John 20:31. It’s a basic verse and my children ages 6, 8, 10, and 12 know it. They learned it at Awana. The pastor of a church we’re visiting spent a long sermon on this verse today. This church is going to spend many months on the book of John. He actually said about a year, but later said months…but still, coming from a church that has themes last 4-8 weeks maximum, this is worth note. Anyway, this verse is one that defines our struggle with our former church a bit for us. With that verse, I am taken back to a Sunday when Steve Smith was talking about Lazarus, and began saying that we come to Christ’s call and have grave clothes on us. These grave clothes have to be removed by community in order for us to heal. This was a big “aha” Sunday for us. It was the early stages of questions, and so began my search for the direction our former church was heading. Lazarus is recorded in John, and my husband and I believe the Steven Smith (as a guest speaker) was presenting the account of Lazarus incorrectly. The Bible was being mishandled, and psychology injected. It really sounded like a message Oprah might give. When we went to our former pastor, we brought this speaker up. He said he not only supported what Steven Smith said, but he had personally sent letters out recommending his book about Lazarus and the grave clothes. Lovely. We tried to explain how we felt the Bible was being mishandled, and the pastor countered that each miracle had a purpose for us. We were supposed to understand something we could apply to our lives. We were to, for example, dig deeper into why Jesus turned the water into wine at the wedding. This did not satisfy us as a proper explanation. We asked two friends, and one a pastor himself the other a college professor said that the verse which explains the purpose for the signs and miracles recorded in John is written in the book itself. They both quoted “these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God.”
Today, the pastor went through an overview of the purpose of John’s gospel using this verse as a starting point. He explained clearly that the signs recorded were for showing Christ’s glory, his divinity, that he is the Messiah, and the Son of God. The signs were an apologetic, a proof of God. We are to believe and receive eternal life. The second part of John was to show the suffereing of Christ. Again, we are to believe. No psychology. The pastor even mentioned at the end of his sermon that nowadays people are preaching a lot of therapy, or as he put it, the Jesus they call people to believe in is not the real Jesus. He listed several examples, one of which was the “theraputic Jesus.” This is a generally quiet church, but I almost said, “Amen, brother!” I heard that theraputic message big time at my former church. It was an empty message.
A woman I don’t recall meeting is now a facebook friend, she’s still in my former church. She has written much about emergent on her facebook, so another friend introduced us. She has written a testimony she shared about small groups. In her testimony, she mentions going to church alone and never feeling she was close to God. She joined a small group, and presto, she was hungry for the Word. Of course, this small group was actually studying Acts, studying the Bible. She was also introduced to a study Bible with notes, so she was digging into commentary. Now, she’s still at our former church and has no clue about me and why our family left. I won’t tell her the obvious, but to me it’s obvious, the message she wasn’t getting at our former church caused her to feel far from God. She joined a small group, and she found people she connected with. She might actully be getting “fed” since it sounds like they are studying from the Bible. She was praising her church in her note and testimony, but really, she is missing that the theraputic messages aren’t filling. It’s the study of God’s word. Also, she may be feeling good because she has friends, but she’s not being challenged about her sin. I wonder if she’ll see it someday?
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