Tuesday, February 2, 2010

An anemic “gospel” (part 1)

a⋅ne⋅mi⋅a  [uh-nee-mee-uh]


1 Pathology. a quantitative deficiency of the hemoglobin, often accompanied by a reduced number of red blood cells and causing pallor, weakness, and brethlessness.

2 a lack of power, vigor, vitality, or colorfulness; His writing suffers from anemia.


I think that for far too much of my life, I was content in believing in an anemic gospel. One that was weak... and literally lacked the power in the blood. I was content in believing that the whole purpose of Jesus’ ministry on earth, his suffering, his death and his resurrection were primarily to make my life generally happy.

Now don’t get me wrong, my parents, mentors, brothers and sisters in Christ... for my whole growing up, did a wonderful and faithful job at painting a clear picture of Jesus. A Jesus who calls me to repentance and into a relationship with the Father through the cross! Its just that I wanted to see Jesus through my own eyes. Aren’t we all a bit like that?

John Calvin wrote, “Every one of us is, even from his mother’s womb, a master craftsman of idols." And, I think, is the root of my problem for so long... I was content to craft a Jesus... and a "gospel" for myself... to suit me.

One of the benefits of having church on Sunday evenings is being able to eat cheerios and watch the Sunday morning TV preachers. Not so much to learn from them but to laugh at them.

--- I may be walking a fine line between a righteous indignation at the loose handling of the Word of God and an irreverent and unhealthy disrespect for a “brother” in Christ... but I am willing to deal with the consequences and laugh (& cringe) anyway. ---

There is one TV “preacher” (and I use the term “preacher” lightly because I don’t so much hear a man who prophetically speaks the Word of God to his listeners by the power of the Spirit but rather a motivational speaker who makes his listeners feel “positive” and consider opening their wallets to “support... the work... of the Lor...D!”) and I can’t help but think he may have the same problem that I had. He seems to talk about a Jesus that makes people generally happy but it is there that his message drops off.

Now... I don’t want to be “that guy” who takes pot-shots at the guy on TV with the plastic smile and overpriced designer suit from some sort of spiritual high ground...

And I don’t want to be “that guy” who is willing to bring division for the sake of division and argument for the sake of arguing something...

However, I also don’t want to be “that guy” who is satisfied with hearing, believing, and regurgitating a “gospel” that is half-hearted and half-true.

I almost titled this post “A half-assed gospel” but then I thought my mom might post a scathing review and threaten to wash my mouth out with soap... (oh the childhood memories of having a smart-mouth).

But that is the definition that might almost fit better.

I am/we are often so willing to believe in a God who brings healing, provides us with almost innumerable blessings (wife, children, home, food, family, friends, joy, happiness...). We are willing to believe in a “gospel” that promises to fill all the holes, fix all the wrongs in the easiest ways, and make us happy (according to our own, short-term and short-sighted definitions)... because, after all... God wants us to be “happy”... doesn’t He? But we are unwilling to believe in a God who may sovereignly superintend over even the crappy parts of life and may even bring pruning into the lives of his children to bring about the choice fruit of humble maturity...

The reality is that we don’t have to try very hard to believe that half-___ed "gospel"... do we? And if that was that "gospel that God intended he probably wouldn’t have to work too hard to achieve that one.

The reality is that the Gospel DOES bring Joy and enables us to find more happiness in this broken world that would be possible if we did NOT have Jesus... And God has designed it that way:

“Truly in this city there were gathered together against your holy servant Jesus, whom you anointed, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, along with the Gentiles and the peoples of Israel, to do whatever your hand and your plan had predestined to take place ” (Acts 4:27-28). Central to Christianity is the truth that God sent his Son to die. (http://www.desiringgod.org/ResourceLibrary/Articles/ByDate/1995/1553_The_Unparalleled_Passion_of_Jesus_Christ/)

You see... the problem with this anemic "gospel" is that it sets us up for creating a god in our own image (which is the root of our problem) but that it also gives us virtually NO way to deal with suffering, cancer, earthquakes, pain, opposition, etc...

And, to come full-circle, I find that I want progress in my walk with Christ without the pain it takes to get there. The anemic "gospel" offers me chicken-soup-platitudes but no power... and often I (and far too much of the church in America) remain there... I want wisdom beyond my 29 years without taking the hits from the world and the enemy OR the firm discipline of the Lord meant to bring about humility and maturity.

The “gospel” that was so firmly held in my heart has been getting a steady “transfusion” over the past few years and, I think, a fresh dose of AB- (rare blood type), over the past few months... but that comes in part 2... The death of idolatry and the discipline of the Lord... stay tuned (all three of you...)

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