Kanye Understands A Crucial Part Of The Gospel Other Celebrity ‘Christians’ Don’t: ‘It’s A Hard Road To Heaven’

The problem with so many Christ-claiming celebrities is that they don’t actually believe Jesus is King. It seems Kanye does.

Kanye Understands A Crucial Part Of The Gospel Other Celebrity ‘Christians’ Don’t: ‘It’s A Hard Road To Heaven’

Oct 30, 2019

 

Kanye is starting quite the conversation, a conversation that has Christians, non-Christians, white people, black people, Democrats, and Republicans all engaging for different reasons. Is Kanye really converted? Does his affinity for Donald Trump take away from his impact, or aid it? Is this a phase that will fizzle out? Is his album objectively good? Or are his lyrics just refreshing?

While questions like these are worth asking, we can make observations about his newly released album “Jesus Is King” without having all the answers. One fact that simply cannot be overlooked is the truly countercultural message in Kanye’s lyrics — one that is essential to the message of the gospel but so often left out of pop-culture claims to Christianity that ultimately fall flat.

That message is hard to miss: Jesus is King. Kanye weaves this theme throughout his lyrics, and now throughout his life.

Culture Promulgates a Weak Version of ‘Christianity’

How does this differ from other professing faith-filled celebs? To recall an opportune example, consider Bachelor Nation’s beloved Season 15 Bachelorette “Alabama Hannah” Brown. Hannah talked about her faith and being a Christian consistently throughout the show, and although it was unfortunate that the infamous sex “accusation” occurred courtesy of the most universally hated bachelor on the show, Luke P., Hannah revealed her worldview is no different from other celebrity, in-name-only Christians.

When Luke confronted her, however narcissistically, about the possibility of her having sex with one or more of the few remaining bachelors, the conversation escalated to Hannah dismissing Luke from the show. When he all but refused to leave, Hannah replied, “I have had sex … and Jesus still loves me.”

She’s not wrong. She did have sex, and Jesus still loves her. Good theology, Hannah. But her remorseless attitude perfectly encapsulates the flagrantly unbiblical worldview of countless pseudo-Christian celebs. Upon Luke’s exit, she continued, “I didn’t just go to the Fantasy Suite, I f-cked in a windmill. And guess what? We did it a second time,” before winking at the camera, her face in an ear-to-ear grin.

I’m not here to beat the dead Hannah B. horse. She is merely symptomatic of our culture’s exceptionally weak notion of what passes as “Christian.” As Refinery29 put it, Hannah is “a devout Christian who praises Jesus Christ in her Instagram bio.” Really? Is that all it takes to call oneself a Christian these days?

Real Christianity Results in Obedience

Pop culture icons tend to appeal to Christianity only insofar as it broadens their appeal to a Christian base. As soon as it seems not to benefit their wallets anymore, their faith doesn’t seem to be all that active. Not that keen spectators can’t see the reversal coming, for their faith doesn’t result in any identifiable fruit.

Often, the only evidence of Christianity is simply an Instagram bio — directly above an erotic pose in Calvin Klein underwear. Or in an interview soundbite — promoting an explicit new album. Or in a gaudy cross tattoo or necklace — stuck somewhere amid cleavage. These icons are Christians in name only. Not in understanding, not in message, and not in obedience.

That last part — obedience — is the hardest. Believing God exists is common sense, but merely acknowledging that isn’t Christianity. Making Jesus “King” and doing what he asks of you — that’s the difficult part. It’s that whole idea the book of James carries, that “faith without works is dead.”

Kanye’s theology isn’t perfect. “Excuse me if I mispronounce anything,” he says. “I am a recent convert. It means I recently got saved within this year.” But the gospel isn’t complicated. (In a sentence, as Pastor John Piper articulated, “The gospel is the news that Jesus Christ, the Righteous One, died for our sins and rose again, eternally triumphant over all his enemies, so that there is now no condemnation for those who believe, but only everlasting joy.”) Children can understand it. And Kanye has grasped the transformational aspect of the gospel that so many haven’t.

