Poetry, Sanctification

Throwback Thursday ~ How a Little Acorn Helped Reassure a Nut Like Me

It’s a midweek mixup! :0) Due to my family’s schedule this week, I’m changing up the blog schedule just a little. Throwback Thursday will be today, and our 1 Peter Bible study lesson will be Thursday. Sorry for any inconvenience.

Originally published September 27, 2016

acorn-1030819_1280

There are two kinds of people in this world, throwers and savers (or hoarders, if your saving has breached the clinical level). I’m a thrower married to a saver, which means I have thrown out some stuff I later wished I’d kept, and my husband has saved a lot of stuff we haven’t used in ages and probably never will. But, recently, I came across something I’m really glad I kept all these years.

I was going through a box of old papers, happily doing my “thrower” thing, when I discovered a manilla folder marked, in my handwriting, “Michelle’s Misc. Creative Writing.” Whatever it was, I didn’t remember saving the folder, nor what it might contain. I opened it up to find a two inch thick sheaf of, well…my miscellaneous writings from years gone by. Sermon notes, creative writing assignments and essays for English classes, poems, song lyrics, short stories, even what looked like the manuscript to a devotional I’d started on.

Fortunately, I had dated most of the papers, so I could see that the bulk of them were written when I was between the ages of about 14 to 21. As I leafed through pages of adolescent script alternating with dot matrix printing, I started noticing a common thread. Nearly all of this writing was about God, faith, the Bible, worship, wanting to know Him more. To be sure, the faith was childlike (if not downright childish), and the theology was often immature and somewhat unbiblical.

But it was there. And all these years I’d wondered whether or not that faith had existed back then at all.

You see, I was raised in a Christian home, and, although I was most definitely a depraved little wretch, my outward behavior was fairly decent compared with some of the other kids my age. I got good grades, never had behavior problems in school, was at church every time the doors were open, never tried sex, drugs, cigarettes, crime, or anything else teens sometimes get into. Overall, I was your basic goodie two shoes. So, when I prayed a prayer for salvation at age 12, there was no great big radical lightning bolt change in my life. Things continued pretty much as usual. Had my heart changed? Looking back all those years later as an adult with terrible recollective abilities, I couldn’t really remember.

But as I skimmed through page after page of longing for God, love for God, wanting to please God, something I told a reader not long ago -who was concerned she might not be saved – hit me like a ton of bricks:

Lost people don’t have that kind of “want to.”

I didn’t have all my doctrine straight or walk in Christian maturity, and I wouldn’t have known an apologetic from an apostate, but I wanted God. I loved Him as best I knew how at the time. I had that “want to.” I was saved. God had used a dusty box of old papers to reassure me and put those doubts to rest. It was one of those precious moments alone with the Lord that you never forget.

So to sort of celebrate that little moment in my walk with the Lord, I wanted to share with you one of the poems I found in that folder. It was undated, but I think I wrote it when I was in high school or college. Now, I’m just going to warn you up front, it’s long and it’s lame and it’s (a)corny, and some of the cadence is off and so is the doctrine, and it just plain needs a lot of editing. But I had a good laugh over it, and I thought you might, too. (Hint- it’s funnier if you read it out loud.)

I Am a Little Acorn

I am a little acorn,
A fact that’s plain to see,
But remember that the might oak
Was once a nut like me.

When I was a baby bud,
I burst forth from a limb,
I grew a little every day,
Out from my little stem.

As I grew older day by day,
An identity crisis hit me.
I searched my heart and searched my soul
To find out just what I should be.

I did not want to be a nut.
I cried, “I cant! I won’t!”
Because sometimes you feel like a nut,
Sometimes you don’t.

I tried to be a button,
And a rolling tumbleweed.
I tried to be a jelly bean,
But still did not succeed.

Oprah, Geraldo, Sally, and Phil*
All let me spill my guts.
“Something other than an acorn?” they asked,
“You can’t! You must be nuts!”

My fame and fortune quickly spread,
I was known both far and wide.
But no one knew my secret dark,
I was lost and scared inside.

Then finally, one day, I turned to the Lord,
And cried out with all my might,
“Why, oh why, do I continue to fail?
Why won’t something go right?”

