Thursday, 7 August 2014

The Genie Jesus Crisis

Change aheadIf some high-profile preachers are right, Jesus wants to give you whatever you ask for. They also preach that Jesus isn't "against"  anything, rather He is a positive thinker who only focuses on positive matters. Someone recently said that if this Jesus had been the actual Jesus who walked the shores of Galilee in the first century, He would never have been crucified - because He would never have offended anybody! It's almost as if Jesus has been reduced to the status of a Genie and these preachers tell their thousands of fans how to 'rub the bottle' and get Jesus to grant them their wishes. While this 'Genie Jesus' might sound like an extreme example of how some people treat Jesus, the more common (and arguably more perilous) distortion is when people treat Jesus as Saviour without treating Him as Lord!
For if someone comes and proclaims another Jesus than the one we proclaimed, or if you receive a different spirit from the one you received, or if you accept a different gospel from the one you accepted, you put up with it readily enough!
Second Corinthians 11:4
Jesus wants you to follow Him, not just on Twitter, but in life.Reinventing Jesus seems to have become a kind of industry today. It's not only charlatans trying to make a buck who have distorted the Biblical Jesus into some kind of Genie Jesus, but there are now non-Christian activists who are attempting to portray Jesus as Someone who was tolerant, non-discriminatory, and endorsing of (or at least silent about) their lifestyles. This commits the same kind of perilous error that some celebrity preachers make: it reduces Jesus into our agenda. It demonstrates an utter lack of understanding of who Jesus is and what it means to follow Him. It diminishes Christ to occasional relevance. Jesus can never be reduced or diminished to occasional relevance. He has no interest in being a segment of someone's life. He does not compromise on what He expects from people - and what He expects is not being religious! You cannot equate following Jesus of Nazareth with merely 'being religious'. He doesn't ask for a segment of our lives. He doesn't ask for an hour and a half a week. He doesn't even ask for a portion of your income. He summons His creation to be reconciled to Him and to begin to live as we were designed.
¶ Then Jesus told his disciples, "If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me."
Matthew 16:24
Face palming JesusGenuine commitment to Christ is never about trying to get Him to be our 'Genie'. Of course, His offer of salvation from our sins - resulting in eternal life enjoyed in Paradise is an attractive deal - reasonably too good to refuse. We are the beneficiaries. We gain greatly. For some, their lives get so far off track that they turn to Jesus to rescue them - to save them. But when we receive Jesus Christ as our Saviour it is by accepting the only offer Christ makes- to receive Him as Lord. 'Accepting' requires surrender. The person who receives Christ has accepted that He has gently conquered them. They are no long treating Jesus like a Genie or as the Activists do who distort Christ's teachings into unrecognisability.
because, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.
Romans 10:9
At the time of the New Testament being written, a form of slavery was embedded in the Graeco-Roman culture in which the Church was birthed. When the New Testament uses words like "Lord" or "Master" it is drawing upon the background of this slavery language. Does this paint becoming a follower of Christ in a different light, knowing that it uses the words, "Lord" and "Master" to describe Christ, and words like, "follower", "servant", "slave", "bond-slave" to describe Christians? It should!
You will never be truly free until you become a slave of Christ.
But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God, the fruit you get leads to sanctification and its end, eternal life. 
Romans 6:22
Chalmers Church LauncestonIn Hebrews 3:1, we are told to "Consider Jesus..." The unnamed writer to the Hebrews invites us to consider four sequential and great subjects. The first is foundational: Jesus Christ, the Apostle and High Priest of our faith. Consider whether you have reduced Jesus to a diminutive Genie - a Jesus you only turn to when you want Him to do something for you. Consider whether you have surrendered to Him and what that increasingly looks like. Consider whether you are growing as a servant in light of Christ's supremacy over your life.