In one new song, “Use This Gospel,” he sings, “Use this gospel for protection. It’s a hard road to heaven.” Yes, it is, Kanye. If it weren’t, Jesus wouldn’t have instructed each of his followers to “take up [their] cross daily and follow” him.

As my friend put it, “[Kanye’s] passion for simple obedience is just so contagious.” It’s true. His simple obedience is evidenced in his lyrics, in his calls for modesty, in his warnings against premarital sex, in his denouncing of unbiblical public policies, and in his parenting goals.

Kanye Confesses Jesus Is King

His message in “Closed on Sunday” (Chick-fil-A mentions excepted) is rich with the practical outworking of a Christian not being “conformed to this world” but instead being “transformed”:

Raise our sons, train them in the faith
Through temptations, make sure they’re wide awake
Follow Jesus, listen and obey
No more livin’ for the culture, we nobody’s slave
Stand up for my home
Even if I take this walk alone
I bow down to the King upon the throne
My life is His, I’m no longer my own.

Whether Kanye is truly a Christian or not is something only he and God know. But one thing we do know is that a person can’t be a Christian if he doesn’t believe and live by these simple truths.

That’s the problem with so many Christ-claiming celebrities: They don’t actually believe Jesus is King. It seems Kanye does.

Kylee Zempel is an assistant editor at The Federalist. Follow her on Twitter @kyleezempel.

What Is Reformation Day?

 Oct 25, 2019

A single event on a single day changed the world. It was October 31, 1517. Brother Martin, a monk and a scholar, had struggled for years with his church, the church in Rome. He had been greatly disturbed by an unprecedented indulgence sale. The story has all the makings of a Hollywood blockbuster. Let’s meet the cast.

First, there is the young bishop—too young by church laws—Albert of Mainz. Not only was he bishop over two bishoprics, he desired an additional archbishopric over Mainz. This too was against church laws. So Albert appealed to the Pope in Rome, Leo X. From the De Medici family, Leo X greedily allowed his tastes to exceed his financial resources. Enter the artists and sculptors, Raphael and Michelangelo.

When Albert of Mainz appealed for a papal dispensation, Leo X was ready to deal. Albert, with the papal blessing, would sell indulgences for past, present, and future sins. All of this sickened the monk, Martin Luther. Can we buy our way into heaven? Luther had to speak out.

But why October 31? November 1 held a special place in the church calendar as All Saints’ Day. On November 1, 1517, a massive exhibit of newly acquired relics would be on display at Wittenberg, Luther’s home city. Pilgrims would come from all over, genuflect before the relics, and take hundreds, if not thousands, of years off time in purgatory. Luther’s soul grew even more vexed. None of this seemed right.

Martin Luther, a scholar, took quill in hand, dipped it in his inkwell and penned his 95 Theses on October 31, 1517. These were intended to spark a debate, to stir some soul-searching among his fellow brothers in the church. The 95 Theses sparked far more than a debate. The 95 Theses also revealed the church was far beyond rehabilitation. It needed a reformation. The church, and the world, would never be the same.

One of Luther’s 95 Theses simply declares, “The Church’s true treasure is the gospel of Jesus Christ.” That alone is the meaning of Reformation Day. The church had lost sight of the gospel because it had long ago papered over the pages of God’s Word with layer upon layer of tradition. Tradition always brings about systems of works, of earning your way back to God. It was true of the Pharisees, and it was true of medieval Roman Catholicism. Didn’t Christ Himself say, “My yoke is easy and my burden is light?” Reformation Day celebrates the joyful beauty of the liberating gospel of Jesus Christ.

What is Reformation Day? It is the day the light of the gospel broke forth out of darkness. It was the day that began the Protestant Reformation. It was a day that led to Martin Luther, John Calvin, John Knox, and may other Reformers helping the church find its way back to God’s Word as the only authority for faith and life and leading the church back to the glorious doctrines of justification by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone. It kindled the fires of missionary endeavors, it led to hymn writing and congregational singing, and it led to the centrality of the sermon and preaching for the people of God. It is the celebration of a theological, ecclesiastical, and cultural transformation.

