Do we really need the Jesus part?

pexels-photo-1769691Do we really need the Jesus part of faith? In a word, Yes.

I know, I know. But stick with me …

Yesterday we talked about the truth that God loves us. That He created us and is exceedingly pleased with His excellent work. But I also hinted at the reality that just three chapters into this human adventure, We The People got ourselves into a bit of a situation…

You’ve heard the story: Adam and Eve. A serpent that slithered in with the twisted suggestion that a command God gave them to keep them safe – Do not eat the fruit from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good & Evil – was unfair and unwarranted. “Aren’t you afraid of missing out?” the snake hissed. “Don’t you want to know these secret things? It will make you like God…”

Eve took a bite, then gave some to Adam. Then they discovered: Knowing evil? Really sucks. Suddenly, they felt SHAME — they were ashamed of what they’d done but also how they looked. They realized they were naked, and not in a fun way. They responded in the only way they could think of: they hid – from themselves and from God – trying to escape this new reality.

When God found them (not because He was hunting them down to unleash His fury, but because He loved them & wanted to hang out) they were like shells of their former selves: they were tossing blame back & forth, struggling to explain and defend themselves, still feeling naked and exposed even though things had been fine just a short while earlier. It was a mess.

Pretty much the situation we find ourselves now. (Have you noticed, especially since the last election and now in quarantine, how often we’re flipping out, freaking out, and posting our freak outs on social media in ways we would have thought impossible before? How sometimes people we considered friends now seem downright scary? And how often we believe that we can FIX THIS MESS if we just post how WE KNOW BETTER in a bold font with bright colors? Ugh.)

Because of Adam & Eve bought the lie, we didn’t get our intended inheritance of only knowing good. We got the package deal instead, and now each one of us is tempted by this personalized evil that somehow knows our weak spots and lives to lure us into situations that promise everything we dream of…only to dump us out in a pile of guilt, shame, fear, doubt, confusion, and disappointment…and then insist that it’s up to us to fix it.

Good times.

Remember a couple days back when I shared about my screw up at the grocery store? My first instinct when that happened was to go through this same cycle: I knew it was my fault. But I looked for some way to deny that it, or at least spread around the blame. (The signage wasn’t clear, the woman overreacted…) Of course I minimized the importance (it wasn’t THAT big a deal…) I wanted to escape. But just escaping doesn’t fix the situation…or the awful feeling inside that we get when we screw up that makes us want to hide, or someone’s reaction to us cuts us deep and leaves us hurting.

God doesn’t leave us in this mess. He HELPS.  The help He sent is Jesus. Jesus comes into your life and asks, “Would you like help with that? I have a better plan if you’re interested…” 

This is what it means to be saved.

Jesus came to restore what we lost.

I’ve experienced this. This what prompted me in the grocery store to call out, “I’m sorry…I’m really sorry!” to the woman who was yelling at me after my mistake stressed her out. Jesus is the reason that apology was real – because left to my own self, I’d be like, “Get over it lady…we’re all wearing masks and I’m still at least eight feet away from you. It’s no big deal…”  But I’d still feel like crap about the encounter. My deflection & self-justification can’t fix that feeling. But Jesus can. And He did.

***

One of my funniest memories, back when I first began considering Jesus was this day when I was reading magazine articles filled with self-improvement ideas. Try this workout, this new make up trick, this mindset hack!  I sensed Jesus looking over my shoulder and saying, “Seriously? THIS is my competition???”

It’s a fair question. Consider: what, exactly, are you doing to fix your own life that is working out so well that you can just blow by Jesus and say, ThanksButNo ???

I can vouch that Jesus’ way of handling our human mess is superior to mine, and that the results are significantly better. I recommend Jesus, even though I don’t get a free toaster oven or a better condo in Heaven if you decide to give Him a try based on my suggestion.

***

What is the alternative we’re likely to settle for? The idea that we need to UNDERSTAND everything about Jesus in order receive His offer.  So we argue with each other about Jesus, rather than turning to Him and saying, “Okay, I’m interested…show me what you’ve got.”

It’s not that we never understand. I think understanding is something we pursue over the course of a lifetime. But it’s not our ticket to the show.

***

Your experiment, if you’re interested: Ask. Tell Jesus, “I want to take You up on your offer. I think I might need to be saved…”

Jesus comes into the most personal aspects of our lives – our biggest dreams and deepest fears – and says, Salvation is possible. Salvation is real. Would you like Me to save you?

I’ve found that it’s worth it to say YES.

Let me pray for us:

God, thank You that You love us enough to give us a tangible plan to save us from our struggles. Granted, it’s a bit unusual, and different than what we might have chosen. Thank You that Your plan is better than our best effort. Jesus, bless us with the courage to believe, and everything we need to take you up on Your offer of salvation and abundant life. Amen.

 

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