Thursday, January 31, 2013

The Lion of Judah

“and one of the elders said to me, “Stop weeping; behold, the Lion that is from the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has overcome so as to open the book and its seven seals.”  (Revelation 5:5)

                I’ve never read the Chronicles of Narnia (I’m a disgraceful excuse for a preacher, I know).  But I know that in the Narnia stories, Jesus is represented by a lion named Aslan.  Which is a great representation for at least two reasons.  First, Revelation 5:5 (above) refers to Jesus as not only the son of David from the tribe of Judah, but as the lion of Judah, a picture of authority, strength, and even fear.  And second, I’m told that the citizens of Narnia have a consistent description of Aslan which I love: He is not a tame lion.  Notice this description of Aslan, from WikiNarnia:

As he appears in Narnia, Aslan is a large talking lion who is terrifying, magnificent, and beautiful all at once. Aslan appears different sizes to different people, such that he is always larger than everyone; as people grow, he grows with them. Aslan is very wise, and a powerful force for good, but as Narnians often say, “he’s not a tame lion.” He can be dangerous, and is an unconquerable enemy.

This description is very different from what you often hear people say about Jesus today.  In fact, I am constantly amused – and saddened – at our culture’s attempts to redefine who Jesus was.  If you listen in to religious conversations, media soundbites, and even many church pulpits, you might be tempted to think Jesus was just a meek man who walked around telling people to love each other and not judge each other.  Jesus loved people, so He would never tell anyone they are lost or wrong, so we are told.  He loved everyone, so He just went around helping people and didn’t really make a big deal about truth or correct doctrine, so we are told. 


Getting A Better Understanding of Jesus

Is that really who Jesus was?  Was He an untamed lion, or just a nice little man who didn’t offend anyone?

                 Here’s just a few things we find in the Bible about Jesus that shatter the modern stereotype:

Ø  Jesus said that most people are lost, and only a few are saved (Matt. 7:13-14).  And Jesus said that “no one comes to the Father” except through Him (Jn 14:6).  Jesus, you can’t say that most people are lost, it sounds arrogant!  And it offends people to say that they are lost if they don’t come to God through You – there’s lots of sincere religious people out there!

Ø  Jesus drove out those who were buying and selling in the temple, turning over tables and even brandishing a whip to do it!  (Jn 2:13-16)  Jesus, you’re acting like a loose cannon – stop being so serious about disrespecting God.  Shouldn’t we start by asking them nicely to leave?

Ø  Jesus is the one who said that divorcing your spouse and marrying someone else without the cause of sexual immorality is considered adultery in God’s eyes (Matt. 19:9).  Jesus, you can’t say that, people are searching for their own happiness, and you can’t say there’s rights and wrongs in that search, it’s insensitive!

Ø  One of Jesus’ common lessons was that we should be extreme about getting sin out of our life; even if it’s painful, because it’s better to endure the pain of removing sin than to endure the pain of hell (Matt. 18:7-9, for example).  Jesus, are you just trying to scare people toward God?  All your talk about hell sounds manipulative to the atheists, and wouldn’t people be more accepting of a less radical form of Christianity?

Ø  Jesus told one crowd seeking food that they should “not work for the food which perishes, but for the food which endures to eternal life,” which only He could give (John 6:26-27).  Jesus, you’re not supposed to talk like that to poor people that are hungry – can’t we just focus on helping people and downplay the saved/lost/eternity thing?

Clearly Jesus was much more serious about truth and correct living than our world wants Him to be.  He had a passion for what is right, and demanded a high standard from people. 


Getting A Better Understanding of Love

But wait, someone says, I thought Jesus was all about love!  Aren’t the first and second commandments centered around love? (Matt. 22:36-40)  Well there is no doubt that Jesus loved us more than anyone else ever has.  More than our parents, spouses, children, or friends.  Not only did He create us just the way He wanted, but He left heaven for us, to show us how to live and die on a cross to cover our sins, all while we were still in sinful rebellion (Rom. 5:8-9).  His love is unquestioned. 

                Which immediately makes us think about what love is and what it isn’t.  As 1 Corinthians 13:6 says, love “does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth.”  Love doesn’t pat someone on the head and tell them they’re OK with God when they’re not.  You’re about to be hit by a car, but I don’t want to seem “judgmental” so I won’t tell you to move, and I’ll claim it’s love.  If you get hit, oh well, at least you’ll think I’m a “loving” person.  That’s not only irresponsible; it’s merely a self-centered desire for that person to like me, and it’s unloving in its worst form.  Love doesn’t rejoice with you when you are living in an unrighteous way; love rejoices with the truth. 

                It’s that real form of love that Jesus shows us.  Though our culture seems determined to ignore the “tougher side” of Jesus, His sincere love was shown through telling people the truth, even if it wasn’t what they wanted to hear. 


Getting A Better Understanding of Following Jesus

 I wonder how much we let the world tell us what Jesus was like, rather than see what God tells us about Him in the Bible.  And I wonder how much we back off telling people the truth because we still have a lot of “people-pleasing” in us.  Probably more than we’d care to explore or admit. 

Jesus shows us not only love for people, but a love that is willing to tell you the truth, whether you find it offensive or not.   So If I’m following Jesus – really following Jesus – I need to be reminded that I am not just part of a parade that encourages people to show love for each other and help those in need.  Those are good things, but if they stand alone – without a strong stand for the full truth of the gospel – they are merely a culturally acceptable and culturally-tamed version of Christianity.  Christianity is not about following Jesus in the ways people like.  We are supposed to be following the Son of God in all that He truly is.  He is the only way to God.  He is the only truth.  He is the lion of Judah.  And He is not a tame lion.


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