Critics of Jesus

illustration of Pharisees doubting Jesus

Our natural tendency is to dismiss our critics while gravitating toward those who praise us. While this may be beneficial to our psyche, there may be worthwhile things in the words of our critics. In this lesson, we’re going to look at five statements made by critics of Jesus. These five points are also things anyone, friend and critic alike, should be able to say about us as His followers.

No One Ever Spoke Like This Man

On the last day of the Feast of Tabernacles, Jesus stands among the multitudes in John 7:32-39, and calls all who thirst to come unto Him. He claims to be the source of eternal life and salvation foretold by the prophets. The multitude divides over His statements, but, in verse 45, when the Pharisees ask Roman officers why they did not arrest Christ, those officers answer, “No one ever spoke like this man.”

Titus 2:8 tells us we should possess sound speech. What can people do with their words? How often is is said of us that our belief in God and Jesus is evident in the way we speak? Everything that comes from our mouths should reflect a Christ-centered attitude, so others can feel the same about us.

See How He Loved

In John 11, we read of Lazarus’ death and Jesus raising him from the dead. In verses 34-36, Jesus is moved to tears. Many present speak among themselves and say, “See how He loved him.” We know the new commandment of John 13:34 — that we love one another as Christ loved us. His love was evident and open, so it could be seen by all, even His critics.

In his epistles, John calls on us to love in deed and truth rather than in word only. Can those who see us day to day see the love we have? Do we love sacrificially, compassionately, and openly, so we are known as a loving person? Christ was unashamed to demonstrate His love for Lazarus, and our love for our fellow man should be so evident.

The World Has Gone After Him

In John 12, Jesus makes His triumphal entry into Jerusalem prior to His arrest and crucifixion. In verse 19, the Pharisees look on this and say, “You see that you are gaining nothing. Look, the world has gone after him.” Jesus influenced all around Him, and we are capable of doing the same.

In Romans 1:16, Paul says he is unashamed of the gospel as the means for salvation to all. Later, Paul calls on his readers to imitate him as he imitated Christ. Paul knew the example he set for others. Just like Paul, we can be so influential to those around us, both by our words and our actions.

I Find No Guilt in Him

In John 18, Jesus is now being shuffled through trial after trial. Pilate questions Him. Herod questions Him and returns Him to Pilate. They speak of Jesus’ kingship and of truth, and in the end, Pilate goes back to the Jews and says, “I find no guilt in him.” Both in the eyes of man and the eyes of God, Christ was without guilt.

We don’t have to give in to sin, and Christ showed us that in His life. In I Peter 2:21-24, Peter says we are called to follow this example, and Hebrews 4:14-16 assures us that Jesus our High Priest knows the temptations, sorrows, and pains we face; yet He never sinned. We are indeed fallible creatures, but we do not have to succumb to that fallibility. We can live as blamelessly as He.

Truly This Man Was the Son of God

In Mark 15, Jesus is hanging on the cross, and darkness descends upon the land. Some bring Him vinegar to drink in His pain, and Jesus gives up His life as the temple veil tears. In verse 39, a centurion looks upon Christ and says, “Truly this man was the Son of God!”

Both the letters to the Romans and the Hebrews impress upon us that we are adopted sons of God, heirs with Christ to the promises of God. Galatians 2:20 calls on us to crucify self in our lives and live as Jesus lived. We are sons of God, and our attitudes and conduct should reflect that relationship that others may say the same of us.

Worship While Having Fun

child playing soccer
photo by Markus Spiske

In this series of lessons, we’ve looked at what true worship is — that it is more than playing church when we come together to assemble. It is part of who we are everywhere we are. We’ve considered worshipful living while at work as well as in our home lives. We’ve looked at worshipful living in our school communities both as students and parents, and today we’ll be looking at worshipful living at something we might not usually consider – while engaged in our free time and while having fun.

A Life Meant to Be Enjoyed

Fun is an attitude, and the challenge is to keep a Christian attitude while having fun. This may be the most difficult time to stay Christ-like in our conduct. Hebrews 5:14 reminds us that we should have good discernment as mature Christians, even when entertaining ourselves. In the moment, we may not always do such a good job choosing between good and evil; we may be around people who are not the best influences; and we may give into peer pressure to prevent killing the fun.