So we celebrate Reformation Day. This day reminds us to be thankful for our past and to the Monk turned Reformer. What’s more, this day reminds us of our duty, our obligation, to keep the light of the gospel at the center of all we do.

https://www.ligonier.org/blog/what-is-reformation-day/

VIDEO The Immensity and Intensity of the Christian Faith – A deeper meaning to the crucifixion

SEPTEMBER 4, 2019 BY FRANCES ROGERS

Or, we might use the title, The Immensity and Intensity of the Gospel.
They are the same.

There is no Christian faith without the Gospel.

The Gospel is the means to a life of faith. It is more than just words spoken by men. The good news of Christ is more than men can ask and more than men can imagine. It is the revelation of the kingdom of God by the Spirit of God within the spirit of men.

It is meant to be experienced within the mind, the heart, and the life of men ~ beyond our own doing.

The Christian faith is different than any other faith. It is the only religion that addresses, deals with, and resolves the issues of sin and death.

The Gospel of Jesus Christ promises more than any other ~ promises we can trust ~ greater than any man could plan for himself.

Its immensity is little known because man cannot desire what he has never tasted. We do not taste unless we are drawn to and search God’s Word. The kingdom of God is the kingdom of the Christian faith to which the Gospel brings His people.

“It is the Father’s good pleasure to give us the kingdom.”
Luke 12:32

Who can describe such a kingdom?

The intensity of the Gospel and the Christian faith that excels through the Gospel is the working of the Gospel itself by the power of the Holy Spirit in the heart and life of men. Yes, I am repeating myself. The Gospel bears repeating even as preachers continue to proclaim the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ (Romans 10).

It is not puny words of men that fall to the ground, but it is the power of God for salvation to those who believe (Romans 1:16). It is power to quicken those who are dead in their trespasses and sin, awakening their senses to their sin and need of a Savior.

The power of the Gospel is the good news of Christ raising the dead to life in Him.

And what is the exceeding greatness of his power to us-ward who believe, according to the working of his mighty power,
Which he wrought in Christ, when he raised him from the dead,
and set him at his own right hand in the heavenly places,
Even when we were dead in sins,
hath quickened us together with Christ,

(by grace ye are saved;) 
Ephesians 1:19-20; 2:5

No minister, worth his salt, will throw out a dry bone to his congregation. Dead men need the meat of God’s Word to live. Those who have been revived ~ made new through the new birth of the Gospel ~ need the continual Gospel to grow in grace and knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ as we wait for the promise of eternal life in Him.

The man of God digs deep into the treasury of God’s Word and presents those treasures to his hearers.

The Gospel works its immensity within the hearts of the ministers of the Gospel.

They must be overwhelmed with the greatness of God’s redeeming love.

They must know the reality of a heavenly Father who, in the covenant of redemption, planned to sacrifice His own Son to secure our place with Him for eternity and the reality of His Son, in agreement with this covenant to sacrifice Himself.

What love! What sacrifice! ~ immensity of grace greater than can be comprehended by mortal men.

This should bring forth an intensity of the Gospel which the man of God cannot keep to himself.

He should be zealous, always ready to present the Gospel wherever He is called, to whoever hears.

Are there such ministers in the world today? Yes! I would not be writing on this subject if it were not so.

Our own pastor, Chris Strevel, is such a minister of the Gospel and the Christian faith. Preaching for thirty years, he holds Christ in the center of every sermon, continuing to unfold the treasures of His kingdom. My heart is weekly quickened, opened and enabled to receive the Good News of Christ ~ His grace and His glory. You can listen or view all his sermons on Sermon Audio. He is presently preaching through the Gospel of Luke and Exodus.

Another pastor, Ryan McKee, in Northern Ireland, is younger, but also preaches the immensity of the Gospel with the intensity of Christ. I began watching these services in 2016 when we were unable to attend church for ten months. Five hours ahead, their morning worship is at seven. Their evening worship is at two. Ryan is preaching through the Sermon on the Mount from Matthew’s Gospel.

We have one among us here on WordPress from California. Check Jim’s blog here.

