“Madora came to believe that God and flowing water were much the same. How Jesus fits into this, she never understood or really cared.”
That’s an insight into one her characters in a novel by Drucilla Campbell (Little Girl Gone, Grand Central Publishing, NY, 2012). Madora desperately wanted to believe in something greater than herself, especially someone she could turn to in time of need. She couldn’t quite grasp what this god was like and equated him with something powerful, mysterious, and life-giving.
Designing a god as you imagine him to be is one thing. That happens all the time under new age spirituality, 12-step addiction programs, and trendy teaching that fills the shelves of the kitschy Christian bookstore. People seek out a god as they want him to be, a god made in their image.
But the telltale question is: how does Jesus fit in? Whether we believe in the living and true God, embracing His revelation of Himself in the pages of Holy Writ, or whether we believe in some other so-called god, we need to figure out where Jesus fits in. That’s because Jesus has something to say to any salvation scheme.
For many, Jesus is irrelevant, not part of the picture. He belongs to Christianity and not to the religion they believe in. There are others whose belief system does hold a place for Jesus, but He is exists at the fringes, more of a minor character. Perhaps He is a prophet, or an admired man. Some may hold Him to be a great teacher, or wonderful example of sacrifice, or the prototypical self-actualized man as the archetype of humanistic psychology.
World religions have no place for Jesus or at least no central place because there’s no need for Jesus in their way of thinking. Like Madora, those who hold to a designer god can’t figure out what Jesus has to do with anything. One reason is there nothing to be saved from. So what’s the point of a savior?
But what to do with Jesus and figuring out where He fits in takes us to the heart of a biblical Christianity that exalts the God who makes Himself known through its pages.
According to the Bible, Jesus is the eternal Son of God incarnate to save. “Immanuel” tells us who He is, “God with us.” “Jesus” tells us what He came to do, “the Lord saves.” Jesus is God clothed in true and full humanity to be the sinless substitute for those He came to save, those who could not save themselves because they are sinners and God is a holy God. They could neither make up for wrong done nor measure up to right required. In His redeeming love, God did through Jesus, what sinners could not do.
That’s where Jesus fits in. Without Him there is no hope of eternal life, no escape from the wrath to come. Most designer religions won’t even include wrath. Who would want a god like that? Yet Jesus has to do with wrath, and love, and mercy, and grace, and everything else that makes the God of the Bible both just and the justifier of those who have faith in Jesus. In other words, it’s essential that we understand where Jesus fits in and evaluate our belief system on what it offers to address those exigencies.
Those who share Madora’s confusion need to understand where Jesus fits in to God’s design. The good news of the gospel shines forth against the desperate need of the human condition, a condition that characterizes all people, of all religious stripes, of all sorts of sincere personal beliefs. And they need to care where Jesus fits in to their lives, because their hope for this life and the life to come depends on it.
(For a brief explanation of where Jesus fits in, click here to read the story of God’s Good News.)