Wednesday, November 30, 2011

The Popularity of Jesus?

I don't know whether I love or hate polls.

David Letterman once used to joke, "If you've ever been polled, you know how painful that can be." I ran across one reported this week in The Christian Post that claims the Lord Jesus Christ is the SECOND most popular person in America. Who's in first place?

Abraham Lincoln.

I suppose I should be thankful in a wry sort of way. I was expecting to be horrified that Lady Gag(a) would have come in there, but they surprised me with Jesus being rated so high.

Don't get me wrong. As my Lord and Savior, he's number one and always will be. I don't consider as having won the battle to make him totally sovereign in my life yet, but that is my goal and with His empowerment, trust that He will complete the work He began in me so long ago. My surprise comes in that the culture at large put Jesus so highly. I was less surprised that all Republicans polled rated Jesus highly. There was no comment in the story about where Democrats rated the Lord. I found that a curious omission, because I know that there are born-again Christian Democrats out there.

We must keep in mind that you have to be careful with polls. How a poll question gets answered is often helped along on in how the question is asked. This poll was done by the "Public Policy Polling" outfit, and I don't know much about them, quite frankly.

This was a survey of 800 American voters by telephone from November 10-13, 2011. The margin of error is at +/-3.5%. But what to make of it?

My comment is that all too many Americans really don't know Jesus for who He is. That perhaps is a "duh" sort of statement. I would further add that I doubt most Americans have saving faith in Christ, although I am not the judge of their hearts or the final arbiter. Another "duh" observation.

My real surprise is that the Lord didn't come in much lower, given the amount of rebellion against God and His Word that is rampant in the country these days. In fact, the Lord Himself gave us a forewarning about the world's attitude toward Him, and toward His followers, in the latter days . . .

If the world hates you, you know that it has hated Me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, because of this the world hates you. Remember the word that I said to you, ‘A slave is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you; if they kept My word, they will keep yours also.

But all these things they will do to you for My name’s sake, because they do not know the One who sent Me. If I had not come and spoken to them, they would not have sin, but now they have no excuse for their sin. He who hates Me hates My Father also. If I had not done among them the works which no one else did, they would not have sin; but now they have both seen and hated Me and My Father as well. But they have done this to fulfill the word that is written in their Law, ‘THEY HATED ME WITHOUT A CAUSE.’ (John 15:18-25).

Rather sobering analysis, isn't it? Hence my statement that most Americans don't have a clue about who Jesus really is. To many, he's just a religious figure or great moral teacher. He's no different than Mohammed, Buddha, or any other spiritual teacher. Others have a vague notion that He is the Son of God, and have a basic knowledge of the Christian story, but no more than that. It has no meaning or bearing for their own lives.

If most recognized Him for who He truly is — God Incarnate who came to this world in human form, died on the cross for our sins and rose again from the dead for our justification — and will return again soon to judge the world and everyone in it . . . they probably would have a much more hostile reaction unless the Lord was in the process of drawing them to Himself in saving faith.

It's a clue to me that we as individual believers and as church congregations need to do a much better job at evangelism. And people will respond in two ways as they hear the Gospel, maybe three. They will repent or they will get angry, as the Wesleys used to point out. Or they will be indifferent and put it off until later, which could have eternally deadly consequences, as no one is guaranteed a tomorrow. After you die, it's too late.

But as long as they are allowed to have this vague notion of Jesus as the gentle shepherd on the mountainside and moral teacher who did a lot of good, they'll be content with that. That's not threatening to their personal autonomy and self-centered pursuit of their own goals in life. Jesus as Lord and Judge is disconcerting, disquieting, and even frightening. So they'll fight that tooth and nail. Yet the Lord in His mercy will save some.

It really is as C.S. Lewis once brilliantly put it . . .

"I am trying here to prevent anyone saying the really foolish thing that people often say about Him: 'I'm ready to accept Jesus as a great moral teacher, but I don't accept His claim to be God.' That is the one thing we must not say. A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic -‑ on a level with the man who says he is a poached egg ‑- or else he would be the Devil of Hell. You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, the son of God: or else a madman or something worse."

Then Lewis adds: "You can shut Him up for a fool, you can spit at Him and kill Him as a demon; or you can fall at His feet and call Him Lord and God. But let us not come up with any patronizing nonsense about His being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to."

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