Intolerant Jesus

The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that [My sheep] may have life and have it abundantly” (Jn. 10:10).

In our day, intolerance is likely the last great societal sin. One may believe almost anything they like and act out the implications of those beliefs without fear of being judged… for the most part. Public sentiment is much more concerned with the subjective feelings of the person than the propriety or morality of his or her actions.

This is especially true when it comes to religious beliefs. The only doctrine off-limits to religious adherents in America is the exclusive one. So long as “I believe” does not mean “I’m saying this is universally and absolutely true,” then no one seems to think critically about whatever you might say.

Jesus, however, does not play by our modern rules. He is interested in objective and effective truth over subjective feelings and experience. Jesus offers gracious life and merciful freedom, but He warns that these are exclusively found in Him.

May God help us to resist the arrogant desire to believe whatever we want, and may He give us grace to understand and believe those things that are objectively true about Him and the gracious gift He gives.

Have you tried doing ‘Ordinary Christianity?’

I sometimes meet people who think they are doing pretty well at “this whole Christianity thing.” They seem completely confident that they are spiritually mature and well-able to meet whatever life may toss at them.

If this seems far-fetched, it’s probably because we all know that we are much less mature and prepared than we sometimes make ourselves out to be.

In my own spiritual development, it has become quite helpful to realize that “discipleship” and “ordinary Christianity” are the same thing… Let me explain.

I do not mean that your common or ordinary experience of Christianity is true discipleship. You may be an exemplary disciple of Christ, who also disciples others, but this is not common in our American Evangelical culture.

I am saying that the Bible only knows of ordinary Christians who are disciples. A disciple is a learner, a follower, a practitioner, and a student of the Master. Jesus commissioned His disciples to “make disciples” (Matt. 28:18-20), and every generation since has been responsible for the same commission.

If you are a Christian, you should be a disciple (connected with at least one Christian who leads you towards greater spiritual maturity) and a disciple-maker (connected with at least one Christian who follows you towards greater spiritual maturity).

Let’s look at several verses to see how our unity with Christ and with one another impacts the concept of ordinary Christian discipleship.

To the saints and faithful brothers in Christ at Colossae: Grace to you and peace from God our Father” (Colossians 1:2 and similar usages in Ephesians 1:1 and Philippians 1:1).

Simply put, all Christians are ‘saints,’ ‘brothers,’ and ‘in Christ.’ This means that no Christian is outside of the family of faith, and no Christian is an island unto himself or herself. This should affect the way all Christians view their responsibility to and benefit from one another.

There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death” (Romans 8:1–2).

In this passage, we are reminded that all Christians are completely free from condemnation from God. We may lament our ongoing failure to live perfectly free from sin, but we do not have to fear God’s wrath at all. We are free from the law of sin and death, though we still must war against our sinful desires in this life until we are finally completed in glory in the life to come.

But I, brothers, could not address you as spiritual people, but as people of the flesh, as infants in Christ. I fed you with milk, not solid food, for you were not ready for it. And even now you are not yet ready…” (1 Corinthians 3:1–2).

Here we are forced to recognize that Christian disciples may be mature or immature. The goal is the same for all disciples: grow to become ‘spiritual people,’ that is spiritually mature or Christ-like. However, each disciple will progress differently, and each will be at a different place on the continuum of spiritual development. Some are ‘infants,’ others are spiritual adults (1 Cor. 16:13), and most are likely somewhere in between.

I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing. If anyone does not abide in me he is thrown away like a branch and withers; and the branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned” (John 15:5–6).

In this passage, we learn to expect good ‘fruit’ (or growth in holiness) from all those who are ‘in Christ’ (i.e. Christian). Of course, the fruit of godly living is a direct result of union with Christ; “apart from [Christ] you can do nothing.” The Christian rejoices and praises God for any good that is his/hers.

The flipside of this expectation is that those who do not produce (or exhibit) good fruit are bringing their union with Christ into question (at best). No Christian can know the heart of another person, but Christ clearly warns each of us that He will not graciously welcome the sinner who continues in rebellion against Him. A loving friend most certainly will not allow a fellow professing believer to continue on a path of self-destruction in the face of such a warning.

For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ. For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—Jews or Greeks, slaves or free—and all were made to drink of one Spirit” (1 Corinthians 12:12–13).