After considering Jesus, the writer to the Hebrews invites his audience to consider one another (Heb. 10:24). Jesus Christ has ordained that following Him be done in a community of other followers. You cannot follow Christ and not be a member of a church. The writer to the Hebrews wants his audience to consider the implications of following Christ for joining, being active in, contributing to, a local church. This consideration led the author of Hebrews to regard participation in the church's worship service as an indespensible aspect of following Christ and living under His Lordship. So important is church in the life of a servant of Christ, that Hebrews says it should never be 'neglected'.
And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.
Hebrews 10:24-25
Jesus as a genie in a genie bottlePeople who have a 'Genie' concept of Jesus have probably never really considered the Biblical description of Jesus. They have therefore certainly never considered how vital their attending to Christ's church is either. "Do not neglect attending church" says Hebrews 10:25. This has little appeal to the one who treats Jesus like their Genie in a bottle (church becomes one of the several lesser priorities for their Sundays), but it has magnetic appeal to those who know Jesus Christ as Lord of Lord and King of Kings. And then Hebrews points us back to Christ in Hebrews 12:3 by inviting us to consider what Christ endured in order to redeem us and purchase the Church. The final 'consider' invitation relates to considering those who best surrender to Christ in Hebrews 13:7. It says, "Consider the outcome of their way of life, and imitate their faith." Consider Christ. Consider His church. Consider what Christ went through in order to redeem us. Consider what those who have surrendered to Christ have gone through for the sake of Christ and His Church.
 I would give myself, Lord,
Fully unto Thee,
That Thy heart's desire
Be fulfilled in me.
I no more would struggle
To myself reform,
Thus in me to hinder
What Thou wouldst perform.
Thou Art All My Life, Lord, Frances R. Havergal
Settling for a 'Genie" Jesus when you could enjoy the Genuine Jesus is being, as C.S. Lewis put it, "...half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased." (C.S. Lewis, The Weight of Glory, and Other Addresses) Jesus wants us to know Him, and make Him known. When He is treated as if He was some kind of Genie, and His Church as some kind of E.R., we send a very distorted picture to the world of what it means to follow Christ. It is my hope that we won't be 'Genie' Christians and that our church won't be a 'Genie' Church. Tasmania urgently, desperately, and critically needs to know the Genuine Jesus and He has ordained that He displayed gloriously through His Church. I long for the day when every church in Tasmania is full to the brim with followers of Christ and those seeking to meet their Lord. This Sunday, leave your Religious Genie Bottles at home - better still, don't wait till Sunday, ditch them now and open the sacred leaves of Scripture and come to know the One who conquers souls. Supposedy writing for a younger audience, C.S.Lewis in another place wrote this -
"If you're thirsty, you may drink."
They were the first words she had heard since Scrubb had spoken to her on the edge of the cliff. For a second she stared here and there, wondering who had spoken. Then the voice said again, "If you are thirsty, come and drink," and of course she remembered what Scrubb had said about animals talking in that other world, and realized that it was the lion speaking. Anyway, she had seen its lips move this time, and the voice was not like a man's. It was deeper, wilder, and stronger; a sort of heavy, golden voice. It did not make her any less frightened than she had been before, but it made her frightened in rather a different way.
"Are you not thirsty?" said the Lion.
"I'm dying of thirst," said Jill.
"Then drink," said the Lion.
"May I - could I - would you mind going away while I do?" said Jill.
The Lion answered this only by a look and a very low growl. And as Jill gazed at its motionless bulk, she realized that she might as well have asked the whole mountain to move aside for her convenience.
The delicious rippling noise of the stream was driving her nearly frantic.
"Will you promise not to - do anything to me, if I do come?" said Jill.
"I make no promise," said the Lion.
Jill was so thirsty now that, without noticing it, she had come a step nearer.
"Do you eat girls?" she said.
"I have swallowed up girls and boys, women and men, kings and emperors, cities and realms," said the Lion. It didn't say this as if it were boasting, nor as if it were sorry, nor as if it were angry. It just said it.
"I daren't come and drink," said Jill.
"Then you will die of thirst," said the Lion.
"Oh dear!" said Jill, coming another step nearer. "I suppose I must go and look for another stream then."
"There is no other stream," said the Lion.

C.S. Lewis, The Silver Chair, Chapter 2
Ps. Andrew

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