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Ecumenical Egos
In Defense of the Faith
Tuesday, November 04, 2014
Wendy Wippel

I went to church Sunday, and worship was awesome. (That’s why I love my church).  Then the message, on Jonah and the whale, which focused on fleeing from God and how we all have second chances.  I realize that that’s a pretty predictable take on the story. But is that really what it’s about?

Let’s check with Jesus. In fact, let’s check with Him twice. 

Jesus talks about Jonah; first of all, as recorded in Luke,

“This is an evil generation". It seeks a sign, and no sign will be given to it except the sign of Jonah the prophet. For as Jonah became a sign to the Ninevites, so also the Son of Man will be to this generation. The queen of the South will rise up in the judgment with the men of this generation and condemn them, for she came from the ends of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon; and indeed a greater than Solomon is here. The men of Nineveh will rise up in the judgment with this generation and condemn it, for they repented at the preaching of Jonah; and indeed a greater than Jonah is here.” (Luke 11:29-32 NKJV)

Jesus identifies Jonah’s role in Scripture for us. Jonah was meant to foreshadow Him. And those who miss the fulfillment of the foreshadowing are going to have much bigger problems than those who missed the meaning of the foreshadowing.

Secondly, Jesus made it very clear on the Emmaus road that everything, in fact, in the Old Testament was meant to foreshadow Him.

Here’s the cliff notes: Two unnamed disciples, after the resurrection, are travelling down the Emmaus road trying to make sense of everything that had happened.  The resurrected Jesus joins them, but prevents them from recognizing Him. Then He proceeds to pretend that He has no knowledge whatsoever of His own trial, crucifixion, death, or resurrection (events which have all of Jerusalem abuzz).  

Let me just say that I love this passage for a variety of reasons, but one of them is that the Jesus, despite being resurrected here, is stills so darn human!!  (What guy is going to pass up a chance to play such a great trick on his friends?)

Finally, one of the two men (Cleophas) asks Him, (loosely translated), “Dude, where the heck have you been?!! How could you not know about all this stuff?!"

At that Jesus reveals Himself, and says to them,

“O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe in all that the prophets have spoken! Ought not the Christ to have suffered these things and to enter into His glory?”

Then the Bible says a very interesting thing,

"And beginning at Moses and all the Prophets, He expounded to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning Himself.” (Luke 24:25-27)

What it is saying is that He showed them in all the scriptures and how it all spoke about Him.

All the scriptures (at that time what we consider the Old Testament). All about Him.  And that’s my problem. My pet peeve with the church today. Instead of being all about Him, every verse is all about us.

Please understand that I am not saying that illuminating sin in our lives is not one of the functions of the Scriptures. It is:

Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.  (Psalm 119:105)

For the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart. (Hebrews 4:12)

Your commandments, make me wiser than my enemies; For they are ever with me. (Psalm 119:98)

And many, many more. 

But a standard method of Bible study is to take every verse and ask is there a sin for us to avoid? An example to follow? A promise to claim?

Really? Is that what every verse is about?

A recent Barna poll found that although nearly all Christians polled rate themselves very high with respect to how they lived out a Christian life, the great majority also rated themselves very low at reading and understanding their Bibles. But they do know that every verse is about them.

Which leads to some pretty shaky exegesis. “God will repay me for the years the locust have eaten.” Umm, that’s a promise to Israel. Not for us as individuals, and not for the church. Have they never read the second book of Revelation? God tells the church at Smyrna that they are going to die, and no refunds are mentioned.

“God promises to put all things under our feet”.  Wrong again. God promised to put all things under Jesus’ feet. He promised us that in this world we will have tribulation.

News flash #1: Even Scripture tells us that Scripture isn’t really about us.

All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness. (2 Timothy 3:16)

It’s profitable for living a life that pleases God. It’s useful for that. But that’s not what it its main purpose is. 

Because it is not about our spiritual perfection, because (news flash #2), that’s never going to happen.

“If righteousness comes through the law, then Christ died in vain.” (Galatians 2:21)

It’s about his spiritual perfection, transferred to us when His blood washes away our sin.  It’s His kindness that leads us to repentance, because He who is forgiven much loves much.

We don’t teach the Word like that in most churches, and I think that’s one of the reasons we lose most of our children.  We make it all about our perfect obedience to the rules, even though “the strength of sin is the law".

The following verse tells us the remedy for that:

But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. (I Corinthians 15:56-57)

It’s about His perfection, not ours. His sacrifice, not ours. His victory. Not ours.

And Jesus had pretty strong condemnation for the very self-righteous leaders of His time who thought and taught otherwise, of whom He said, that because of their emphasis on works, they made their converts, “twice as much a son of hell” as them themselves".

Emmaus road, actually, also tells us that the remedy is looking at the Bible like Jesus taught it. As all about Him. The passage continues with the two men talking after Jesus disappears, remembering the incredible lessons from the Bible that He had taught them:

"Did not our heart burn within us while He talked with us on the road, and while He opened the Scriptures to us?”

Realizing that the Bible is all about Jesus, not all about us, is what makes the Bible endlessly fascinating. That’s what opens up the Scriptures to us. Realizing that every page, every word, every jot and tittle is about His blood that washes away our sins. That’s the key that unlocks every page and makes us fall in love with both Him and His Word.

It’s He who is forgiven much that loves much. Isn’t that what He said?

And it’s through Jesus’ blood, not our own works, that we’re forgiven.  

Which might have a whole lot to do with the prophecy that Jesus made during His first major public speech, the Sermon on the Mount: 

Many will say to Me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?’ And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you.” (Matthew 6:22-23)

Because when your righteousness before God is depending the slightest iota on your own works, then you’ve missed the point.

And I am pretty darn sure that it has a lot to do with the fact that most people who don’t go to church blame the hypocrisy that characterizes many of those who do.

Repeat after me: It’s not about us. It’s not about us. It’s not about us. And memorize Jude 24, 25:

Now to Him who is able to keep you from stumbling, And to present you faultless Before the presence of His glory with exceeding joy, To God our Savior, Who alone is wise, Be glory and majesty, Dominion and power, Both now and forever. Amen.

Jesus, only Jesus, can stand in His presence blameless with great joy. It’s not about us.

That’s why it’s called Good News.

About Wendy Wippel

Last week: Bethulah and Her Son

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