Reflections on "Jesus Manifesto," pt. 3

CHAPTER 2


“You have been invited to share life with your Maker and Creator.

“And to top it all off, you have been made utterly, totally, fully complete in Him–here and now.

“Why, then, would you chase anything else? How can you be consumed with anything other than your Lord, Jesus Christ? And how can you graduate beyond Him?

“He is enough, even more than enough.

“Jesus Christ is like a vast ocean. He is too immense to fully explore, and too rich to fathom. You are like a bottle.

“The wonder of the gospel is that the bottle is in the ocean, and the ocean is in the bottle.”
____________
Imagine, the power and magnitude of the entire ocean contained inside a little glass bottle adrift in that very ocean. This chapter of Jesus Manifesto explores the letter to the Colossians. Paul explains to the church that the great mystery of the gospel is that we are in Christ and Christ is in us! His life is our life. It is too small a thing to offer a part of ourselves to Christ when He has given His entire being (His power, His life, His divine nature) to us. The only appropriate response is to let ourselves be fully consumed and immersed in the Spirit of our Savior. Praise, worship, service–this is all we know to do when hit by the reality that is Christ in us.

This has become one of my favorite songs on the radio. I think the message really hits home with this reality.

Reflections on "Jesus Manifesto," pt. 2

Chapter 1: The Occupation of All Things


Read over this passage slowly.

15 He is the image of the invisible God,

    the firstborn over ALL creation;
    16 because by Him EVERYTHING was created,
    in heaven and on earth, the visible and the invisible,
    whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—
    ALL THINGS have been created through Him and for Him.
    17 He is before ALL THINGS, and by Him ALL THINGS hold together.
    18 He is also the head of the body, the church;
    He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead,
    so that He might come to have first place in EVERYTHING.
    19 For God was pleased [to have] ALL His fullness dwell in Him,
    20 and through Him to reconcile EVERYTHING to Himself
    by making peace through the blood of His cross —
    whether things on earth or things in heaven.
Colossians 1:15-20, HCSB (emphasis added)

Notice a theme? These are some BOLD claims Paul is making. Everything we see, taste, touch, hear, and smell, AND everything we can’t see, taste, touch, hear, and smell has been created BY Jesus, THROUGH Jesus, and FOR Jesus. Not only that, all that stuff is held together by him! You may think that the laws of physics are holding this world, this solar system, this galaxy, and this universe together, but it’s Jesus. You may think that you are responsible for paying the bills, staying healthy, and providing for your family, but it’s Jesus who holds your life together. And you may think that Jesus died just for you and those you love, that human souls are the only part of creation that will enjoy redemption and reconciliation, but through Jesus’ blood, everything is reconciled to him–the whole of creation.

Viola and Sweet explore in this chapter how EVERYTHING is occupied with Jesus the Christ–the heavens, creation, the Old and New Testaments, the writings of Paul, etc. Jesus is given first place, top priority in everything. It all points towards the Christ.

With us, however, there is a different story. The created order extols, reflects, and points to Christ. That’s just the way it is. That is how the non-human creation was created. But we humans have the option to NOT put Christ in first place. We are actually given the ability to deny Christ his rightful place in our lives. Even in the church, ministers, teachers, and pastors continually deny Christ his rightful Lordship over EVERYTHING they do, say, or preach.

Viola and Sweet make this chilling statement:
“The tragedy of our time is that countless preachers, teachers, even healers are giving dozens of sermons, lectures, and messages, relegating Jesus to little more than a footnote or a flourish to some other subject. At best, he gets honorable mention. What is lacking is a groundbreaking revelation of Christ that boggles the mind and enraptures the heart.”

Read the passage from Colossians again. When you sit through Sunday morning services, does Christ take priority over ALL THINGS? Does EVERYTHING the preacher says point back to the awesomeness of Jesus? Are we, as Christ’s body, allowing ourselves to be held together by something other than Christ’s spirit? Are we proclaiming the reconciliation of everyone and everything and the peace that comes through the blood of Christ?

If you answered “No” to any of these questions, then something is wrong. If Christ is not head over everything, then something else is–whether it’s evangelism, church growth, theology, doctrine, social action, missions, worship, and the list goes on. What is occupying your time? Is it Jesus, or is it this list of other things?

“To our minds, there is one reason why a Christian would not be absolutely occupied and consumed with Christ. That person’s eyes have not been opened to see His greatness. The sad truth is that the Jesus who is preached so often today is so shallow, so small, and so uncaptivating that countless believers are enthralled with countless other things.”

Read the Colossians passage one more time. Does that Christ seem shallow, small, or uncaptivating? Absolutely not! The exact opposite is true. The Christ we serve is so deep, so big, and so captivating that the world and the cosmos get sucked into Him. Christ is the pre-occupation of all things.

Is He yours?