In this final passage, we are reminded that the Christian’s union with Christ is also union with other Christians. We are not only to seek holiness and growth for the benefit of enjoying Christ more fully, but we are to enjoy the benefits of Christian fellowship as well. Especially in the context of the local church, Christians are united to Christ and to one another, members of a single body.

This bond of unity means that each Christian is responsible for and attached to every other Christian (especially in the context of local church membership). Your spiritual maturity affects the whole body, and so does your stagnation or spiritual disease (i.e. sin).  Therefore, it is imperative that Christian brothers and sisters take responsibility for one another, as well as enjoy the benefits of those who are taking responsibility for them.

 

With all of this in mind, Christian discipleship is perceived to be a necessary and natural (even if divinely empowered) outworking of the ordinary Christian life. Indeed, God’s wisdom is wiser than the best of human wisdom! God has designed the spiritual growth of all believers to flourish under the tutelage of ordinary means.

Try this kind of ordinary Christianity if you dare… but I warn you, the experience will be anything but ordinary.

Christians Don’t Need the Bible?

Yesterday, I overheard a conversation between a handful of friends. A table full of ladies (in their late 20s and early 30s) were talking loud enough for the whole room to hear, so I was not eavesdropping. As a matter of fact, I would have preferred to avoid hearing the dialogue altogether. The interaction centered on their relationships with one another and at least a couple of other ladies who were not there to contribute.

As a Christian (and particularly a pastor), I was interested in the strong spiritual nature of their banter. Their vocabulary sounded Christian, but the apparent meanings of the phrases and words they used were much more pagan and mystical than biblical. Most concerning to me was the fact that they never once cited a passage of Scripture or even alluded to the Bible.

Not one Bible story or example was offered for consideration. No quote from Jesus was mentioned. No biblical principle was called upon to undergird any personal application. The whole conversation was devoid of the objective authority of the Bible, and yet there were many authoritative statements and claims made.

Once they finished and departed, I resisted the urge to apologize to everyone else in the room for the eccentric display of pseudo-Christianity. The reason I felt compelled then (and feel the same now) to distance myself from this version of Christianity is because I believe it is often silly, usually lazy, and frequently dangerous.

Whatever one believes about specific applications of biblical truth, the very minimum standard of Christianity is a submission to Christ as Lord; and Jesus Christ cannot be separated from His words. Jesus said, “If you love me, you will keep my commandments [or instructions]” (Jn. 14:15). Jesus also said that the way a Christian grows in unity with Christ is through the word of God (Jn. 17:17).

There is a foolish notion afoot today. Many think that some kind of Christianity can be experienced and cultivated apart from the Bible. Of course, Christians will not usually say this; but their utter neglect of the Bible speaks loud and clear. Many Christians do not have even a general ability to reference biblical grounds for what they say or why they believe the way they do.

Sentimental spirituality is not admirable, and it is a poor substitute for genuine (biblical) Christianity. Only a familiarity with Jesus’ words will cause a person to grow in real intimacy with Jesus Himself.

Has God not made the effort to reveal Himself on the pages of Scripture? Do we believe the Bible is God’s word? Have we any ability to know about Jesus Christ (and, therefore, truly know Him) without the biblical record?

Of all the people in the world, Christians should be the most biblically literate. In times gone by, Christians spoke with a vocabulary that came directly from the Bible. Words, themes, and illustrations in everyday language were directly drawn from the Scriptures.

May God rid us of our laziness, and may we hunger and thirst for the words of our God. And since the Bible is more accessible today than ever, may we be diligent in our use of this marvelous gift of God – His Word.

Joy

“Though you have not seen [Christ], you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory, obtaining the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls” (1 Peter 1:8–9).

What is Joy?

Well, I think a good way to answer this question is to contrast joy with happiness. Happiness is conditional, but one may possess joy in any circumstance. Happiness comes and goes, depending on our experiences, our feelings, and a host of other things. Joy, on the other hand, is based on an unchanging reality.

Because the basis for joy does not change, it is not subject to any of the things upon which happiness depends.

But, what is the unchanging, fixed, transcendent basis for joy?

Ah, the answer to this question is a core feature of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. So many truth statements formulate and are derived from the message of the Gospel. Those truth statements construct an indestructible foundation for joy, which is Christ-centered and not self-centered.

