Stylistic Jesus

It has always been my desire to present God for who he truly is, not the misinformation we’ve been fed through the years. I believe no one who gets properly acquainted with Jesus will disavow his love and honesty. The exception of course are the sons of Belial who are purposed for the profanity of divinity – enemies of God.

It is our lack of understanding of the personage and character of God that makes us want to run away from him. Yet God bids us come to him: “Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy-laden and overburdened,” Jesus said. Here’s a character portrait of God we might not have considered: Jesus describes himself as “gentle and humble” in Matthew 11:29. Jesus is a gentleman.

And God has STYLE! He wants us to learn that style. Look at the Message translation of Matthew 11:29: “Walk with me and work with me – watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace.” In other words God is smooth, graceful… has “rhythm”. He makes things look effortless. Think of Jesus walking on water. Jesus made it seem like no big deal but we know it’s a big deal. Think of Jesus turning water into wine. That took some chemistry but all they did was pour water from a jar. Unforced rhythms of grace. It’s why Jesus never panicked in any situation. Was cool, always in control.

Unfortunately the Jesus presented by religion is a two dimensional cardboard cutout of a moral instructor. And because we see him as moral instructor we run away from him when we sin instead of running to him! Like Peter we beg him to depart from us when we realise our sinfulness. We think approaching God is on the basis of morality. Religion is man’s effort to please God through rituals and moral observance. It’s self effort and it’s incredible hard work. Jesus says it creates disillusionment, leads to burn out. “Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me… and you’ll recover your life,” Jesus said. (Matthew11:28 MSG). In other words, Jesus is the anti-religion. He gives recovery from religious burn out. Jesus said: “Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.” (Matthew11:28-30 MSG).

Some of us did “time” going to “Sunday School”. There we were taught dos and don’ts. The stricture of this life of dos and don’ts soon got to us and we got tired of God. Ran away. The dos and don’ts gave us a disciplinal portrait of God. We never really got to know him. To prevent us from doing certain things, we were presented with a picture of a harsh and judgmental God. Things Jesus would never say were sometimes attributed to him, just to keep us in check. We never got introduced to the person and personage of God. We saw God in terms of regimen – a moral code. Now the teachers tried their best – taught what they knew, what they understood. But we came to see God as lacking in fun and “uncool”. He was the grinch who stole our joy. Yet no one is cooler than Jesus, after all he is the master of “unforced rhythms of grace”.

Religion is about do’s and don’ts. God doesn’t want religion. He wants relationship. It’s important for you to jettison the age old misconception of God and embrace the vision of God in his word. You can never be deserving of God. You will never reach that stage in which you’re worthy of God. That is an illusory pursuit. All the people Jesus related with in his earthly walk were not worthy. Zacchaeus was corrupt, Mary Magdalene was possessed, Peter was forward. Even mighty Paul described himself as the “greatest of all sinners”. He was an accessory to murder. The truth is that only a perfect God can accommodate human imperfections, not the other way round. The Bible says “he knows how weak we are; he remembers we are only dust.” (Psalms 103:14 NLT). Jesus said, “Come unto me…” It doesn’t matter what state you’re in, just go to him. Why? Because he knows how weak you are; he remembers you’re dust. He can accommodate your imperfections. Those that are well don’t need a doctor, Jesus said. Self righteous people can’t need God. Only sinners can.

Self righteousness is actually moral relativism. The Pharisees specialised in it. They were suffocatingly religious. Even when they went to church their prayer was always, “Thank God I’m not like that sinner over there…” Well “those sinners” are the very reason Jesus died. He died for you, he died for me. God is the God of the individual. There is the parable of the lost sheep. It wandered away from the flock and God left everything to go look for him. The prodigal son said, “I will get up and go to my father and I will say to him, Father, I have sinned against heaven and in your sight. So he got up and came to his father. But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was moved with pity and tenderness for him; and he ran and embraced him and kissed him fervently.

The son started his speech: ‘Father, I’ve sinned against God, I’ve sinned before you; I don’t deserve…’But the father wasn’t listening. He was calling to the servants, ‘Quick. Bring a clean set of clothes and dress him. Put the family ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. Then get a grain-fed heifer and roast it. We’re going to feast! We’re going to have a wonderful time! My son is here – given up for dead and now alive! Given up for lost and now found!’  (Luke 15:18-24 MSG). That is not ordinarily the vision we have of God. A God embracing a sinner, throwing a homecoming party?! In fact Jesus said God’s angels throw a party each time a sinner repents and comes home to the Father: “Count on it – that’s the kind of party God’s angels throw every time one lost soul turns to God.” (Luke 15:10 MSG).

So you’ve wandered far from God, doing your own thing, you’ve lived a life of debauchery, like the prodigal son? It’s time to come home to your Father. God is not judging you. He’s actually anticipating your return.

Please pray this homecoming prayer: “Father I come to you in the name of Jesus. You said if anyone comes to you, you’ll never reject. I come to you O Lord. I know I’m a sinner and Jesus died for me. I accept Jesus as my Saviour and my Lord. Amen.

© Leke Alder |