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Saturday, June 5, 2010

Jesus Is My Homeboy Pt. 2

One of the dangerous places that the "needy Jesus" theology leads to is ignorance of a very real enemy.  A soft Gospel focuses on the individual and not Christ, the created and not the Creator.  A very real and present spiritual enemy does not have much room in the "needy Jesus" theologian's life.  It just doesn't fit.  From experience, I know.

Let's be clear, our focus and our attention should be on Christ, not on the forces of the enemy.  To focus on the enemy is just an inversion of the "needy Jesus" theology.  Where one focuses on the individual the other focuses on the enemy.  Neither one focuses on the only thing worthy of devotion, Christ. 

But to ignore the spiritual battle that rages around us is so dangerous.  I'm convinced one of the most effective tools of the enemy on the Western world is to convince us that he does not exist. 

There is an amazing passage in Luke where Jesus gives us a glimpse into this spiritual battle:

"Simon, Simon, behold, Satan has demanded permission to sift you like wheat; but I have prayed for you, that your faith may not fail; and you, when once you have turned again, strengthen your brothers."     (Luke 22:31-32)

What is interesting about this passage is what Jesus did NOT pray.  Absent is a prayer of "keep Simon from this, remove Simon from this situation, take away this trial, do not let Simon suffer."  No.  Jesus prayed that in the midst of the trial Simon's faith would not fail, and once the trial was over Simon would be able to strengthen his brothers from a position of experience.

And what was this trial?  Verse 34 shows Jesus telling Simon (Peter) "the rooster will not crow today until you have denied three times that you know Me".  The man who had walked on water with Jesus was going to deny him to a servant girl before sunrise.  Satan petitioned at the throne of God to sift Simon like wheat, and he did.  But our Lord and Savior petitioned as well, and faith did not fail and Simon would become the "rock" on which Christ built His Church (Matthew 16:18).

Does "needy Jesus" increase faith?  Simon's faith was strengthened by trial (and the Holy Spirit), not by cute fire-side conversations about what makes him smile.

A similar instance takes place in Zechariah:

"Then he showed me Joshua the high priest standing before the angel of the Lord, and Satan standing at his right hand to accuse him.  The Lord said to Satan, 'The Lord rebuke you, Satan!  Indeed, the Lord who has chosen Jerusalem rebuke you!  Is this not a brand plucked from the fire?'  Now Joshua was clothed with filthy garments and standing before the angel.  He spoke and said to those who were standing before him, saying, 'Remove the filthy garments from him.'  Again he said to him, 'See, I have taken your iniquity away from you and will clothe you with festal robes.'     Zechariah 3:1-4

The very real enemy stood before the throne of God pointing out the "filthy garments" (which represented the sin and iniquity of the nation of Israel).  The accuser demanded punishment, but the Advocate (Jesus Christ) petitioned for grace.  God cannot condemn sin for which His son paid the penalty.  "There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus" (Romans 8:1).

We face a very real enemy that desires to destroy us.  Peter (called "Simon" by Jesus) tells us that the devil "prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour".  I think the one who was sifted "like wheat" by the devil has a pretty good frame of reference on this matter.  The man knows what he is talking about!  To ignore the enemy is to ignore the petition that Jesus makes on our behalf before the Throne.  And if Jesus prayed for an individual about to be tested by Satan, how much more should we be doing the same. 

And what happens when "needy Jesus" gets shipped out to other parts of the world where evil is tangible?  Try telling the woman in Nigeria whose muslim husband threatens to kill her if she accepts Christ that Jesus wants to "know all about her so that she can know all about herself".  She needs "faith that will not fail" in that trial.  She doesn't need a buddy, she needs a mighty Savior.  She needs a Conqueror who is "at the right hand of God, who intercedes for us" (Romans 8:34).

How can this same Christ, who stands before the throne of God as the paid sacrifice of OUR sin, be reduced to such a level that we would look on Him as a buddy who is just like us?  This Christ died so that we could have a relationship and fellowship with the Creator of the heavens and the earth.  How could we twist that relationship to be about anything other than worship of Him?


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