God has justified guilty sinners through the work of Christ. God has adopted unworthy rebels as sons. God has brought spiritual and eternal life to all those in Christ. Union with Christ is an intimate relationship enjoyed by all those who love and trust Him.

These truths and many more form the basis for steadfast Christian joy.

Therefore, we may have joy in every circumstance because Christ has demonstrated God’s love and grace for us. We may rest in that reality now, and we await the fullness of that reality in the glorious new creation.

We who love and trust in Christ may find indestructible joy in union with the God who loves us so and gives Himself freely to us.

Who needs the Gospel?

It may shock you to learn just how many people think that they do not need the Gospel. Does everyone really need the Gospel? Do you? Does your family? Your friend? Your neighbor?

The message of the Gospel is often assumed or dismissed in my stomping ground. Therefore, you must allow me to briefly articulate the Gospel before I get to the actual meat of this brief article.

What is the Gospel?

The Gospel is the story of God’s reconciling work on behalf of guilty people. God created all things good and for His glory, but humanity rebelled against God’s good authority. Ever since our first parents disobeyed, all humans find it undesirable to submit to God’s good authority. For this reason, the human experience is marked by bad decisions, hurtful relationships, physical suffering, and ultimately death itself.

However, God did not leave humans to suffer without hope. God promised that someone would bring guilty, disobedient people into a gracious and good relationship with Him. God delivered on that promise in the person and work of Jesus Christ. Jesus of Nazareth, the only man who is also God, lived a perfectly obedient life in order to earn God’s blessings. Even though Jesus is perfectly good, He was counted as utterly guilty and bad when God punished Him for the disobedience of others. Jesus was the substitute for all those who would trust Him for it.

God’s fury against rebellion was poured out on Jesus when He was crucified on a Roman cross in the first century A.D. After Jesus died, He demonstrated His power, His person, and His provision by coming back from the dead. Because Jesus Christ was resurrected from the dead, He gives hope to all humans who trust Him to rescue them from God’s wrath. Therefore, God has reconciled guilty people with Himself by delivering justice and offering gracious pardon at the same time.

So, who needs this message?

People who have never heard it need the Gospel. If someone has never heard the message of God’s redeeming love and grace, then they cannot know freedom from the bondage of guilt and shame. While some people might deny that they feel guilty over the bad that they have done, humans generally know that they are flawed. Such imperfections will pull and bite at the conscience of anyone who takes the time to consider them.

People who think the Gospel is irrelevant need the Gospel. There are a number of reasons a person might think the Gospel is irrelevant, but frequently this thought arises from a lack of understanding. If the Gospel truly is the story of how God reconciles guilty people with Himself, then this message is universally relevant. I would argue that there is no message more relevant to every person everywhere.

People who are unimpressed by the Gospel need the Gospel. I often talk with people who are unimpressed by the Gospel. These are normally people who are looking for an immediate remedy for some obstacle of life: financial trouble, parenting confusion, relational strife, health concerns, etc. Someone looking for help dealing with their tyrannical boss may not see any direct connection between their need and the Gospel. However, this betrays a person’s lacking consideration of the Gospel. The greater familiarity one has with the Gospel, and the deeper understanding one has of the implications of this supremely good message, the more he or she will realize that the Gospel impacts everything. The Gospel is incredibly impressive to those who give quality effort to thinking it through.

People who assume they know the Gospel need the Gospel. In the “Bible belt” (that portion of southern America that has as many churches as fueling stations) many people assume they know the Gospel. A large portion of the population recognizes the vocabulary words of the Christian subculture, and they assume that they know the meaning of the words as well. Additionally, these assumptions become increasingly dangerous when they are combined with the belief that general familiarity is tantamount to full inclusion. Those who assume they are Christians because they assume they know the Gospel are in the gravest danger, for they assume far too much.

In case you haven’t noticed the pattern, I believe everyone needs the Gospel. From ignorant pagans to long-time Christians, we all benefit from deepening our understanding of this greatest story ever told. The Gospel of God’s redeeming love is the joy and pleasure of all those who have come to love the God who authored it.

Do Christians need the Local Church?

There is a strange and interesting conversation going on among many professing Christians in America today. Some people claim that “Christianity” may be separated from the “Local Church.” Whatever Christianity is, I would like to argue, it is inseparable from the local church.

The non-churched Christian is an animal you simply will not find in the Bible, and I’d like to add that such an animal (encountered in our day) is usually awkward and disfigured.