Resurrection

I watched this the other day. I had heard most of it from the sermon podcasts I listen to from the Mars Hill Church, where Rob Bell is the pastor. This is pretty much a condensed version of his sermon on resurrection highlighting the main points. If you can get past the overdone, in your face visuals, his message is pretty legit. The video is from YouTube, but the video and script can both be found at robbell.com/resurrection

Jesus is standing in front of the temple in Jerusalem
the massive gleaming brick and stone and gold house of God
and he says destroy this temple
and I’ll rebuild it in three days
the people listening to him said how are you going to do that?
it took 46 years to build this temple!
but he wasn’t talking about that temple
he’s talking about himself
he essentially says, listen
I’m going to be killed
that’s where this is headed
because you don’t confront corrupt systems of power
without paying for it
sometimes with your own blood
and so he’s headed to his execution
if you had witnessed this divine life extinguished on a cross
how would you not be overwhelmed with despair?
is the world ultimately a cold, hard, dead place?
does death have the last word?
is it truly, honestly, actually dark
and so whatever light we do see
whatever good we do stumble upon
are those just blips on the radar?
momentary interruptions in an otherwise meaningless existence?
because if that’s the case then despair is the
only reasonable response
it’s easy to be cynical
but Jesus says destroy this temple and I’ll rebuild it
he insists that his execution would not be the end
he’s talking about something new and unexpected
happening after his death
he’s talking about resurrection
resurrection announces that God has not given up on the world
because this world matters
this world that we call home
dirt and blood and sweat and skin and light and water
this world that God is redeeming and restoring and renewing
greed and violence and abuse they are not right
and they cannot last
they belong to death and death does not belong
resurrection says that what we do with our lives matters
in this body
the one that we inhabit right now
every act of compassion matters
every work of art that celebrates the good and the true matters
every fair and honest act of business and trade
every kind word
they all belong and they will all go on in God’s good world
nothing will be forgotten
nothing will be wasted
it all has it’s place
everybody believes something
everybody believes somebody
Jesus invites us to trust resurrection
that every glimmer of good
every hint of hope
every impulse that elevates the soul
is a sign, a taste, a glimpse
of how things actually are
and how things will ultimately be
resurrection affirms this life and the next
as a seamless reality
embraced
graced
and saved by God
there is an unexpected mysterious presence
who meets each of us in our lowest moments
when we have no strength when we have nothing left
and we can’t go on we hear the voice that speaks those
words
destroy this temple and I’ll rebuild it
do you believe this?
that’s the question Jesus asked then
and that’s the question he asks now
Jesus’ friends arrive at his tomb and they’re told
he isn’t here
you didn’t see that coming, did you?
he’s isn’t here
there is nothing to fear
and nothing can ever be the same again
we are living in a world in the midst of rescue
with endless unexpected possibilities
they will take my life and I will die Jesus says
but that will not be the end
and when you find yourself assuming that it’s over
when it’s lost, gone, broken and it could never be
put back together again,
when it’s been destroyed and you swear that it could never
be rebuilt
hold on a minute
because in that moment
things will in fact have just begun

Reflections on "Jesus Manifesto"


I recently finished reading an excellent book coauthored by Len Sweet (The Gospel According to Starbucks, Soul Tsunami) and Frank Viola (Pagan Christianity, Reimagining the Church). There have been throughout the centuries many pendulum swings of Christological thought. It seems that many theologians and scholars are content to take up arms in the debate between the “Jesus of History” and the “Christ of Faith.” Leaning too much to any one extreme, however, misses the richness and beauty of the God-Man that we worship. Sweet and Viola have done an outstanding job of refocusing the reader’s mind and heart onto the true awesomeness of Jesus the Christ. At the same time, they tackle the tough questions about living as the body of Christ on the earth. I thought I’d start back writing again with some reflections on various parts of the book.


Introduction:

I think this paragraph helps to set the stage for the rest of the book:
“So what is Christianity? It is Christ. Nothing more. Nothing less. Christianity is not an ideology or a philosophy. Neither is it a new type of morality, social ethic, or worldview. Christianity is the ‘good news’ that beauty, truth, and goodness are found in a person. And true humanity and community are founded on and experienced by connection to that person.”
Wow. What a statement. As I think back to my world religions class, I am still blown away by all the competing faiths, belief systems, moralities, and worldviews swirling around our culture today. It’s very easy to take a broad, sweeping view of all the religions and to think that Christianity has nothing unique to offer. It seems like all the major religions have their sacred texts, their god/gods/spirits, their earthly leaders/founders, their own code of ethics, their own belief about the afterlife, etc. It’s so easy to get caught up in the similarities blurring the lines that we lose focus on the truly unique nature of our faith.
Christ is what makes our faith as unique today as it was in first century Palestine. Yes, we believe in the Bible as the word of God, but the Word became flesh. Yes, we have a certain morality for which we strive, but all of that morality was fulfilled in Christ. Yes, we have a way of viewing the world around us, but we see the world as God sees the world. Yes, we believe in an afterlife, but we believe in eternal life here and now.
In Christ we find more than a list of rules and regulations. He gives us more than instructions on how to get to heaven. In Christ we find truth, beauty, community, acceptance, and a love that out-loves all other love that we could ever know. Christianity is Christ! When it becomes about “Christ and,” then we have lost our true focus. We have forgotten our first love.
I’ll leave you with this final quote:
“[W]e cannot properly love him if we haven’t caught sight of how incredibly glorious he is. But once we do–once we catch a sighting of Jesus Christ in all his glory–we will gladly exchange our dusty rites, Christian-speak, and pop-culture church-building tactics for the joy of becoming a walking, breathing ‘Jesus Manifesto.'”