Tuesday, September 07, 2010

Jesus Shaped

I wanted to figure out a way to shoe-horn chapter 4 of Michael Spencer's Mere Churchianity into Bridget Chumbley's blog carnival on Hope. But that's been our problem hasn't it, trying to pound a square peg into a round hole, making the message of Jesus into something it's not? Don't get me wrong, second to love I would say that hope best describes Jesus' ministry. But you couldn't tell that today. And that is Michael's point. What if Jesus showed up at your church for an "inspection"? Would he find it hopeful, in-line with his teachings? Or would he find it hopeful, filled with pop-psychology and an over-emphasis on feeling good?Would he even recognize it?

Michael argues that we've become so comfortable in our Jesus-culture, that we forget Jesus. In fact, to suggest following Jesus can be so radical that you may find yourself rejected, or worse, labeled a cult. To even have the nerve to advertise your church as "making Jesus popular" is so not-Jesus shaped it isn't funny. I was recently in a toy store and I saw a Jesus action figure. I wanted it for no other reason than to remind myself that Jesus is real, not plastic. On and on I could go with examples, casting stones, with no suggestions of what to do about it. So let me share a recent personal journey in hopes it will lead us all to be more Jesus shaped.

A couple of years ago I was at a large event and an Elder was preaching on one of the miracles of Jesus. He made an anecdotal point using this miracle that didn't hold up against the rest of Jesus' miracles. As soon as he said it (I won't say what) I immediately thought to myself, "that can't be right" and I spent the rest of the sermon thumbing through my Bible to make sure I wasn't crazy. He shoe-horned a good point into one of Jesus' miracles that had nothing to do with that point, and he misrepresented the Word of God doing so. Mind you, this was an Elder, whose Biblical role is to ensure that the Church is teaching the Truth.

Hard, cold reality set in at that moment. I couldn't rely on leaders, preachers, pastors or evangelists to chart my course spiritually. I needed to be led by Christ and his Word. But did I know it? So I made a vow to the Lord that I would study out the life and teachings of Jesus. I set out to read through the four Gospels in chronological order using several Bibles mixing up translations and commentaries and planned to read Jesus-specific books following (titles like Jesus the Same, the Jesus I Never Knew, etc) to close out the year. What was meant to last a few months in the Gospels and finish the year with a book a month, took over a year. I still haven't technically finished (there are a couple more books to read).

I'm not saying this to boast. In fact it was so overwhelming I really need to take the time and go back over it. But it was an example of being proactive to be Jesus shaped. How can we claim to follow Him if we don't know what He said, or how He lived? I want to approach this book positively rather than a blanket condemnation against the Church today. I can't think of a better way to combat that cultural and spiritual malaise in the Church than to challenge ourselves to be Jesus shaped and there's no better way to do that than to spend time immersed in his life through the Gospels.

This post adds to the discussion on Michael Spencer's book, Mere Churchianity being hosted by Nancy at Bend the Page. Visit there for links to others in the discussion. And don't forget to stop by Bridget's for the Carnival too!


JC Dude said...

I want to be Jesus shaped too bro'...I am reminded of this Scripture. Let it be true of us all.

Now the Bereans were of more noble character than the Thessalonians, for they received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true. Acts 17:11

Anonymous said...


i think that Jesus is shaping His Body, and that we do not understand what He is doing.

Many people depend on what our version of church has been and do not want the shaping and changing to happen, because it will change their way of life.

Jesus is in charge of His Own.
It's not like He is not involved and we have to save "His" church.

We don't shape our self, Jesus shapes us.

You can read and read, but, Jesus is still the one that will do the shaping.

He is alive and with us.

Fatha Frank said...

Jay, perfect scripture to sum this up!

Nancy, you're right that Jesus does the shaping. I feel our tendency is to lean on the church to shape us, when that isn't its role. We are only clay in the potters hand. Sometimes we're harder to mold than others and we need some water added to soften us up.

herbhalstead said...

"I can't think of a better way to combat that cultural and spiritual malaise in the Church than to challenge ourselves to be Jesus shaped and there's no better way to do that than to spend time immersed in his life through the Gospels."

me too, man.

A Simple Country Girl said...

Oh this book is causing a lot of good discussion. I am amazed at the differing take-aways we each got from the last chapter.

Since I am co-reading it with "Radical" by Platt, I am feeling wrung out and trying not to stress out about what I am doing wrong. I need to focus on what I am doing right. And I need to weigh it all with God's Word.

In your words, I need to immerse myself in His Gospel...

Thank you for this insight.


Graceful said...

I think I depend too much on my church pastors to relay the Word of God to me, rather than spending the necessary time immersed in the Word myself. Thanks for the reality check. I need to get back to the (Bible) basics -- I've gotten too entirely lazy!