Only One God Was Mutilated For You

Posted by Pastor J.D. on July 10, 2013
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The main question the prophet Elijah was commissioned to answer was “Is there really only one God?” and, “If so, which God is the right one?” Elijah’s name gives away his answer, “Eli-jah” in Hebrew means “The Lord is God.” The climactic answer takes place in the showdown on Mt Carmel. Elijah is outnumbered 850 to 1. What Elijah revealed about the true God there, or, rather, what God revealed about himself, is as relevant today as it ever was. Jehovah is distinct from the ba’al’s, and every false god our culture puts forward, in at least four ways, two of which I’ll share with you here, and two of which you’ll have to listen to the whole sermon on this passage to get!

1. False gods require strenuous efforts; the true God is known by grace through faith.

False gods require strenuous dancing to please them. We see it in the prophets of Ba’al, who danced around the altar in their attempt to get their god’s attention (1 Kings 18:26). That is how every false religion operates: if you obey well enough, then you will be accepted. Thus religious ‘gods’ like Allah say, “Are you dancing hard enough? Are you keeping the commandments well enough?”

But secular gods are just as demanding. Popularity, money, or beauty demand that you dance like a slave to please them. So if money is your god, you dance like a slave for it, to get into the right school, to get the right job, to get that promotion. If beauty is your god, you dance—sometimes literally—so you’ll feel good about your body. If popularity is your god, then you dance for your circle of friends, desperately seeking to gain their approval.

The prophets of Ba’al danced, but all Elijah did was pray in faith (1 Kings 18:36–37). That is because Elijah knew the true God, the God of the gospel. Every other religion says that your acceptance is based on your obedience, but the gospel is unlike every other religion. The religious say, “I obey; therefore I am accepted.” The gospel reverses that: “I am accepted; therefore I obey.”

2. False gods mutilate us; the true God mutilated himself for us.

The prophets of Ba’al begin by dancing around their altar. They end by slashing at themselves until their blood runs (1 Kings 18:28). False gods always push us toward destruction: “Work harder. Do better. Obtain more. You still aren’t getting my attention. Slash yourself!” So we slash at our bodies by going through crash diets to attain that perfect figure. We slash at our families by overworking to make extra money. We slash at our souls by compromising our integrity to get someone’s affection.

False gods push us to mutilate ourselves, because we desperately want to win their approval. But only one God was ever mutilated for us—Jesus Christ. This story ends with a magnificent fire coming from heaven, but as Jesus himself points out to his first disciples, the fire was not intended for sinful humanity (Luke 9:51–56). It was ultimately intended for him: of all the characters in this story, Jesus is not Elijah, calling down fire; he is the sacrifice who receives the fire of judgment.

At the cross, Jesus took into his body the fire of God’s justice so that we could take into our lives the fire of God’s love. Other gods demand dancing, slashing, mutilation. But Jesus Christ is the only God who was slashed and mutilated for us. As Tim Keller has said, “Every other god will make your blood run; only the true God bleeds for you.”

 

For more, be sure to listen to the entire sermon here.

Pastor J.D.

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J.D. Greear is the lead pastor of The Summit Church, in Raleigh-Durham, NC and author of Gospel: Recovering the Power that Made Christianity Revolutionary (2011) and Stop Asking Jesus into Your Heart: How to Know for Sure You Are Saved (2013). More

13 responses to Only One God Was Mutilated For You

  1. Pastor Kenneth Minor July 12, 2013 at 3:22 pm

    Brother Greear, I just wanted to share something with you concerning the statement that God mutilated Himself for us. The following is an excerpt from chapter 8 of my book All Things According To God:

    “God: was not conceived by the Holy Spirit (Matthew 1:20), does not have a mother (Matthew 1:21), was not born of a virgin (Matthew 1:22, 23), was not in a manger (Luke 2:7), was not born in Bethlehem (Matthew 2:1), did not travel to Egypt (Matthew 2:14, 15), did not grow in wisdom and stature (Luke 2:52), is not the Seed of the woman (Genesis 3:15), is not the Seed of Abraham (Galatians 3:16), is not the King who was a Son of David (Acts 2:29, 30), is not the Prophet like Moses (Acts 3:22), is not a Priest after the order of Melchizedec (Hebrews 5:5, 6), is not the Son of Man (Matthew 16:13), is not Himself the only begotten Son (John 1:18), was not baptized (Matthew 3:13-15), is not the Lamb of God (John 1:29), is not the last Adam (1 Corinthians 15:45), was not filled with the Spirit and led by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted (Luke 4:1, 2), is not the High Priest who sympathized with our weaknesses and was tempted in all points like we are (Hebrews 4:15), did not hold little children in His arms (Mark 10:16), does not get hungry (Matthew 4:2), did not walk on water (Matthew 14:25, 26), does not sleep (Matthew 8:24), does not get weary (John 4:6), does not thirst (John 19:28), does not weep (John 11:35), is not limited in knowledge about future events (Mark 13:32), did not wash the disciples feet (John 13:4, 5), did not partake of the Passover (Matthew 26:26-29), did not ride on a donkey (Matthew 21:1-5), was not troubled in His Soul (John 12:27), did not pray for Himself and to Himself (John chapter 17), did not sweat drops like blood (Luke 22:44), did not wear a crown of thorns, nor was spit upon (Matthew 27:29, 30), did not lay down His life for the sheep (John 10:11), did not receive from Himself the commandment to lay down His life (John10:18), was not crucified and lifted up on a cross (Matthew 27:35), does not have blood to shed (John 19:34), did not ask Himself why He had forsaken Himself (Mark 15:34), has no body from which to dismiss His Spirit (John 19:30), did not die on the cross (Philippians 2:8), was not made sin for us (2 Corinthians 5:21), did not give His life as a ransom for many (Mark 10:45), did not heal us by His stripes (1 Peter 2:24), was not laid in a tomb (John 19:41, 42), did not raise Himself from the dead (Romans 8:11), does not have a glorified body of flesh and bones (Luke 24:39), did not appear to the disciples (1 Corinthians 15:5-8), was not touched by Thomas (John 20:27), did not walk and talk with the disciples on the road to Emmaus (Luke 24:15), did not ascend to heaven (Acts 1:9), did not suffer, leaving us an example to follow (1 Peter 2:21), is not the One Mediator between Himself and men (1 Timothy 2:5), which is all simply because God is not a man.
    Again, all of the above are therefore things that do not apply to Jesus’ divine nature, and thus do not apply to God. However, they are all true concerning His human nature, and therefore they are not to be ascribed to God, the divine nature. Now, just to mention a few things concerning the Man Jesus Christ, take note that His human nature: did not create and does not sustain all things (Colossians 1:15-17), was not in the beginning with God and is not God (John 1:1), is not what He was referring to when He said “Before Abraham was, I am” (John 8:58), does not give to all life, breath, and everything else (Acts 17:25), which is all simply because the Man is not divine.
    Again, as those who are to honor God, all of this serves to emphasize that we must understand and maintain the distinction between Christ’s two natures so that we won’t ascribe things to God (the divine nature) that are only applicable to the Man (the human nature), and we won’t ascribe things to the Man that are only applicable to God. God is eternal and thus immutable. Therefore there is nothing that He can “become,” be “conformed” to, be “reduced” to, or “made” into. It is impossible for God to literally “empty” Himself of or “add” anything to His attributes. God does not “feel as we feel and suffer as we suffer.” Taking into consideration what we have covered thus far, I am confident that as you reflect, you will recognize that not only are there misunderstandings concerning the two natures of Christ, but also that these misunderstandings abound annually during those times of the year when His birth and resurrection are remembered.”

    God bless you brother.

  2. Justin Schell July 12, 2013 at 7:13 pm

    I would love to have you write a follow-up on your thoughts on Amida or Amitabha Buddhism which teaching salvation by grace alone. I, like you, believe that Jesus is the only way of salvation, but I also know that there are other manifestions of a deity or spiritual entity saving mankind through their good works. So, I would just caution you on oversimplifying the issue.

  3. Chris Pappalardo July 13, 2013 at 2:14 pm

    Kenneth,

    We appreciate your reminder to keep the nuanced distinction between the divine and human aspects of the Son of God. Far too often we do play fast and loose with what we attribute to God because it happened to Jesus.

