Continued from last Friday…When I was a child my Sunday School teacher taught me a song to remind me to defend my heart against life’s toxins. I sang, “Be careful little eyes what you see, be careful little eyes what you see, for the Father up above is looking down in love, so be careful little eyes what you see.” There was also a stanza about ears, lips, hands and feet. The message was clear: “if you don’t want sin in your heart, don’t let it in your life.” The Apostle Paul said it this way: “Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes” (Ephesians 6:10-11).
Everything that doesn’t look like Jesus
The great artist Michelangelo is credited with saying, “I saw the angel in the marble, and carved until I set him free.” This is a useful principle in the detoxification of our souls. We remove and refuse anything that doesn’t look like Jesus. All of Jesus’ teachings seek this end. He is truth, therefore to grasp and apply His teachings is to become like Him. The Apostle Paul wrote, “And we, who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his likeness with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit” (2 Corinthians 3:18).
Truth is both cumulative and repetitive. We are forever recognizing more truth and deepening our understanding of it. For this reason we want to know everything Jesus taught, and we want to consider what He taught from every perspective. As our awareness grows, undesirable additives in our lives are increasingly evident, and our desire to put on the character of Jesus intensifies. This is, in summary, the blessing of the Beatitudes.
Can you think of something people in our culture mistakenly associate with Jesus? Look a little deeper than His European image in art, or the occasional misquote from those who use Him to support their cause. The real problem, in our context, is those who use Jesus as a vehicle for their ambitions. Jesus has become the mascot for political, financial and commercial gain. Unfortunately, Jesus’ followers have come to believe if they spiritualize their cause, they should be able to expect the support of the Lord’s people, and can question their Christian commitment if they refuse.
I am not talking about moral causes which must be defended with all certainty. Our culture will always rebel against biblical morality and its adherents. But I cannot help but believe it would be easier to uphold truth if there wasn’t always something for us to gain in the process. The first Christians also stood for truth, but they were willing to lose their lives if necessary. I fear modern believers are sometimes more concerned with the bottom line of their human ambition than the tragic outcome for those who die without Jesus. This is probably the most prevalent misperception our world has about Christians: that they really aren’t ultimately about Jesus, or His message. The course humor we see depicting Jesus in blasphemous ways is not so much directed at Him as it is at what His followers have made of Him.
I don’t mean to suggest the perceptions our world has are correct, or fair. It really doesn’t matter. If there is one shade of truth in them, we should be concerned. The things we add to Jesus for our own sakes must be removed for the sakes of those whose souls hang in the balance. The organic plea from our world is to give it the saving message of a Savior without the toxic side-effects of our self-absorbed endeavors. Isn’t this how we received Him? Isn’t this how the Father presented Him as he “became obedient to death—even death on a cross?” (Philippians 2:8)