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The Surprising Grace of Jesus Christ
Aramus Crane, August 2003
What surprised people about Jesus' first coming?
Jesus was not Plan B,
God mercifully wanted to give everyone a chance to come to Him by love
and submission, so He sent His Son first as a servant. The second
coming of Christ will not be so pleasant for those who resisted the
first time. There are people who believe in their concept of
Original Sin that Adam was somehow different from other men and could
have resisted sin. After the original sin, they believe that
somehow man was changed to make him unable to resist sin. We see
no evidence of this change in Scripture.
As Jonathan Edwards points out, God created us knowing that we would
sin. His plan to send Jesus Christ did not become "pictures/plan B" when
Adam and Eve surprised Him by not being faithful. If man had been
faithful and had lived in harmony with God for all these 7000+ years of
creation's existence, then there would have been no world to save and
no need for the Son to suffer and die on the cross. Then God's
deep love for us and His glory would never have been as evident as it
was in that "while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us."
Jesus' second coming is to be one of vindication of sin. Even a
faithful man like John the Baptist misunderstood Jesus' mission, asking
Him, "Are You the Expected One, or shall we look for someone else?"
(Matthew 11:1-3) Only 8 chapters before, we have John hearing
from God, "This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well
pleased."(3:17) Why this disapproval of Jesus' loving attitude
from John, one of the most godly men who has graced this planet?
He had prepared Jesus' way, baptized Him, his mother received the
prophecy and he took the initiative to ask Jesus about his
mission. However, he had lumped the two comings into one.
"John's doubt has often been interpreted as a loss of confidence in his own mission and divine call because of his imprisonment. However, Jesus' praise of John makes this unlikely. However, Jesus' praise of John makes this unlikely. John was no reed shaken by the wind (Matt 11:7)" (Ladd GE. "The Gospel of the Kingdom". Perspectives: A Reader Carlisle, United Kingdom: Paternoster Publishing, 2000. p. 64.)
...not a political savior
At Jesus' advent, God's People were awaiting vindicative political
savior that would free them from Rome, not a loving savior to reconcile
sinful man to God. Then, much as now, the Church had misplaced
its priorities and did not understand that Jesus wants to save and
mature us, not provide for all our material needs like some good
What was Jesus message that disappointed so many people? The
"gospel" or "good news" of the Kingdom of God is that He has come to
reign in each one of us and to bring about a redemption of His people
who are called to extinguish the strongholds of the enemy. It is
by faith, not by works that we have entered into the Kingdom of
God. We are His subjects and Christ's friends.(John
15:13-15) Our hearts no longer condemn us but we can approach the
throne of God with confidence.(I John 3:21-22)
...and not judgmental.
What was objectionable about Jesus' character? In Matthew
12:15-21, we see Jesus healing the sick and was very sensitive not to
break the bruised reed or snuff out the smoldering wick until the very
end. He is the hope of the nations. He was moved by the
Holy Spirit. He was just, quiet, loving, and bringing hope.
This should be the model of the Body of Christ. We should not
break the bruised reed--people who are hurting, or distance the
luke-warm Christian, the smoldering wick. We should not be
shouting the Message from helicopters but living it in our lives and
proclaiming it to those who are interested. It is a word of hope
and not a burden or something to make your life miserable like many
groups make it to be.
About 5 years ago, I was finding Jesus to be very different from what I
had heard in church. Instead of blessings for faithfulness, I was
receiving trial after trial. Then a missionary friend named James
Egeland led us in a study of the life of Job and of Jesus, showing us
that God sets His priority on glorifying Himself and developing
spiritually mature followers of Him.
We must be likewise.
Our message and work must be bathed in prayer. Praying for change
is always against the status quo, by definition. What needs to be
explained? The world is in a certain state, under the subjection
of Satan. We are messengers of light and God sometimes moves
according to our prayers. When we ask something to be changed for
His name's sake, that is petitionary prayer. Mission has to be
bathed in prayer. We must act as if it all depends on us and pray
as if it all depends on God. The Holy Spirit is the one who
convicts and convinces people to change. We must pray for Him to
move in hearts and minds.
In the end times, "the visible Church, we are told, is to be completely leavened by evil doctrine. Apostasy is so to pervade the Church that only a small remnant will be found faithful to God's Word. The closing days of This Age wil be the Laodicean period when the entire professing Church will be nauseatingly indifferent to eternal issues." (Ladd GE. op cit, p. 76) Every generation thinks that they are in the last days, but I do see a lot of indifference to love and spiritual maturity. We must call on the power of God to rule in our lives and to reach out with His irresistable grace.
The death of Jesus Christ on the cross empowered the believer with the authority of Heaven as we were seated with Jesus at God's right hand.(Ephesians 2) "In principle, He won the war, struck the decisive deathblow, vanquished Satan, restored humanity and established the kingdom. Yet some battles must still be fought before the ultimate victory is fully manifested."(Boyd GA. "God at War" Perspectives: A Reader, op cit. p. 85)
Prayer breaks down spiritual strongholds that we cannot see, touch, or
reason through. It gets behind enemy lines. Satan has a
stronghold where people have not heard the Word of God. We must
pray for a beach-head on the spiritual Normandy of our
communities. The most difficult part of any battle against a
stronghold are the first hearts converted by God's grace, to God's
So, when you find Jesus to be much different than what the religious
people have told you about Him, don't be surprised. Even John had
his doubts. Yet, do not doubt that Jesus will return. His
Word must be preached to all nations. The Bible message must be
made clear and relevant in every culture. Perhaps a native church
must appear in each culture because God's glory must be perceived from
all perspectives and voiced in every tongue in order for it to have
been effectively communicated. Then Jesus will return in power.