“Remember to whom you are speaking,” said He,
“I am the Great I Am,
But I’m also the root of David,
And the seed of Abraham.”

“From small beginnings come great things,
This fact is tried and true,
The mighty oak could never be,
Without an acorn like you.”

“All are given different gifts,
And must do as best they can,
To find a way to channel them
According to God’s plan.”

“So cheer up little acorn,
And learn the secret known by few:
Be content with what you’re given,
And let God work through you.”

“I’ll be the best acorn ever!” said he.
“I’ll do as God has led.”
Then standing bold and brave and tall,
The acorn proudly said:

“I am a little acorn,
A fact that’s plain to see,
But remember that the mighty oak
Was once a nut like me.”

(*You’ve probably heard of Oprah. Geraldo Rivera, Sally Jessie Raphael, and Phil Donohue all used to host talk shows, too.)

Don’t despair if you’re still a little acorn in your faith. You keep pursuing that “want to” for God, and He’ll grow you into a mighty oak in Christ.

How do I know? Because He’s doing just that for a nut like me. 🌰

Relationships, Sanctification

In Defense of Offense: Why Christians Need to Stop Worrying About Offending People

“You’re a liar,” he said dryly, the passion in his eyes gleaming through.

“What?!?! HOW DARE YOU call me a liar!” his fellow church member fumed.

“You’re a liar, Joe. You show up at church for an hour a week and claim to be a Christian, yet you’ve been living with your girlfriend for over a year, you’ve told me you use pornography, and I’ve talked to five different people with incontrovertible evidence that you’ve cheated in your business dealings with them. When you say you’re a Christian, you’re lying. Just admit it.”

Have you ever had a conversation like this with someone? Have you ever witnessed a conversation like this?

Most of us would never dream of calling someone a liar who claims to be a Christian yet walks in disobedience to Christ. Goodness, no! It might offend the person or cause her to question her salvation! She might leave the church or walk away from the faith!

You know who wouldn’t be afraid of offending such a person or causing her to doubt her salvation? Someone who would dream of calling a professed Christian walking in disobedience a liar?

The Holy Spirit – via the Apostle John – that’s who.

Whoever says “I know him [Jesus]” but does not keep his commandments is a liar, and the truth is not in him, but whoever keeps his word, in him truly the love of God is perfected. By this we may know that we are in him: whoever says he abides in him ought to walk in the same way in which he [Jesus] walked.
1 John 2:4-6

Take a moment and let that really sink in. People who claim to be Christians yet habitually and unrepentantly make a practice of sinning are not saved.

To the Holy Spirit and John that’s as plain and simple and uncontroversial as saying, “The sky is blue, and water’s wet.” But to a false convert, them’s fightin’ words.

And we know it.

So we refrain from lovingly speaking hard, biblical truths to people who need to hear them, usually for one of a handful of reasons:

• We don’t want this person’s wrath aimed at us because it’s a hassle or because we don’t want to lose the relationship with her.

• We don’t actually believe the Bible and trust God’s sovereignty. We’d rather lean on our own understanding, desperately clinging to the irrational hope that this person is truly a Christian who’s hanging by a thread, and we don’t want to be the one responsible for saying anything that might clip that thread.

• We’re worried about how we’ll look to others and that they’ll accuse us of being unloving, unchristlike, and harming the unity of the church.

What do those reasons have in common?

Me. Me me me me me me me.

I want to keep my relationship with this person in tact. I don’t want others to blame me for this person’s reaction to biblical truth or call me unloving or divisive. I don’t want to deal with the aggravation of this person’s emotional blow up.

It’s not exactly the greater love of laying down one’s life for a friend, is it? We’re not even willing to lay down our comfort or our reputation in order to tell someone her walk doesn’t match her talk and call her to repentance. Is that love at all, or is it just plain, old fashioned selfishness? We bow and scrape at the idol of not hurting other people’s feelings while those people careen down the road paved with our good intentions straight toward the gates of Hell. How is that love? 

