“It was one of those March days when the sun shines hot and the wind blows cold: when it is summer in the light and winter in the shade.” Charles Dickens
Spring is upon us and the feeling is exhilarating. Despite the lingering frigid temperatures, the cold crisp winds carry with them the essence of new beginnings and the promise of warmer days to come. You can actually smell and feel the new season approaching and with it comes the anticipation of celebrating cherished traditions, the greatest of these is Easter, Resurrection Sunday. In the weeks that precede the commemoration of Jesus’ death and resurrection, I read through the Gospels pondering all that He said and did. I try to place myself there in that time, I try to make it all as real as possible, reflecting upon the great work that was done that day by my Savior.
This year I wanted my five-year-old son to share in this time of reflection, I wanted to make the reality of Christ’s sacrifice come alive in his little growing mind, sowing seeds in his heart, to grow in the Gospel. I told him the story in the simplest of terms and he could reiterate details to me as we talked, giving me all the “right” answers to demonstrate that he was listening. A foundation was being laid. One evening, Max asked me if he could watch a movie after dinner, I saw this as another opportunity to teach him about Jesus and his work on the Cross. I found a cartoon entitled “It Is Finished” and we sat down to watch it together. To be honest he wasn’t thrilled with my choice, PJ Masks was more of what he had in mind, but he agreed and snuggled in with me. As the story was building, I could see the intensity on his face. When they whipped Jesus’ back he stared with horror. When they placed the crown of thorns upon his head, my son recounted the pain he had once endured entangled in a vine of thorns…it was becoming real to him. I could see the clarity in his eyes, the realization of the pain. This Jesus, the person he sang happy songs about in Sunday school, the one that he thanked for his dinner, proclaiming each time “in Jesus’ name,” was being beaten and scorned, it began to overwhelm him. Then they laid Jesus upon the cross and drove spikes through His hands and feet. Max began to sob. He cried with a deep mournful cry, trembling and clinging to my side. “They killed Him?!” he cried. “They killed Jesus.” There it was, the unveiling was taking place before my eyes and my heart was filled with joy, my son was taking his first steps towards a walk with Christ. “He did that for us, to cover our sin.” I told him as I hugged him tight. He stared at me with wonder and awe.
I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth. 3 John1:4
No doubt this will be a story that I recount with my son time and again in the upcoming years of his life. The first time he sobbed over the sacrifice our Redeemer made on the Cross and began to contemplate the gravity of his sin. We all have our story, those that belong to Him, of the day that we realized that our sins were cast into the depths of the ocean and forgotten, the day we became new creatures, born again, saved. It can make us feel as if we have arrived at something when really, we have just begun! Why do act as if the Gospel is something to be preached to new believers only? Why do we act as if we somehow graduate to something else? There is nothing else. Each day we should be preaching the Gospel to ourselves, each day we should be embracing that joy we felt on that day, the day that God removed the scales from our eyes and we saw truth. We need to guard that truth in our hearts and cling to it, to never allow ourselves to be corrupted by a false gospel.
See to it that no one takes you captive by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to elemental spirits of the world, and not according to Christ. Colossians 2:8
The New Testament contains many warnings, to beware of those who would seek to pervert the Gospel, adding to God’s Word, making it man centered instead of Christ centered. It began when the serpent started whispering lies to Eve in the garden, tempting her to question God’s mercy and goodness, and it continues to this day. The serpent was claiming that God was not being fully honest with her, that there was more to the story, that her rebellion would result in greater knowledge and fulfillment.
When the woman saw that the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eyes, and that it was desirable for obtaining wisdom, she took the fruit and ate it. She also gave some to her husband who was with her, and he ate it. Genesis 3:6
Today the fruit that old trickster is offering comes in the movement of Progressive Christianity. A “new gospel” is being accepted by many, one that exalts man and degrades the long-awaited Messiah that shed His blood for us. These Progressives are claiming that the true Gospel paints God as a “cosmic child abuser,” a vengeful father who would kill his son for sins he didn’t commit. They are teaching people that God didn’t send His only Son to the Cross and that Jesus did not give His body willingly that their sins may be forgiven. These false prophets are teaching their followers that a loving god wouldn’t send anyone to Hell, that it doesn’t exist. Penal substitution has been labeled as an archaic fabrication of antiquated old men, pleasing the itching ears of many.
Richard Rohr, an American author, spiritual writer and Franciscan friar was called “one of the most popular spirituality authors and speakers in the world” by PBS. His teaching includes this idea that God did not send His Son to die, he also teaches that Jesus was just a man sent to show us how to be loving. One of Rohr’s books, The Universal Christ, explains his belief that we can all attain a “Christ consciousness” and that all things are divine. Rohr distinguishes Jesus from Christ, he writes: “Jesus is limited, particular, and earthbound, while Christ is unlimited, universal and cosmic. Christ was clearly not just Jesus of Nazareth, but something much more immense. Jesus is puny compared with Christ.” It is difficult to even write his blasphemous words in order to share them. He holds that Jesus must vanish that Christ may come forth. I wish I could say he is the only one spewing forth such vile heresy. But he isn’t.
So the servants of the owner came and said to him, ‘Sir, did you not sow good seed in your field? How then does it have tares?’ He said to them, ‘An enemy has done this.’ The servants said to him, ‘Do you want us then to go and gather them up?’ But he said, ‘No, lest while you gather up the tares you also uproot the wheat with them. Let both grow until the harvest and at the time of the harvest I will say to the reapers, “First gather together the tares and bind them in bundles to burn them, but gather the wheat into my barn.” Matthew 13:27-30
I once read about wheat and tares in a farming periodical. I always thought when I read the parable of the wheat and the tares, that the tares were like the nasty weeds that infiltrate our gardens. I envisioned them as ugly and oppressive, discernible from the plants that were lovingly sown. They aren’t. Tares grow and mimic the wheat so well that it takes a highly trained eye to see the difference between the two. Just as it takes eyes that are focused on Christ, Jesus Christ, to see the true Gospel. We need to be preaching the Gospel to ourselves daily, never allowing our vision of Truth to be clouded by the servants of the Enemy. Despite the dark, cold days we may endure at this present time, the promise of newness of life lies ahead. The winds are blowing, there is warmth to come. I can feel it, I can smell it. One day, maybe soon, there will be no more sorrow or lack of clarity. We will see our Redeemer and the fullness of the Gospel will be fully revealed.