There is a misconception “out there” about Jesus. Those who like Jesus, like the Jesus they think lived as a tolerant, loving, gentle, man with a mission of caring for everyone with whom he came into contact. People want other people to “be more like Jesus” and they believe everything would be fine.
However, if they wanted their husband or their father or their pastor or their boss to be more like Jesus, they may not be happy with him. In fact, one radio pastor that my wife and I like to catch on Sunday morning before we head for church said, “As near as I can figure out, by today’s standards and according to some experts’ opinion, Jesus would not have been an overly successful parish preacher.” When the experts get done explaining what churches should be doing, Jesus wouldn’t fit the profile!
Here is the section of Pastor Ken Klaus’ sermon that caught my attention and delight. You can hear the full audio or download the manuscript at http://www.lutheranhour.org/.
“For example, today there is a belief which says Jesus was always accepting and always flexible and non-judgmental when He dealt with people. The experts assure us that Jesus would have no problem with any pastor or parish which is dedicated to finding the needs of its constituency and then doing that which provides the answers to those needs. That perspective of Jesus has allowed pastors to conclude, “If talking about things like sin and hell, repentance and blood-bought redemption is distasteful, then I will banish those terms from my message. If that cross put on the outside of my building by a previous generation is offensive, then I’ll take it down. If people prefer to hear how God is more concerned about their earthly solvency than He is about their eternal spirituality, well, that is what I will preach on a Sunday morning.”
“If my audience wants to be entertained, I will give them a circus; if they want worship with high production values, then I’ll hire Hollywood. If they want music which features a great beat in the place of a hymn with solid theological content, that is a small sacrifice to bring about a growing, satisfied congregation.” That’s what they think, but I think Jesus would disagree. Understand, Jesus did care about people, but the Bible tells us that when economic theories, financial strategies, and social speculations replace Christ crucified and risen, something is wrong. Anytime Christ is represented as being content with every manner of compromise and concession and doctrine is tarnished by indifference and indecision, by doubt and denial, Jesus has a problem and we should too. When Jesus’ humanity is emphasized and His divinity is diminished, there is a problem.
“Yes, there is a problem when such aberrations and deviations permeate a congregation’s worship and education, fellowship and service. There is a problem when the church thinks of itself as an enormous theological smorgasbord where people can browse the philosophical buffet and pick those doctrines which are most tolerable to their particular tastes and personal pallets.
“No, as near as I can tell, Jesus would not approve of or have done well at such a parish. I say that because, when it came to His church, Jesus was more interested in quality rather than quantity. As evidence, I share the day when a fellow came to the Savior and asked, “Lord, will those who are saved be few?” It was a good question and Jesus answered it by saying: “Strive to enter (heaven) through the narrow door. For many, I tell you, will seek to enter and will not be able.” And if you are wondering what is the narrow door to heaven, the book of Romans (5:8) tells us this: “God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” The narrow door to heaven is that which has been opened by the blood of Jesus shed on Calvary’s cross. There our sins were wiped away; there Jesus finished His work of taking our place under the law and with His resurrection from the dead, those who believe are saved from their sins. This Jesus has done, and ever since that day He has been looking for those who are ready to worship Him in spirit and in truth.
“Of course there are those who would reply, “That may have been what was preached centuries ago, but it no longer works today. Nobody wants to hear such things. If we are going to succeed, if we are to fill up stadiums and build mega-churches, we need to have a new message, a new way of reaching out to people. If the church is to grow, we need to make the message pleasing, appealing, and engaging.” That’s the common belief, but it is not a belief taught by Jesus. No, the Savior said, “I am the way and the truth and the life, no one can come unto the Father except through me.” He did not say there are a number of ways, a bunch of truths, a Christmas string of lights that can give salvation. Jesus and Jesus alone is the door to heaven.
The church in America is at least anemic. A steady entertainment diet for these thirty years has left the evangelical church undernourished and overfed. Do you think we need the Bread of heaven? Not every church, of course, is this way, but enough of them are that the difference between a worldly church and a worldly world is thinner than a bagel crisp. The evangelical church tried the entertainment business in the middle ages and that didn’t work out very well then, either!
So, that is why I admire and commend Pastor Klaus’ boldness. Our churches, Lutheran or Baptist, Presbyterian or Methodist, need this kind of clear thinking, sound preaching and the church’s faithful Savior. May there be more Klauses in more pulpits in our land.