Love is valuing, and acting on, what is best for another person over and above our own self interests. You know, kind of like Jesus did during His life, death, and resurrection:

By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers.
1 John 3:16

You know, it’s interesting that the Holy Spirit speaks a lot of hard, “you’re not saved if…” truths in a book (1 John) whose purpose is to give true Christians assurance of their salvation. The Third Person of the Trinity – the embodiment of perfect love – doesn’t seem to think it’s unloving to tell false converts they aren’t saved, while at the same time reassuring young, shaky-kneed saints.

But us? We can’t seem to get our act together and do both from a heart of love the way the Holy Spirit does.

We’ve focused so much attention on reassuring anyone who claims the label “Christian” of their eternal security that we’ve lost sight of the fact that there are a great many false converts in our midst who should be questioning their salvation. The gate is wide that leads to destruction, Jesus said. It is the narrow gate that leads to life, and few are those who find it. Test yourself to see if you’re in the faith. How will they know these things if we don’t tell them?

The Bible has hard, sharp edges. It’s a sword, for crying out loud, not a feather duster. The primary purpose of a sword is to cut.

The gospel divides. Jesus – the creator of Christian unity – said, “I have not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I have come to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law.” Jesus – perfectly kind, perfectly loving Jesus – called those claiming to be God’s people yet walking in disobedience hypocrites, vipers, and sons of the Devil. Jesus – the Jesus who was more compassionately evangelistic than we could ever hope to be – didn’t beg, plead, or hand-wringingly water down Kingdom requirements so the rich young ruler would keep a toe in the door of God’s house. Jesus held high the standard of the gospel and let him walk away. Jesus wasn’t a nerdy little wimp offering people a cheap plastic heavenly trinket if they would only be His friend. This almighty King demanded perfection, the highest love, loyalty unto death. And, by the way, you’d better count the cost before deciding to follow Him. Jesus wasn’t worried about offending people with biblical truth.

We need to stop worrying that the Bible is going to offend people who need to be offended by its demands, requirements, and judgments so that they might repent and be reconciled to Christ. Whether it’s a sinner in need of a Savior or a saint in need of sanctification, the ministry of reconciliation Christ has called us to begins with confronting sin.

Every person we would potentially approach with biblical truth is either saved or lost.

If a person is genuinely one of Christ’s sheep, she will hear the voice of her Shepherd calling to her from the truths of His Word, turn from her sin, and follow Him. It may take time. It may take help. It may take teaching and many tears. But sheep love the Shepherd and follow Him. They grow toward Him, not away from Him.

If a person is lost, she isn’t going to get any “loster” when you biblically call her to repentance. Lost is lost, even if that lost person claims to be, or thinks she is, a Christian. There’s no such thing as a genuinely regenerated Christian who’s just barely hanging on to Jesus by her fingernails and you come along and push her out of the faith by confronting her sin with biblical truth. Uh uh. If she abandons Christ in favor of her sin, she was never saved in the first place, I don’t care what she claims to the contrary.

All of this nonsense floating around these days about “de-converting” from Christianity, or “I used to be a real, genuine, bona fide Christian, but I’m not anymore.” Hogwash and poppycock. The Bible says if you leave the body of Christ, you were never a member of it to begin with. That God is greater than all (including you) and no one (not even yourself) is able to snatch you out of His hand if you belong to Him. That those who are saved will endure to the end. That Jesus will not lose a single one of those the Father has entrusted to Him. Dare we believe the words of sinners about themselves over what the Word of God says about them? No matter what you say or do, you don’t have the power to be responsible for someone leaving the faith. Whatever circumstance or person they might use as a scapegoat, people “leave” Christianity because they don’t know or love Christ and they’ve gotten tired of pretending like they do.

The people we love enough to lovingly, yet firmly, speak hard biblical truths to are either Christians who will come to love and embrace those truths (and love us for caring enough to speak them), or they’re lost or false converts who need to be confronted with the mirror of God’s Word so they can face up to the fact that they’re lost. Where the Bible speaks plainly and definitively, we must not be ashamed of the gospel and shrink from speaking plainly and definitively in agreement with it.

Stop being afraid of offending people by speaking hard, biblical truths. Sometimes the most loving thing you can do for someone is offend her.