I mention these who are devoted to Christ and His Gospel as they serve God’s people. The Gospel and the Christian Faith are too valuable to take for granted ~ too precious to keep hidden. If you know other local pastors, please let me know.

We should pray for a revival among the ministers of God’s Word in our local churches. Some preach to the masses in conferences, etc. but we need daily, weekly oversight of pastors who shepherd God’s people in the name and power of Christ.

Gracious heavenly Father. Lay it upon the hearts of your ministers to draw near to you ~ to seek the face of Christ as never before. By your Spirit, draw them to your Word, fill their hearts with the zeal for the power of the Gospel. Enable them to proclaim your Word to your people. Open the hearts of your people to hear and to live the Christian faith Jesus died to give. In His name, I pray. Amen.
Fran

Five Lessons for Preachers  Charles Spurgeon

The Immensity and Intensity of the Christian Faith


A deeper meaning to the crucifixion | IN HIS DEATHS | The Book of Mysteries

VIDEO A Literal Adam Is a Gospel Issue

Was there a literal Adam? Does it matter? Many academics and even Christians claim humans descended from apes through an evolutionary process over millions of years. This contradicts the biblical account of mankind’s unique creation in God’s image about 6,000 years ago. A key problem with the evolutionary position is that there’s no evidence of an ape-human transition in the fossil record.

Australopithecus are ape-like fossils thought to represent the first precursor to the genus Homo, or human. However, nothing has been found to bridge the gap between the two groups. In a 2016 Royal Society paper titled “From Australopithecus to Homo: the transition that wasn’t,” two secular paleontologists state:

Although the transition from Australopithecus to Homo is usually thought of as a momentous transformation, the fossil record bearing on the origin and earliest evolution of Homo is virtually undocumented.1

Even the field of human-ape DNA similarity research has come up empty in this regard. Both creationists and evolutionists recently documented that the human and chimp genomes are no more than 85% similar.2 For humans and chimps to have evolved from a common ancestor over an alleged period of three to six million years, a 98 to 99% similarity is required. The scientific data from both paleontology and genetics demonstrate a chasm of discontinuity between humans and apes, a situation that is clearly on the side of the Bible’s account of human history.

Many Christians think they should not be overly concerned about the veracity of a literal Adam because it’s not directly related to the gospel of Jesus Christ. But this is simply not true. Not only are humans created uniquely in the image of God, but the story of a historical Adam is foundational to the gospel.

Through a literal Adam and Eve, sin entered the picture, along with death, misery, and corruption. This curse accounts for the central problem of evil in the world. Romans 5:12 says, “Therefore, just as through one man sin entered the world, and death through sin, and thus death spread to all men, because all sinned.” This foundational gospel truth is repeated in 1 Corinthians 15:22: “For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ all shall be made alive.” And the pervasive and disastrous effect of mankind’s sin on the whole creation is stated in Romans 8:21-22: “Because the creation itself also will be delivered from the bondage of corruption….For we know that the whole creation groans and labors with birth pangs together until now.”

The Lord not only confirmed the Genesis account of humanity’s creation but also affirmed this occurred at the very beginning of Earth’s time frame.

Jesus Christ clearly affirmed the historicity of a literal human couple during His earthly ministry. In Matthew 19:4 He tells us, “Have you not read that He who made them at the beginning made them male and female.” The Lord not only confirmed the Genesis account of humanity’s creation but also affirmed that this occurred at the very beginning of Earth’s time frame. And we know from detailed genealogies throughout the Bible combined with scriptural data on times of birth and death3 that Earth is approximately 6,000 years old.

The idea that after billions of years of primeval Earth history, followed by millions of years of evolution, humans somehow magically emerged from apes is completely unbiblical and is also unsupported by sound science. There truly is no need for Christians to compromise on this important issue. Adam was a real person.

References

  1. Kimbel, W. H. and B. Villmoare. 2016. From Australopithecus to Homo: the transition that wasn’t. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B. 371 (1698): 20150248.
  2. Tomkins, J. P. 2018. Separate Studies Converge on Human-Chimp DNA Dissimilarity. Acts & Facts. 47 (11): 9.
  3. Johnson, J. J. S. 2008. How Young Is the Earth? Applying Simple Math to Data in Genesis. Acts & Facts. 37 (10): 4.

