I’m fairly certain it was Francis Chan who lamented (rather than boasted) if he and Jesus were to build churches in the same town, Chan’s would be bigger.
His point: Our popular culture responds better to today’s communicator than a first-century God-filled rabbi who exposed hearts and motives.
Perhaps that wasn’t his chief point, but it’s a takeaway that isn’t also too far from the indention of the bullet point.
Brethren and Sisteren, we got a problem in contemporary Christianity. It might be global but I’m certainly hip to it in our westernized version. Yeah, today we need a conversation about a culture of man-worship in the church.
But before I get into all that, let me do a little table-setting.
It occurs to me that the next very great event we wait for is not shemitah or the 4th blood moon, but the Advent of King Jesus.
Not to the neglect of the other two, for they could be hugely impactful on earth, but, after the death and resurrection of the Christ and the sending of the Spirit to the Church 50 days later, the most important event in God’s Story is Jesus making His return to our planet.
Matthew 17 should convince us of that.
Luke and Mark also carry the same narrative in their own gospels. Go ahead and look up Matthew 17 and chapter 9 in both Mark and Luke, and find the common thread.
Yup, that’s the one.
In this seminal account, Jesus gives VIP status to three fishermen-turned-disciples and leads them up a now-famous mountain among the Mount Hermon range of snow-capped peaks.
When they get to the tippy top, He will blow their earth-bound minds.
He’s told them again and again in prior conversations He’s trekking to Jerusalem where He will be put on trial by the religious and political establishment, who will then torture and kill Him. And, again and again, the Twelve were either clueless to what He was saying (Luke 18:34) or downright indignant (Matt 16:22).
Okay, maybe this’ll get your attention, fellas…
Suddenly, radiating light began to channel up through His core and shot out His fingers and haloed His skin! It wasn’t reflective light, but emanating light. His skin became translucent and the colors of the Throne were dyed into those outrayings and proceeded to caress the dumbfounded disciples, spinning wild glory-webs all around them – for they were standing in the Glory! – and pulsating in and out of the Son of Man. Brighter than the noonday sun, the Son of Man was emblazoned with Kingly, majestic aura.
Alas, the show was far from over.
Joining Eternity’s Jesus were the two heroes of Jewish lore, Moses and Elijah. Mr. Law and Mr. Prophet. These were the generals of their generation and they flanked their Master, testifying to His Supremeness.
You recall a really cool thing Jesus said earlier in His ministry about how important He is to mankind,
For before John came, all the prophets and the law of Moses looked forward to this present time.
That’s what these two dudes were doing up on that peak. They were:
acquiescing to, and
as the One, the Only Darling of God and the Unrivaled Object of our Worship!!!!
So whaddya suppose the three dumbstruck disciples did?
Natch, they went into vision-mode. They strategized. They formulated a plan.
Let’s let Simon Peter do his Simon-thing, shall we?
And Peter said to Jesus, “Rabbi, it is good that we are here. Let us make three tents, one for you and one for Moses and one for Elijah.” For he did not know what to say, for they were terrified.
Now Peter and those who were with him were heavy with sleep, but when they became fully awake they saw his glory and the two men who stood with him. And as the men were parting from him, Peter said to Jesus, “Master, it is good that we are here. Let us make three tents, one for you and one for Moses and one for Elijah”—not knowing what he said.
And Peter said to Jesus, “Lord, it is good that we are here. If you wish, I will make three tents here, one for you and one for Moses and one for Elijah.”
Of interest is that Mark got his source material directly from Peter. It’s obvious that Peter held nothing back when he gave details of this self-incriminating confession to his amanuensis. It had to be hard for the humiliated disciple to say later on,
“Go ahead, put it in there, Mark. It has to be told. I’d like to forget it but it’s too important. The future Church needs to know what it’s capable of…and to be on guard…”
Thank you for your candor, Peter.
Alas the future Church – us – needs a reminder. We love our celebrities who lead us. We like to give superstar status to our pastors, hang on their every word, quote them, speak of them in reverent tones.
“I go to so-and-so’s church.”
“I’m of Apollos.”
“I’m of Cephas.”
“Did you hear what so-and-so said? Isn’t he/she the greatest?”
“I’ve never been so fed and filled as when I listen to _________________.”
And we add another tent.
God bless the amazing men and women who are gifts to the church, who pore over their sermons, cry and plead for anointing, pray with fervor over their notes, beseech God for a Word from Zion’s heights, and preach to themselves before the message ever gets declared publicly. God bless them.
God bless the humble-hearted servants of the Most High who would rather run from celebrity than chill with it. Who don’t demand limos at airports, 5-star hotels, a cadre of ‘handlers’, or to be isolated from the sheep in ‘green’ rooms rather than prayer rooms. God bless the anti-narcissists who stand before the congregation of the Lord.
But let’s not forget: they are mere men and women who stand before us. They do not walk in rarefied air. They sweat and have odor. They use the facilities like we do. They snore and burp and pass gas too. They don’t always look good and coiffed and fit in skinny jeans. They battle weight, yell at their kids and glare at their spouses. They waste time, live selfishly, think treacherous thoughts and doubt God’s goodness. God bless them, yes, but they don’t deserve their own tents.
What are these tents anyway?
In the time of Moses – prior to the fixed tabernacle – God met with the national leader, elders and high priests at the Tent of Meeting. The people waited with bated breath whene’er they saw the smoke descend, knowing Words of importance were being downloaded. Such served as their marching orders and in those episodes nothing else mattered. Chores ceased, playtime suspended, trade took a holiday, the Jewish world stopped. Remember, it was only Moses who went in that Tent when the Glory loomed.
So…back to the Glory on that mountain.
Simon saw a trifecta of personalities and was reeling and breathless.
Oh wow! What amazing fortune! Jesus and our hero-preachers all together on this mountain! Three of us, three of them! We can build tents and each of us can sit and wait for them to beckon us in…”
As soon as those words tremored off his lips, Moses and Elijah vamoosed. And you know what happened next.
As he was saying these things, a cloud came and overshadowed them, and they were afraid as they entered the cloud.
And a voice came out of the cloud, saying, ‘This is my Son, my Chosen One; listen to him!’”
I need to bring this home lest we turn a single thought into a bloviated curriculum. There is no higher voice than Jesus. Matt or Andy or Francis or Louie or Beth or Pastor John or Christine or Joel don’t come close (for the record, they’d say amen and mean it, I’m certain).
If our entire weekly regimen of spiritual nourishment is sitting at their feet, and calling it a day, we’ve built too many tents. If we quote them more than Jesus, we’ve said they carry as much weight for us as Jesus – if not more! If our tweets and conversations feature them more than Jesus – in a faith context – we’re camping out in grassless tundra and staring into glory-less tents.
These rich gifts are given to the Church to point us to Jesus in much the same way as John said, “not me, but Him” and fade from our view. Trouble is, when we put them on a pedestal, they occupy our view.
Go to their gatherings, yes, but not to be wowed by their sermon; go and expect to be stunned and changed by the Glory. Appreciate the words, but worship Jesus. Undoubtedly, these men and women would tell you,
“I didn’t come up with this stuff. It’s right there in the Word (hopefully). You don’t need me to teach you (1 John 2:27); you’re His child, you can hear Him yourself. Open the Word.”
Go into the only Tent that matters.
His Glory is waiting.