Sure, Jesus said many warm, inviting, comforting and loving things as well. But the sad truth is, most folks today only want to hear those sorts of words, while ignoring the rest. But that cannot be done. It is not up to us to pick and choose what we like about the teachings of Jesus. We either accept the whole package or we get none of it at all.
How often do we hear Christians say the following sorts of things? ‘Let’s make things as easy as we can for the non-believer. Let’s just tell them that God loves them just as they are and they need not do anything to be a buddy with Jesus. Let’s forget about rules and regulations and theology and just tell people that God is crazy about them.’
But it is not just a desire to make things easier for their non-Christian friends to be open to the gospel. Plenty of believers want to make things easier for themselves! They do not like the hard and demanding things found in the Bible. They do not like the things that challenge them and make them feel uncomfortable with their selfish and sinful lifestyle.
They just want to hear the good things, the happy things, the nice things, the pleasant things. Nothing too demanding. Nothing too onerous. Nothing to make them change their way of living. Nothing to make them feel ashamed of what they are doing.
Just an affirming celestial grandfather or butler who always pats them on the back, always smiles at them, always gives them nice things, and is always there to serve them when they have needs. That is the sort of God most folks want.
Well, they can crave such a deity, but they dare not then pretend they are serving the God of the Bible. They dare not claim to be a follower of the Lord Jesus Christ. Jesus was nothing at all like these sentimental and sickly sweet pictures of some buddy God who would never make things hard on you or ask anything too onerous of you.
But don’t take my word for it. Simply start reading the Bible. I mean really reading it, from cover to cover, and not just flicking through a few psalms once or twice a month. No one who actually reads the Bible carefully can ever come away with these false images of God.
Indeed, simply read through the four gospels and see the sort of Jesus being presented there. Anyone honestly and earnestly reading through the gospels will in fact likely be shocked at what is there. They will not find the tree-hugging peace-nik Jesus there. They will not find the heavenly Jeeves there. They will not find the pandering granddad figure there.
They will find the genuine Jesus who made hard demands and who said some very hard things. And that is exactly why so many people rejected him and hated him. If Jesus HAD been this Mr Nice Guy who simply caters to your every need, the masses would have loved him.
Let me share just some of the quite hard and harsh things Jesus said, especially to those who toyed with the idea of following him. But because the gospels have so much material on this, I am forced to just pick one of them. Here are some of the hard sayings of Jesus as found in the gospel of Matthew:
Matthew 6:19-24 Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. The eye is the lamp of the body. If your eyes are good, your whole body will be full of light. But if your eyes are bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light within you is darkness, how great is that darkness! No one can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and Money.
Matthew 7:13-14 Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.
Matthew 8:19-22 Then a teacher of the law came to him and said, “Teacher, I will follow you wherever you go.” Jesus replied, “Foxes have holes and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head.” Another disciple said to him, “Lord, first let me go and bury my father.” But Jesus told him, “Follow me, and let the dead bury their own dead.”