Faith, Suffering

Throwback Thursday ~ Six Reasons to Rejoice that Christ is Enough in Our Suffering

Originally published March 20, 2015christ is enough

It seems like so many people are hurting these days. There are personal hurts that come our way like health issues and broken relationships. Many of us are hurting because we’re watching someone we love suffer- an adult child going through a divorce, an elderly relative with Alzheimer’s. And the birth pains the world is going through – ISIS murdering our brothers and sisters in Christ, the rampant filth and debauchery that’s flooding our own culture here in the U.S., and so much more – make it burdensome just to inhabit the planet. It’s no wonder so many of us are limping around in pain just trying to make it through. Everywhere we turn, it’s bad news.

But for those of us who are in Christ, there’s also good news. Good news that trumps any piece of bad news we could possibly receive.

Good news: It’s OK for you to feel sad or overwhelmed during difficult times.

I know that may sound obvious, but sometimes we need to be reminded. We’ve all heard stories about a person who received the diagnosis of some terminal disease with a smile and a “Praise the Lord!” We’ve all run into that lady whose hair could be currently on fire who would brush off our concerns for her with, “Honey, I’m too blessed to be stressed!” And if that’s genuinely the heart of those people, that’s great. They can be very inspiring.

But that doesn’t mean you’re any less of a Christian, or that you don’t trust God, if your doctor tells you that you have cancer and you fall apart. Or if you get that devastating news and you don’t bounce back right away.

Whether we realize it or not, there’s often a subtle pressure we church ladies put on ourselves to walk into God’s house and paste on a smile and pretend like these devastating things don’t bother us. We think that’s faith. We think that shows that we completely trust God. But is that what faith and trust really mean?

Some of the greatest men and women of faith in the Bible were hurt deeply and mourned over that hurt.

God said David was “a man after God’s own heart,” yet look at so many of the Psalms he wrote, especially when he was running for his life from Saul.

I am weary with my moaning;
every night I flood my bed with tears;
I drench my couch with my weeping.
My eye wastes away because of grief;
it grows weak because of all my foes.
Psalm 6:6-7

Time and again, we see passages like that in David’s writings. God never rebukes him or tells him to just put on a happy face.

And what about Jesus? Remember the shortest verse in the Bible? In the story of Jesus raising Lazarus, John 11:35 says “Jesus wept.” The Bible doesn’t tell us precisely why He wept. Maybe it was for one of the same reasons we suffer- the personal pain of losing a loved one, the pain of watching Mary and Martha suffer, or the pain of experiencing a broken world where sin causes awful things like death and disease. But whatever the reasons for His pain, Jesus didn’t plaster on a fake smile and pretend everything was fine.

On the cross at Jesus’ moment of greatest anguish, when the weight of the sin of the world was bearing down on Him, and the wrath of God was being poured out on Him in all its fury, and Jesus was experiencing first hand that it was the will of God to crush Him, Jesus cried out from the depths of His soul, “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?”

David, Jesus, and so many other faithful men and women of God grieved. God’s people hurt sometimes, and that’s OK. You do not have to smile and pretend everything is OK when it’s not. It is OK to be sad when you’re hurting.

But the second piece of good news is this:

Good News: We may grieve, but we don’t “grieve as those who have no hope.” 

Because those of us who are truly born again believers have hope. And His name is Jesus. And He is enough. Jesus is enough for anything you’re going through.

If you watch “Christian TV” or read a lot of the books you’ll find in Christian bookstores by preachers with shiny teeth and even shinier hair, or, heaven help you, if you’re on Facebook, the message you will often hear about suffering is this:

“The pain you’re going through right now is nothing compared to the size of the blessing you’re about to receive.”

or

“It’s never God’s will for you to be sick or in lack. If you just have enough faith (and sow a seed into my ministry), God will bless you.”

or

“Your words create your reality. If you speak positive words (I’m wealthy, I’m successful, I’m healed), you will attract those positive things into your life. If you speak negative words, negative things will happen.”

So if you listen to these guys, in addition to the difficult circumstances that are going on in your life, you now have the pressure of “I’m still sick. I must not have enough faith.” or “Oh no, I accidentally spoke a negative word! I’m doomed to a life of poverty.” or “I thought my blessing was right around the corner. Why am I still suffering?”

