Summary: In this final message in the Love Never Dies series, Dave looks at Peter's propensity for diving into water that is over his head in order to get to Jesus, and asks whether we are willing to do the same.
Overboard for Jesus Again
Love Never Dies, prt. 20
Wildwind Community Church
September 5 , 2010
With this message we draw to a close our series from the Gospel of John. The first message in this series was on Easter Sunday, and we have certainly covered a lot in the past twenty weeks or so. But there is much more that we have not been able to cover. I could do an entire series on the Gospel of John every year and it would still take years to give reasonable attention to most of what is there. But what I have tried to do in this series is give you a sense of the mystery of the Incarnate Christ – the Logos – the eternal Word of God. I have tried to preach it in ways that might not be expected – to bring out things that are often overlooked – to emphasize what is commonly not taken to mean much. The most important thing I have tried to do is help us step outside the material enough to be able to then see back into it with greater clarity. Our fatal flaw today in reading sacred scripture is in assuming that we already come to it understanding the most basic things. Indeed this is extremely dangerous. I have in several sermons used the crusades and other wars, or burnings at the stake, or other extreme things like that, to demonstrate what kinds of things we are capable of when we approach sacred texts with assurance that our particular point of view is immutable – that it could never be any other way – that we have figured out everything that is essential – that our creeds and laws and rules have boiled all of this down enough that we are no longer in danger – as were the religious people of Jesus’ time – of missing the entire point of what he was trying to say. Indeed I am convinced that in the past 2000 years, the religion of Christianity has not, in general, presented the gospel to people hardly at all. We have talked about Jesus – an historical person who walked the earth and taught and died on a cross. We have worshipped that man as God. But that’s only half the equation. John presents Jesus as the Logos – the eternal God – God himself in the flesh. What we did was we took the historical Jesus and made a religion out of him, and largely neglected the eternal God – the one who created heaven and earth and who is working in history to redeem all creation in all its various forms and people and places. This is precisely how Jesus is presented in John, and it’s precisely how Jesus is taught in Paul’s letters. But instead of rejoicing in the big-ness of God, the massive scope of his saving power throughout all human history, and the work he is doing even now to make all things new, the church made a religion out of all things Jesus – and not even really all things – we have actually picked and chosen which of Jesus’ teachings to pay attention to. But we tried to boil him down and put him on paper. We have taught Christianity for two thousand years essentially as a set of ideas, but what Jesus came to explain was that knowing God is not about understanding ideas, or believing in a certain set of things – knowing God is, above all else, a relationship with a person. Now a sign that we have been very deeply indoctrinated into this alternative gospel that I don’t really think is the gospel at all is that we hear that statement – knowing God is not about understanding ideas, or believing in a certain set of things – knowing God is, above all else – a relationship with a person – many of us hear that and our instant response is, “Yes, that’s true – but what about…?” and then we insert our favorite Christian idea. What about salvation through Christ alone? What about the virgin birth? What about the primacy of scripture? What about intelligent design? What about defending the unborn? What about?” And on and on we go. We kind of pay lip service to the idea that this whole thing is primarily about a relationship with a person, but we’re so thoroughly immersed in this view that this is really about being right, that we actually don’t think it’s possible to know God without being right. We think being right on the ideas is actually necessary for salvation. And in thinking this, we ultimately think that it is being right, having right ideas, that saves us. I’m not criticizing anybody. This is the way the message has been presented. We have largely been taught to believe right things rather than how to pursue right relationship with this person we call God. (Again, God is not human, but Christians believe God has a personality, therefore God is a person.) My guess is that there are those who hear this message and actually feel a little bit fearful. We are so worried that we might get an idea wrong and what the consequences will be for this, that it’s difficult to even hear the message I’m giving. It can be hard to listen, to be open to it, as if there is danger simply in hearing the idea. That’s because most people with a church background have actually been raised with a toxic mix of spirituality and fear. We are taught that fear is what helps us discern truth from falsehood and that if we fall off the path of truth, there will be consequences that are disastrous for our soul. Of course this idea doesn’t gel at all with the idea of God’s infinite love, nor with the idea that it is God as a person we are after, and not simply getting an idea right. Add to this 35,000 Christian denominations worldwide, nearly all of them secure that they are right and everybody else is wrong, and it seems like there’s just no rationality in clinging to the need to be right about everything, or in worrying too much that we might be wrong. We simply cannot be, and we aren’t, right about everything – not even everything that really matters. Yet so many cling so hard to this “being right” thing, afraid to let go, afraid that, like Jonathon Edwards preached, we are indeed in the hands of an “angry” God. And so fear continues to reign in the lives of Christians who mistake their fear of God for love of him, who have simply not comprehended the meaning of the words: