Dirty Feet - 1.28.11 0930

Donald Miller writes about an idea in his book Searching for God Knows What that has sparked a lot of thought for me in the past. He says that at the fall Adam and Eve began to draw their self-worth and value form other people rather than God. As humanity began to grow, some people were raised and respected more than others, and everyone began looking for ways to be raised and respected by comparisons. Appearance, athleticism, skills, anything really so as not to feel left in the dust behind everyone else.



"God" is Impotent

When I went to Hope International University there was this really old guy that you would see walking around the campus. He was a professor, but unless you had him as a teacher you probably would never meet him. However, just by hearsay, you would know his name. Medford Jones. You knew there was something important about that guy, like the kind of person that carried a lot of clout in his respective circle. The same kind of vibe the senior elder of a church might carry. Time had taken his toll by the time I started going to school there, and you could see he was weighted down by experience. His face said he chose his words carefully for impact.

He was invited to speak at Chapel one Tuesday morning, and I was excited because of the kind of man I had heard him to be. A strong leader, one who had made his ripple in society. I don’t remember what he said, but I do remember crystal clear something about the sermon. I remember that when he said “Christ,” there was strength. 

It was the first time I remember hearing the name and thinking it carried power with it.

For the entire thing I was trying to figure out what it was about how he said Christ that made it reverberate the way it did, made it sound so powerful. I was taking a class on speeches at the time and wanted to be able to duplicate it when I spoke to my audience. Was it the volume? The conviction? The belief in the name that caused it? Why is it I’ve heard plenty of sermons but never had the name carry such weight?

Then I realized. It wasn’t how he said it at all. It was that he said it. 

Everyone has their own definition of God. Ever notice that? “God” calls up different images in different minds, even in fellow Christians. The loving father, the great observer, tallyer of wrongs, maybe even the creator. You can use “God” for non-believers too. For them it could be Allah, Buddha, or anyone really. For some it’s the wicked tyrant that did them wrong, for others a source of strength. For most people it is a well thought out term that we can attach our impressions on without changing the word itself. This renders it virtually powerless. 

Because it means different things to different people, it is a watered down word. Talking to someone about “God” doesn’t do anything to address the presuppositions they might have. A sermon preached with “God” as the focus won’t carry the strength or the dynamic needed to show the outsider that our God is not their God. 

But since it is watered down, it is safer. Easier to use.

That is why Medford’s sermon stuck out. He said Christ, not God. He made no mistake about who he was talking about and his audience knew it too. For many, especially outsiders, I believe Christ is not a fully developed image. The name may carry images, but they’re a bit more malleable, workable. 

The image of God needs the filter of Christ to separate it from the world. 

All other “Gods” can be distilled down to fundamentally the same thing. You work to get closer to him, get his favor, get what he has to offer. But Christ brings something different to the table. With Christ comes grace. Sacrifice. Relief. Freedom. With Christ comes a friend who can look over wrongs and help you through the mistakes. With Christ comes a man who can relate to what you’re going through, because he’s gone through it too. It is Christ’s name that lends power to a message.

Medford passed a few years back, but obviously his impact has not. I think it is because he had the strength and conviction to not back down and use God as his foundation, but Christ.

When next you are talking to someone about the gospel, either a friend or an audience, challenge yourself to not use the term “God” even once. Use “Christ” instead.