Don’t believe those lies. God doesn’t promise any of that malarky in the Bible, because our hope is not found in “everything’s going my way” circumstances. Our hope is found in Christ, regardless of our circumstances. Your circumstances may not get better. You may get that terminal disease and die from it. Your husband who left you for another woman may never come back. Your baby might be born with a disability. Sometimes circumstances don’t get better, but Jesus gets only gets better and better with each passing day.

God never promised you “Your Best Life Now.” He promises you Christ. And Christ is enough. And you can rejoice in that.

Why?

Because He knows what you’re going through.

Speaking of Jesus, Isaiah 53:3 says:

He was despised and rejected by men;
a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief;
and as one from whom men hide their faces
he was despised, and we esteemed him not.

There’s nothing you can go through about which you can honestly say, “God doesn’t understand.” Jesus has been there. He knows what it’s like.

Why can you rejoice that Christ is enough?

Because He loves and cares for you more than you could ever imagine.

Jesus, King of Kings and Lord of Lords, left all his glory behind. For you. He lived a sinless life. For you. He endured being hated, mistreated, and misunderstood. For you. He was whipped, tortured, and humiliated. For you. He took the nails. He took your sin. He took the wrath of His Father. For you. And three days later, He got up out of the grave. For you.

Jesus loves you. He hurts when you hurt. He wants to be the one you run to and pour out your heart to when everything is falling apart so He can comfort you with His presence and His word. He wants you to “cast all your cares upon Him, because He cares for you.”

Why can you rejoice that Christ is enough?

Because the One who went through it all FOR you will walk through it all WITH you. And when you’re too weak to walk any more, He’ll carry you through it.

In Matthew 28:20, the Great Commission, Jesus says,

“I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

In Hebrews 13:5b, He says,

be content with what you have, for he has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.”

Jesus isn’t going anywhere. He’s going to be right there with you no matter what.

Why can you rejoice that Christ is enough?

Because He sends you brothers and sisters in the faith to help you.

Church family is such a precious gift to us from Christ.

Matthew 25:36-40 is about the final judgment, and when Christ’s people stand before Him, He talks about how they have ministered to their brothers and sisters:

I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’ Then the righteous will answer him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’ And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’

When we’re hurting, we allow our church family to minister to us because that is Christ’s gift to us. When we’re able, we turn around and minister to our church family out of love for Christ. We carry our brothers and sisters because Christ carries us.

Why can you rejoice that Christ is enough?

Because what He wants to do IN you is better than what you want Him to do FOR you.

You want Him to bring relief to a temporary problem. He wants to do the eternal in you- make you more like Christ. Romans 5:3-5 says:

we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.

We rejoice in our sufferings because, through them, God makes us more like Christ. And, as Christians, that’s our number one desire- to be like Him.

Why can you rejoice that Christ is enough?

Because you have the hope of Heaven.

Some days the only thing that gets me through is knowing that this life with all its hurts and problems won’t last forever. One day all of this is going to be gone, and God is going to set everything right. In the scope of eternity, this life and the suffering we endure is so short. James says our lives are a “mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes.”

2 Corinthians 4:16-18 says:

So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.

Revelation 21:3-4:

And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.”

Keep things in perspective by keeping your focus on the hope of Heaven.

 

If you are in Christ, you have every reason to rejoice in the Lord, even in suffering, because Christ is enough: He knows what you’re going through, He loves you, He’ll walk through it with you, He has given you church family to help, He’s making you more Christ-like, and because you have the hope of Heaven.

He is enough, so rejoice. Because if Christ isn’t enough, what is?

Faith

Throwback Thursday ~ Risky Business

Originally published January 29, 2016

risky business

Recently, I’ve been hearing a lot of preachers and divangelistas out there teaching that Christians have to constantly take “risks” as proof that we’re growing in Christ, that we have to perform acts of faith that take us outside of our comfort zone, that we have to dare to attempt things that could never be done without God’s direct, miraculous intervention or empowerment.

