Why has the pope's popularity plummeted?

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Why has the pope’s popularity plummeted?

July 24, 2015 - Jim Denison, PhD

Pope Francis meets the media during an airborne press conference aboard the airplane directed to Rome, at the end of his Apostolic journey in Ecuador, Bolivia and Paraguay, July 12, 2015 (Credit: AP Photo/Gregorio Borgia)

“Whether liberal or conservative, you love the pope when he agrees with you.  And he’s been saying things that annoy both sides.”  So says church historian Christopher Bellitto, explaining Pope Francis‘s dramatic decline in popularity among Americans.

In recent months, the pope has stated that climate change is largely man-made, and has criticized economic systems that he believes drive global warming and exploit the poor.  Now, two months ahead of the pope’s first trip to the U.S., Gallup reports that his popularity has fallen from 76 percent to 59 percent. According to one observer, the poll reflects that “many American Catholics are more closely affiliated with their political party than their faith.”

Could the same be said of American Christians, whatever their denomination?  Could it be said of you?  Of me?  Do we love the Lord when he agrees with us, but less when his word annoys us? (Tweet this)

Here’s the problem with conditional commitment.  There is a God-shaped emptiness in every soul.  Our Creator made us for constant intimacy with himself.  As his children, our deepest longing is to know our Father.  Satan cannot remove our desire for God, so he tempts us to fill it with anyone or anything that is not God.

But as Craig Denison notes in yesterday’s First15, “You were not created to bear the burden of doing life apart from the Lordship of Jesus Christ.  And you will never know true peace, joy, purpose and love until you submit all you are to all God is.”

Such submission may seem unrealistic or onerous.  But when we see Jesus as he is, bowing before his Lordship is our natural and joyous response to his glory.  C. S. Lewis: “God wills our good, and our good is to love him . . . and to love him we must know him: and if we know him, we shall in fact fall on our faces.  If we do not, that shows only that what we are trying to love is not yet God.”

At this moment, Jesus “upholds the universe by the word of his power” (Hebrews 1:3).  Tragically, I can use his power to reject his power.  I can use the mind he has given me to reject the Mind that gave it to me.  When I do, it is as though I used a power saw to cut the cord that empowers the saw.

Conversely, I can choose to crown Jesus my King and kneel before his glory with submission and joy.  With this result: “Those who look to him are radiant, and their faces shall never be ashamed” (Psalm 34:5).  Then, “we, who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his likeness with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit” (2 Corinthians 3:18).

If I am not radiant, it’s because I am not looking at the Source of all radiance (John 9:5).  If I am not being transformed into the likeness of Jesus, it’s because I am not reflecting the glory of Jesus.  Conditional commitment impoverishes our souls and eviscerates our witness. (Tweet this)

Our culture loves God only when he agrees with us.  True disciples love God even when he annoys us.  Which are you?

Unless otherwise noted, all Scripture quotations are from the ESV®️ Bible (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®️), copyright ©️ 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved. The ESV text may not be quoted in any publication made available to the public by a Creative Commons license. The ESV may not be translated in whole or in part into any other language.

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