Summary: Part 12 of a 13 week series Hearing Jesus Again. This message looks at how Jesus tells us the God-shaped heart will reject all attempts to control and manipulate and force our will on other people.
Jesus On God-Pushing
Part 12 in series Hearing Jesus Again
Wildwind Community Church
August 2, 2008
What I’m going to share with you tonight is huge. It’s beyond huge. It’s massive. It’s so big that if this teaching of Christ’s had been clearly taught and applied during the Middle Ages, there could have been no Crusades and no Inquisition. If it had been clearly taught and applied in our own lifetimes, Christians would not be widely considered to be rude, and more than willing to shove our beliefs down the throats of others. In fact if this original teaching of Christ’s had been faithfully and clearly taught to every generation of Christian, and if every person had been conscientious in applying it, then there would have never once in history been a forced conversion. At least not to Christianity. Think about that. No forced conversions. I can’t imagine a world free from them, can you? What a thought. That would mean that no religious wars would have ever been fought in the name of Jesus. It’s probably not much of a stretch to say Jesus would love that.
But not only would religious wars not have been fought. If the teaching I’m going to tell you about tonight had been clearly taught and consistently applied, the world would be free from all religious conversions where people felt guilted and scared into it. I tell you, tonight’s message is HUGE. If these words from Jesus that I’m going to talk to you about tonight had been clearly taught and applied, many of you in this room might not even be here because Wildwind is a church that specializes in helping people deal with the scars they have received in their previous church experiences. Most of those scars were dealt out by people who did not clearly understand and apply what I’m going to teach you about tonight. The whole notion of psychological and mental and emotional abuse in churches would not exist as we understand it today because this kind of abuse in churches would be impossible if we clearly taught and observed Christ’s words. Does this sound huge and revolutionary and church-changing and society-changing? It is. But do you know what? I’m not going to tell you anything new tonight. It’s stuff Jesus said two thousand years ago. I’m not going to add to Jesus’ insight. I’m just going to take Jesus seriously and assume that he meant what he said, and I’m going to put these words of his into a context where we can hear them again – hear them in a fresh way. Tonight’s sermon is called Jesus on God-Pushing.
Now if you had to cast a quick vote on this, do you think this would be a thumbs up or down vote for Jesus? After all, Jesus is the one Christians are so often trying to push on others. So would Jesus himself be for or against pushing Jesus on people? Are there any words of Christ that he ever said that would lead any of us to believe (in this age or in any previous age) that Jesus would think it’s a good idea to push God on people? In the New Testament, do we ever see Jesus pushing HIMSELF on anyone? Did Jesus ever force or even strongly COMPEL anyone to choose him? Did Jesus ever use methods such as guilt or manipulation to get people to listen to him? Did Jesus ever in any context make any attempt to override human free will? Scour the scripture. Examine it and I believe you will see for yourself that the answer is no, and not only no, but that Jesus always did the exact opposite. He always freely allowed people to make choices. He always refused to pursue those who rejected him and beg for one more chance. He always honored the dignity and free will of every person. Let us then look very carefully at Jesus’ teaching on God-pushing. Let’s begin by setting it in a clear context.
Last week we covered Jesus’ teaching on judging others. We learned that judging other people is a way of trying to control them. No one wants to be condemned or looked down upon, so people will often do what we want them to do simply to avoid our judgment or condemnation or disapproval. But when people do what we want them to do for this reason, we have forced our will upon them – “do what I want or else suffer the pain of judgment and disapproval and rejection.” There is no place for this in the heart that has surrendered to God and given up trying to force our will on other people. The surrendered heart wants only God’s will. And the surrendered heart realizes that the desire to do God’s will is a gift of grace, not something we can force on others. So to live happily in God’s kingdom, we must give up the practice of judging and condemning others, and we do this by cultivating the Kingdom hearts Jesus tells us about in the earlier sections of his Sermon on the Mount.