Bumper Stickers and Faith

Someone told me that she was trying hard to get closer to God.  I asked her, "How much closer can you be, than God being on the inside of you, and you being inside Jesus Christ?"  She said, well, "you know what I mean." 

I know what she means, because I was there once too.  Working hard to measure up to my false idea of an ogre of a God.   God came to save us, and we simply trust that what He promised to give us, He has already given in Christ.  We are near to God, reconciled, justified, sanctified, washed clean, regenerated, forgiven, imputed His righteousness, given LIFE eternal.

What else could we possibly want?  We are so very blessed!

Some professing Christians appear to worship a cliché Jesus. I imagine that those who read here have encountered such trite mottos as “Jesus Is Love,” or “What Would Jesus Do?” Another “bumper sticker proof text” that I sometimes see reads, “Jesus is our Example.”  So, what's wrong with that? My dictionary provides a number of definitions for “example.” From among the selection, I selected ones most likely, in my opinion, to be implied by the bumper sticker. The following definitions are from "example." Webster's Third New International Dictionary, Unabridged. Merriam-Webster, 2002

1: a particular single item, fact, incident, or aspect that may be taken fairly as typical or representative of all of a group or type

If Jesus is the “particular single item” and is “typical or representative of all of a group,” then one might reasonably expect that those who profess the Christian faith are fully submitted to God and obedient to His will, even at the cost of their lives. I wonder which among us would be able, much less willing, to truly live and die as He did. It is a simple matter to say, “I would give up my life in indescribable pain to save others if God so wills it.” That would be something like a man telling his wife, who had just endured 30 hours of labor followed by delivering a nine-pound baby in natural childbirth saying, “I could go through that easily.” The person making the statement cannot truly know what would be required of him were he to follow Jesus' example right up to the moment when He gave up the ghost.

2a: a pattern or representative action or series of actions tending or intended to induce one to imitate or emulate

This seems more likely what the bumper sticker implies. We don't know enough about Jesus' life before His active ministry, so the person posting that bit of self-praise perhaps is telling the world that he is trying to conform to the life Jesus led during the final years of His life. And what would that involve? Being almost always on the move, walking from town to town; living off the bounty of the land or the kindness of strangers; suffering physical and verbal abuse; evading verbal snares set by religious opposition; etc. Are we to believe that the person who claims to follow this example turns away from home, family, employment, comfort, etc., in order to devote himself to teaching and healing the impoverished and dregs of society.

2b: a pattern of action that by its ill result should discourage emulation

This surely cannot be what the bumper sticker intends to declare. Worldly people might point to the final day of Jesus' life and ask if anyone would be willing to go through all that Jesus endured; that nothing could be worth that. On the other hand, believers also might not wish to suffer as our Savior suffered, but do not consider Jesus' immolation to have had ill results.

3: a parallel or closely similar case, incident, or item especially when serving as a precedent or model

Certainly, Jesus' teaching and what we know of His life should serve as a model for all who claim the title of Christian. Many strive to do as He did and be as He was, within the limits of our humanity. This is a good thing, and if this is what we are to infer from those who use this slogan, they are trying to live as every true saint should. Sadly, some who claim to be marching in step with Jesus are actually marching to a different drummer. They may have been seduced by the teachings of heretics and others who make their living or draw power from selling lies to the undiscerning. Jesus was perfect in His humanity, His obedience to the Law, to the Father and in every other way. Being a true believer isn't easy, and involves serious effort to learn of God and His ways as revealed in Scripture.

Living a Christian life is not just bumper stickers and church on Sunday. One must turn aside from the sinful ways that once gave him pleasure, redirecting his energy to conforming as closely as possible to what Scripture informs that God expects. We needn't live dull and boring lives deprived of pleasure or happiness. Quite the contrary, the joy one receives from being in a close relationship with the Lord God is far greater than any fleeting worldly pleasure. With God's help, the believer will continue to grow in sanctification, but will never attain to the perfection of Jesus, which is our example.

4 Ye adulterers and adulteresses, know ye not that the friendship of the world is enmity with God? whosoever therefore will be a friend of the world is the enemy of God.
5 Do ye think that the scripture saith in vain, The spirit that dwelleth in us lusteth to envy?
6 But he giveth more grace. Wherefore he saith, God resisteth the proud, but giveth grace unto the humble.
7 Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.
8 Draw nigh to God, and he will draw nigh to you. Cleanse your hands, ye sinners; and purify your hearts, ye double minded.
9 Be afflicted, and mourn, and weep: let your laughter be turned to mourning, and your joy to heaviness.
10 Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and he shall lift you up.
- James 4:4-10, KJV

No one will be reborn because of a bumper sticker or by pretending. Nothing we might do can save us. That is God's work and it is God who chooses whom to call to eternal life.

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