Well, I’d like to challenge all the proponents of that teaching to take a risk that (I hope) won’t be out of their comfort zone and doesn’t require any miraculous intervention from God:

Find the prescriptive passage of Scripture, chapter and verse, in context, rightly divided, that teaches this “risk doctrine”.

Because I don’t see it.

I see 1 Thessalonians 4:9-11 exhorting us to love the brethren, live quietly, work with our own hands, and walk wisely before outsiders.

I see Titus 2:1-10 telling Christian men and women to learn to be, and teach others to be, submissive, self-controlled, loving, reverent, and kind.

I see the book of 1 John saying that salvation is evidenced by loving Christ, obeying God’s word, shunning worldliness, and confessing our sin.

I don’t see a single Bible character deciding “Hmmm…I’d better come up with some kind of daring deed to do to prove my faith.”

Moses was minding his own business tending sheep when God spoke to Him from the burning bush and called on him to confront Pharaoh and lead Israel out of Egypt. Moses’ response? “Send somebody else.”

David wanted to do a great thing for the Lord by building the temple, and God said no.

Paul and the apostles simply obeyed God’s command to preach the gospel. Their earthly reward? Persecution and martyrdom.

Sometimes, as we walk in daily obedience to God’s word, situations will arise that are scary. Circumstances in which we must trust Scripture over our experiences. Life events that require us to obey God’s word even if we lose a job or a friend. Times when we have to believe that God is doing what is best even if it isn’t the outcome we wanted. That’s not a risk; that’s walking in faith and obedience, depending on Christ to carry us through whatever He places in our path.

But the Bible doesn’t say anywhere that we have to prove our faith or growth in Christ by proactively coming up with some big, fat, hairy risk to take, stepping outside of our comfort zone, and daring to do what can only be done by the power of God.

In fact, that kind of thing sounds eerily similar to what Satan tempted Jesus to do. Among other things, Satan tempted Jesus to prove Himself by literally “stepping out on faith” – right off the top of the temple – and trusting God to catch Him. And what did Jesus do? He went straight to God’s word and obeyed it by saying no. “You shall not put the Lord your God to the test.” It didn’t work that way for Jesus, and it doesn’t work that way for us.

The Bible teaches us to act in wisdom, to walk in obedience to Scripture, to trust God even when it’s scary or inconvenient or counter-intuitive. But for a pastor or teacher to say that Christians have to commit acts of derring do as proof of our faith or level of growth?

That’s risky business.

Faith, Salvation

Throwback Thursday ~ Making a U-turn on the Road to Emmaus

Originally published September 2, 2016

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That very day two of them were going to a village named Emmaus, about seven miles from Jerusalem, 14 and they were talking with each other about all these things that had happened. 15 While they were talking and discussing together, Jesus himself drew near and went with them. 16 But their eyes were kept from recognizing him. 17 And he said to them, “What is this conversation that you are holding with each other as you walk?” And they stood still, looking sad. 18 Then one of them, named Cleopas, answered him, “Are you the only visitor to Jerusalem who does not know the things that have happened there in these days?” 19 And he said to them, “What things?” And they said to him, “Concerning Jesus of Nazareth, a man who was a prophet mighty in deed and word before God and all the people, 20 and how our chief priests and rulers delivered him up to be condemned to death, and crucified him. 21 But we had hoped that he was the one to redeem Israel. Yes, and besides all this, it is now the third day since these things happened. 22 Moreover, some women of our company amazed us. They were at the tomb early in the morning, 23 and when they did not find his body, they came back saying that they had even seen a vision of angels, who said that he was alive. 24 Some of those who were with us went to the tomb and found it just as the women had said, but him they did not see.” 25 And he said to them, “O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! 26 Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into his glory?” 27 And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself.

28 So they drew near to the village to which they were going. He acted as if he were going farther, 29 but they urged him strongly, saying, “Stay with us, for it is toward evening and the day is now far spent.” So he went in to stay with them. 30 When he was at table with them, he took the bread and blessed and broke it and gave it to them. 31 And their eyes were opened, and they recognized him. And he vanished from their sight. 32 They said to each other, “Did not our hearts burn within us while he talked to us on the road, while he opened to us the Scriptures?” 33 And they rose that same hour and returned to Jerusalem. And they found the eleven and those who were with them gathered together, 34 saying, “The Lord has risen indeed, and has appeared to Simon!” 35 Then they told what had happened on the road, and how he was known to them in the breaking of the bread.
Luke 24:13-35

It had been a long, confusing, emotional couple of days. Eventful? The word could hardly capture all that had taken place. As they made their way from Jerusalem to Emmaus, Cleopas and his friend rehearsed the trials, the scourging, the crucifixion, and the reports of the empty tomb, trying to make sense of it all.

