The real reason for Easter is___________________?
Come on kiddies, you know the answer.
Easter egg hunts?
No,silly. Easter is the day we celebrate the resurrection of Jesus!
I subscribe to a number of Evangelical newsletters and blogs. Some days, I want to pull my hair out or bang my forehead on the table as I read about the latest threat to modern civilization or the persecution American Christians are facing because they have to treat gays like they are human. I laugh, cuss, and shake my head, but I must continue to wade through the bovine waste river if I plan to be an informed and literate writer. It’s my cross to bear.
I subscribe to the One Million Moms newsletter. One Million Moms is an arm of The American Family Association (AFA). Million Mommies is what what I call the female outrage wing of AFA. They focus on boycotting companies that advertise of TV shows they think are offensive, immoral, or anti-Christian. Their website lists the current outrages and companies who have changed their ways due to a Million Mommies boycott or letter writing campaign. They are well-organized, avid letter writers, and by all accounts, sexually frustrated.
Monica Cole is the director of One Million Moms. Cole sent out the weekly Million Mommies newsletter today. It is different from others I have received in the past. No call to action, no letters to write, no boycott. In other words, none of the usual Million Mommies stuff. Cole, concerned for sinners like you and I, made this week’s newsletter all about Easter, the resurrection of Jesus, and the Christian gospel. She hopes readers will forward it on to lost friends and family members:
If you know of someone who is not saved, please pass this on to them. Share the greatest gift of all with them: a relationship with Jesus Christ and eternal life. Also, share this with your brothers and sisters in Christ so they may use this to share with others. God commands that we share the gospel with others. We need to help one another become passionate followers of Jesus Christ.
What I found interesting is how Cole explains the gospel and salvation, Here’s what Cole thinks the gospel is and what a sinner should do to find salvation:
Resurrection Sunday is a time to Rejoice! Jesus paid a debt for us that no one else could ever pay so that we could be in heaven with Him for eternity. God gave the perfect sacrifice, His only Son, and if we believe in Him, then we will be forgiven and saved from our sins.
To be saved, you must believe that Jesus Christ died on the cross for EVERYONE’S sins, including your own, and receive Him as your personal Savior so that one day you can be with our Heavenly Father. If you believe Jesus died on the cross to save us from our sins, you will also need to admit you are a sinner – as we all are. Romans 3:23 KJV says, “For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God.” If you have never confessed your sin and belief in Christ, take time to do it right now. Jesus is the only way to be saved from your sins and receive eternal life.
On the third day, he rose again from the dead. This is the Good News that Christians celebrate: His Resurrection! He is ALIVE! And one day our Savior will return. He, and only He, sets us free from our sins! “Jesus saith unto him, ‘I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.’” John 14:6 KJV
The birth of Jesus is wonderful, but the resurrection is even more exciting. It is the finale to the Christmas story. Jesus accomplished what he came for. Jesus’ last words before dying on the cross were documented in John 19:30 as, “It is finished.” He knew that all was now completed and that Scripture would be fulfilled. To suggest that more needs to be done to earn your way to heaven is the same as saying Jesus died for nothing. “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God. Not of works, lest any man should boast.” Ephesians 2:8-9 KJV
Nails were not what held Jesus to the cross. Jesus had the power to come down from that cross, but He knew this is what had to be done for His believers to be saved. He died on the cross for you and me because of His love for us. He loved us that much! “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” John 3:16 KJV
According to Cole, to be saved, one must believe and do the following:
- Admit that Jesus died on the cross for their sins
- Admit that they are a sinner
- Receive Him (Jesus) as their personal Savior
If a person will do this they will:
- Be saved from their sins
- Receive eternal life
- One day live with the Heavenly Father
Man, I am sooooo glad I did this 43 years ago. My reservation is booked and I am ready to go when Jesus either calls my name or comes in the clouds to get me. I many be an atheist, but I sincerely prayed the sinner’s prayer. I’m good to go, right?
Sadly, this is the bankrupt gospel preached in thousands of Evangelical and Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) churches. It is the gospel preached by the likes of Jack Hyles, Bob Gray, Billy Graham, Joel Osteen, Joyce Meyer, and most Evangelical mega church pastors. It is a gospel that requires nothing more than sincerity and mental assent to a set of facts.
I call this gospel the 1-2-3 repeat after me gospel. In theological terms, it is called decisional regeneration or easy believism. That I can still be considered a Christian should be offensive to every follower of Jesus, yet many people think that I am still a Christian and heaven will someday be my eternal home. I might lose some rewards or my mansion might not be as nice as Charles Spurgeon’s, but my future is secure, all because I prayed the prayer.
By stringing a bunch of Bible verses together, many Evangelical churches and pastors have reduced the Christian gospel to meaningless drivel. Being a Christian should meaning something. Isn’t the essence of the Christian gospel following after Jesus? Can someone really be a Christian if they aren’t following Jesus, if they aren’t committed to believing and practicing his teachings?
Part of the problem is that there are at least four plans of salvation in the Bible. In the Old Testament, salvation was procured through keeping the law and blood sacrifice. In the New Testament, we have the gospel of Jesus, the gospel of Paul, the gospel of Peter, and the gospel of James. Each of these New Testament gospels is different from the others, and this is why there are so many Christian sects. Which gospel a sect, church, or pastor emphasizes determines what a person must do to be a Christian.