I believe our consideration of this topic will be encouraged by first defining what a church is, then addressing what a church does. After that, we will hear a dissenting voice, and then we will try to come to some thoughtful conclusions.

 

First, the local church is a gathering of holy people who are justified in Christ Jesus.

The local church is the visible expression Jesus Christ’s bride, adorned with His own righteousness and set apart for His intimate affection and care.

Martin Luther is credited with the profound statement, “the doctrine of justification is the article upon which the Church stands or falls.” Justification is the legal declaration of God, by which the sinner is declared righteous because Jesus was declared guilty on the sinner’s behalf. Not that the sinner works his/her own righteousness, but that he/she puts on the righteousness of Christ.

This truth is the comfort of all who understand themselves to be graciously included in the household of God. Horatius Bonar wrote,

In another’s righteousness we stand; and by another’s righteousness are we justified.”  This truth, he went on to say, makes plain that “all accusations against us, founded upon our right unrighteousness, [may be] answered by pointing to the perfection of the righteousness which covers us from head to foot… as well as shields us from wrath.”[1]

Justification happens in an instant.  It is the doing of God Himself when the sinner is made alive in Christ Jesus and counted good, holy, and righteous in God’s sight (Eph 2:4-9; Titus 3:7; Rom 5:9).

Furthermore, sanctification is also an instantaneous declaration and positional reality for all who are in the kingdom of God (1 Cor 6:11). Union with Christ includes a significant change in relation to sin, particularly that the Christian is now dead to or released from the power of sin (Col 2:20-3:14; Gal 2:20; Rom 6:1-14).

 

Second, the local church is a community of justified people who are growing in holiness.

If, as Martin Luther said, the doctrine of justification is the article upon which the Church stands or falls, then sanctification may be the doctrine which provides her (the Church) the appropriate clothing to stand admirably.

Christ does not merely call His prostituting adulterous bride to wear new labels (such as justified and sanctified); He also calls her to live accordingly (Eph 4:1; 1 Thess 2:12).

Living in light of her new status, the Church of Jesus Christ is declared to be holy, and Christ is making her holy by the washing of His word “so that He might present the church to Himself in splendor” (Eph 5:25-27).  This loving reconciliation and renewal is challenged by the fact that the visible Church is made up of believers who are still desirous of sin.

Herein lies the difficulty of understanding just how the visible Church may be clothed with righteousness as she stands justified before the watching world.  However, a visible Church, full of sanctified believers, arrayed in magnificence and clothed in righteousness for all the world to see is exactly what God has intended the Church do be.

The doing of good works by every believer is commanded and enabled by God (Titus 2:7; Heb 10:24; Matt 5:16; 1 Pet 2:12; Eph 2:10).  Not only thus, but Scripture informs us that good works will provide some evidence of genuine faith and discipleship (James 2:14-26; Jn 8:31).  Good works, or righteous living, do not produce justification or sanctification, but it is clear that good works necessarily and always follow such things.  Kevin DeYoung describes the relationship, borrowing from biblical imagery, in terms of botany.

“It’s not that good works are in the root of the tree; they’re not the thing that makes the tree what it is. They’re not the ground or the basis of our standing with God. But if we truly are redeemed through the blood of Christ, if the Holy Spirit truly dwells in us, then we will be people who bear fruit in good works. Our lives will be marked by what Paul calls “the fruit of the Spirit” (Gal 5:22-23).  And if those fruits are not present in us, Jesus says, we have reason to question whether the tree was ever really healthy at all.”[9]

God has not only promised to work within Christians to bring about the mutually desired end of complete sanctification, but he has also instituted local communities through which Christians are to engage in diligent efforts towards sanctification together.  The Second London Baptist Confession says,

“[T]he Lord Jesus Christ calls out of the world unto himself, through the ministry of his word, by his Spirit, those that are given unto him by his Father (John 10:16; John 12:32), that they may walk before him in all the ways of obedience, which he prescribes to them in his word (Matt. 28:20). Those thus called, he commands to walk together in particular societies, or churches, for their mutual edification, and the due performance of that public worship, which he requires of them in the world (Matt. 18:15-20).”[11]

Therefore, these societies or communities of faith are designed for mutual improvement, building up, or sanctification (Eph 2:19-20).  Paragraph 12 of the Second London Confession (in the section on The Church) goes on to explain that there are privileges, censures, and authoritative instruments that the Christian may enjoy in the life of a Gospel-centered community.

