The Image

"I have come to bring fire to the earth.....Do you think I have come to bring peace? No, I have come to bring strife and division!" Luke 12:49,51...."The world hates Me because I convict it of sin and evil." John 7:7......"The miracle of Divine life is that we go on in a world of death and are not destroyed by it. A place where everything is against us." T. Austin-Sparks

There's a common saying in the entertainment and political realms: "Image is everything." Who you really are is not what matters. It's who you can make people believe you are that counts. We are seeing the fruit of that everywhere in our culture. Images are crafted in order to "sell" the product of the crafting to a watching public...who likely is only paying attention in part. Oftentimes a very small part. People buy into the image, but so often to their own harm, even destruction. It makes me wonder just how much of this is taking place in the Church as we, often in alarm, even panic, seek to present an image of Jesus that is far more acceptable to an unbelieving world than He Himself ever was when He walked this world.

Let me say that I am no fan of anyone who presents the Father as a vindictive, punishing, and unloving God. The very life of Christ shows that He is not, for Jesus said "He that has seen Me has seen the Father." Let me also say that I am just as opposed to any portrayal of Him as some kind of flower child Christ. A Jesus who just loves people, doesn't offend, never confronts, and just lets us be ourselves. He receives us just as we are. He makes no place for allowing us to stay that way. The Father is the Potter and we're the clay. And His hands can be painful as He shapes us through His Word and His work. We come with the thick coating of sin, dross, and in His love, He is dedicated to bringing us forth as gold. And the process can be harsh. As His word says, "He wounds us that He might heal us."

It often seems that the Church wants to apologize for the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Jesus never did. We don't like to talk of sin and judgement, yet Christ did, and a great deal at that. No one in the Bible spoke more about the reality of hell than He did. We like to emphasize His mercy and grace, and He has those in full. But He did not hold back in speaking of His justice and wrath against sin and evil. He did come to bring people to the Father, and the offer of His peace to all who would receive Him. But as the above scripture shows, He knew that His very life would be a consuming fire in this world and in His Church as well. Though His heart longs to bring all men to Himself, He knew and knows that His life and words would surely bring sharp division, hostility and hatred between Himself and those who would not listen. He never felt the need to apologize for this and neither should we. He needed no "image consultant," but trusted Himself to His Father, and never to men. Christ bids us come to Him as He is...."in the raw," where He makes no attempt to soften His image. You can accept Him, or reject Him, but you can never be neutral before Him. He is who He is....not who our flesh would like Him to be.

In the Old Testament, the Father forbade the Israelites making any kind of image of Him. It was a great sin to do so, as they discovered when they sought to make a golden calf at Mt. Sinai. That golden image was their idea of who He was. Can we face the question of whether that is what we are doing when we try to present a Christ that is more acceptable to a lost world? Trying to soften One who never softened His words or actions. He is mercy, He is peace. He is also fire, thunder, and earthquakes to the world and people He speaks to. He is Jesus. As He is, and not as we wish Him to be.

Blessings,
Pastor O

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