Saturday, April 19, 2014

Religion's Demise & the Victory of Jesus: How I Know He Lives

You ask me how I know Jesus lives?

Well, it’s not because some kid nearly died and claims he saw grandpa and the kid’s stillborn sister.  And it’s certainly not because some popular TV preacher says a lunar calendar’s normalcy for an event that happens every few hundred years is somehow prophetic.  Or even because some people find significance (or opposition) in political leaders who take advantage of the gullible and betray a nation’s history and purpose.

Those examples of syllogistic thinking just reveal how desperately mankind clings to hope & change…as well as how biblically illiterate and undiscerning people are, especially many who sit in pews of all stripes & colors.

Nor is it because the haters have managed to produce anti-Christian films that sell at the box office by stirring up controversy, playing to Protestantism’s biggest weakness (mindless protest).  We were played, and it’s downright embarrassing how often we keep falling for such overt hucksterism.

No, such examples simply reveal how ignorant of  truth we are and how much we want to have something to believe in, even if it means fighting in support of the enemy of our soul without even realizing it…at the expense of the very community and people we claim to love and opposing the very spirit of unity our Lord prayed we would embrace.

Further, these inadequacies only reveal that the problem IS religion – mankind’s attempts to appease (and please) God.

Sadly, most of what our world sees today isn’t Jesus, it’s religion.  Ridiculous, ill-informed, misguided, lame beliefs passed on to unsuspecting and undiscerning patrons who shove it off on others without thinking about the consequences.  Religion isn’t the opiate of the masses (that’s an understatement); it’s death and depravity disguised in altruistic form.  It’s deception at its most heinous: Pretending to be that which we are not in the hopes we can convince ourselves we’re not as bad as we really are.

And when we act religiously rather than Jesus-ly, no wonder the world rejects our message (after all, Jesus came to OPPOSE the very system our human nature likes to perpetuate).

In Jesus’ life and ministry, I see firsthand somebody who understood this full well…somebody who saw the depravity of man and the nature of God and exposed both for who they really are.  And the world has never been the same since.

Civilization has seen many “good men” and great prophets and leaders with noble intentions, but none that comforted the afflicted and afflicted the comfortable like Jesus did.  Not only did he unconditionally love the lowliest of lowly, defend the innocents, embrace the outcasts and misfits, and redeem those society said could never be; He questioned those in powerful positions, challenged their authority and misaligned beliefs, and overthrew their petty systems of self-reinforcement.

He did not establish a Church and neither did Peter or Paul.  Jesus founded a way of life, a living relationship that transcends and transforms.

And in His very death He played the ultimate April Fool’s joke on the biggest sucker of all: His critics and enemies believed they’d finally silenced Him while in the midst of their celebration He was providing for our salvation and toppling their authority because even death could not hold Him.

I know I serve a risen Savior who’s in the world today because I’ve seen two things:
  1. I’ve seen God at work in the big and the small things of life: Things science still cannot begin to explain (or which science finally confirms that God has said all along), irrational beliefs that bear out and make sense only in light of an otherworldly existence, the creative potential of innovation that bears the stamp of a genius designer, and selfless redemptive actions that even altruism can’t account for.
  2. And I’ve seen the alternative.  I’ve seen the hopelessness and depravity of man and know firsthand the reality of evil – and know full well that man (or woman) at their very best can’t even begin to fix the mess no matter how much we try to brag otherwise.  I’ve seen the worst we can dish out and know it only echoes what the Bible already says is the problem, and I’ve seen the best we can do and know it falls dismally short, affirming yet again what God already told us was true.
Religion has had its day for thousands of years, and you’d think mankind would get a clue sooner or later that it simply doesn’t work.  You can’t fix stupid, and that’s all it does.  It perpetuates systems of control which keep us from experiencing what’s actually real (and yes, it IS a “matrix” of sorts).

But Jesus?  That’s another story!

Jesus has been consistently changing the story of humanity, re-framing the rigidity of religion, changing people from the inside out, and empowering people to redemptively transform society ever since.  And I see firsthand the impact when He speaks and I listen…I love the opportunity to participate with Him in doing the very things He lived to do and died to enable.

And I, for one, am very glad He’s alive and well and living in our world today in the hearts of genuine believers.  There are lots of religious pretenders, but the people who actually know Jesus personally and live out His mission in the world around them are a much smaller lot...and they’re out to change the world.