Monday, May 11, 2020
Dressing Up Jesus in a Santa Suit for the Easter Bunny Egg Hunt
Dressing Up Jesus in a Santa Suit for the Easter Bunny Egg Hunt
We’ve all seen those viewer warnings preceding some television programming: “Warning! Content Not Suitable for Children and Adolescents!”
Essentially, big brother or whoever makes those social engineering decisions is saying the particular broadcast requires some kinda emotional, intellectual and spiritual maturity so the “mature” viewer is alerted to shield immature viewers in their care from being corrupted as if the one in control of the clicker is mature enough to make such decisions.
While that assumption reminds us of an old aphorism that is best left to mature audiences, let me suggest this message is meant for maturing Christians; as in those who are more offended by people insulting Jesus by the book than the faithful offending people for not trying to honor Jesus by the book.
There are lots of those kinda “secularly correct” posers in churches.
In other words, if you care more about the feelings of the unfaithful than the affirmation, applause, adoration and allegiance due Father, Son and Holy Spirit alone, you can stop reading right now; and if you’ve just tuned in as some kinda religious exercise rather than wanting to deepen your relationship with God and have been modeling that infidelity for your household, you’ll want to make sure nobody else reads this.
O.K., you’ve been warned.
When I last mentioned my pastor and first mentor The Rev. Harold F. Mante, I said he always greeted people with a “Blessings on you!” and “Keep the Faith!” as his way of saying he wanted God to bless us even though we don’t deserve it as he urged us to keep the faith as our grateful response to His grace through faith in Jesus.
With a nod to Eugene Peterson who said we don’t need motivational speeches for Christians to attend worship, fork over for the Kingdom and do something for God’s sake because authentic believers are already motivated to do that, I quoted my pastor and mentor on what he thought about “motivating” worship attendance and stewardship: “If you need gimmicks to get them in the seats or fundraisers to keep the church going, you’ve got a church that needs more Christians in it.”
O.K., now here comes something from him that I believe he got from God that necessitated today’s warning.
I understand if you need to stop reading.
Sometimes the salt really stings and the light exposes the darkness in our lives.
He wouldn’t allow Santa or the Easter Bunny in the church.
He said, “When Santa and the Easter Bunny are crucified, rise from the dead in three days and have the power to guarantee eternal life, then we’ll let ‘em in.”
“But Pastor Harold, Santa and the Easter Bunny are so harmless.”
His response: “Yeah, just like the golden calf that was a lot of bull. How are you gonna explain to your children that Jesus is real after you lied to them about Santa and the Easter Bunny and insisted they believe in those two fairy tales or they wouldn’t get gifts and candy? “
That’s why God gave laws to us.
God provided liberating limits like the Ten Commandments to keep us from insulting God’s holiness and hurting others which hurts our relationships with Him and His; or as Paul wrote, “I would not have know sin if it were not for the law (Romans 7:7ff.).
Jesus was candid, clear and conclusive about the God’s laws: “I did not come to abolish the Law or the Prophets…[The Hebrew Scriptures aka OT]…but to fulfill the law…[to explain it more fully]…and unless your lawfulness/righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never get into the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 5:17-20).
Before we take a closer look at this portion of the Sermon Mount as we continue preparing the bride (Church) for the coming of the groom (Jesus), let’s make a quick and eternally vital parenthesis.
No one is pure and perfect in every way.
We will always need Jesus to bridge the gap between God’s perfect will for our lives and our imperfect lives incapable of fully assimilating God’s perfect will into our lives.
If we are saved – if we have invited Jesus into our heads, hearts and guts as Lord and Savior and are doing what we need to do to increase our intimacy with Him through worship, prayer, sacrament, Bible study and other Biblically prescribed spiritual disciplines – we will express our gratitude by wanting to get better and better and better when it comes to obeying Him.
Jesus said we should pay attention to the Hebrew Scriptures aka OT: “Don’t think that I came to abolish the Law and the Prophets. I did not come to abolish them but to fulfill them.”
Emphasizing His esteem for the OT, He goes on, “I tell you, until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest letter or one stroke of a letter will pass away from the law until all things are accomplished.”
Then He provides a viewer warning for people who say we don’t need to pay any more attention to the OT: “Therefore, whoever breaks one of the least of these commands and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven.”
The good news comes on the heel of that warning: “Whoever does and teaches these commands will be called great in the kingdom of heaven.”
Two quick points.
First, when we read the red letters of the New Testament, Jesus fulfills or fully explains and deepens our understanding of the OT.
For example, immediately after these verses in Matthew 5:17-20, Jesus fulfills or fully explains and deepens our understanding of significant OT laws: “You have heard that it was said…[and now I’ll explain it more fully so your understanding of God’s will for your life will deepen]…” (Matthew 5:21-48).
