Velvet Elvis: Are you rich in Christ?


How rich are you? Is money everything? Isn’t it easy to say that Christians are rich in the Holy Spirit and money doesn’t mean anything to us? Flows right off your lips doesn’t it? Last week one of my friends asked me what we are going to do now that I don’t work at the Co-op. I said we would get by; we live pretty close to the bone anyhow and now we will just tighten up the old budget. She gave me the look that said “big talk, don’t believe you…” Well, it is true. We have seen poverty in its many forms. Things are not important if you have shelter, clothing, food and family…oh, yeah and one more thing. What would that be? Jesus is the foundation of all riches in this life. Raise your hand if you agree.

I was just perusing the internet and ran across an older article about Rob Bell, the former Pastor of Mars Church and more recently author of a book called “Love Wins”. At age 34, Rob Bell took his message national in 2005 with “Velvet Elvis: Repainting the Christian Faith,” as his first book. The title is inspired by the actual black velvet painting of Elvis he has tucked away in his basement. He said that whoever “painted” that picture was creating a work of art for a time and a place but that time and place have now passed. Bell says Christianity is a lot like that painting: it is not static and artists paint a new one for each new generation.

So Rob Bell is equating the Christian faith with what most of us would consider a cheap and worthless painting? His simile is that perhaps old fashioned faith it had value in its time period but then loses value to a new generation. Is Bell rich? Mr. Bell, I says to myself, I says, “Mr. Bell, you don’t believe in the Bible. You have built your church on shifting sands; you and it are going to collapse under your own weight.”

In another post I found he wanders back to the Bible and get philosophical about who Jesus is when Bell says, “For many people the message of Jesus was presented as an individual message of salvation for their own  individual sin: “Jesus died for you.” I affirm that wholeheartedly, but in the scriptures, its scope goes in the opposite direction. It begins with the Jesus who dies on the cross and rises from the dead. But as the New Testament  progresses,  you have writers saying that “by his shed blood he is reconciling everything in heaven and on earth.” Peter says in Acts, “He will return to restore everything.” So it is a giant thing that God is doing here and not just the forgiveness of individuals. It is the reconciliation of all things. It is the putting back together of the whole universe how God originally intended it to be. One way to look at it is that the message is an invitation into God’s giant, global universal purposes that “I” actually get to be a part of.””

Somehow I feel like when Bell said this he lost the main theme of the New Testament and I think he is lost out there somewhere.
Colossians 1:6-12 is talking to individuals and to each of us personally; Paul was speaking to the individual Christians of Colossa. Paul is writing this due to an assault on the believers in Colossa. Many different heretical teachings were being thrust upon this new church and they were confused about the identity of Jesus the Christ. Paul exhorts them to return to their roots, remembering the joy of knowing Christ because He first knew them, not just as an amorphous group but one on one, as individuals.

I found a later post on BeliefNet.com where Bell said; “I don’t follow Jesus because I think Christianity is the best religion. I follow Jesus because he leads me into ultimate reality. He teaches me to live in tune with how reality is. When Jesus said, “No one comes to the Father except through me,” he was saying that his way, his words, his life is our connection to how things truly are at the deepest levels of existence. For Jesus then, the point of religion is to help us connect with ultimate reality, God. I love the way Paul puts it in the book of Colossians: These religious acts and rituals are shadows of the reality. “The reality…is found in Christ.””

I would not dispute his reasoning here. In Colossians 2:5 Paul says “For though I am absent from you in body, I am present with you in spirit and delight to see how disciplined you are and how firm your faith in Christ is. 6So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live your lives in him, 7 rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness. 8 See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the elemental spiritual forces of this world rather than on Christ.”

So I was thinking about Bell’s revelation that reality is found in Christ. Whoa! Surprise! He talks about religious acts and rituals and that they are shadows of the reality of Christ. My heart tells me that communion is not an empty religious act or ritual. As we take communion today go ahead and ask Jesus if His sacrifice is worth remembering now and then. I’ll have to read his book to see if baptism is an empty ritual, perhaps marriages and funerals are archaic too. Bell is the son of a Federal Judge, a water skiing instructor and rock band member before he went to Fuller Seminary in California. He said that he didn’t do so well in classes for preaching because he tried different methods to get the message out. No disrespect intended but his credentials are a little thin. Of course Rev. Billy Graham was a farm boy with little to commend him when he started preaching Christ crucified and about how his faith was grounded and anchored in the Bible.