* Dr. Tomkins is Director of Life Sciences at the Institute for Creation Research and earned his Ph.D. in genetics from Clemson University.

Cite this article: Jeffrey P. Tomkins, Ph.D. 2019. A Literal Adam Is a Gospel IssueActs & Facts. 48 (6).

https://www.icr.org/article/a-literal-adam-is-a-gospel-issue/

VIDEO Pastor Slams Those Who Say, “We Shouldn’t be Political… Just Preach the Gospel”

May 9, 2019 By Shane Idleman

God has given us a wonderful gift known as America. The government isn’t bad or good; her people determine success or failure. Why would God ordain our government and then not want us to steward His gift? Many have been guilty of not getting involved by saying:

“We shouldn’t say or do anything political. All we need to do is preach the gospel.”

Be careful . . . although the gospel is our primary focus, this shouldn’t be an excuse against action. Listen to my thoughts on this by fast forwarding to the 25 minute mark here.

James A. Garfield, an ordained minister and twentieth President of the United States, said:

“Now, more than ever before, the people are responsible for the character of their Congress. If that body be ignorant, reckless, and corrupt, it is because the people tolerate ignorance, recklessness, and corruption.”

We are actually voting for principles, not people—all candidates are sinners. “In what direction will they lead our country?” is the question we should be asking. Even more importantly, what country will we leave for our children?

We don’t have to abandon our ethics or compromise our principles to be involved in politics—what good is salt left in the shaker, or a light that is hidden? Contextually, when Jesus referred to being the “salt and light,” He was referring to holy living at the individual level, but the overlapping principle applies to all areas of life. “Politics” is not a bad word. In simple terms, politics refers to governing or leading a group of people. Again, politics won’t save America, but in order to implement change and help others, we must take action; hence the political process. Would you have remained silent in the 1800s over slavery? Of course not.

Politics that once focused largely on the economy, national security, and the deficit, now tackles important moral issues. These major issues have enormous implications; to remain silent actually makes a statement that we are not concerned enough. This is not just about the loss of jobs; it’s about the loss of morality. We’re not just talking about adding millions of dollars to the national deficit; we’re talking about aborting millions of babies. We’re not only talking about fluctuations in the housing market; we’re talking about creating life simply to destroy it. This shift requires us to stay closely involved. Topics that are “too controversial” are often critically important; we can no longer ignore them.

Interestingly enough, the stability of America is one of the top concerns on the minds of many today. There was a time in recent history when America felt secure knowing that the most formidable enemies were abroad. Not so today. While we are concerned with terrorist attacks, and rightly so, there is a greater threat from corruption within. We, like the mighty Roman Empire that collapsed centuries ago, are crumbling from within. There are people and groups who are strongly committed to the destruction of anything rooted in our nation’s Christian heritage. They attempt to be “one nation ‘above’ God,” rather than “one nation ‘under’ God.” Scripture identifies this as foolishness, self-exaltation, and arrogance—the downfall of nations.

There is a saying that one generation plants trees for the next generation. I’m concerned that instead of planting, we are removing and destroying the very covering that protects us. As a result, our legacy as a great and noble nation has all but been forgotten. For instance, most schools no longer teach students about the spiritual foundation that has guided America throughout her history. Consequently, America’s moral and religious heritage is often deleted, grossly distorted, or revised altogether. As stated earlier: Students often miss the critical connection between America’s unparalleled greatness, her rise to world leadership, and the spiritual foundation that made it possible. This should concern us. The ideas of the classroom in one generation will create the ideas of government within the next.

Today, our culture promotes relativism, and man does what is right in his own eyes. Again, according to Scripture, to his own destruction. God’s Word says to confront, confess, and turn from our sins; relativism encourages us to ignore, overlook, and continue in them. Although this position may seem radical or extreme, we are living in extremely critical times. Make no mistake about it: We are witnessing the rapid deterioration of a nation right before our eyes. But there is hope: 2 Chronicles 7:14 calls out from the past with resounding clarity to America today: If My people will humble themselves and pray and seek My face and turn from their wicked ways, I will hear from heaven, forgive their sins, and heal their land.

