Friday, April 22, 2011

In or out of Jesus this Easter?

At the ICEJ’s 2010 Feast of Tabernacles celebration in Jerusalem, David Pawson made some comments on being "in Jesus" that really stuck with me. It's not a concept I’ve often heard explored from the pulpit yet it essentially defines for the believer how the world is divided from God's perspective. Our Father in heaven sees us as either being in or out of Jesus. The concept is simple, easily understood, and to a lot of people, totally offensive.

I can fully understand the world not embracing such a seemingly extremist worldview. The Word of God tells us that the message of the cross is foolishness to those that are perishing (I Corinthians 1: 18).

What's disturbing to me is that among those who consider themselves to be in Jesus there is a trend underway to deny either who He is, the completeness of His work on the cross or even the necessity to be found in Him for salvation. And the world loves it.

A recent piece in Time Magazine (April 25, 2011) entitled “Is Hell Dead” celebrates the controversial view mega church pastor Rob Bell has espoused in his new book, “Love Wins” wherein he casts doubt on the central notion that when you pass from this life you must be found in Christ to avoid hell and find entry into heaven. Bell believes that none of us know who will and who won't be in heaven, a point I’m willing to grant him, but you have to achieve some amazing theological acrobatics to get around Jesus’ simple words "No one comes to the Father but through me". In other words, God can reveal Himself to anyone at any time, even in their dying moments, but there’s still only one way to get saved. So, while none of us can truly know definitively who will and who won't be in heaven one day, we do know that no one gets there unless they pass through the correct door, and that door is Jesus.

This controversy has rocked the evangelical world, and rightly so. For those of us who are more closely involved with Christian Zionist work in support of Israel you may be forgiven for doubting if this could have any impact on our corner of the evangelical world. I would have discounted it myself had not the Christian Zionist movement itself had difficulties in sticking to the script (as in Word of God) as far as Jesus is concerned.

The magazine Israel Today was recently embroiled in a heated debate surrounding the reaction of leaders of the Messianic movement in Israel to a pastor who had denied the divinity of Jesus. This wouldn't be of much concern did it not reflect a larger problem in the Messianic movement where agreement on the true identity of Jesus is a major issue. If Rob Bell is denying that Jesus is the door, there are Messianics are trying to redefine what that door looks like.

And if that's not disturbing enough, there's another group, also involved in supporting Israel, who are trying to reinterpret how the Door works. They call themselves Ephraimites and their belief that salvation is reserved only for those who are physically Abraham's seed not only ignores the references in Galatians to Jesus being "the seed", in which we find our identity, but also effectually undermines the complete work of Jesus on the cross. Has John 3:16 become so familiar to us who have memorized it since our first day in children's church that we have ignored its simple yet powerful message?

"For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have everlasting life"

The "door" that is Jesus is open for anyone and everyone because God loves the entire world. That door is divine because Jesus is God's only son. Enter through that door and you not suffer an afterlife in hell, but rather heaven in the presence of the Father.

This Easter, let's honour the work of Jesus in its completeness, and ensure that we are found in Him that we may join Him in the resurrection!