31 January 2017 - clay
They don’t know where we come from
And Joseph died, all his brothers, and all that generation. Now there arose a new king over Egypt, who did not know Joseph.
– Exodus 1:6, 8
Joseph was a renowned ruler over Egypt. As the Bible tells us, he moved from slavery to become a well-respected servant of the officer of the guard. Then due to a false accusation, he was sent to prison where he eventually gained the attention of other high ranking officers in Pharaoh’s court, resulting in his ascendancy to one of the highest offices in the land. Due to his faithfulness to God and to the leader of Egypt, Joseph was able to bring his family out of famine-stricken Canaan into Egypt. The people of Israel were tolerated, and sometimes favored, because of Joseph.
That status wore off eventually. When Joseph and his generation died, there were apparently very few who were willing or able to assume the same level of leadership that Joseph had attained. The respect and status that had been afforded Israel because of Joseph had deteriorated to the point that the new king didn’t even know who Joseph was. Israel eventually became enslaved to Egypt, living their lives “bitter, with hard bondage” (Ex. 1:14)
What does that have to do with us today? Think about the giants of the faith that have come before us. Augustine, John Calvin, Martin Luther, John Wesley, Athanasius, Martin Luther King, Jr, Billy Graham, Mother Theresa, and so many others. Do the people around you know who they are? Probably not. I’d be willing to guess that most people in our churches don’t know much about Augustine and John Calvin beyond they wrote books a long time ago. That really isn’t the problem, though.
We assume, especially here in the United States, that people simply know who Jesus is, and what the Bible says. As I’ve read many times over the past couple of years, we are moving/have moved into a post-Christian culture. What many in previous generations have taken for granted, we now have to fight for. The basic morality and objective standards of truth no longer seem to apply. Everyone can make up their own truth based on whatever makes them feel good at that moment. Morality is subjective, depending on who has the power to determine it.
As Christians, we have to decide to introduce people to who Jesus is. I’m not talking about who the Bible says He is, but who we say He is based on our experiences with Him. Atheists who read the Bible (yes, these people exist) know who this Jesus is. Mormons who read about him in the Bible know something of the historical Jesus. Muslims know the Jesus who is spoken of in the Quran. The Jesus none of these people know is the one that you have experienced.
You have a story of how you have seen God move in your own life. Unexplained providence, “chance” meetings at just the right time, small moments where you feel the Spirit’s whisper in the silence. These are the things that others need to hear. Real, raw experience with the Creator of the universe on a personal level means much more than a stoic, dry presentation of what a book says about the Jesus who lived 2,000 years ago.
Don’t take this as a minimization of how important the Bible is. We need the Bible as the inspired Word of God, immutable and true. It is the only reliable source we have as to who Jesus was, pointing to him throughout the Old Testament and pointing back to him throughout the New Testament. However, we are the Bible in real life to those around us who don’t believe. We are the open pages of the Gospel to them. Like the new Pharoah, they don’t know who our Jesus is. The best way we can introduce them is by showing them what Christ has done for us.