There are times to encourage, motivate, and uplift, but there are also times to confront, challenge, and contend for what is right—that time is now. Let it not be said of us today: And there arose another generation after them who did not know the LORD (Judges 2:10). The day of the silent pastor who is more concerned about nickels and noses must end . . . are we pleasing God or men . . . are we cowards or watchmen?

Again, fast forward to the 25 minute mark here to hear more.

Free copies of pastor Shane’s book, One Nation Above God can also be found here:  https://shaneidleman.com/books/

Read pastor Shane’s last op-ed, Pastor Speaks Out on Trump Bashing – Enough is Enough!

Original here

Expected Questions On The Last Day

May 2, 2019

Who is your father?

Have you ever prayed for your enemies and those that trouble you?

What is your countenance when your neighbor made a mistake?

Do you visit hospitals to share my love and word with those that are sick?

Have you ever fasted just because you want to reconcile with your offenders?

How do you react if someone share his problems with you?

How do you treat your maid or man servant at home?

What are your contributions to the growth and propagation of the Gospel?

What have you lost for my names sake?

Have you ever lend money to proffer solutions to a strangers problem before?

Who is your last hope in your helpless situations?

How many times have you appreciated the life you have been given free off charge?

How do you feel when you mistakenly commit an unknown sin?

Why should I remember you?

Read  (Isaiah 59:1)

Psalm 106:7-8 tells us,

“When our ancestors were in Egypt, they gave no thought to your miracles; they did not remember your many kindnesses, and they rebelled by the sea, the Red Sea. Yet he saved them for his name’s sake, to make his mighty power known.”

Immediately after,

“They believed his promises and sang his praise. But they soon forgot what he had done and did not wait for his plan to unfold.” (v. 12-13)

Mercy Oh Lord!

Why ‘Being Christian Without the Church’ Fails the Good Friday Test

According to the gospel of John, the cross casts us into community.

Why ‘Being Christian Without the Church’ Fails the Good Friday Test

Image: Illustration by Rick Szuecs / Source images: Unsplash

We Americans tend to be a sentimental people. This makes it difficult for us to look directly into the horror, shame, and degradation of a death by crucifixion. When Jesus says to Mary, “Woman, behold thy son” and to John “Behold thy Mother,” we often interpret this saying of our Lord as a sentimental invitation to take good care of your mother. I am a mother, and I definitely want to be taken care of! But this is not what the Fourth Evangelist, John, wants us to understand. In the Fourth Gospel, the mother of our Lord plays a quite different role.

In the side aisle of the chapel where I often worship, there’s a beautiful, unusual altarpiece. It depicts one of John’s memorable stories, the marriage feast at Cana where Jesus says to his mother, “Woman, what have you to do with me? My hour is not yet come” (John 2:4, RSV throughout). In English, this sounds very rude. In Greek it is more respectful, but we notice that Jesus does not call her “Mother,” and she responds to him not as his mother but as one of his followers—one who is beginning to have a glimmer of an idea about who he is.

She says to the servant, “Do whatever he tells you” (v. 5). She is learning to be his disciple. That’s what Mary represents in the Gospel of John. She does not appear again in the Fourth Gospel—except in passing and in company with others—until his hour actually does come and he is crucified. From the cross, once again Jesus calls her “woman” rather than “Mother.” Her identity as Jesus’ mother is not important to John.

In John’s gospel, Mary stands out as a particularly faithful disciple, one who follows Jesus through his ministry from the beginning even to its ghastly end at Golgotha. So when he speaks to her and to the beloved disciple (traditionally John himself) from the cross, he is giving two unrelated believers to one another. He gives his mother to him and him to her in a completely new kinship that infinitely transcends blood kinship. Mary, along with others, becomes a beloved member of the new family brought into being through the power of Christ’s death.