Rather than these communities being an end in themselves or even a rule unto themselves, they are local and communal expressions of mutual submission to the Christ who reigns over all.  Andrew Purvis expounds this view by saying,

“The ministry of the church is, by the Holy Spirit, a sharing in God’s ministry to and for us in, through, and as Jesus Christ.  The task at hand, then, is to focus on the profound interrelationship that must obtain between… those truths and realities about God that the church brings to expression through Christian doctrine… and pastoral care.”[12]

Pastoral care, the shepherding of God’s sheep and caring for Christ’s bride, is the task of “sharing in God’s ministry to and for” Christians.  The church is meant to be a local expression of “truths and realities about God,” which we find clearly revealed in the Scriptures and understand as Christian doctrine.

In less lofty terms, but just as potent, Mark Dever says that a local church is “a community of believers who have become part of the New Covenant in Christ’s blood and, as a result, have covenanted together to help each other run the Christian race with integrity, godliness, and grace.”[13]

Church membership, then, is a collective affirmation that Christians in local proximity to one another are attempting to live out in practical ways the reality of their positional possession – holiness.  They are saints by calling, and they are seeking to live in obedience to Christ by “giving themselves” to one another in mutual submission and love.

 

A Dissenting Voice

While any reasonable understanding of what a church is and what a church does, as described here, would assume that this must be done in community with other believers, it is helpful to allow a dissenting voice to speak in order to demonstrate greater clarity.

In her book, How to be a Christian Without Going to Church, Kelly Bean takes aim at average local church experiences over the last generation or so.  She rightly points out that many local churches are active but not very effective (her measurements of effectiveness are demonstrably unbiblical, but her assessment may still be true when measured in biblical terms).  Her solution is to opt out of church attendance or involvement altogether, something she calls non-going.

She sees some problems that arise with such a lone ranger mentality, and she suggests, “A collective narrative is important for all.[15]  The collective narrative she is looking for is exactly what is provided by the Gospel message and the mutually stimulated sanctification that occurs in Gospel-centered communities, through the proclamation of biblical truth and by the power of God’s Holy Spirit.  Yet, this is not something she seems to believe may be found in any communal expression of local Christians.

Bean seems to be unaware that she is describing the creation of a church, albeit an ‘alternative’ one, when she admits, “In many ways, the art of non-going and facilitating alternative Christian communities that offer the support we might need, is still in the works.”[16]  Reinventing Christian communities to offer ‘non-goers’ support so that they may maintain their non-going status sounds about like offering a fish an aquarium so that he may refer to himself as a fish out of water.

 

Concluding Thoughts

Christians are necessarily beneficiaries of the communal and covenantal relationship that is only available in a local church. It is simply inconceivable that a Christian would find sanctification to be something that he/she should pursue outside of a community of believers.  Dever says,

While our individual walks are crucial, we are impoverished in our personal pursuit of God if we do not avail ourselves of the help that is available through mutually edifying relationships in our covenant Church family” (Heb 10:24-25).[17]

The message is clear.  All those whom God has justified He has also sanctified, and He continually sanctifies them by the power of His Spirit.  Additionally, God has instituted the Church as the Spirit-empowered community of faith in which sinning Christians may walk in progressively greater degrees of freedom from their sin.  Christian community, then, is the sum and substance of the

Christian community, then, is the sum and substance of the mortal Christian life.  The believer who tends towards self-righteousness may be humbled; the Christian who tends towards despair may be encouraged; the convert who struggles to break free from remaining inclinations towards sin may be restrained by accountability; the unregenerate pretender may be lovingly exposed and evangelized appropriately; the malevolent wolf may be discovered and expelled; and all of this may and should take place in the average daily life of the local church.

So, do Christians need the local church?

Like a child needs a father and mother, Christians need a church family to instruct and train. Like a city needs emergency responders, Christians need a church family to come to their aid. Like a hospital needs a nursing and surgical staff, Christians need a church family to tend to their wounds and illnesses. Like a police officer needs a badge, Christians need a church family to affirm their inclusion under the authority of Christ.

YES! Christians need the local church! Biblically, you don’t ever have one without the other.

