Painting of the face of Christ based on the Shroud of Turin

Today: Psalms 33:1-11; Mark 16; Leviticus 25; Leviticus 26:1-13

A lot of people are okay with God. They are fine acknowledging a higher power. It is this JESUS they find offensive. Subconsciously or consciously they don’t want to accept that this Jesus might be the only way to get to God.
 
God’s Son agreed to and underwent the most horrific sacrifice to allow us to commune with God. Who are WE to reject God’s Son? How could we measly humans dismiss the plan of God?
 
Such arrogance is a lie from the enemy. When Peter rebuked Jesus for saying He was going to die, Jesus said, “Get behind me, Satan!” Jesus didn’t just comfort or gently correct Peter. He said, “Get behind me, Satan!” (Matt. 16:23) This idea that Jesus didn’t need to die is the Satanic deception. Jesus HAD to die. It was and is the only way to access God.
 
Satan loves it when people try to circumvent their way around Jesus to get to God. He knows very well it can’t be done. He’ll keep as many people embroiled within that delusion as long as he can, laughing as they pridefully scramble around unsuccessfully attempting to save themselves.
 
Jesus IS offensive. The Scriptures repeatedly make this clear. Why are we surprised when the world mocks Jesus? Why are we surprised when people think we are stupid for following Him? Why are we surprised when culture drags our children away from Jesus? We have to examine and guard our own hearts from being pulled away ourselves. Do we believe in Jesus or not? Culture’s attraction is powerful. It is difficult to resist. Where do we stand?
 
One of our biggest vulnerabilities is how nice we Christians are. We don’t want to offend people. So we keep our mouths shut when the world clamors around us. We soften our message so that our churches are ‘seeker friendly.’ We let that lie come sit in our lives just a little bit, because it’s easier, more comfortable like a big soft easy chair in the foyer. But the problem is that once we let that enemy in the door just the littlest bit, he proceeds with his intentions of taking over — little by little, so slowly that we aren’t even aware of it happening. He will never be content just sitting in the foyer; he wants to control our whole life.
 
I’ve seen it happen over and over again to people I’ve worshipped with, even pastors of churches I’ve attended. Entire congregations get sucked into this lie because they started out trying to be nice, or trying to be hip and edgy. I myself have started down this road several times in my life. It is so seductive. It starts like this… Maybe I’m not seeing the whole picture? Maybe this ‘Jesus is the only way’ business IS old fashioned, too confining, uncool, an old raveling sweater that is too tight and smells like mothballs… It feels so good at first, those first steps down that new exciting road. The world feels so big. Look at me! Look how open-minded, progressive, and woke I am! Can you believe those stupid, silly, narrow-minded, boring Christians who still believe all that rubbish?! Yep, I too have entertained those thoughts more than once in my life.
 
But for some reason, every time I’ve started down that road, God has eventually yanked me off of it and pulled me back to Himself. I can’t take credit for it. God has done this, not me. I’m not that smart. And maybe that has something to do with it. I KNOW I’m just a stupid human. Something inside of me (I think it must be the Holy Spirit) recognizes that I’m not smart, strong, or good enough to save myself.
 
But those who continue down that worldly path grow increasingly restless, bitter and angry as their former beliefs deconstruct one by one. I’ve watched it happen over and over and it breaks my heart. Agnosticism, then atheism is the eventual destination and it isn’t a happy place. They are much worse off than people who never tried to believe in Jesus in the first place.
 
Our other vulnerability is unfulfilled expectations. I’ve witnessed so many people fall away from Jesus when their life plans were frustrated. This is why the Israelites shifted from praising Jesus to shouting ‘Crucify Him!” How quickly we can turn on Him when our plans are foiled.
 
We are told that God has plans for us. “The plan of the LORD stands forever, the plans of His heart from generation to generation.” (Psalms 33:11) We are told that God has plans to prosper us and not to harm us (Jeremiah 29:11). We THINK we know what this prospering or harming should look like. So when our life situations drift into what we think is harmful, or when what we think is prospering doesn’t happen, our faith can be shattered.
 
So what do we do then? Do we abandon our faith and assume that, oh well, we must have been wrong? Or do we recognize that maybe we’re not smart enough to figure out what this prospering and harming stuff really means? Maybe we’re not as privy to the plan as we thought we were.
 
And I promise you that this scenario of unmet expectations WILL happen to every one of us sooner or later. “The LORD nullifies the plan of nations; He frustrates the plan of peoples.” (Psalms 33:10)
 
I have lots of my own expectations, for my life, for my loved ones, for my country, for my world. I have so many opinions about the way I think things should turn out, and my own interpretations of prophecies. But I try to hold my expectations in an open hand. I try to remember that I could be wrong about pretty much everything. It helps me keep from getting tripped up by unfulfilled expectations.
 
So back to the original question. Did Jesus have to die or not? Did He really rise from the dead? Or is there wiggle room here? A lot of us want to plant our feet in both camps to make everybody happy, to be nice, to be comfortable, to be cool. But we either believe in Jesus or we don’t. Jesus IS offensive. We are either willing to stand with Him on the offensive side of the fence or we aren’t. I believe it is important that we examine our own hearts and figure out where we stand.
 
I stand on God, and His Son Jesus. I know His ways are much higher than my own. When my own plans don’t turn out like I think they should, I chalk it up to my own imperfect knowledge. Only God sees the whole picture. Only God knows complete truth.
 
That’s why I don’t try to candy-coat my writing or keep it always light and inspirational. That’s why I don’t worry if my sometimes harsh words might offend some people. I assume they will. That’s why I refuse to bow to our current culture that despises my belief in Jesus. That’s why I’m not worried if people think I’m stupid or backwards or that I believe in fairy tales. I really couldn’t care less what they think because I knew when I signed up for this what the cost could be.
 
And I choose JESUS.