Offending Like Jesus

You and I have grown up in a gentle season of faith-sharing.

Friendship evangelism. Seeker-friendly services. Love wins. We’re all going to be just fine.

And, while I’m glad not to have experienced weekly fire and brimstone sermons, each generation gets a little something right and a lot of something wrong.

Which is why it’s imperative we read the Bible – every generation – and consider what it meant in the context of its time and what it looks like now in our day.

If we seek to model Jesus, we may want to up our straight-talk factor over those side-hug, reassurance-type methods we’ve grown comfortable using.

Or, as I believe Jesus did beautifully, marry the two styles so that while people know God loves them, they also hear that the state of their souls is the most serious, vital business they’re ignoring at great risk.

No matter where else I’m reading in the Bible, I’m always reading a gospel. Studying Jesus. Watching Him work. Learning. Leaning in – leaning on. Right now, I’m in Matthew.

Once Matthew establishes that Jesus was born and faced immediate danger from those in power, he dispenses with much discussion of Jesus the toddler and fast forwards us to Jesus the man.

Too many of us at Christmas, treat Jesus like a baby, but even as a baby, He had the power to make kings tremble on their thrones. Jesus knows exactly what’s going on inside all humanity and He confronts it head on.

We can invite him into our Thanksgiving family meals – even the ones loaded with tension or loneliness or conflict – and know He’s equipped to supply us with everything we need to represent Him – even there.

Matthew introduces us immediately in Chapter 3 to Jesus’ cousin, John, who is as wild as they come, delivering the no-nonsense message that we all need to repent. The Greek word used for repent is: metanoéō, met-an-o-eh’-o; to think differently or afterwards, i.e. reconsider (morally, feel compunction):—repent. (according to Strong’s).

To think differently. To reconsider our ways. To change.

And in case we’re unclear about the fact that this isn’t just about saying sorry, John pounces on the Pharisees gathered at the river to join the line for baptism. He exhorts them clearly that they are to “bear fruit in keeping with repentance.” And he warns them not to think too highly of themselves because God is “able from these stones to raise up children for Abraham.”

If we have repented of our ways, our ways will be changed so that others see. Period. It’s not that we don’t wrestle with temptation, but that’s the key – we wrestle – we don’t lay down in front of temptation and presume on the cross of Christ to cover us.

Jesus comes to John for baptism and then faces his own temptation in the wilderness – but prevails over the temptation by the Word of God. When Jesus emerges from the wilderness, He learns that John has been arrested for his bold message – pointedly spoken against the King’s lover (his brother’s wife).

And from that time on, Matthew tells us, “Jesus began to preach, saying, ‘Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.’” (Matthew 4:17)

Repent. Think differently. Reconsider our ways. Change. For the kingdom of heaven is at hand.

The same message for peasants, Pharisees, priests, and kings. Repent. We are sinful. We live in a fallen world and are all touched, tainted, tempted, and tortured, but there is a Way of escape and the Way is Jesus Christ.

Hard to imagine John the Baptist or Jesus hedging their message or couching it or cushioning it or softening it or compromising with words like, “Well, this is my truth, but you may have a different one.” Or “There are probably many ways to God, but this is the one I’ve chosen.”

No. This is the way. And Jesus was loved and adored by the crowds. They flocked to Him. They dropped nets and followed Him. They welcomed Him to their tables and invited them to their feasts. Right up until the week they betrayed and crucified Him.

So, the problem isn’t the message of repentance. We can deliver this message and still communicate love.

I believe the problem is our near-belief.

See, most of us don’t believe in the way of Jesus – we NEARLY believe it. We’re holding back a little. We’re hedging our own bets. We’re leaving room for the notion that we may be wrong.

We’re not.

This is the way.

And everything for the people in our lives depends on it.

If we say we want to be like Jesus. If we want to live the way He did, and we want to represent Him with our words and with our lives, we must live with the certainty of His message.

Everyone we encounter every day – including us – needs to repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand. And we must bear fruit in keeping with repentance.

So, we deliver the message with courage and certainty for this was the way of Jesus.

And when people reject it, we remember the Words of God written in the gospel of John:

“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God.  And this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil. For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his works should be exposed. But whoever does what is true comes to the light, so that it may be clearly seen that his works have been carried out in God.” John 3:16-21 ESV.

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8 Comments

    The Conversation

  1. Marti says:

    Yesterday our small group at Bible study was discussing this very thing…Offending Like Jesus. Wish I had had your article with me…I would have read it to the group. Your words and summation would have been the bow on the package.

  2. Anonymous says:

    AMEN!

  3. Dale says:

    Great writing, Lori! John MacArthur just finished a series of sermons on repentance. We cannot sugarcoat the need to repent! And we MUST get our standards from God’s Word. Thanks for your words.

  4. Anonymous says:

    One of your best posts ever!! Please make a printer friendly option. thanks

  5. Nico van der Merwe says:

    Our luke-warm, near-belief, is probably the most dangerous position to be in. Thank you for this powerfull reminder.

  6. Rob McCullough says:

    Lori, thank you for being an ambassador for the Kingdom of God! An ambassador accurately represents the one who sent them. Blessings!

  7. Jim Klock says:

    Thanks, Lori, for your consistent seeking the Truth and communicating said Truth to us. Tough and tender love . That’s it in a nutshell. Have a great Thanksgiving! We have much to be thankful for.

  8. Rob McCullough says:

    Lori, thanks for being a true ambassador to our King!