I’ve written before about how Jesus needs to be not only our guide but our measure. We need to measure ourselves against him to see how far we’ve progressed (or not) along our journey home.
One aspect of Jesus that perpetually has me in awe is his kindness toward those he knows are condemned. He knew long before Judas Iscariot took the 30 cursed coins that he would betray him, and yet Jesus continued to treat Judas the same as he treated all his other disciples, even up to and including the moment of his arrest.
Jesus extends the same courtesy to the fallen angels. I am careful when I write this, because I know it upsets some people, but God loves the condemned and the fallen as much as he loves the blessed and the saved. Even those beyond his help he treats with courtesy. He is not scornful or dismissive of them. Jesus reflects this Godly trait by his own treatment of the condemned. We born-agains need to learn from this, and do it.
On many an occasion, I’ve heard Christians rail against those they consider condemned, or dismiss the fallen angels and demons as unworthy of any consideration other than contempt. This is not the right approach to these beings. Remember that Jesus knew them in Heaven before he came down to Earth. He knew them and interacted with them in the heavenly realms. Before they rebelled and fell, they were his peers.
Scripture tells us not to judge others. God judges, we don’t. Our job is to treat everyone as we would want to be treated, without exception, even the suspected Judases among us.
My heart breaks when I think about my loved ones who’ve rejected Jesus. I know what they’re missing now and what they may in fact miss for all eternity unless they turn back to God, and it brings me to tears. But the choice is theirs; God doesn’t force himself on anyone. He honors their free will.
Now think of God and all of his loved ones he’s lost for eternity. He doesn’t stop loving them because they’ve rejected him; he loves them the same as before. Even knowing that they can never love him back or receive his Heavenly reward that he wanted so much to give them, he still loves them. And until it’s their time, he still protects them. He gives them the reward they think they need. As Jesus says: “They have their reward.”
Again, I know this topic is difficult for some Christians, but we are not “some Christians”. We are, if genuinely born-again, the prophesied remnant, the inheritors of God’s promise to redeem his people Israel, and the bearers of his Holy Spirit during our time on Earth. As inheritors of God’s promise, we are granted enormous privileges, and with them come equally enormous responsibilities. We need to open our minds to see as God sees, as exemplified in Jesus.
If Jesus didn’t curse the fallen spirits, then neither should we.
If Jesus didn’t curse Judas Iscariot, then neither should we curse the Judases in our lives.
Love does not distinguish between good and evil when it comes to treating others as we want to be treated. Jesus says God sends his rain on the righteous and unrighteous alike. God does this to show us what it means to treat all others (not just some, all others) as we want to be treated.
Let God do the judging, and let us get on with the loving.
I’ll have been born-again 22 years as of May 2021. In all that time, I’ve entered into a lot church buildings, spoken with a lot of people who called themselves Christians, and read and watched a lot of so-called Christian media. What I started to discern even as a newborn-again is what I call the creepy factor. I don’t think people are trying to be creepy; they just come across as creepy. Maybe you know what I mean and maybe you don’t, but the closest thing I can compare it to is someone who’s been brainwashed into a cult.
People caught up in a cult don’t actually believe what they claim to believe. They know it’s all BS, but they’re so heavily invested in it, that they’ve smothered that part of them that knows it’s BS so it won’t give them away. You know someone’s involved in a cult when their personality changes. When people are genuinely born-again, their personality doesn’t change. They have the same personality, but their values change. Cult members always change personality so that you almost don’t even recognize them anymore. That’s how much one part of them is overcompensating for knowing it’s all BS but not letting the other part of them that knows it’s BS get the upper hand and openly admit it.
Which brings me to the creepy cult factor that I discerned already as a newborn-again, way back in 1999. I’d been reborn from atheism, so everything I learned about God and Jesus as a newborn-again I learned from God and Jesus (and the Bible), not from people. God and Jesus and the Bible were my spiritual mother’s milk, and I couldn’t get enough of them. I was always at the spiritual teat, sucking and smacking away. During that time, I just assumed everyone who said they were Christian were actually Christian and had the same rebirth experience as I had. God let me believe that, the same way as God lets toddlers believe that all adults are good and kind and looking out for their best interests. It suits the toddlers’ purposes at that point to believe this half-truth, and God encourages them to keep believing it for a time. Even so, he let me believe that everyone who said they were Christian were actually Christian.
