followers.
In our efforts to appease the crowds and keep our churches alive have we lost the very genius of the movement of Jesus. Have we forgotten the fundamental principle of Jesus that He stated simply to His disciples saying:
“If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. 25 For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will find it. 26 What good will it be for a man if he gains the whole world, yet forfeits his soul? Or what can a man give in exchange for his soul?
Matt 16:24-26 (NIV)
In our efforts to “save” our lives I am afraid we have lost our “souls”.