Jesus taught people by explaining what had just happened, Christians teach people rules, theories and information
I’ve been reading my Bible this week alone and also with my family. We’ve been going through the book of Acts together at meal times and looking again at what “life in the movement” is like. It’s hard to find the words to express how different “churchianity” is from the real life of following Jesus. If you are interested you can read more about that here or buy my book “Accidental Apostle” here
I’m continuing my series called “Jesus is not a Christian” (you can read the introductory post here)
This post is titled – “Jesus taught people by explaining what had just happened, Christians teach people rules, theories and information.”
I grew up going to Church. I heard all about the amazing life that Jesus promises us. People stood up and talked about it every Sunday. We even had some books about a few special people who actually experienced it in other countries. But we all seemed resigned to the fact that we would never really experience this amazing life ourselves.
Instead we satisfied ourselves with ideas and concepts, teaching about what heaven will be like (even though 99% of those around us do not even know about eternity and sin), great ideas to make our social meetings better for ourselves and other self-fulfilling teachings like that.
Instead of living according to Christ and His words, we sold out and decided to live by our own traditions and ideas. After all Jesus’ words were a little too demanding and obeying Him would threaten our nice little church bubble. The preservation of our own comfort seemed to become our mission – rather than the redemption of the nations.
Here’s what was written about Jesus in Mark 1:21-29,
“Jesus and his companions went to the town of Capernaum. When the Sabbath day came, he went into the synagogue and began to teach. The people were amazed at his teaching, for he taught with real authority—quite unlike the teachers of religious law. Suddenly, a man in the synagogue who was possessed by an evil spirit cried out, “Why are you interfering with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are—the Holy One of God!” But Jesus reprimanded him. “Be quiet! Come out of the man,” he ordered. At that, the evil spirit screamed, threw the man into a convulsion, and then came out of him. Amazement gripped the audience, and they began to discuss what had happened. “What sort of new teaching is this?” they asked excitedly. “It has such authority! Even evil spirits obey his orders!” The news about Jesus spread quickly throughout the entire region of Galilee.”
Now I don’t want to be disrespectful to all the social media prophets out there. But I want to suggest that the new teaching we need is not about global vaccines, the mark of the beast or what color the roads will be in heaven. This scripture is a reminder that the new teaching we need is actually the old teaching that Jesus continues to ask us to be faithful to! Jesus has entrusted His life transforming power to all those who obey Him and continue with his work. Last time I checked there was still a lot of unfinished Kingdom business in my part of the UK let alone the world. The new teaching needed today is actually 2000 years old!
Are you an end time fantasist waiting for events to unfold around you. Or are you a follower of Jesus who is bringing the Kingdom to the people and circumstances around you?
People in the Gospel of Mark were excited because Jesus’ teaching led to people being set free from demons. They observed that it had real authority quite unlike the teachers of religious law. (Click here to listen to a message about how following Jesus is “Quite unlike” church as we know it) I wonder what people are thinking about God’s people today? Do they see us as people who have a power and message that can lead to their freedom, healing and salvation? Or do they see us religious people who speak about a good way to live but who don’t really live it themselves?
When I was a teenager I went to different youth events and “Christian” festivals. A popular phrase at that time was “Now to live the life” . We talked about it, sang songs about it and prayed about it. The heart behind it all was that the life Jesus has for us has to be lived 24/7. It’s not something you just talk about, sing about and pray about (Even though that’s what we did instead of actually doing it?!?!?!?!) I wonder though how many of us have actually gone on to “life the life?”. I wonder how much of the information churned out by Christians helps others “live the life”? And I seriously wonder whether most churches and Christians want to even “live the life”?
As I’ve sought to follow Jesus I’ve seen that Jesus called His followers into a way of life where the Kingdom actually came on earth! He didn’t call them to perpetual prayer meetings where they tarried for a future revival. Amazing things actually happened (miracles, healings, conversions and churches multiplying) and much of Jesus’ teaching was shared in the midst of the action as he made sense of the mess. It is a million miles away from the teaching offered to us in church meetings, seminaries and online videos today!
I asked a few people this week what they had learned from me. One friend said that he’d appreciated my example of how to “Obey the Spirit’s leading before thinking about it” Whilst there are times where I think I could have used more wisdom I am generally thankful that God has helped me to create a Kingdom mess in the world by seeking to follow the Holy Spirit. I fear that we have intellectualized and theorized the Holy Spirit out of most of our “church life”. We’ve been left with an empty shell that masquerades itself as “Christianity” but is actually nothing like Christ,
“They will act religious, but they will reject the power that could make them godly.” (2 Timothy 3:5)
In another version of the bible this verse says that people will practice a form of Godliness but deny it’s power! Jesus invited ordinary men and women to experience life – not just to read about it, study it or pray about it.
Here are some points to help you walk in the life that Jesus has for you (instead of just hearing or talking about it!)
Jesus doesn’t live in meetings, he sits at tables
Thank God for how He is using the Cornavirus to shake His people out of meetings and church buildings. I have a feeling that Jesus left most of our meetings and church buildings a long time ago so it’s a shame that it’s taken a worldwide pandemic to get us all following him out into the world. In Revelation 3:20 Jesus gives this message to the church, “Look! I stand at the door and knock. If you hear my voice and open the door, I will come in, and we will share a meal together as friends.” Jesus shared that the pinnacle of Spirituality is sitting around a table and eating with him as a friend. If we look to meetings, curated services and emotional worship experiences then our spirituality may become disconnected from the reality that Jesus desires and the simplicity needed to complete His work.
It’s not what you know but who you know
The religious leaders had the ‘word of God’ but they missed Jesus in their midst, “You search the Scriptures because you think they give you eternal life. But the Scriptures point to me! Yet you refuse to come to me to receive this life.” (John 5:39) I love the Bible and completely believe that it is inspired and useful for every aspect of life. But I also check myself regularly to make sure that I am not living with my head in a rule book and missing Jesus standing right in front of me. People need the risen Christ dwelling in their hearts through faith. Clever expository sermons and regurgitating huge chunks of the Bible do not necessarily lead to that happening. If you disagree with me then take a read about what Paul said in 1 Corinthians 2.
You don’t experience God’s Kingdom in a classroom or sat in a row
The New Testament wasn’t written from a professor’s study, it was written in the midst of the action. We look back at Paul’s letters and idolise him as some great theologian. He wasn’t. He was a servant of God who was on his knees trying to make sense of the Kingdom mess that was being created by the Church’s obedience to Jesus. Jesus called His disciples into a life of discipleship. His classroom was the world and the disciples learned how to be faithful in the face of stormy seas and demon possessed men. None of it was theory or some distant theology which had no bearing on daily life.
Give me that classroom any day!