(Click here for a video of John reading this Catch.
Series: Characteristics of the Jesus Movement for Today
10. There was a very literal interpretation of Scripture
It was a beautiful spring day in Palo Alto, California in 1970, and the First Annual Sweet Jesus Roll Away the Stone or Rock Concert was underway. An audience of around 4,000 filled the outdoor Frost Amphitheater at Stanford University with an air of celebration and a little bit of curiosity as to what these Jesus Freaks had cooked up. The smell of pot in the air and the bras flying as flags of feminine freedom indicated this was far from what you would call a Christian audience. After some music from Love Song, Wilson McKinley, and the Salt Company, Ron Ritchie, one of the pastors at the nearby Peninsula Bible Church got up and taught the Bible from 1 Thessalonians 4:3-8, “For this is the will of God, your sanctification; that is, that you abstain from sexual immorality …”
What? I was fairly new to this group and I was a little shocked at his choice. Is this really what you want to tell a couple of thousand non-Christians — that they should abstain from sexual immorality? Is that where you start? Shouldn’t this message be a little further down the line after people became Christians? Do we want to hit them right off the bat with where they are messing up?
Honestly, it wasn’t a sermon, it was a teaching; and he taught it straight up the way he would teach it to anybody. He taught it as God’s will for how we were made to treat our bodies and each other. And here’s the real surprise: 500 people became Christians that day after hearing that message.
I believe this says two things that are true any time, any place. 1. People respond to the truth of the word of God. It doesn’t matter what the topic is; the truth is the truth. And if you are seeking God and you hear the truth from the word of God, the Spirit inside you says, “Yes!” 2. People are hungry for the word of God. They are looking for an authority they can trust. People don’t want to hear a TED talk; they want the word of God. Even in this postmodern age, where truth is relative, the word of God is the word of God. It is self-authenticating. And that’s as true in 2022 as it was in 1970. Where the word of God meets the Spirit in a seeking soul, there is an awakening.
Open the Bible and teach it. Millennials, GenZ, GenX, Boomers … makes no difference. Today, more than ever, people are hungry for the word, many of them before they even know it.
Just this week I read, “What causes fights and quarrels among you” (James 4:1)? Is that not the question of the day, politically, culturally and personally? We are quarreling over everything; we are divisive. We are fighting and going to war. There is a pandemic of animosity running loose in the world, and no amount of masking and social distancing will help, because the disease is in the heart. Where does it come from? The word of God has the answer.
“Don’t they [quarrels and fights] come from your desires that battle within you? You desire but do not have, so you kill. You covet but you cannot get what you want, so you quarrel and fight” (James 4:1-2). It’s all caused by selfishness and envy in the human heart.
And the word of God even gives us an answer. “You do not have because you do not ask God” (James 4:2). There it is. If you don’t have what you want, ask God for it. The word of God tells us that God is eager to give us the desires of our heart, and He works with us to conform our desires to His will. It’s a much better way to live than to fight and quarrel.
We [the older ones] are the voice of Christ to the younger generations and we must give them what we had, and what we had was the word of God, pure and simple.
[Be sure and take in our very important interview with Kristin Kobes Du Mez, author of Jesus and John Wayne: How White Evangelicals Corrupted A Faith and Fractured A Nation. Note: the interview is in two parts and you need to come back to this email to link to Part II.]