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Tuesday, July 07, 2009

Undragoned

The third week into his first pastorate was Mother’s Day and his wife, Joyce lay their three children down for a Sunday afternoon nap. One final check in the crib brought such deep concern to Joyce that she called her husband to get his opinion on what he saw. Adrian Rogers quickly and quietly scooped up baby Philip and rushed him to the hospital. Adrian and Joyce Rogers came home empty handed, singing “What a Friend We Have In Jesus.”

The very next week the young pastor was visiting and witnessing to hospital patients. One man asked, “Are you still serving God after what He did to you?” Adrian replied, “Of course I am. Had there been no sin, there would have been no sickness and death. Sin came into the world through Satan. He was the initiator of sin, and Jesus is the only answer. I’m not going to line up with the devil. Satan’s got a bigger enemy than he’s ever had. Jesus is the only answer to sin and suffering.”[i]

Many of us will never know what the Rogers’ experienced that day, but most of us have had or will have the same kind conversation with someone. For their own reasons, people call God into question about so many things. C.S. Lewis wrote a fantastic book called “God in the Dock”, the foremost imagery of the title being that God has been placed on the court’s witness stand for interrogation. Most often, however, the questions of skeptics are not aimed at God but at His servants. I think the man Adrian Rogers was witnessing to was not calling God into question solely, but was examining Adrian in an attempt to see if the true faith can be undermined. Does biblical faith in the Christ Jesus really work?

Years ago I worked for a Jewelry Supply Company, selling precious metals and stones to Native American craftsmen. One distinctive of my company was it’s Christian witness into the community. We maintained a large sign outside whereupon we regularly posted short Bible verses and poignant thoughts. I shared the happy duty of changing the sign every so often.

One day I was outside posting some golden nugget of biblical teaching on our marquee when a customer (really, a tourist who stopped in to see our silver-lined walls and bins full of turquoise and other precious stones in the raw) sashayed over to see what I was doing. I’m not certain I could reproduce any of the conversation here, but I remember distinctly him asking why we posted Bible verses. He would ask questions and I would answer—but he was not searching for a reason to believe. He was more interested in the validity of the faith in light of the television evangelists whose sins were being exposed and dragged into public view. He was interested in how we could continue talking about forgiveness from sin while our readers remained immersed in it.

How does one respond? How can one stand there and talk about Jesus and the love of God and forgiveness of sin while our brethren are love-lacking, complaining, lying, stealing, etc. so forth and so on . . . even sinners know something ain’t right. Then we hem-haw and look down and jingle the change in our pockets and mumble something about “theresomanypeoplewhoknowthetruthandevenpretendtosubscribe toitbutwhoinactualitydonotliveforthegloryofGod” and we secretly hope in our hearts the hearer will not equate “me” with “them.”

Can it be true that there are so many people who really do know the truth and pretend to subscribe to it but who, in actuality, do not live for the glory of God? Is this the same as dismissing it all by saying “each person is held responsible for his or her actions before God?”

The fact of the matter is that many feel they are in a position in their belief system to be able to put God on trial. They are really interested in those who serve God. Their point is to undermine God Himself, to get a consensus that all He says cannot be trusted, and all He does fails. Animosity is not really aimed at the servant but at the Master. But why? Why put God in the dock?

Because what He says is true and what He does actually works. Jesus had enemies because when He came around, people just cannot stay the same—well, they can, they just won’t enjoy who they are as much. Jesus is the pride-humbler, the hypocrisy-pointer, the self-righteousness dethroner. The leaders wanted to be like Him without holding to the fundamentals. They wanted the popularity and the following, but not the principles. To make matters worse, Jesus was called “rabbi” though none of the Sanhedrin remembered handing him the certificate with their stamp of approval—did he ever ask to be called Rabbi? Nobody could remember.

The same attitude is heard today. Jesus is recognized as one of the great religious leaders of the world, but nobody remembers who put Him on the list. The world cannot understand why we mark our calendars by His birth and nobody else’s. Voltaire went the opposite direction, stating that 50 to 100 years after his death Christianity would be dead and the Bible would be obsolete (he died in the late 1700’s). Voltaire was so disgruntled with Christianity he boldly declared in childlike frustration, “I wish I’d never been born!”

