Wednesday, September 20 , 2017, 8:23 am | Fair 60º

 
 
 
 

D.C. Collier: Answering Jesus’ Invitation Is Not as Hard as You May Think

Last time, we stated that most religions can turn us into improved citizens of earth; but only Jesus, through the Holy Spirit, can make us fit citizens of heaven. So, what might that look like from an earthly perspective? Is there a “sure-fire” mark of God’s presence in a person’s life?

The Divine Gauntlet

Jesus Christ laid down a challenge to the religious know-it-alls of his day. And it still rings true today:

Hearing that Jesus had silenced the Sadducees, the Pharisees got together. One of them, an expert in the law, tested him with this question: “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?”

Jesus replied: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself. All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”1

This pivotal exchange between Jesus and his fiercest critics came in the form of a challenge: “OK Jesus, since you’re so smart, boil it all down for us, summarize what you think the whole Bible has to say about what God requires of us!”

They and the crowds who witnessed the scene were startled at Jesus’ succinct, brilliant, authoritative reply. His hecklers were silenced, and his piercing words have driven religious pretenders to cover their ears ever since.

You see, anyone can get away with studying scripture and practicing religion in a dispassionate, intellectual, arms-length manner, but they’ll never be able to love God or their neighbor — I mean, really love them — without rolling up their sleeves and becoming personally invested.

As C.S. Lewis points out, “There is no safe investment. To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything and your heart will certainly be wrung and possibly be broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact, you must give your heart to no one, not even to an animal.”2

You’re Kidding, Right?

As I read those words of Jesus and ponder their implications, my inner skeptic whines, “That’s easy for you to say, Jesus, but what about the rest of us ordinary earthlings? How are we supposed to pull that off?”

Perhaps you might even dare to say, “Love God? I’m not even sure if there is a god. How am I supposed to love someone or something that I can’t even see?”

Or, a bit closer to home, “How do you expect me to love my neighbor? Your neighbor maybe, but not mine! You have no idea how much of a jerk my neighbor can be.”

Have you ever felt that way? When those words of Jesus sink in, do you feel like Wile E. Coyote, with his ears down, as the train comes barreling toward him? The Bible can seem like a collection of impossible demands and unreasonable standards with no obvious payoff. No wonder it’s thought of by many as something for religious fanatics and monastic loners.

And then, to make matters worse, Jesus lifts the bar even higher with this: “And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.”3 You might be thinking, “Oh great, now all I must do is be perfect! Here we go again. Impossible.”

Could We Be Missing Something?

It is a sad fact that most people, churched or not, have the idea that the Christian life is something they need to live up to on their own and that there will be serious consequences if they fail to do so. They see it as a religious system of dos and don’ts, to which they are expected to conform — or else! Is it any wonder that so few even dare to try?

At any given time, the countless versions of man-made religions in the world share a common feature: the entire process of belonging, adhering and maintaining is left up to you. The organization provides the system, and it’s up to you to follow it. Jesus would have none of that. He made rather a startling promise:

“Believe me: I am in my Father and my Father is in me. If you can’t believe that, believe what you see — these works. The person who trusts me will not only do what I’m doing but even greater things, because I, on my way to the Father, am giving you the same work to do that I’ve been doing. You can count on it. From now on, whatever you request along the lines of who I am and what I am doing, I’ll do it. That’s how the Father will be seen for who he is in the Son. I mean it. Whatever you request in this way, I’ll do.”​4

Notice where the intention, energy and power lies in this unequivocal declaration. It’s not about you and me at all. It begins and ends with God. Someone has said that man-made religions are always saying “do, do, do,” but the Christian message is “done, done, done.” Done by the power of the implanted Holy Spirit.

Here is Christ’s own invitation, which still stands today:

On the final and climactic day of the Feast, Jesus took his stand. He cried out, “If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink. Rivers of living water will brim and spill out of the depths of anyone who believes in me this way, just as the scripture says.” (He said this in regard to the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were about to receive. The Spirit had not yet been given because Jesus had not yet been glorified.)5

The single qualification is that you come thirsty.

D.C. Collier is a Bible teacher, discipleship mentor and writer focused on Christian apologetics. A mechanical engineer and Internet entrepreneur, he is the author of My Origin, My Destiny, a book focused on Christianity’s basic “value proposition.” Click here for more information. Click here for previous columns. The opinions expressed are his own.

1. Matthew 22:34-40 NIV

2. Lewis, C.S. “Charity.” The Four Loves. New York: Harcourt, Brace, 1960. N. pag. Print.

3. Matthew 5:47-48 NIV

4. John 14:11–14 MSG

5. John 14:11–14 MSG

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