 

[1] Bonar, The Everlasting Righteousness, 179

[9] DeYoung, The Mission of the Church, 227

[11] The Second London Baptist Confession of 1689, The Church, paragraph 5

[12] Purvis, Reconstructing Pastoral Theology, 4

[13] Dever, The Deliberate Church, 110

[15] Bean, How to Be a Christian without Going to Church, 70

[16] Bean, How to Be a Christian without Going to Church, 70

[17] Dever, The Deliberate Church, 111

 

 


 

Bibliography

Anyabwile, Thabiti M. What Is a Healthy Church Member? Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books, 2008.

Bean, Kelly. How to Be a Christian without Going to Church: The Unofficial Guide to Alternative Forms of Christian Community. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 2014.

Bonar, Horatius. The Everlasting Righteousness, Or, How Shall Man Be Just with God? 1st ed. Carlisle, PA: Banner of Truth Trust, 1993.

Bucer, Martin, and David F. Wright. Concerning the True Care of Souls. Translated by Peter Beale. Edinburgh: Carlisle, PA, 2009.

Dever, Mark, and Paul Alexander. The Deliberate Church: Building Your Ministry on the Gospel. Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books, 2005.

Dever, Mark. What Is a Healthy Church? Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books, 2007.

DeYoung, Kevin, and Greg Gilbert. What Is the Mission of the Church? Making Sense of Social Justice, Shalom, and the Great Commission. Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2011.

ESV: Study Bible: English Standard Version. Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2007.

Ferguson, Sinclair B. The Christian Life: A Doctrinal Introduction. Edinburgh: Banner of Truth Trust, 1989.

Leeman, Jonathan. Church Membership How the World Knows Who Represents Jesus. Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2012.

Luther, Martin. The Bondage of the Will. Lafayette, IN: Sovereign Grace Publishers, 2001.

Owen, John. The Mortification of Sin. Edinburgh: Banner of Truth Trust, 2004.

Purves, Andrew. Reconstructing Pastoral Theology: A Christological Foundation. Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press, 2004.

“The Second London Baptist Confession of 1689.” The Second London Baptist Confession of 1689. Accessed October 10, 2014. http://www.1689.com/confession.html.

Do you think too little of Jesus? Possibly…

In our day of 140 character tweets and eye-catching promos, we are accustomed the seeing just about everything through the lenses of reductionism. “Reduce what you want me to know to the least possible amount of information so that I will be able to quickly assimilate, assess, and (of course) accept or reject it.”

Even in Christian circles, it has become tolerable and sometimes admirable to reduce the Gospel itself to some minimalistic form. Just ask several Christians to describe who Jesus is according to the Bible, and you are likely to hear what I mean. “Jesus is the savior of sinners;” “Jesus is the lover of the outcast;” “Jesus is the Son of God;” and one of my personal favorites, “Jesus is my homeboy.”

Christianity centers upon Jesus Christ (just think of the first five letters of “Christianity“), so it is critical that the Christian think deeply and thoroughly about Jesus. Who is He? What did He do? What does He still do? What has He promised He will do in the future?

There are many dangers of thinking too little of Jesus, but consider the following:

If we think only on the babe in a manger, then we forget that God the Son was with the Father before the world began. We forget that the Son is the One through whom all things were created and the One in whom all things exist.

If we focus too much on Jesus’ obscure childhood, then we venture into pure speculation, and tread on ground that God did not provide for any sturdy follower.

If we see Jesus only as the tender friend to sinners, then we may be surprised to catch a glimpse of Him beating and throwing out the money changers.

If we attune our ears to Jesus’ words of love and peace, such that we cannot hear the fullness of their meaning, then we may forget that God disciplines those He loves.

If we affix our eyes upon the suffering Savior, hanging upon that Roman cross, we may be tempted to think that He has lost His power to rule the world.

If we celebrate only that Jesus arose from the dead, then we may lose sight of His miraculous ascension and think little of His intercession on our behalf this day.

If we idly await the day when Christ returns, and think only of Him as a distant King, then we may forget that He is right with us through the good times and bad in this life.

If we only refer to Jesus as someone we invited into our lives at some point in the past, then we may be surprised to learn that He is our Lord, King, Master, and Savior at this very moment.

We may see, then, that knowing Christ is much more encompassing than most of us might imagine. Cover to cover, the Bible speaks of the person and work of Christ. We ought to love and know Jesus as fully as we are capable; for our joy is made complete in the knowledge of Him.