But toddlers occasionally fall down and go boom, and I was no exception. God had me going into a church building literally every day for the first three and a half years of my rebirth. Initially, it was Catholic buildings, and then it was Protestant buildings. That’s when I really started getting to know the creepy factor. Catholics are generally so lukewarm about the “celebration” of their beliefs that they’re just this side of corpse-like. There was very little what I would call creepy factor among Catholics, since they were basically just putting in time. There was nothing fake about their boredom at being “in church”. The boredom was genuine, and most of them didn’t hide it. The stampede for the door at the end of the service was something to behold.
Me, I was always the last one to leave the building. I thought God lived there (in a little box at the side of the altar), and I wanted to spend as much time as I could with him. God let me believe all this because it suited his purpose. Maybe he was testing me, or maybe was feeding me in a different way, or maybe he just liked seeing even one person who genuinely wanted to be there in what was called his house.
Protestants, on the other hand, have cornered the market on the creepy factor. I don’t know if it’s because of the way they’re raised or the kind of creepy people they’re around when they’re in a church building and it rubs off on them, but I never felt at home in a Protestant congregation. It was just like being in a Catholic congregation, but instead of genuine boredom, there was genuine fake faith. Now I’m not saying that everyone in the congregation was a fraud, but the feeling I got was that people were shouting alleluia with their mouths, not their hearts. The surface of their spiritual skin was warmish, but beneath the surface they were just as corpse-like as the Catholics. And when the service ended, there was just as much of a stampede for the door.
It made me equal parts sad and squirmy.
But the worst of it was the people who believed it was their duty to witness God’s love to strangers. It sounds like a good thing, right, to witness God’s love to strangers? But if you’ve ever been on the receiving end of someone saying they love but you can see in their eyes and hear in their voice that they actually don’t, then you have an idea what I’m talking about. When you tell someone that God loves them, they’re not going to feel God’s love unless you genuinely believe that God loves that person. You have to genuinely believe it in order for God to work through you. Otherwise, you’re just mouthing words like a brainwashed cult member. Fake faith. A version of the creepy factor.
Jesus hated the creepy factor. In fact, it was the one thing that drove him nuts whenever he went to dine with the religious powers-that-be of the day. He called it “hypocrisy”, and the powers-that-be hated him for it.
I see the creepy factor a lot in the Christian movies I’ve seen, particularly in the scenes where they’re trying to convince someone to “let Jesus into your heart”. Sometimes the creepy factor is so off the charts, I have to turn the movie off. In fact, it was one such scene that drove me to write this blog article tonight.
God doesn’t beg people to let him into their lives. Jesus never begged people to believe was the Messiah. He preached and taught. Scripture says that Jesus stands at the door and knocks. It doesn’t say that Jesus is out there on his knees, weeping and moaning and tearing his clothes to get your attention. No – he’s just quietly standing there knocking. No begging, no wheedling, no whining, no fixing you with a vacant stare, telling you how much he loves you. He just stands and knocks.
So this is the creepy factor as I see it: People pretending to believe something they don’t really believe. I don’t know why they’re pretending to believe (that’s between them and God), but it has cult brainwashing written all over it. God called it lip service, in Old Testament days. Jesus called it hypocrisy. I call it the creepy factor because it makes my skin crawl.
Being born-again was the best thing that ever happened to me. I thank God every day for his grace, and even as I fall down go boom again and again and haul myself back onto my feet again and again, I love God more and more. I love God more than I love my life, more even than I love myself (and if you’ve spent any time on this blog, you’ll know that’s saying something).
When I was an atheist, I couldn’t imagine pretending to be a Christian. The thought of it was anathema to me. Even now, as a Christian myself, I find people who are pretending to be Christian just as loathsome, but for the opposite reason – I’m furious at them for holding God’s love and grace and mercy so cheap. It makes me want to scream at them. Unbelievers you can’t scream at, because they’re deaf and won’t hear you anyway, but people who say they’re believers but who don’t actually believe – they’re worse than unbelievers. They’re doubly deaf and doubly blind.
To hold God’s love and grace and mercy so cheap, to hold Jesus’ sacrifice at the cross so cheap – this has to be the worst sin of all. Jesus thought so, too, and told the powers-that-be as much. He said that the repentant and despised tax collectors and prostitutes would be marching into Heaven to great fanfare, but not the hypocrites. Not the lip servers. Not the brainwashed creepy fake believers.
Thank you, my friend, for reading this far. What I say here is something that needs to be said, because mainstream commercialized Christendom as it stands today is basically a load of hogwash that’s no better than a creepy cult. It has very little to do with God’s Kingdom or what Jesus taught during his ministry years. If you suspect that you might have a bit of the creepy factor in you, throw yourself at God’s mercy and pray for him to give you a heart of flesh instead of a heart of stone. Pray for your beliefs to be based on God and Jesus and scripture, not the doctrines of men. So many people are believing lies and repeating lies and teaching lies that God’s Truth is being drowned out and his Word trampled underfoot. We were told this would happen, but don’t you be among those who are doing it, all the while staring vacantly into someone’s eyes and telling them how much God loves them.
We need to get real and stay real. Jesus was and is as real as it gets. There’s zero creepy factor in Jesus.
That’s what we should all strive for.
Every so often, Jesus is resurrected in the entertainment industry as the latest fad. The productions are usually presented as “true to the gospel” or “based on the historical Jesus”, but there is always something slightly off about them. I’ve been born-again for nearly 21 years, and I’ve seen my fair share of these faddish entertainments come and go. The latest is a multi-season miniseries called “The Chosen”, which, according to the show’s director, is loosely based on the life of Jesus.
I have no problem with people depicting Jesus or his followers as a form of entertainment, if the depiction is true to the gospel. Jesus himself said that those who are not against him are for him. He also taught using vivid parables and whatever props were at hand (including small children) and encouraged his followers to do the same. So presenting God’s Word as a form of entertainment is a built-in feature of spreading the Good News. However (and this is a big however), from what I’ve seen and heard in “The Chosen”, the writers take liberties with the gospel that would make even Judas Iscariot blush.
Take, for instance, the character Matthew, who suffers from autism. In case this bypassed the writers of “The Chosen”, Jesus is a healer. If the actual Matthew had Asperger’s, Jesus would have healed him as a first order of business. He would have cast out the demons oppressing Matthew and there would have been no more twitching or depression for him to deal with. And we know that Matthew did not, in fact, suffer from any form of oppression because Jesus told his disciples that they were all “clean”, other than for Judas Iscariot. So depicting Matthew as demon-ridden indicates to me that this show is, well, just another faddish Jesus show at best (written by those who don’t know Jesus and don’t know the gospel) or “another gospel” at worst.
The litmus test for any representation of Jesus or the gospels is what it makes you want to do. If it makes you want to read God’s Word and grow closer to God and Jesus, then it’s likely inspired by God. If, however, it makes you want to watch more of the same show (rather than read the Bible) and get to know the actors and producers and directors of the show better (rather than get to know God and Jesus better), then the work is likely not inspired by God.
In watching the few minutes of the show that I could endure, the only thing I wanted to do was turn it off. There is something very “broad way” about “The Chosen”, but again, I can only speak for myself and my own impressions. Perhaps the show is inspiring others to draw closer to God and Jesus, or perhaps it’s only drawing them closer to whatever screen they’re watching it on.
In any case, God can work through anything, including depictions of Matthew as a demon-plagued outcast. I myself will be steering clear of “The Chosen” (I would rather spend my time hanging out with God and Jesus, reading the Bible, and teaching God’s Word), but I pray that those who do choose to watch it will be inspired to want to get to know God and Jesus better, and to pick up a Bible and read the gospel for themselves.
Whose voice do you hear – the voice of the world or the voice of God?
And whose voice do you obey?
The voice of the world tells you to be afraid, very afraid, of everyone and everything around you, even and especially of the very air you breathe. But God through his holy angels tells you to “FEAR NOT!” Through Jesus, God tells you the only one you should fear is he who has the power to cast you, body and soul, into hell. There is no-one and nothing else to fear.
The world tells you to stifle your breath and muffle your words, making it hard for people to hear and understand you. But God tells you speak his Word loud and clear, as the Word you speak is his through the power of his Spirit. Do not stifle or muffle God’s Spirit.
The world tells you to fear people and to stand far away from them. But God through Jesus shows that even lepers can and should be touched.