But one thing Jesus did do with His words and His works—He claimed deity. Why ask for rabbi-ship when you are God? I mean really! Boy, were the religious leaders upset about this! He claimed to be the Messiah, the Son of God, the Savior of the World! It was one thing for the leaders to want the followship, but ask them if they want to be the Messiah—they would say, “No! I mean, HECK no!” But Jesus had dared to go into the temple, the place where all religious authority dwelt, and cast them out. He humiliated them.

This is why people don’t like Jesus. He humiliates. But they don’t allow Him to exalt. They walk away from Him before He finishes. See, Jesus breaks everything He uses. The world is the opposite, using everything until it breaks—then it goes out and finds another. Ask anyone if they would lay down their life they start to backpedal. But everyone wants to be God—in charge of their own destiny, etc.

Go a step further. Folks don’t want to criticize Jesus. They don’t put Him on the dock to point and yell and gripe about Him. They want to kill Him. They don’t want to see Him just dead. They want Him to stay dead. And He has a hard time doing that.

And He doesn’t stop. Jesus won’t shut up. Once He knows your listening, He gets louder and pointier and the light gets brighter. Oh, He is not your little brother who pokes you to get a rise. He is God and He loves so much He wants change!

Remember Eustace? Eustace was a dragon. Well, not just any dragon. He was really a boy, but he was made into a dragon because he was a nasty boy. He was not always a dragon, and he certainly did not remain one because of the lion.[ii]

Eustace told Edmund, “I was lying awake wondering what on earth would become of me. . .”

“Go on,” said Edmund, with considerable patience.

“Well, anyway, I looked up and saw the very last thing I expected: a huge lion coming slowly toward me. And one queer thing was that there was no moon last night, but there was moonlight where the lion was. So it came nearer and nearer. I was terribly afraid of it. You may think that, being a dragon, I could have knocked any lion out easily enough. But it wasn’t that kind of fear. I wasn’t afraid of it eating me, I was just afraid of it--if you can understand. Well, it came up close to me and looked straight into my eyes. And I shut my eyes tight. But that wasn’t any good because it told me to follow it.

“You mean it spoke?”

“I don’t know. Now that you mention it, I don’t think it did. But it told me all the same. And I knew I’d have to do what it told me, so I got up and followed it. And it led me a long way into the mountains. . . . So at last we came to the top of this mountain I’d never seen before and on the top of this mountain there was a garden . . . In the middle of it there was a well.

“I knew it was a well because you could see the water bubbling up from the bottom of it, but it was lot bigger than most wells—like a very big, round bath with marble steps going down into it. . . . the lion told me I must undress first.

“I was just going to say that I couldn’t undress because I didn’t have any clothes on when I suddenly thought that dragons are snaky sort of things and snakes can cast their skins. Oh, of course, though I, that’s what the lion means. So I started scratching myself and my scales began coming off all over the place. . . . my whole skin started peeling off beautifully, like it does after an illness, or as if I was a banana. . . .

“But as I was going to put my feet into the water I looked down and saw that they were all hard and rough and wrinkled and scaly just as they had been before. . . .

“Then the lion said . . . ‘You will have to let me undress you.’ I was afraid of his claws . . . but I just lay flat down on my back and let him do it.

“The very first tear he made was so deep that I thought it had gone right into my heart. And when he began pulling the skin off, it hurt worse than anything I’d ever felt. . . .

“And there was I as smooth and soft as a peeled switch and smaller than I had been. Then he caught hold of me . . . and threw me into the water. It smarted like anything but only for a moment. . . . after a bit the lion took me out and dressed me . . .”

Undragoned.

*********************************
[i] Rogers, Joyce. Love Worth Finding: The Life of Adrian Rogers and His Philosophy of Preaching. Nashville: Broadman, 2005.
[ii] Lewis, C.S. The Voyage of the Dawn Treader. New York: Harper, 1980.

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