How could this have happened? It just didn’t add up. Everything their beloved Jesus had done, taught, and said fairly screamed, “This is it! This is the Messiah!” Jesus was the one they had been waiting for. The one who would throw off the iron-heeled boot of Roman oppression, take the throne of His father, David, and reestablish Israel as a sovereign nation, restoring her former glory.

But…a crucifixion? His body missing? It didn’t fit the narrative they’d been weaned on. Maybe Jesus wasn’t the Messiah after all. Their hopes for the future, so recently a roaring flame, waned at the cross and dwindled to an ember at the tomb.

Try to put yourself in the sandals of Cleopas and his companion. Every day of your life has been lived shivering in the shadow of the evil Roman empire. Unclean Gentiles, pagans, haters of God and His people, who ruled with impunity and maintained pax romana by any means necessary. Crosses laden with the corpses of criminals and insurrectionists lined the road leading into town, lest there be any question as to the fate of those who dared rebel. There was no real right of redress. No true due process. And since Rome ruled the known world, virtually no way of escape.

“Someday,” Jewish boys and girls learned for hundreds of years at their mother’s knee, “Someday God’s promised Messiah will come and deliver us. This will all be over. We’ll be free.”

This was the Christ – the Messiah, or “anointed one” – most of God’s people hoped in. A Christ who would save them from earthly suffering. A Christ who would set things right and make their temporal circumstances better. No thought to their need for atonement. No concerns about eternity. Never mind the Bread of Life, just give us bread.

And Cleopas and his fellow disciple had found him. Maybe they were afraid to believe it at first. Could Jesus really be the one? But as they followed him for days, or months, or years, they began to believe. Finally, He was here. Finally, things would turn around for them. Everything was going great.

Until.

And just like that, in a matter of a few days, all hope was lost.

They stood still, looking sad.

Was it because Jesus had, in reality, failed to fulfill His mission? No. It was because they had poured every drop of their faith into a false Christ. A christ of their own imagination and design. An unbiblical christ who had been passed down to them over the years by false or misinformed teachers.

And, to this day, people are still placing their faith in that same false christ of their own imagination, promulgated by false or misinformed teachers. A christ who will solve all their earthly problems. A christ who will heal their diseases, fix their broken relationships, grant them power, imbue them with influence, and shower them with wealth.

Sure, their hope in this christ will burn brightly for a while, but just like that, in a matter of a few moments, hours, or days, that hope can be extinguished forever. A car accident. A house fire. An affair. A child gone prodigal. Wasn’t Christ supposed to make my life better?

But – thanks be to God – that’s not the end of the story. There’s a true Christ. The true Christ of Scripture. The Christ that Jesus showed the two disciples from Moses and the Prophets on the road to Emmaus. The Christ that God reveals to us today in the New Testament. The Christ that all of Scripture points to – not as a life enhancement genie – but as the spotless Lamb of God who came to take away the sin of the world.

This is the Christ in whom we find the hope of sin forgiven. The peace of being made right with God. The joy of knowing He will never leave us nor forsake us.

Are you foolish and slow of heart to believe all that the Bible says about Christ, or does your heart burn within you as the true Christ of Scripture reveals Himself to you in God’s word?

A false christ promises hope, but brings only despair and discouragement when hard times come and his promises go unfulfilled. But all the promises of God find their fulfillment in the Christ of Scripture. He will never fail you nor disappoint you.

The road to Emmaus is a two-way street. Cleopas and his friend started their journey going the wrong direction, but they repented of their unbelief, turned around, and walked the other way. If you’ve been following a false christ, you can repent and trust the true Christ of Scripture today. He’s only a you-turn away.

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