God means for His people to enjoy their lives, and we see His people engaged in celebration and joy numerous times in the Old Testament. In the New, we even see Jesus’ first miracle taking place at a wedding celebration. To follow God is not to renounce the joy of this life. Ecclesiastes 11:8 calls on us to rejoice in the days in our lives. Verse 9 tells us to rejoice in our youth, and verse 10 calls on us to remove pain from our hearts. A joyless life will do nothing to bring others to Christ, and a joyless life is full of wasted opportunities to lift others up and to celebrate all God has given us.

Our Example in Recreation

We should be known by the example we set. We should have fun on our terms, rather than the terms of others. There are limits to the type of fun we should have, and when we engage in sin for entertainment, it takes away from our worshipful living. There is plenty of joy without sin, and Proverbs 13:9 tells us the light of our righteousness should always shine. I Peter 4:3-5 tells us we will give up some activities and some friends when we submit to following God, but we can be an example to them of joy without immorality.

So what do we do for fun? Who do we choose to be around? Do these choices reflect our Christian values? If someone will not be your friend because you abstain from sin, then you don’t need that influence in your life. They may think you are mean, a jerk, or a prude; but being a Christian is between you and God, not between you and them. Romans 12:1-2 calls on us to be living sacrifices. This means we won’t be like those around us. It means we won’t even be like our former selves. Philippians 1:10 admonishes us to keep ourselves spotless for Christ’s return.

Conclusion

We need to evaluate who we are when having fun. We have to define ourselves, our opinions of ourselves and our boundaries. We must refine ourselves, making sure our choices then reflect the definition we have of ourselves. Finally, once we define and refine ourselves, we must *be* ourselves. We are Christians no matter where we are; we must always be setting a Christian example to those around us; we need to make good choices about those we spend time with. As living sacrifices, we can succeed even while having fun if we decide how we will reflect Christ in the choices we make.

lesson by Mike Mahoney

Worship in Social Media

Photo by Thom Weerd

We’ve been engaged in a series called “Worship 24 x 7,” and we’re looking at how to live in context of the Bible guiding every aspect of our lives. In this lesson, we’re going to examine how we live spiritually while engaged in online activities. How do we present ourselves as Christians in our modern culture of online communications?

Two caveats before we begin:

  1. I’m restricting this lesson to how we behave online socially. We could go into whole separate lessons about moral conduct online in the context of file-sharing, downloading pirated media and games, and visiting questionable websites; but those discussions can wait until another lesson. The focus of this lesson is social conduct.
  2. This lesson is not coming from someone who is afraid of the modern web or who sees it as inherently evil. I don’t get confused every time Facebook changes the shade of blue or moves a button. I know my way around social networking and have fallen into and climbed out of many of the pitfalls we’ll be talking about.

Potentials and Dangers

Social networks are amazing things. What began in the nineties as forums for small groups to congregate has blossomed into a mainstream phenomenon where parents, children, teachers, grandparents, and entire masses of people can reach out to each other and connect more easily than ever before. Through a variety of services, we can share pictures, bookmarks, links, hopes, fears, ideas, and so much more with our new online communities. The potential for communication is greater than in any point in history, for a few taps of our thumbs can take those messages and share them with the entire world.

We build up our own pages to ourselves where we feel a sense of empowerment behind the anonymity of the keyboard. We are not, however, truly anonymous. People actually see these things we post and share — but we forget that those things reflect on us as Christians. See, along with this great ability to share ideas and knowledge across the globe comes a false sense of security and bravado. We aren’t talking directly to someone. We don’t see how our words and our comments affect others, so we grow bold in the things we share or approve of online.

A Reflection of Our Hearts

What we need to remember is that everything we do online reflects upon our character. When I post a tweet, it reflects my character. The same is true when I compose an email or forward one sent to me by someone else. It’s true when I send text messages, when I share someone else’s material in some way, when I write comments under a status update or blog post, and when I quote someone else. When I write, share, or endorse something online, it demonstrates where my heart is — perhaps more accurately than any other venue because of that perceived anonymity I allow to embolden me.