It’s called progressive theology – a greater disclosing or revealing. Jesus takes us deeper into God’s will for our lives by more fully explaining how God feels about murder, adultery, divorce, truth and lying, service and love (check out Matthew 5:21-48).
Second, Jesus is the fulfillment of all prophecy. He is Lord and Savior. He accomplishes for us what we cannot accomplish for ourselves. We live confidently in the assurance of eternal life by grace through faith in Jesus.
This part of the Sermon on the Mount ends with an assignment: “Unless your righteousness surpasses that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never get into the kingdom of heaven.”
Two more quick points.
First, our Lord is nauseated by lukewarm religion about him such as sported by scribes and Pharisees.
You recall what He said about that to the Laodicean church in Revelation 3:14-22: “I know your works. You aren’t hot or cold for Me. You’re lukewarm. You make Me wanna barf!”
Jesus wants passion!
Jesus wants us to wake up, look up, stand up, speak up, act up, salt, shine, leavenate and heavenate.
Second, religious people count on good works to get into heaven. That was the error of the scribes and Pharisees and people like them throughout history who think it’s possible to be pure and perfect in every way.
Nonsense because not possible!
Our good works express our gratitude to God for confident living and eternal life by grace through faith in Jesus.
Pero good works don’t get us into heaven because we can never do enough of ‘em to earn that reward.
That’s our Lord’s business.
That’s why we urge people to invite Jesus into their heads, hearts and guts and let Him accomplish what no one can accomplish for themselves.
O.K., back to the warning.
The rest of this message is really, really, really unsuitable for immature, baby, passive-aggressive Christians who are always making excuses for their unGodly behaviors and pretending what they think is somehow as important as what God has revealed completely in His law and grace incarnated in Jesus and explained in the Bible.
Many years ago in Kansas City, a woman insisted on seeing me right after a sermon in which I had said Jesus would never perform an abortion because God says over and over and over that we are to choose life over death.
Back to the warning!
If you can show me how I am wrong by Jesus, Holy Scripture and common sense enlightened by the Holy Spirit that never contradicts Jesus by the book, go for it. If not, please don’t make a secularly correct fool of yourself. Yes, it’s still a free country and you have every right to pretend you know more than God has revealed in Jesus and the Bible; pero that secular correctness is not invited among people praying and trying to be increasingly sanctified unto God in gratitude for existential relief and eternal salvation by grace through faith in Jesus.
Anyway, she really was angry at me and cursed me.
That’s a vocational hazard for all Christians.
God has told us over and over and over again in the Bible that we’ll be hated for waking up, looking up, standing up, speaking up, acting up, salting, shining, leavenating and heavenating.
When she took a breath from berating me, I felt inspired to ask a question: “Have you had an abortion?”
She broke into tears and cried out: “Yes and it was the right thing to do! Everybody told me that it was the right thing to do! My lover who got me pregnant! How could I tell my husband that I wasn’t carrying his child? Planned Parenthood said it was the right thing to do. My pastor before you came said it was the right thing to do…”
I interrupted: “But you never felt it was the right thing to do.”
She cried harder: “But it’s too late now. I can’t go back. I…”
Then I said, “It was the wrong thing to do. You know that. But it’s not too late for you to confess that to God, ask His forgiveness, receive His forgiveness and move on.”
And a very angry woman because she was living with unconfessed sin in her life found peace in God’s forgiveness.
God’s laws help us to avoid lives filled with such burdens.
God’s grace by faith in Jesus provides the forgiveness to move on from a past of spiritual distancing from Him and all of the hell that brings into our lives and those around us.
The spirit of the Antichrist is lawlessness, lying deceit and spiritual distancing from Father, Son and Holy Spirit to the end that we do not taste heaven in time by experiencing His forgiveness and don’t press on with the assurance of paradise after the last breath.
The spirit of Antichrist is declaring Jesus as not being the most essential ingredient to life, liberty and the pursuit of existential and eternal happiness.
Here’s the Holy Spirit of Father God in the words of the resurrected Christ: “I am coming soon! Blessed is the one who keeps the words of the prophecy of this book…I am coming soon! My reward is with Me…Blessed are those who wash their robes, so that they may have the right to the tree of life and may enter the city by the gates.”
When we hold onto sin and try to rationalize it, we are angry, curse witnesses to Biblically Christocentric truth and make hell on earth for ourselves.
When we do our best to trust and obey God and leave the gap between His perfect will and our impurities, we live happily ever after.
Don’t be distracted and don’t deceive yourself or your household by secularly correct Santa suits.
Keep the faith!
Let God love you!
Blessings and Love!