Ok, I get it: it’s increasingly not cool to be Christian anymore. It’s not cool, as a matter of fact, to practice any religion anymore; to believe in–much less reverence or obey–Someone greater than myself, something beyond my own intellectual powers. Religion conjures up images of devout, but perhaps somewhat less “evolved” individuals from the Middle East or elsewhere, with beards and robes or turbans walking around in sandals and engaging in strange rituals–as well as others in odd pockets of society here and there in the West who also still cling to those ways. In other words, it seems increasingly irrelevant and strange in today’s world. Most trust in reason, science and the powers of their own observation; only those who can’t or won’t seem to remain mired in the superstitious clutch of religion. But is belief in a Higher Power just a backward relic of archaic societies–an “imaginary friend” or sign of personal weakness–or is there a Divine Supernatural Entity behind it?
“Whoever has will be given more, and they will have an abundance. Whoever does not have, even what they have will be taken from them.” (Matthew 13:12 NIV)
It’s difficult to convince people of something that happened a long time ago. If you had your appendix taken out thirty years ago as a child the memory may be practically non-existent, but you can point to the scar on your abdomen and be assured of the fact that you did, indeed, go through that experience. If, however, you were emotionally scarred–that’s a little different. In the absence of any physical tangible reminders your mind can begin to play games with you, so that if you haven’t dealt with it, in time you can begin to question whether it ever even happened.
It’s the same with the events centering on the person called Jesus Christ that transpired two thousand years ago in what is now modern-day Israel; if we don’t keep referring back to the Bible–to the collected testimonies of those who lived through these events and recorded them for all who would come after them–our recollection can threaten to enter the realm of fairytale and fable to the degree we can begin to question whether any of it ever happened. But it did–just as any other factual occurrence in the now distant past–and while the passage of time may have dulled our collective memory, it has not cause it to not have happened.
So what did happen? Why are we increasingly beginning to feel that it didn’t–that it’s all just fables? And what can we do to keep the memory alive–from losing it altogether?
What happened? Well, read the source document–the Bible! It’s been collected and republished under one cover for our benefit, but it’s the writings of various individuals from the time of Christ going back several thousand years. And just as the recordings of a court proceeding, investigations like the one being conducted by Robert Mueller, or any other occurrence typically require you to examine the various first-hand documents, rightly understanding who Jesus Christ is and why it’s so significant also requires that you read the source documents.
But why are we beginning to feel that it didn’t happen? The short answer is because we’ve cut ourselves off from it–as a society we’ve stopped studying it. If we decided to do the same with the Civil War, or the Holocaust, or any other event that happened in the past–if we took all mention of it out of our textbooks, never reported on it in the media except to cast doubt on it and question whether it really happened or happened the way those who were there said it happened or questioned the reasons why it happened–well, we can’t really rewrite history because what happened isn’t going to unhappen, but we can certainly start believing a very distorted and untrue view of it–and that is exactly what we’ve done with Christ Jesus.
We’ve stopped teaching what happened in school and referring to it in the media, except to question or scorn it. We’ve made it seem like no self-respecting reasonably intelligent forward-thinking person could still believe it–that it’s incredibly backward to accept that Jesus was not humanly conceived, that He healed people merely by speaking it; that He brought back to life a man so clearly dead that he had already begun to decay; ultimately, that after being tortured and mutilated and executed by crucifixion–and having a Roman sword thrust into His side to ascertain His death–He came back life Himself and huge numbers of people saw and attested to it.
No. We’re incredulous; we’d rather believe it didn’t happen–that it was somehow staged, or made up after the fact, or faked or lied about. But it wasn’t; there were too many people who saw it and heard about it and knew–too many witnesses. It’s the incredulous comment of Cleopas recorded in Luke 24:18, “…Are you the only person from Jerusalem who didn’t know what was happening there these last few days?” (Luke 24:18 CEV). The Bible is that record.
And the people who still believe; who pray–they’re right, because Someone is there. How do we know? Because Jesus Christ told us about Him and did the things no one else does–that can’t be done–to prove it. He said,
“Have faith in me when I say that the Father is one with me and that I am one with the Father. Or else have faith in me simply because of the things I do.” John 14:11 CEV)
What happened? God reached down to humankind through Jesus Christ so we can be forgiven and accepted because of Him. He died in our place so we can know and experience God, the Father, and love and be loved by Him now and forever.
Why do we increasingly feel like it didn’t happen? Because we’re not reading and listening enough to others teach from the document that tells us what happened–and that’s what Jesus was talking about in today’s verse. When we read and study what happened and was recorded for our benefit–what God, who showed Himself to us through Jesus, wants us to know–we grow in our understanding of who He is and we get closer to Him. But when we avoid any contact with God–when we don’t read the Bible, don’t pray on our own, avoid going to church, never listen to Christian podcasts or radio programs or hang out with people who know and love Him–then, even what we had goes away.
So what can we do to keep from losing our consciousness of God–to keep what we have from being taken away because we avoided Him and wanted no part of Him? We have to back to Him! This is what He said:
“When you call on me, when you come and pray to me, I’ll listen. When you come looking for me, you’ll find me. Yes, when you get serious about finding me and want it more than anything else, I’ll make sure you won’t be disappointed…” (Jeremiah 29:12-14 MSG)
He’ll give us Himself when we look for Him; He promised!
Dear Lord God,
Open our eyes so we can know You! Amen.