I often consider what Jesus thinks about my life and what it would be like if instead of having come 2,000+ years ago, what if He had come in the present day instead? What if he came strolling in....walked right up and called us by name? What if Jesus came to church on Sunday?? Would I have recognized Him, received Him...believed His message? What does He think about our worship, our teaching, our lives?
As a person who loves the Lord and has a relationship with Him, I think about these things. Now some of you are jumping ahead already. Yes, the sheep know their shepherd. Those who are in Christ and have received His salvation are no longer dead but alive to Christ, meaning we are under grace and are forgiven. He is a God of infinite love and grace, receiving the prodigal son a thousand times over. We are human, born into a fallen world and stricken with a sin nature; prone to wander, like sheep without a shepherd. The Lord knows this and illustrated it in His teaching. The Bible makes it clear that even the children of God are prone to stray and fall short, and this grieves the Holy Spirit until we are reconciled to Him. The apostle Paul struggled with sin noting that often the things he did not want to do, he found himself doing.
I wonder how Jesus would react if he were to physically walk through the doors at a worship service in one of our worship gatherings today. Would people greet him and welcome him in? Would he be wearing a suit or jeans? Would he hear gossip and idle chatter as he walked through the halls? I wonder if he would stop off at the nursery to play with the children? Would we hand him a bulletin outlining the order of worship and rush him in? Would people stare if he walked in a little late? Would we have him fill out an attendance card and ask him if he wanted to join our Sunday School Class? And, what if he stood up to speak, pray, or even teach? Would we look at him like he was a lunatic for interupting the service? Would we hear him out? What if in the midst of the move of the Spirit, the service were brought to an abrupt close because a football game starts at noon? If He looked at the budget, would outreach be a line item or a way of life? If he tossed in a few dollars to the collection plate, would a deacon sneer, not knowing it was all the money He had? I just wonder, would he and his friends feel like they were in a worship service or would we let them know in subtle ways that they were out of place and unwelcome.
I wonder because the Jesus I read about in scripture was heartbroken and angered in the outer courts of the temple when he saw the hucksters and moneychangers who were turning His Father's house of prayer, into a den of cheap robbers. Now most churches are not filled with robbers of this sort, but I see how things like worldliness and complacency have robbed our churches of faith and how a "Jesus our way, right away" mentality has crept in. Our worship is often lacking in sincerity and the power that comes when the Holy Spirit is at work. We rob God in our tithe, we rob him of our time, and our talents. We speak at God in our prayers but offer no chance of rebuttal because we talk more than we listen. Yes, I dare say, He is a God who can, and perhaps should, be angered by our disobedience, stubbornness, and immaturity. We misconstrue and misrepresent the life He came to demonstrate because we have not taken the time to truly know Him. We sell love and forgiveness but forsake justice and holiness. You know, Jesus may not attend church in person, but he is there in Spirit, if indeed we are gathered in His name.
He wants to be near and he is just as real as if he were standing right next to us. I often think of the woman who washed Jesus feet with her own hair as she shed tears. She recognized Jesus for who He was and anointed His feet with an expensive gift of perfume - the most precious thing she owned. The scripture says:
"When the Pharisee who had invited him saw this, he said to himself, 'If this man were a prophet, he would know who is touching him and what kind of woman she is—that she is a sinner.' Jesus answered him, 'Simon, I have something to tell you.' 'Tell me, teacher,' he said. 'Two men owed money to a certain moneylender. One owed him five hundred denarii, and the other fifty. Neither of them had the money to pay him back, so he canceled the debts of both. Now which of them will love him more?' Simon replied, 'I suppose the one who had the bigger debt canceled.' 'You have judged correctly,' Jesus said. Then he turned toward the woman and said to Simon, 'Do you see this woman? I came into your house. You did not give me any water for my feet, but she wet my feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair. You did not give me a kiss, but this woman, from the time I entered, has not stopped kissing my feet. You did not put oil on my head, but she has poured perfume on my feet. Therefore, I tell you, her many sins have been forgiven—for she loved much. But he who has been forgiven little loves little.' Then Jesus said to her, 'Your sins are forgiven.' The other guests began to say among themselves, 'Who is this who even forgives sins?' Jesus said to the woman, 'Your faith has saved you; go in peace." Luke 7:36-50
Many lifetime church goers do not love much because we do not think we had much to be saved from to begin with....or at least we were not nearly as bad of a person as a dozen others we could name. But according to the scripture, those who are apart from Christ all share a common destiny. It does not matter how "good" you think you are. I can't help but think that if we really knew just how desperately lost and hopeless we were apart from Christ, if we could only see a glimpse of the separation from God that is hell, we would fall on our faces before the King of Kings who so graciously and humbly left the glory of heaven to die for you and for me. And not even the gates of hell would be able to stop us from sharing the good news of Christ and His salvation to those around us. I'm talking about the need for an awakening.
In some respects I think Malcolm Muggeridge was right in his book "Christ and the Media" - there is something very sacred about the image of God; so sacred that Christ’s coming in our time would have been violated by the inevitable coverage of his life and ministry by the media. No television cameras where present for the “Sermon on the Mount,” or the transfiguration, or to witness the passion of our Lord at Golgotha. Instead "the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us." His life's record is the one that would transcend the millennia and speak to our hearts. For although Jesus walked upon this earth in a body of flesh, it was not in the glory He deserved. It was a walk of honesty and humility. A life of love poured out unto death, and "No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love him" Isaiah 64:4.
I do not mean to be overly critical and I do not intend to imply that all churches are so spiritually deprived. I just think we, meaning I, often forget who it is all about. The "church" has become synonymous with a place Christians go, rather than a way of life. I'll just end this post with the words of the Scottish clergyman, James Stewart concerning the life of Jesus:
He was the meekest and lowliest of all the sons of men, yet he spoke of coming on the clouds of heaven with the glory of God. He was so austere that evil spirits and demons cried out in terror at his coming, yet he was so genial and winsome and approachable, that the children loved to play with him and the little ones nestled in his arms. His presence at the innocent gaiety of a village wedding was like the presence of sunshine. No one was half so kind or compassionate to sinners, yet no one ever spoke such red-hot scorching words about sin.
A bruised reed he would not break. His whole life was love. Yet on one occasion he demanded of the Pharisees how they were expected to escape the damnation of hell.
He was a dreamer of dreams and a seer of visions, yet for sheer stark realism, he has all of our self-styled realists soundly beaten. He was the servant of all, washing the disciples' feet, yet masterfully he strode into the temple, and the hucksters and moneychangers fell over one another to get away in their mad rush from the fire they saw blazing in his eyes. He saved others, yet at the last, he himself did not save. There is nothing in history like the union of contrasts which confronts us in the gospels; the mystery of Jesus is the mystery of divine personality.