When we read in Acts 2:19-20, “And I will show wonders in the heavens above and signs on the earth below, blood, and fire, and vapor of smoke; the sun shall be turned to darkness and the moon to blood,” we who are unaccustomed to apocalyptic literature are quick to scratch our heads and ask: What does this mean? Our doctrinal convictions keep us on the trail: Scripture is perspicuous (i.e., clear) and true, therefore, Peter must means what he says. He is surely not incorrect. But how can the moon turn to blood? Should we really expect the Sea of Tranquility to fill with blood, just like the Nile in Exodus?
When reading such language in Scripture, we do well to remember that Scripture interprets Scripture and that in this case, the apocalyptic language of Joel 2 is being cited by Peter to explain the historical events of Pentecost–the outpouring of the Spirit foretold in Joel 2:28. However, for reasons we will see, Peter also includes the more troubling language. Therefore, to understand the whole section lets consider four biblical-theological points that will help us see how the Day of the Lord is both a present and future reality—a method of interpreting the Old Testament that the Apostles often employed.
1. Historical Acts 2 quotes apocalyptic Joel 2.
Importantly, the strange language comes not from the historical narrative of Luke, but rather the prophetic literature of Joel. In this way, he is quoting an Old Testament prophecy to explain the events of recent history—i.e., the ostensible drunkenness of the disciples (Acts 2:13). Therefore, we must not read these words as portending to a literalistic interpretation—the moon is dripping blood. Rather, Luke is telling us how these strange, poetic words have come come true in the historical events of Pentecost. Continue reading
Jesus asked Peter in Matthew 16:13 the most important question in the Bible when he queried, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?” How we answer that question is of eternal importance. Sadly, many “Christians” today would have trouble defining who Jesus is because Jesus has been co-opted to promote so many different agendas.
Indeed as Stephen Nichols shows in his fascinating cultural study, Jesus Made in America, Jesus has become a commodity in the United States where he helps candidates gain voters and Hollywood sell movies.
Accordingly, in addition to presenting a positive view of Jesus when we teach the doctrine of Christ–as I begin to do tonight–it is just as important to show false Christs that have garnished favor in our Christian sub-culture.
What follows are ten “Cultural Christs” that are intentionally caricatured to highlight the false ways Christ has been portrayed. There are surely others. I would love to hear if you think these could be improved or added to.
Here we go…
- The Therapeutic Jesus… soft & soothing, helps you improve your self-esteem thru positive-thinking
Followers of this view minimize sin and treat religion as a pick-me-up to get through the week.
Motto: You can have your best life. (Big Smile)
- The Life Coach Jesus…will give you the tips and tools to succeed in whatever you do.
Followers go to Jesus for personal interest—CEO Jesus, Touchdown Jesus, Matchmaker Jesus
Motto: I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me (Phil 4:13)
- The Mr. Rogers Jesus… loves kids, morality, and helping you do the right thing.
Followers go to church, do good, vote values, and help their neighbors.
Motto: Won’t You Be My Neighbor?
- The Warrior Jesus… is uber-macho and can be confused with William Wallace or Jack Bauer.
Followers (male) rage against feminized pictures of Jesus, mistake ‘manliness’ with godliness.
Motto: My Jesus Can Kick Your Jesus Butt.
- The Social Gospel Jesus… improves society through increasing social justice and meeting needs.
Muting the gospel, these followers build houses, feed the poor, and fight AIDS for Jesus.
Motto: Preach the Gospel and if necessary use words.
- The Politico Jesus… promotes idealistic activism, and it comes in two varieties.
Riding an elephant, he fights against tax hikes, abortion clinics, and for prayer in schools.
Riding a donkey, he promotes care for the environment and equal rights.
Motto: God Bless the United States of America.
- The Wristband Jesus… becomes a Christian talisman. The presence of Jesus junk fights sin.
Followers adorn themselves with Christian paraphernalia and focus on living life for Jesus.
Motto: What Would Jesus Do?
- The Rock Band Jesus… builds his church with fun activities and cool music.Followers live for Christian concerts, camps, and other lively events.
Motto: Jesus rocks!
- The WordPress Jesus…is hyper-orthodox and fights against theological error.
Followers love reading books, debating theology, and publishing rants online.
Motto: Love the Lord your God with all your MIND.
- The Love Wins Jesus… rejects intolerant religionists and just loves everybody for who they are.
Followers question authority, objective truth, judgment, and institutional religion, but love open-mindedness.
Motto: God is love; everything is Spiritual.
In each of these caricatures there are elements of truth, but often truth out of proportion or in need of other qualifying biblical dimensions. Most importantly though, each of these false christs fails to keep Jesus in the biblical storyline. It highjacks Jesus for the needs of some other cause and puts him in a story that is not God’s story. Thus, in order to rightly understand who Jesus is as the Christ, the Son of the Living God, we are again pressed to return to the Scriptures and mine out who he is from Genesis to Revelation. This is the task of the pastor, the Bible teacher, and every Bible-believing Christian.
May God give us illumination as we see Christ in Scripture and may he show us how our culture has shaped our views of Jesus, so that we might have a more clear view of who he is, because as we see him, so we become like him (1 John 3:2).
Soli Deo Gloria, dss