What I write is a form of speech. It is verbal language put into a visual medium, and the Bible has much to say about our verbal conduct. In Luke 6:43-45, Jesus speaks of fruit born by good and bad trees; every tree is known by its fruit. He then draws a parallel to our speech in relation to our hearts. If we are pouring out negative and hateful things from our mouth, what does that say about our hearts? In the parallel account of this lesson in Matthew 12:33-36, Jesus goes on to say that we will be judged by our careless words. Few settings are a greater temptation for careless words than when we are online. It’s so easy to simply hit a button without taking a second to think about how this will reflect on our Christian walk.

Ephesians 4:25-29 asks us to put away falsehood in our lives, to control our anger, and to only speak such things that are beneficial for encouragement. Then there’s James 3, where the apostle writes about the power of the tongue, and he paints a picture that portrays our tongues as nearly uncontrollable. James asks why we think we can curse our fellow man with the same mouth we praise God. He calls it a contradiction, and that same contradiction exists when we post mean-spirited, hateful, and unmerciful things online. That’s where the wisdom spoken of in verses 13-18 comes in. We have to be wise about what we post.

Some Practical Tips

So what are some things we can do to avoid tarnishing our reputations as Christians online?

  • Think about who is seeing your posts, especially on Facebook. Let’s avoid airing out relationship problems, becoming involved in personal arguments, and otherwise imposing our dirty laundry on others.
  • Is what you’re about to share even true? This is especially dangerous when sharing someone else’s post or forwarding an email — substantially more so when the topic skews political. Before you go sharing a juicy bit of outrage, you should see if it passes the Snopes test. Then you still probably shouldn’t share it even if it does.
  • Ask yourself what Jesus would endorse. I’ve seen Christian hit the Like button on statuses and groups that convey hateful attitudes, that portray misplaced priorities, that even use coarse language. Think about it, do you think Jesus would endorse a group called: “If you’re going to burn our flag, wrap yourself in it first?” Are we (like I Timothy 5:22 warns against) laying our hands hastily on others?
  • Ask yourself if your post is encouraging. Honestly, I know which public figures you hate; I know what laws and bills make you bitter; I know which celebrities get under your skin; I know which groups make you angry. It’s so easy to be negative, but we need to try to avoid it and rather share things that edify and encourage.
  • I’ve already touched on this, but texting or tweeting foul language is no better than saying it. And, no, I don’t give free passes for abbreviations. Let your words (and acronyms) reflect your spirituality.
  • Don’t post things that require disclaimers. “I don’t approve of the hateful way this person says this, but he makes a good point.” No he doesn’t. If it has to be done coarsely, rudely, or hatefully, then it’s not worth sharing, and the points made probably aren’t all that good at any rate.
  • If you wouldn’t be willing to say something you’re writing to someone’s face, then don’t write it. I’ve received messages and emails from Christians that simply turn my stomach, and I’ve never heard them talk that way in conversation. Hold your emails to the same moral standard as your spoken conversations.
  • Finally, consider the focus. What does your Timeline say about your priorities? Mine says I’m about 10% spiritual. That’s not good, but it unfortunately does better than a number of Christians online. Would anyone know you’re a Christian by the focus of your online conduct?

Teach the World

We can go on and on about the dangers of social networking. Some of you won’t even touch sites like Facebook because you’ve seen the harm that can come through them, but there is so much potential for good. There is so much potential for seeing opportunities to help others in need. There is so much opportunity for edification and encouragement. There is so much opportunity to lean upon one another for support in ways that would have been impossible in the past. Let’s not squander these opportunities by misusing our time online, and let’s not lose out on opportunities to encourage because we are afraid.

Most importantly, social networking gives us the opportunity to share God’s word like never before. My Bible study blog gets visits from all over the world. Our congregational site and blog gets visited by people all over the world. We’ve been visited over 8,000 times in just the last week and over 50,000 times since the new site was launched. When you post to Facebook or other social networks, you are reaching out to friends and family who may live hundreds or thousands of miles away, who might otherwise only know you through annual Christmas letters. The potential is astounding. The opportunities are endless. Let’s use them well. Let’s teach the world. Let’s make each other better. Let’s save souls. Let’s be living sacrifices to God even when we network online.

lesson by Robert Smelser