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Thursday Pulpit Articles in the St. Helena Star

by Bob Hancock Jr.


Just...

June 9, 2005
Bob Hancock Jr., pastor
St. Helena Seventh-day Adventist Church
This article in The Star

Has anyone ever used the “just” word on you? You think someone is cute but are scared to death to talk to him or her. Then a well-meaning friend says “Just go up and say ‘Hello!’” It’s not just that easy. You are standing on the high dive gazing down from what seems an infinite height above the water far below. Fear paralyzes your legs. You can’t seem to move. Then the person behind you says, “Just jump!” It’s not just that easy. It is five minutes before the end of your work day and the office manager stops by your desk and says, “I know it’s almost time to go but I’ve got a mission critical job that needs to be done right now. Here it is. Just make 7,000 copies of this report, collate them, put them in binders and slide them under my door.” It’s not just that easy.

In answer to the question “What does it mean to be a Christian?” many today would probably answer, “Just believe in Jesus.” There’s that word “just” again. And, like the previous examples, there is far more to it than the superficial answer seems to indicate. But don’t take my word for it. Listen to the answers Jesus gave to those inquiring about eternal life.

When one young man who was enriched with material possessions asked about eternal life Jesus replied, “Go, sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.” (Mark 10:17-27) To a religious devotee asking about eternal life Jesus told a story implying that his obstacle was giving up deep-seated racial and religious prejudice (Luke 10:25-37). To another, Jesus identified reluctance to become itinerant and dependant upon the generosity of others as his obstacle to “just” believing (Matthew 8:19, 20). Each answer Jesus gave about what it meant to “just believe” was different in detail but identical in principle.

“Just believing” means a willingness to part with any attitude, value, belief or behavior incompatible with God’s defined truths. In the first three centuries A.D. when Rome dominated the world and emperor worship was a legal mandate, there were no illusions on the part of those who chose to “just believe” in Jesus that doing so was supremely risky. It meant rejecting the worship of Caesar and becoming subject to barbaric execution by fire, beast or gladiator.

Today in parts of the world where fundamentalistic Islam is practiced a Muslim who chooses to “just believe” in Jesus knows they may face death at the hands of relatives who believe it their religious duty to kill family members who convert. I know. I’ve lived there. To believe in Jesus in Sudan may mean having your village exterminated by government forces hostile to Christianity. To believe in Jesus in China may mean arrest, torture and death at the hands of government agents.

While in other places believing in Jesus may mean death, in America today “just believing” is in danger of meaning almost nothing. There is a tendency in American Christianity towards teaching that salvation is nothing more than mouthing the phrase “I believe in Jesus” regardless of one’s allegiances, values or behavior. This trend is certainly acceptable to the relativism that is becoming mainstream in American culture. It is alien, however, to the ancient meaning of “believing” reflected in Jesus’ politically incorrect teaching that He alone is “the way [to the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob], the truth and the life.” (John 14:6).

Americans who hold to the ancient teachings of Jesus, rather than modern revisions of them, are beginning to see a little more of the prejudice and hatred that existed in ancient times. Recently a man in Canada was convicted in court of violating a hate crimes law for doing nothing more than printing an unmodified quote from the Bible, offensive to mainstream culture, in a duly purchased newspaper advertisement. I suspect that similar application of existing hate crimes legislation in the United States is not far away.

While the consequences of truly believing in Jesus may seem severe, the rewards far outweigh the risks. Choosing Jesus as the definer of your values and behavior results in peace that surpasses all logic. Becoming a prince or princess of the universe through the adoption by God the Father of all who believe, endows a sense of identity and wholeness no power or position on earth can equal. If this is of interest to you, listen to a song written just a few days ago by St. Helena resident, Dan Oliver. Download it free of charge in mp3 format.

 

 


Other Thursday Pulpit articles by Bob Hancock, Jr.

"Does Your Vote Really Count?" - July 29, 2004

"Spooky Action at a Distance" - July 29, 2004

"Facing the Threat of Terror" - June 3, 2004

"Don't Watch the Passion" - March 11, 2004

"I Can Do Anything" - January 22, 2004

"Giving the Time" - January 23, 2003

 

 

 

   
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