    The point of this post, however, is that we all worship something, and whatever we worship IS effectively our god. Unfortunately, the false gods that we often run to for liberation prove to be more demanding than we usually realize. They push us and demand more from us than we can ever offer, and eventually lead us to pain and death. In contrast, the true God made himself known to us through Jesus Christ. This God made himself known through self-sacrificial love. The love of God was made known to us, not through our efforts to please him, but through his magnificent move toward us (cf. 1 John 3:16, 4:9).

    In a very real way, we know God more fully and more truly through his revelation of himself through Jesus Christ than through any other means. You are right to remind us to keep the distinction between Jesus’ two natures in play. But we must also not split them so dramatically that we fail to see the work of Christ in the Old Testament, as he himself modeled for us (Luke 24:27). The sacrifices of the Old Testament, including this dramatic one in 1 Kings 18, foreshadowed the day when God would, in a mysterious way, become that sacrifice for us.

    If we resolve the divine-human tension in a way that makes perfect sense to us (Jesus the man did a, b, c; Jesus the God did x, y, z), we have lost the mystery of God in Christ, and I would submit that we have begun to wander away from the intricate way that Jesus himself and the NT writers talked about the Son of God.

  4. Chris Pappalardo July 13, 2013 at 2:31 pm

    Justin,

    Knowing a fair number of Buddhists, even some of the “Pure Land” variety that I believe you are referring to, I doubt that they would be comfortable with your summary that they teach “salvation by grace alone.” Salvation isn’t exactly the paradigm that their religion teaches; they are more along the lines of enlightenment. And while past Buddhas provide paradigms of those who have reached enlightenment, they do not–cannot–provide that enlightenment for contemporary seekers. The path to enlightenment requires very specific and very devout religious activities, which require many lifetimes to hone to perfection. So neither the ideas of “salvation” or “grace” are familiar to Buddhists.

    I admit that Buddhism offers a different ethic than other religions. For instance, meditation, yoga, and mindfulness are much more important to Buddhists than to, say, Muslims. But it is deceptive to suggest that any of the Buddhist traditions see salvation in a Christian way.

  5. Pastor Kenneth Minor July 13, 2013 at 2:55 pm

    Chris, we have no disagreement here. Thank you for your comments. My point was not to make a sharp unbiblical distinction. It was just a reminder to make only the very distinctions that the Bible itself makes. Again, thanks.

  6. Justin schell July 13, 2013 at 3:13 pm

    I think you’d be surprised, but there are indeed Buddhist who would use the language of saved by grace. Sure, they would define salvation a little differently, but even in certain versions of Pure Land thought, there is a paradise to which men and women my proceed if they are saved. So, there are nuggets there. Similarly, because Buddhism tends to morph depending on it’s context…since it’s encountered Christianity, there are many who are adopting Christian language to describe Buddhist ideas to Westerners now. Listen, I’m on your side. But, the idea of a god dying to save people is not unique to Christianity. Neither is the idea of mankind being recipients of grace. The real difference is that Christianity really happened both in time and space (it’s historic) AND in actuality (it’s true)! That’s what sets it apart. I do realize that the main point of the post isn’t a comparison of religions…and so I’m sorry that I began splitting the hairs to begin with. Do forgive me. Blessings brother, JS

  7. Chris Pappalardo July 14, 2013 at 11:39 am

    Justin,

    No forgiveness needed! I appreciate your voice on this conversation. You are absolutely right that many other religions share commonalities with Christianity, even in the most significant teachings (grace, a dying god, etc.). This is precisely what we might expect if Christianity is the true religion. Other religions can’t be “false” in the sense of being absolutely and completely filled with lies. But–as you point out–none of them claim a historic, falsifiable event as their basis.

    It is telling that the Buddhists who are beginning to use “salvation by grace” language are those who are trying to reach Westerners. It makes me curious how other Buddhists might respond to those attempts at contextualizing their “faith.” Do they think it a clever tactic or a basic betrayal of who they are? Color me intrigued.

  8. J.D

    Thank You Thank YOU THANK YOU!!!! Clear and to the point!! I appreciate you words!!! BE encouraged brother!

    Your Canadian Brother!

    Murray Lutzer

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