The world tells you to veil your face even in the holy congregation, but the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross has forever removed the veil between God and his people. There is no reason to veil your face before God, if you are his. To veil your face before God is to deny the sacrifice of Jesus and the power of God to protect his people.
The world tells you to “trust the science” to heal you, but God tells you to trust only him. Jesus healed people by the power of God’s Holy Spirit, and so should his followers.
So I ask you again: Whose voice do you hear – the voice of the world or the voice of God?
Remember that God put the world under the control of Satan, so when you obey the voice of the world, you’re obeying Satan. When you bear the symbols of obedience to the world and take them into your body, you’re bearing the symbols of obedience to Satan. You’re showing the world – and God – who you really obey.
Be careful whose voice you hear, and even more careful whose voice you obey.
The Bible is a big book. I’ve written about it here and here, and I’ll probably never stop writing about it until the day I die. There are no Bibles in Heaven (which may surprise some people), but there are billions of Bibles on Earth. Sadly, most of them aren’t read.
The Bible is a big book with lots of words. Knowing that, and also knowing that most people won’t read the Bible, Jesus summed it up for us in seven simple words: TREAT OTHERS AS YOU WOULD BE TREATED. He told us that is the Law and the prophets. It’s also the core of his gospel message: TREAT OTHERS AS YOU WOULD BE TREATED. Whether you’re having a good day or a bad day, whether you’re sick or well, whether you’re (as Paul would say) “abased or abounding”, whether you’re hated or loved, you treat others as you would be treated. You don’t just treat Christians as you would be treated, you treat everyone as you would be treated, old and young, rich and poor, friend and foe, black, white, and everything in between.
When you do that, when you treat others as you would be treated, Jesus doesn’t just stand at the door and knock, he comes right in to live with you and brings God’s Holy Spirit with him, the same Spirit that was in the Old and New Testament prophets, and the same Spirit that was in Jesus during his time on Earth. You’ll know when God’s Holy Spirit has arrived because you’ll have no fear, the way Jesus had no fear. You’ll only have love and joy and compassion. Not once was Jesus shown to be anything but cool as a cucumber, even in his anger against the hypocrites, even when he was getting the bum’s rush from Nazareth, and even during his crucifixion. You don’t get cool like that on your own merits; that level of cool only comes from the presence of God’s Holy Spirit.
So when you treat others as you would be treated, in season and out, in good days and bad, God’s Spirit will be with you, and you’ll keep your cool. You’ll stand your spiritual ground. You’ll endure to the end, which is what we’re all here for. If you don’t treat others as you would be treated, God’s Spirit won’t come to live with you, you won’t keep your cool, and you won’t endure to the end, which means you won’t get to Heaven, no matter how hard you try.
Seven simple words: TREAT OTHERS AS YOU WOULD BE TREATED. That is the Law and the prophets and the gospel.
Do that, and you’ll live.
God’s holy angels were at the empty tomb, declaring Jesus’ resurrection, just as they had been at Jesus’ birth, declaring him the Messiah. The angels are often overlooked in the resurrection narrative, but they appear to be the first witnesses, and their job was to tell the disciples that Jesus had risen and to tell them to tell others.
Angels were a constant presence in Jesus’ life on Earth, from just before his conception to just after his resurrection. They manifested in visual form (that is, visual to humans) when they had a particularly important message to convey. And when they manifested in their heavenly form (with glistening white robes), the message was of utmost importance.
The angels who appeared at the tomb were wearing their glistening robes. We don’t know their names, but their job was to bear witness to the resurrection. Since those few precious words spoken at the empty tomb nearly 2,000 years ago, their witness has been repeated millions upon millions of times, creating a long human and angelic chain of “HE IS RISEN!” echoing through the ages.
When we declare Jesus risen – that is, that Jesus is Lord and Messiah – we stand with God’s holy angels who appeared at the tomb. We repeat their message, which was given to them directly from God: We repeat God’s words. We bear witness to the resurrection and all that it implies.
Our robes may not be glistening white (or even robes), but the words – “HE IS RISEN!” – are just as precious as they were when they came out of the mouths of the holy angels. And like God’s holy angels, we are also tasked with telling others the good news.
In doing this, we stand shoulder to shoulder with the angels and join the chain.
HE IS RISEN!
Now go and tell others.