Bell also more recently wrote “Love Wins” and quit his pastoring position at Mars church to reach a wider audience with his love
message. Mr. Bell says that one of the most controversial issues of faith is the afterlife. He asks if a loving God send people to eternal torment forever. Bell says he is putting hell on trial-he says that eternal life doesn’t start when we die. His book asks if Gandhi is in hell because he wasn’t Christian, or whether only those who accept Jesus can go to heaven. That takes you back to your childhood doesn’t it; wasn’t that a kind of question you asked of your parents?

Well, what do you think, is Gandhi in hell? Have you considered it? Mahatma Gandhi once said: “A man who was completely
innocent, offered himself as a sacrifice for the good of others, including his enemies, and became the ransom of the world. It was a perfect act.”
Who is he talking about? Jesus Christ. Do you think he understands the man Jesus? There remains doubt about if he knows Christ as Savior…and I would dare to say only God knows the answer to that.

Ghandi also said : “Thus if I could not accept Christianity either as a perfect, or the greatest religion, neither was I then convinced of Hinduism being such. Hindu defects were pressingly visible to me. If untouchability could be a part of Hinduism, it could but be a rotten part or an excrescence. I could not understand the raison d’être of a multitude of sects and castes. What was the meaning of saying that the Vedas were the inspired Word of God? If they were inspired, why not also the Bible and the Koran? As Christian friends were endeavouring to convert me, so were Muslim friends.” Christian Universalism is the belief that God is all Sovereign, loving, powerful, wise, just, and ultimately rules over everything. It includes the belief that salvation is only by faith in God and was finalized by Jesus Christ “who gave Himself a ransom for all” (1 Tim 2:6). The definition of Christian Universalism includes the belief that God “will have all men to be saved and come to a knowledge of the truth” (1 Tim. 2:4). Some folks have taken the step to believe that all religions are the same and equal. No religious group wants to believe that God might have communicated to some other group and not to them personally. That would be letting go. Jesus the Christ tells us to let go and hang on to Him. The Bible tells us throughout the written history of mankind that God was represented here on earth by one Christ who was born, killed, rose and sits on the right hand of God the Father. I have faith that this is right.

In his book (which I will not read) Rob Bell is apparently saying that Jesus is right, Buddha is right, Brahma is right, Confucius was right, Muhammad was right and Lord Krishna is right. How about you? What do you think? Who do you think is right? Do you choose Jesus Christ? Mr. Bell’s supporters says he is a poet and artist with a unique way of communicating. I find myself very uncomfortable with his offering theological questions and then being unable to make cogent intelligent responses beyond tweets and colorful big stage productions.

Consider Colossians 2:3, “In Christ are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.”

In Philemon 6: “That the fellowship of thy faith may become effectual by the acknowledging of every good thing which is in you in Christ Jesus.”

Hebrews 1:3 The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word. After he had provided purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty in heaven.

Colossians 1:15 He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation.

2 Corinthians 4:4 The god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.

Can you hear the voice of God calling out to us not to listen to the voices that draw us away from Jesus the Christ? Rob Bell and his
followers are not Satan but they are clearly misled into believing that Jesus Christ does not make a difference and have a presence in our daily existence. Have you experienced Jesus the Christ? I believe that folks like Bell have fixed their eyes on fallen angels, not on the Son of God. Do not believe for a minute that He is not here with us right now, almost visible because of our faith. This former hardware store clerk will stand nose to nose with the former water ski instructor and say, “I don’t think so
Mister.”

A collector who spent $4 at a Pennsylvania flea market in 1991 for a dismal painting because he liked the frame found himself the
possessor of a first printing of the Declaration of Independence. It is expected to bring $800,000 to $1 million at auction. A man found an interesting picture last year in a Nashville thrift store and paid $2.48 for it. The 1823 copy of the Declaration of Independence sold at auction for $477,650. That describes some Christians. They seem to think that Jesus is hanging around, but
they just don’t realize what He’s worth. They don’t realize the fortune that they have in Jesus Christ. My dear friends, let’s not forget the supreme treasure we have that is Christ!

Reading: John 12:31-32 “31 Now is the time for judgment on this world; now the prince of this world will be driven out. 32
And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.”

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