When the time of the Lord’s death approaches, Pilate, not knowing what he is doing, orders an inscription to be nailed up on Jesus’ cross: “The King of the Jews.” It is written in Hebrew, Latin, and Greek (John 19:20). Hebrew is the language of the Jewish nation, but now—in this hour of crucifixion—the King of the Jews is revealed as the King of the empire, the true Ruler of the world and all the people in it. This is the hour of the remaking of the cosmos and the reconciliation of human relationships.

At the same time that his universal kingship is announced, Jesus turns his failing eyesight down to the people standing on the trash-strewn ground covered with blood and human waste and gives these two disciples to one another. These two who remain at the cross represent to us the beginning of the church in the moment of her Lord’s degradation and suffering unto death.

Taking the Gospel and the Epistles of John together, no writings in the New Testament are more concerned with the church than John. You wouldn’t necessarily notice this, however, if you read the Gospel of John without looking for it. Our typical American individualism tends always to focus on the single, supposedly autonomous person, so we typically read the Bible through that lens.

It’s true that for the first two-thirds of the gospel, John features a striking number of personal, intimate conversations between Jesus and single individuals: the Samaritan woman, Nicodemus, the man born blind, Thomas, Martha of Bethany, Mary Magdalene. These stories stand out because they are beautifully crafted by John, a master dramatist. So, most people tend to read the Fourth Gospel that way. But the overwhelming emphasis in John is not on individuals but on the organic connection that Jesus creates among those who put their trust in him.

This theme reaches its apex in chapters 15 and 16, during the last hours of his life on earth, when he teaches, “I am the vine, you are the branches” (John 15:5). There is no other way to be a disciple of Jesus than to be in communion with other disciples of Jesus.

The night before he died, he washed his disciples’ feet and told them, “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; even as I have loved you. … By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another” (John 13:34–35).

He prayed long and earnestly for them, the “high-priestly” prayer of chapter 17: “Holy Father, keep them in thy name, which thou hast given me, that they may be one, even as [you and I] are one” (John 17:11). The love that breaks down barriers, the love that “endures all things” (1 Cor. 13:7), the love that forgets self and focuses entirely on the well-being of the beloved community—that is the love of the Father and the Son for each other and the love of the Son for us.

A beloved British play called “Journey’s End,” about soldiers in World War I, was recently made into a film. It’s an ensemble play with several actors and no stars. Each actor has his own individuality but each has more or less the same time on stage and each is equally important to the whole. In an interview about the now-past Broadway production of the play, one actor remarked: “[Our director] said again and again that everything you do onstage is for someone else, it’s never about you. That was such a wonderful thing to think of.” Isn’t that remarkable?

In American culture, we are urged on a daily basis to be good to ourselves, develop ourselves, believe in ourselves, and yet this actor understands how wonderful it is to think of participating in something that was never just about you, always for the good of the whole. That’s the church when it’s working the way it’s supposed to. This is why Cyprian of Carthage said 1,800 years ago, “You cannot have God as your Father unless you have the Church as your mother.”

These days, especially, it’s easy to dismiss the church out of hand. It can break your heart with its sin. It’s broken my heart a few times. Every day brings some new revelation about the awful things that have been done by the church. It’s much easier to say, as many do, “I can be a Christian without the church.” But this renounces a most basic and fundamental message of Jesus throughout his ministry, one that—as John dramatizes it—shows forth most of all in his death on the cross: He is giving you to me and me to you.

The disciples of Christ today as 2,000 years ago are drawn together in mutual love of our Lord. For all its sins, though they be many, the church is still the body of Christ himself. And there is no limit to the love of Christ that overcomes the sin within his body.

Fleming Rutledge, an Episcopal priest, spent 21 years in parish ministry before becoming a lecturer, writer, and teacher of other preachers. She is the author of The Crucifixion: Understanding the Death of Jesus Christ(Eerdmans), which won CT’s 2017 Book of the Year Award.

This essay was adapted from Three Hours: Sermons for Good Friday by Fleming Rutledge ©2019. (Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.) Reprinted by permission of the publisher; all rights reserved.

 

Original here

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