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Dane Skelton is the Pastor of Faith Community Church and the author of Jungle Flight: Spiritual Adventures at the Ends of the Earth, a book of true stories from the ministry of JAARS (formerly Jungle Aviation and Radio Service). His second book, Papua Pilot: Flying the Bible to the Last Lost Peoples, co-authored with the late Paul Westlund, is now available on Amazon.com and Christianbook.com.
Andrew Greely, of the Chicago Sun-Times once said, "Much of the history of Christianity has been devoted to domesticating Jesus—to reducing that elusive, enigmatic, paradoxical person to dimensions we can comprehend, understand, and convert to our own purposes. So far it hasn't worked."
Mr. Greely was correct. Jesus is often treated as a wise and gentle teacher, the kind of guy who wouldn’t hurt a flea, who would never be harsh with anyone.
Jesus is also respected as a guru, or counselor, someone from whom we might seek advice and perspective, but who, in professional therapeutic style, would never give direction. Therapists don’t issue commands; they help us discover our own truths.
Jesus, in many people’s minds, is also never associated with judgment. In fact, as the chief spokesperson of Christianity he is most often cited as an advocate of unlimited tolerance, the guy who said, “Judge not, lest you be judged.”
I guess that’s why passages like Luke 8:16-18 grab my attention, especially verse 18, which reads: “Therefore, consider carefully how you listen. Whoever has will be given more; whoever does not have, even what he thinks he has will be taken from him.”
We read that and go, “Huh? What’s that all about?”
Our problem with such sayings is that we aren’t familiar with the rest of scripture and we have a truncated understanding of Jesus of Nazareth.
When Jesus spoke those words, and repeated similar themes in a few other contexts (see Matthew 25:29; John 3:17-19), he was citing a spiritual dynamic recorded in Isaiah 6:9 the essence of which is: those who reject God’s clear commands, his call to turn away from sin, receive his offer of salvation, and worship him alone, will experience two realities: they will be under God’s judgment and they will be unable to decipher the meaning of any further truth.
The same concept appears in many other parts of the Bible. We see it in Romans 9:17-18, where Pharaoh hardened his heart against Moses’ message and God hardened Pharaoh’s heart in return, and in Acts 28 when the Jews rejected Paul’s message and the apostle turned to the Gentiles.
Who is Jesus of Nazareth? He’s more than a teacher. He’s more than a guide, or a therapist. And he is much, much more than an advocate of unlimited tolerance. But don’t take my word for it. Listen to what he says about himself in another place:
For the Son of Man is going to come in his Father’s glory with his angels, and then he will reward each person according to what he has done. (Matt. 16:27). In other words, he is most definitely the judge of all the Earth.
And what is the King of Glory telling us in passages like Luke 8:18? Two things:
First, be careful how you listen, for a day of reckoning is surely coming.
Finally, make sure that you obey what you understand at present and he will help you understand more as you go along.