TXAB: The Christ Almighty Blog

08 September 2015

So… do you know Jesus?

If you haven’t heard the gospel, let me fill you in.

I know better than to assume everyone who browses Christ Almighty! is a Christian.

I learned better on other blogs I’ve done. ’Cause some of the non-Christians piped up. There’s a certain personality type—the class clown, the noisy guy in the theater, the guy in the nightclub who wears way too much musk, the Facebook friend who over-comments on everything (which, I gotta admit, is sometimes me) —who can’t go anywhere without making their presence known. If you prefer to go unnoticed, these are the people you never wanna befriend; they’ll always embarrass you. And on blogs, they’re the sort who wanna make sure the blogger (i.e. me) knew they visited. Sometimes with a polite note, and sometimes by flinging poo like a chimpanzee.

On blogs, sometimes they’re the troll who comments, in case any Christians are reading, “You suckers do realize all this religious stuff is [synonym for poo-poo]: Jesus is dead, the bible is science fiction, and churches are scams to separate the feeble-minded from their money.” Or the guy who emails me 10 pages of out-of-context or non-sequitur “corrections” to the article I posted. Or the pagan who instant-messages me that she’s struggling to reconcile my statements with the superficial Buddhism which she’s convinced she can practice alongside Christianity. I get all sorts.

If they’re truly interested in Jesus, I’m not gonna drive ’em away. On the contrary: I’m always gonna try to drive ’em towards. Namely towards Jesus.

Years ago I participated in a multifaith synchroblog. That’s where a bunch of bloggers—in this case, people of many different religions—all write on the same topic. Then most of us read each other’s pieces to see their take on the topic. (Or not; some of us just want more people to read our blogs, and care not a whit for anyone else’s opinion.) And in my piece I stated up front that I was trying to introduce any pagan visitors to Jesus. I didn’t want any of ’em thinking it was a hidden, ulterior motive: I wanted it nice and obvious. There are enough Christian phonies out there without my pretending to be disinterested in evangelism when I’m totally not.

If you don’t know Jesus, I’d like you to. Let me introduce you.

Good news.

Sometimes it’s called the gospel; sometimes the evangel. Both words mean “good news”—either in ancient English or ancient Greek. ’Cause you should consider it good news. If you don’t, either we Christians have presented it wrong, or you don’t believe it. Or both.

The good news, according to Christ Jesus, is God’s kingdom has come near. Mk 1.15

What’s God’s kingdom? (Or, as it’s elsewhere described, heaven’s kingdom?) In short, God wants to be our king. He wants a personal, individual relationship with every person on the planet. He wants us to be his people, and he our God. Ex 6.7 He wants us to be his children, and he our father. Yep, just like he’s Jesus’s father: He wants to be tight with us just as Jesus is tight with him.

Most of us humans seriously doubt we can have such a relationship with God. Mostly ’cause we figure God’s so different, and so distant. He’s an almighty spirit, the creator of the cosmos, and so absolutely good—most of us figure if we actually encountered God’s might and goodness, it’d kill us. Jg 13.22 And y’know, it probably would. Ex 33.20 So we assume we’re too unworthy to interact with him, and go through a whole bunch of convolutions to make ourselves righteous before we dare try it. Before we pray, we do a bunch of acts of penance. Or we promise to do a ton of good deeds. Or we give up bad habits, or give up beloved things, or otherwise try to appease him first. We believe we just can’t go to God as-is. We’re too rotten.

So when Jesus tells us the kingdom has come near, what he means is we actually don’t have to bridge that gap between God and us. God already did that. He became human—namely Jesus—and lived among humans. Jn 1.14 He’s not distant from us. He’s right here. If you want him, here he is.

“But we’re not worthy!” Not a problem. God forgave you. Yeah, our evildoing, our sins, mean we owe him big time: He’s had to clean up our messes, and put right what we’ve bent, folded, spindled, and mutilated. We ought to make up for our sins—and we’ve racked up so many. Really, we deserve death, for sin kills. Ro 6.23 But God took care of that. After becoming human, he got killed. (Seems people couldn’t handle how he kept acting as if he was God or something.) So—in a way we Christians don’t entirely understand, and still debate about—he applies his death to our sin, and considers our debt paid. We might still have to make things right with one another, but with God… we’re good. Having a relationship with him no longer has any hurdles. Seriously.

Yeah, this fact is hard for a lot of people to accept. Including Christians. Some of us still try to make ourselves worthy of God… as if it’s even possible to achieve worthiness after a lifetime of more profane synonym for “buggering” up. That’s where faith comes in: We gotta trust Jesus when he says God really, truly wants relationship with us. If we don’t trust Jesus, it’s our own fault when our relationships with God suck: He’s not the one with the hangups. That’d be us.

So, since we can have relationships with God, he can empower us to live productive, fruitful lives. Not materially fruitful, although sometimes that’s a side effect: Spiritually fruitful. We can become better people. We can sin less. We can be more loving, more kind, more patient, more joyful. We can tap God’s supernatural power and perform miracles. No, really. Hang out with the right Christians and I guarantee you’ll see some.

What’s more, by taking out sin, Jesus also took out death. He proved this by himself coming back from the dead: He’s alive. Temporarily in heaven, there’s gonna be a day he comes back to earth, to rule God’s kingdom in person. Not metaphorically; for real. And the day he does, every Christian, every God-follower throughout history, is getting raised from the dead just like Jesus was. 1Co 6.14 And we’re not dying again: This is eternal life.

This is the good news.

Hard to believe? Okay.

Yeah, in order to believe the gospel, there are certain things we gotta believe in the first place. Like the existence of God: If you don’t believe in any such being, the rest is simply mythological. It’s the world’s nicest bedtime story, with the world’s biggest happy ending. But you can’t believe a word of it.

Likewise resurrection. This was the ancient Greeks’ hangup: Their philosophy, which they were steeped in since childhood, taught ’em matter is bad (it decays, y’know) but spirit is good. So when you die, you become pure spirit—and that’s good. You want to be pure spirit, and live in Elysium (the good Greek afterlife) forever. And plenty of people nowadays believe the very same thing: When you die, you go to heaven and live with God and the angels. Maybe even become an angel yourself. (Actually you don’t; they’re a different species.) But you don’t get resurrected and put back in a body, of all things. It sounds so limiting.

Likewise in Jesus being God. Most people easily accept the idea of Jesus being a great man, or moral teacher. Some are okay with him being divine—but only if it’s true we can become divine just like he did. Actually we can become perfect like him, and that’s one of God’s goals. But Jesus didn’t become God; he was God long before he ever became human. Jn 1.1 But if we can’t believe this, it’s hard to accept the rest.

This is where faith comes in. Faith is just another word for trust: We trust Jesus. We take his word for it that everything he teaches is true. We figure, “I’m not sure I believe all of this. Or any of it. But I’m gonna try it and see what happens. If there’s anything to it, stuff’s gonna happen. I’ll hear God talk to me. I’ll see him do miracles. If there’s not, if it’s all rubbish, nothing will happen, nothing’ll change; it’ll fall apart. So here goes nothing.” And we take the leap.

And stuff happens.