The Four L's

We just want peace in the world and in our lives. Sometimes, however, we fall into the trap of thinking that if we simply stopped arguing with each other, all the world’s problems would go away. It sounds nice, but it’s not possible. Saying to the Muslim and Hindu fighting each other in India that both of their religions are equally true and right, is insulting to both and doesn’t solve the problem. There are only three options: Islam is true and Hinduism is false, the opposite, or both Islam and Hinduism are wrong. You can say the same about Christianity and Islam, Judaism and Hinduism, and any other religion, philosophy, or worldview. The one thing that cannot be true is that both are true.

 It sounds silly to say it but apparently we need to hear it in our contemporary world, one plus one cannot equal two and three. Either the claims of Christ are true and everything contrary is false or they are both false. They cannot both be true. So in our drive for peace, we have regulated all spiritual things to mere opinion, opinions we should not force upon someone else. I am afraid this is not the solution to world peace and most certainly is not the solution for eternal peace.

I met an interesting man the other day. He believed in God but would pick and choose what he wanted to believe from the Bible. He couldn’t get behind the divinity of Christ either. “I like Jesus,” he said. “I believe that he was a good man, a wonderful moral teacher, and a good leader, but I don’t believe that he rose from the dead or is a god.”

I asked him if I could challenge him on that. He agreed. I could tell that he would have dismissed me outright if I told him that the Bible says he is true God so it’s true and that’s it, argument over. I chose instead to attack his logic. I said, “Jesus cannot be that to you. It’s not possible.” He was intrigued. “Jesus claimed to be true God, to pay the price of the sins of the world, and to rise from the dead.” I didn’t even mention all the rough things Jesus said to say. Most people have no clue that Jesus wasn’t that nice! He was pretty blunt at times.

I continued, “If he incorrectly makes these claims of divinity then there are only three options. The first option is that he is a liar. He simply lied about himself. If that is the case, then he is not the good man you say he is, and you should not follow him nor even tolerate those who do. Another option is that he is a lunatic, like the cult leader. Then nobody should follow him. Another possibility is that he is a legend, that is, he may have been a real person but the stories about him are exaggerated. But the Scriptures are more reliable than any other documents from that period. We also have lots of evidence outside of the Bible which at least prove that his followers actually believed him to be true God and suffered for their confession. The historical evidence doesn’t portray him to be a shadowy character we don’t know much about and whose legend grew over centuries.”

Then I reiterated, “So this benign Jesus is not really an option. He claimed to be true God. If he is not that, then he is a bad man. But there is one more option out there besides the three L’s I mentioned: liar, lunatic, or legend. He is who he says he is, the Lord. In that case you ought to think about what he says about sin, death, life, forgiveness.”

The man put his head back and said, “I like that. I like that. I am going to think about that a lot.” What I used in this conversation was an old argument for Christ as true God and Savior. Although it is an older argument it is new to many. We live in a world in which spiritual truth is deemed relative. “Whatever you believe is fine for you, but don’t push your opinions on me.” Under the guise of tolerance and acceptance, the Christian message is deemed as the opposite because it dares to claim that it is true and meaningful. Sadly, many Christians feel the same way – to them Jesus is just a nice guy. Not only is this not logically possible considering the evidence (as stated above), but it makes Jesus out to be small and insignificant and by extension, Christianity just as insignificant. But Jesus is not neutral. He is the ultimate iconoclast. He breaks down all the images of him we make up. He is not a nice guy Jesus or a Marxist Jesus or a capitalist Jesus or a hipster Jesus or a gun-toting Jesus. He is who he is - the Lord.

In a time when everything is questioned to the point that we don’t quite know who to believe, in a world which seems to be ripped apart by radical worldviews (secular or otherwise), in an era when most decisions are made on the basis of either power or perception, it seems that we need the real Jesus more than ever. What we need is a radical insistence of truth. And this authentic Jesus we know from Scripture is exactly that. He will break down the image of what we thought a God should look like just as he did by lying in a manger – who would have ever picked that kind of crib for the Son of God!

The nice-guy Jesus isn’t good enough, and we know that now more acutely than ever. We need the one who insists on telling us about the invasiveness of sin and the glorious redemption handed to us mere humans through gritty words, water, bread and wine. We need the real Jesus even if he offends, even if he makes us feel uncomfortable at times, even if he challenges us. 

Part 3: The Four L's

by Pastor Michael Berg
St. John's, Wood Lake, MN

Part 1: An Apology for Apologetics
Part 2: The Evidence for Christ’s Resurrection