A gender reveal party sparked a wildfire that has grown to nearly ten thousand acres in California as of this morning. A woman died over the weekend while hiking amid a record-setting heatwave in the state. And at least 147 COVID-19 cases have been linked to a wedding reception in Maine.
In the midst of all the bad news, one Christian celebrity wants to focus on the good news.
Candace Cameron Bure was asked recently if she would ever reprise her role on the talk show The View. The actress chuckled and said, “No. I’m done with that chapter. I’m very grateful for that time in my life but I don’t want to talk about politics.” She explained: “Not because I don’t believe that my viewpoints and opinions are important, but I would much rather share Jesus with people. That’s really my passion.”
Notice that she doesn’t want to talk about religion or even Christianity, but about Jesus. That’s because Jesus is a real, living person, not just an idea or a worldview. He has changed her life, and she wants everyone to know that he can change their lives as well.
Over the Labor Day weekend, my wife and I watched A Rush of Hope, Greg Laurie’s marvelous and moving cinematic invitation to meet Jesus. After blending inspirational films and music about our Lord, the program then focused on the pastor as he explained who Jesus is and what he wants to do in our lives.
Laurie did what Candace Cameron Bure wants to do: share Jesus with people. In a broken world filled with disaster, disease, and despair, he is our only hope. Even more than we need a COVID-19 vaccine and solutions for the divisiveness of our day, we need to know him.
Not just about him. We need Jesus.
The danger of the Thomas theorem
Here’s our problem: secularization has convinced secular people that Jesus is merely an idea or historical figure they can ignore if they wish. Even Christians can fall for this deception, turning a personal relationship with their personal Lord into a religion about him they can observe on their terms.
Such decisions become tragically self-fulfilling.
In sociology, the Thomas theorem states: “If men define situations as real, they are real in their consequences.” For example, thousands of people over the Labor Day holiday refused to take precautions against the coronavirus pandemic. Their false belief that masks and social distancing are unnecessary will lead to very real consequences for them and for the rest of us as well.
Similarly, if like a majority of American adults you believe that Jesus is only a man, you will refuse the salvation only the Son of God can offer (cf. John 14:6). As a consequence, you will spend eternity separated from God and you will miss all that his divinity can do in your life today.
And if you believe that Christianity is about attending church and being religious, you will miss all that the living Lord Jesus wants to do in and through your life today.
The privilege of “unveiled encounters” with Jesus
Yesterday, we focused on the fact that God wants to use our temporal work for eternal purposes, noting with Oswald Chambers that “a river touches places of which its source knows nothing.”
Today, let’s focus on the work before the work.
Chambers encourages us to, “Never allow anything to come between yourself and Jesus Christ, no emotion or experience; nothing must keep you from the one great sovereign Source.” When you are connected to the living Lord Jesus, “you will find that God has nourished in you mighty torrents of blessing for others.”
This is because, when we encounter Jesus, “we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another” (2 Corinthians 3:18). Commenting on this astounding statement, Craig Denison notes: “When we spend time alone with God, the Holy Spirit longs to lead us into direct, tangible, and transformative encounters with the glory of God. Christian spirituality is all about direct connection with our heavenly Father and not about engaging in religious practices just because we feel we should.”
You might be thinking, But you don’t know my failures and mistakes. You don’t know all the ways I am unworthy to experience the holy God. You’re right. You are not worthy to experience God personally. Neither am I. This is one reason so many Christians settle for religion about God rather than an intimate relationship with him. It’s why we read the Bible, pray, and attend worship services, but when we’re done, we are the same as we were before we began.
Here’s the amazing good news: you do not have to be worthy to experience God, for he has made you worthy. As Craig explains, “The death of Christ has made unveiled encounters with God completely available to you whenever, wherever.”
Two questions that can change your world
All across the Gospels, whenever and wherever people chose to trust in Jesus and stepped into a personal relationship with him, he changed their lives. And he is still the same today as he was then (Hebrews 13:8).
As a result, let’s close with two questions.
First, when was the last time Jesus changed your life?
When we read the Bible with the prayer that Jesus would speak to us, he will. When we pray with the desire to speak to him and hear from him, he meets with us. When we worship for the purpose of connecting with the living Lord, we do. When we serve in submission to his calling and power, we experience him as we partner with him.
So, I’ll ask a second question: When next will Jesus change your life?