Following Jesus in 2018

The young adults in the group we lead asked us what it means to follow Jesus in 2018. The study and discussion took us in some interesting directions.

This is what we learnt together.

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Mission vs maintenance

Did Jesus mean it to come to this?

How much does modern western christianity come from Jesus, and how much comes from somewhere else?

A few weeks back I introduced the theme of Did Jesus mean it to come to this?, in which I want to examine the modern western church, and muse on how much it may, or may not, have departed from the teachings and pattern of life left to us by Jesus.

In this post, the mission of the church vs maintaining the organisation.

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Did Jesus mean it to come to this?

More than two billion people in the world today identify as followers of Jesus. This includes a fair percentage of inhabitants of the USA, currently the world’s most powerful nation, its most influential via film, TV, social media and popular music, and home of some of the world’s richest people.

My country, Australia, still has a significant christian presence (maybe 10%), and you’ll find followers of Jesus in every first world country, as well as all over the rest of the world.

It is a long way from rural Galilee, a small backwater of the ancient Roman Empire, to some of the richest and busiest cities in the world. How have the teachings of Jesus survived the journey?

I wonder if Jesus came back whether he would be surprised and pleased at how his followers are doing? Or not?

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Jesus the social and religious radical – 5 lessons from a dishonourable encounter

The facts about Jesus are clearly stated in the gospels, and they don’t change, but people have so many different understandings of him. The Catholic Jesus or Orthodox Jesus is not the same as the evangelical Protestant Jesus, or the Jesus of liberal Protestant theologians.

I think there is probably some truth in all portraits, including that Jesus was a prophet, and a social and religious radical. Nothing shows this more than his treatment of women and social outcasts.

As Simon the Pharisee discovered when he invited Jesus to a banquet and discussion …..

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Six things we might learn if we understood the mission of Jesus

A couple of weeks back I reviewed Kenneth Bailey’s Jesus Through Middle Eastern Eyes, a book I have found revelatory about Jesus. I have gained many helpful insights from it.

Today, some new understandings about one of my favourite gospel accounts – Jesus in the synagogue at the start of his ministry, when he made clear what he was on about.

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Book review: Jesus Through Middle Eastern Eyes

This is quite simply one of the best and most enlightening books I have read about Jesus and the Gospels.

I have learnt so much that has helped me make better sense of the gospels and of my faith (although I am certainly not claiming to be like Maria in the Counting Crows song, Round Here, who says she is “close to understanding Jesus”!)

Let me tell you why I am so enthused.

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Book review: The Jesus Legend

jesus-legend

Some books on Jesus and the New Testament are clearly apologetic in nature, seeking to argue or defend a certain viewpoint, whether it be sceptical or believing.

Other books clearly aim at being academic, impartial, seeking to advance academic opinion.

This book, which is almost a decade old, is kind of both. I have only recently read it, and I think it is worthy of a review.

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The kingdom of God – a ticket to heaven?

ticket

I was talking with an evangelical minister recently, about social justice and the mission of the church. He felt evangelism should be clearly our highest priority, because it has “eternal consequences”.

I suggested that wasn’t how Jesus saw things – his main message and highest priority seemed to be the kingdom of God. But the minister’s response was: “But Jesus said his kingdom was not of this world.” In other words, getting people into heaven was Jesus’ highest priority, and should be ours too.

I must admit I was flabbergasted. So I decided to look again at the gospel Jesus taught.

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The real story of Jesus’ birth?

nativity

The Christmas story is known and loved by many people who wouldn’t call themselves “christians”. The details are well known: angels, a stable with straw and animals, shepherds, 3 wise men with gifts, etc, and in the centre a glowing mother and a perfectly formed baby.

Historians are not so sure about all these details, but this week isn’t a time to be sceptical. Especially as I recently came across a historical analysis that makes more sense of some of the details in Luke’s account, and so gives us a much better insight into Jesus’ birth.

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