Here in the 21st century, the gospel of Paul rules the salvation roost. Some sects, churches, and pastors try to merge Paul’s gospel with the others, resulting in a hybrid gospel. But, if being a Christian means following Jesus, shouldn’t HIS gospel be the one preached in Christian churches? Why do so few churches preach Jesus’s gospel? Why do they focus on Paul’s gospel and doctrine and not Jesus’s gospel? Could the reason be that Jesus focused on how a person lives and not what a person believes?
Take the sermon on the mount. Did Jesus preach anything remotely similar to Monica Cole’s gospel or the gospel that will be preached at countless Christian churches this Sunday? He did not. Jesus preached a gospel of works, a gospel that callsed on people to forsake their nets, family, and everything they held dear and follow after him. Jesus didn’t say to those gathered on the mount to hear him: say you are sorry for your sins and promise to believe in me after I die on the cross. He didn’t ask Jews to ask Jesus into their heart or walk down the aisle and make a public profession of faith. Compare what Jesus preached in Matthew 5-7 with what is preached in the average Evangelical church. The contrast couldn’t be starker. Jesus called to people and said follow me. Evangelicals call to people and say, believe these facts, pray this prayer.
I think the sermon on the mount is Jesus’s manifesto. He wanted to make sure people understood what it meant to be his follower. Any casual observer of Evangelicalism can see that the gospel preached by Jesus does not remotely resemble what is preached in many Evangelical churches. And it’s not just an Evangelical problem. Mainline and Catholic churches birthed generation after generation of nominal, name-only Christianity. What we really have in America is cultural Christianity, a Christianity that bears little resemblance to its founder.
In Matthew 25:31-46, Jesus is quite clear about the essence of his gospel. Notice what he said:
When the Son of man shall come in his glory, and all the holy angels with him, then shall he sit upon the throne of his glory: and before him shall be gathered all nations: and he shall separate them one from another, as a shepherd divideth his sheep from the goats: and he shall set the sheep on his right hand, but the goats on the left. Then shall the King say unto them on his right hand, Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world: for I was an hungred, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in: naked, and ye clothed me: I was sick, and ye visited me: I was in prison, and ye came unto me. Then shall the righteous answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungred, and fed thee? or thirsty, and gave thee drink? When saw we thee a stranger, and took thee in? or naked, and clothed thee? Or when saw we thee sick, or in prison, and came unto thee? And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me. Then shall he say also unto them on the left hand, Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels: for I was an hungred, and ye gave me no meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me no drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me not in: naked, and ye clothed me not: sick, and in prison, and ye visited me not.Then shall they also answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungred, or athirst, or a stranger, or naked, or sick, or in prison, and did not minister unto thee? Then shall he answer them, saying, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye did it not to one of the least of these, ye did it not to me. And these shall go away into everlasting punishment: but the righteous into life eternal.
Sheep and Goats. Saved and Lost. Everlasting Punishment and Life Eternal. All determined, not by what a person believes, but by how they live. Evangelicals have all kinds of explanations for this passage of scripture. It’s a difficult, complex passage, they say. Doesn’t seem that way to me. A literal reading of the text makes it clear: what separates the sheep/saved from the goats/lost is their works. Surely Jesus meant what he said, yes? Why all the ‘splaining and excuses? Why all the theological gymnastics? Yes, Jesus contradicts Paul, but aren’t Christians followers of Jesus, not Paul?
The late Keith Green, an Evangelical from the Jesus People era, sang a song about Matthew 25. I still remember the ending: the only difference between these two groups of people is what they did and did not do!
I may be an atheist, but I admire and respect any Christian who takes seriously their faith and does their best to follow after Jesus.
There are many mainline, progressive, and liberal Christians who think the essence of Christianity is loving God with their heart, soul, and mind and loving their neighbor. After all, Jesus did say that the law and prophets, the entire Bible at the time, hinged on two commands: love God, love humanity.
But when the Pharisees had heard that he had put the Sadducees to silence, they were gathered together.Then one of them, which was a lawyer, asked him a question, tempting him, and saying, Master, which is the great commandment in the law? Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.
Jesus also had this to say in Matthew 7:
Or what man is there of you, whom if his son ask bread, will he give him a stone? Or if he ask a fish, will he give him a serpent? If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children, how much more shall your Father which is in heaven give good things to them that ask him? Therefore all things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them: for this is the law and the prophets.
I think I speak for many atheists, agnostics, and non-Christians when I say, if the Christianity on display in America remotely resembled Jesus’s gospel, I suspect we wouldn’t have much to complain about. If Evangelicals focused on loving God and love humanity, the world would be a much better place. Instead, they focus on right beliefs, right morals, and right politics, and the result is what we see everywhere we look: hateful,mean, judgmental assholes who have no tolerance for any belief or way of life but their own. It is THIS Christianity that most of us find offensive.
No one should take this post as me saying that if Christianity was ______________, I would become a Christian. I think the historical foundation of Christianity is false and I can not envision a way of looking beyond what I know in order to “believe.” That said, I do admire people who take serious the teachings of Jesus and do their best to love others. I can say the same for any religion or worldview. The proof of its value is determined by the works of those who claim that particular religion as their own.
Keith Green? I am of the opinion that if he was still alive he likely would have left Evangelicalism, thoroughly disgusted with what it has become.