Thursday, November 29, 2012

Going Nuts About Jesus

I am reading, for the third time, The Divine Conspiracy by former University of Southern California professor of philosophy Dallas Willard. Theologian Richard Foster has placed The Divine Conspiracy alongside the writings of Bonhoeffer, Wesley, Calvin, Luther, Aquinas, and Augustine. I would agree with Foster's assessment with this caveat: The Divine Conspiracy is much easier to read.

The premise of The Divine Conspiracy is that when the life of God enters the soul, a transformation occurs. Christianity is more than just believing certain facts about Jesus Christ; it is experiencing the life of God, an experience that transforms human existence.

Read aloud Dallas Willard's paraphrase of John 3:16:

God's care for humanity was so great that he sent his unique Son among us, so that those who count on him might not lead a futile and failing existence, but have the undying life of God himself.
"Those who count on him...." What a wonderful phrase. How many of us count on our work for a fulfilling life? How many of us count on peoples' opinions of us to avoid a futile and failing existence? And how many of us, when what we are counting on fails, turn to things that mask the pain of our futile existence? Human existence is all about a fruitless search for a meaningful, purposeful, significant and fulfilling life.

Enter God.

God's care for humanity was so great that he sent his unique son among us, that those who count on him might not lead a futile and failing existence, but have the undying life of God himself.

Ultimately, what each of us does with Christ will determine whether or not there is fulfillment in this life. As Dallas Willard puts it, you must go "nuts" about Jesus to experience the undying life of God. When we see Jesus as he is, we will either 'turn away or else shamelessly adore him.' The former group ends life's journey in futility and failure. The latter group experiences the life of God, and what a grand, meaningful life it is!

The Divine Conspiracy has again challenged me to realize that it serves no purpose to condemn those who give lip service to Jesus on Sundays and then struggle with substance abuse, addictions, and all sorts of internal painful behavior (anger, pride, bitterness, resentment, etc...) during the week. Real, soul-transforming help comes when we can identify the root problem and help others see it and respond to it.

The root problem? People are crazy about everything but Jesus. That path only leads to futile and failing existence.

The solution? The only way to experience the undying life of God himself and avoid a futile and failing existence is to go nuts about Jesus Christ.


Susanne said...

Now you're talkin!!!!!

Johnny D. said...

I've read DC twice myself, Wade. It is a very good book - full of richness, truth and beauty.

Bob Cleveland said...

Anybody who doesn't give up and turn their back on their faith, will come to this same conclusion, one day, when they get tired of everything else the world has to offer. Better sooner than later, and they'll wish they reached it years or decades sooner.

If it's not too late.

Mike G said...

You've given me another law to keep. We don't have to Do anything, all of the life of God has been given us freely in Jesus. Telling me to have to DO anything is law and bondage, Be free my friend

Wyman Richardson said...

Amazing book! Truly. Willard is a very helpful writer. I'm reading Renovation of the Heart right now. It's more difficult than DC, but well worth it!

Andrew Cairns said...

I reckon the paraphrase is inaccurate. The original John 3:16 doesn't refer to this life now.

"For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life." (KJV)

I think it's just wrong to ascribe to this wonderful verse the idea that it applies to our fallen lives here on earth. It's talking about what happens to the believer AFTER this life. To attribute to the word "perish" the meaning of having a "futile and failing existence" in this life also gives to the words "everlasting life" in the original the meaning of this life.

The verse means that because of belief in Jesus Christ and everything He has done for us we will not perish when we die; we will have everlasting life with Him.

God didn't send his "...son among us, that those who count on him might not lead a futile and failing existence..." He sent his Son to DIE for us as a once and for all, ultimate sacrifice so that I, at the end of my often futile and failing existence might be welcomed by Him and dwell with Him for eternity.

I also have to agree with Mike G. To go "nuts for Jesus" is too able to be mistaken for works salvation. If Dallas Willard has made it very clear in his book that this is not the case, then good, but even so, going "nuts for Jesus" implies that only those who are doing it right are the ones recieving a tangible results. This just is not true. My Mum begged Jesus for healing from crippling arthritis for forty years and died more in love with Him than ever. Her life was definitely tagged as futile and a failure by casual observance. Christians in China aren't going "nuts for Jesus" They're keeping their heads down and worshipping in secret to avoid persecution that I cant even begin to contemplate.


gobatt said...

Festus accused the apostle Paul of having 'lost his marbles','gone nuts', ' turned mad'( Acts 26:24-29). Paul dismissed this as an attempt to humiliate and disparage him, and insisted his submission to Jesus Christ was no 'crazy obsession'. It was a sober and reasonable response to the truth as revealed by the prophets and through the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. His singleness of mind and determination may have made others think he was 'bonkers', but this did not deter him. Paul probably knew one could sooner cool off an over-exuberant new convert, than to get a reluctant one moving.
But I can hardly think Paul would have paraphrased John 3:16 in such a vague and unfocused manner as to say that God's Son came among us, that those who count on him might have a meaningful and successful existence. Rather, Paul would say unambiguously, as he does in Acts 26:18-20, that Christ has come to save us from the penalty of sin and the power of Satan. To me, these clear 'marching orders' contain all the motivation we need to identify ourselves with the Savior in his service, suffering and sacrifice. We are indebted to all fellow believers who, by example, spur us on to follow Jesus.

Rex Ray said...

As Digger O’Dell would say, “What a revolting development that tuned out to be!”

I mean we have the future arguing with the present and visa versa. I believe the question comes down to the meaning of “…have the undying life of God himself.”

When does a Christian obtain that life? Does it not come with the peace that God gives?

Was Peter at peace while upside down on the Cross? The smiles were on Christian faces before they died being fed to lions.

Job had that peace when said, “Thou he slay me, yet I’ll trust him.”

Nathaniel Schmidt said...

Wade, this is great! While I do have minor problems with the paraphrase, you and Willard have made a very good point: it all comes down to whether our eyes are fixed on Jesus or not. I've experienced this in my own life: when I change my focus, I begin to fall.

“Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.

For consider Him who endured such hostility from sinners against Himself, lest you become weary and discouraged in your souls” (Heb. 12:1-3).