“Let’s Just Focus on Jesus”
Published: 26 January 2010 (GMT+10)
If you were to take a stroll through an impoverished neighborhood and hand out free lottery tickets or $100 bills, you would not likely meet any resistance from local residents. You might also think that if you approached a “Gospel-preaching” church, offering a free creation seminar, you would be enthusiastically welcomed with open arms. But all too often, this is not the case.
Many say something like, “Why does it really matter how or when God created everything, as long as we believe that He is the ‘Creator’? Let’s just focus on Jesus … that’s all that really matters.” Recently a large evangelical church stated from the pulpit, “Whether a day is a thousand years or however long it took doesn’t really matter. We need to get to the Gospel where it ‘really counts’.”
In my 23 years of ministry experience, I’ve found that many churches feel that if they take a stance on the creation account, it will look as if their church rejects science and is out-of-touch with reality, still living in the dark ages. The Ben Stein movie Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed depicts this phenomenon within the scientific community. Any who dare to question evolution (let alone speak of biblical creation) are mostly castigated, ostracized and relegated to the ranks of the “unwashed masses”. The result is that many scientists who do question evolution in private remain very quiet about it throughout their professional careers. Thankfully, some are “taking their chances” and speaking out anyway.
There’s an interesting passage in John 12:42–43 (bold added). “Yet at the same time many even among the leaders believed in him. But because of the Pharisees they would not confess their faith for fear they would be put out of the synagogue; for they loved praise from men more than praise from God.” These “believers” were too worried about getting or maintaining the approval of those around them, particularly the academics of their day. Sounds all too familiar.
Church leaders are also aware that there are other views (held by some highly-respected Christians) that claim Genesis can be interpreted so as to accommodate modern astronomy, geology and biology. This allows many to comfort themselves in the knowledge that they are in “good company” if they directly or indirectly teach one of these views. It also makes it easier to ignore origins altogether, as it seems that the choice among competing views is an individual decision on something you can’t really know for sure. And since there are those competing views, why risk causing division over something that others reassure us shouldn’t really matter that much? There is seldom any challenge from the congregation, perhaps because the increasing level of biblical illiteracy permits the typical Sunday morning attendee to apply similar reasoning. Of course, there are many diligent students of Scripture within the church, but all too many Christians base their beliefs primarily on the opinions they hear, read or see from church leaders and other Christian “authorities”, as opposed to personal knowledge of God’s Word.
In a polite discussion with one pastor not keen on a potential engagement, I raised the fact that surveys have shown that 50–75% of Christian students walk away from their faith before leaving college. I said that when the students in his youth ministry enter college, they would very likely be confronted by highly intelligent professors who will tell them that the Bible is certainly not the Word of God, being “full of errors and contradictions, particularly with its mythical creation account and global flood story, both of which science has utterly disproved”. They will also be told that Christianity is just one of many religions, which are all ultimately of human origin and that Christianity is actually to blame for most of the world’s atrocities. I then asked how his church was preparing them to deal with these types of faith-shaking confrontations. His answer … “We’re not.” They were just “telling them about Jesus”.
We often hear things that sound great on the surface, but when analyzed a bit further, just don’t measure up. Saying “Let’s just focus on Jesus” sounds laudable at first. What Christian in their right mind would argue with that? I certainly wouldn’t; but in this context it’s usually intended to mean, “Don’t get all caught up in debating what the Genesis creation account actually means, just focus on telling others about Jesus.”
Ask, “Who is Jesus?” and the normal response is, “He’s the Son of God, the Savior of the world.”. Agreed, but long before he was our Savior, he was our Creator (John 1, Colossians 1, Hebrews 1). To truly focus on Jesus, it is crucial to understand who He is, and understand the context of and foundation for the gospel message.
There is general consensus that the Gospel is related to the creation account, but most don’t make that connection on their own. Considering this series of successively related questions and answers can be helpful:
“What is the Gospel message?” That Jesus died, was buried and rose again.
“But why did he die?” Because we are sinners.
“And what is sin?” Disobedience to God.
“So why do we sin?” Because Adam sinned and it affected all of us.
“Who is Adam”? He was the first human created by God in the garden. All people since have descended from him.
“OK, so we’re sinners, but why did Jesus have to die?” Because Adam’s sin brought death into the world and the penalty for sin is death.
“So then the Gospel is directly related to the creation account?” Yes—see 1 Corinthians chapter 15 in which Jesus is called the “last Adam”. He shed His blood in death in obedience to overcome the curse of death and bloodshed brought in by the disobedience of (the first) Adam. Just as all things were subjected to futility (Romans 8:20-22) through Adam, all things will be restored through Christ (Acts 3:21). This presupposes the creation of a good world, ruined by sin, to be restored in the future back to a sinless, deathless state (Revelation 21:4). Death is actually called “the last enemy” in verse 26 of 1 Corinthians 15. It is an intruder into previous perfection corrupted by sin, not something a holy God would have used or superintended for millions of years while creatures were suffering and dying pointlessly prior to any Fall.1
In one of Jesus’ encounters with the Pharisees, responding to them on the question of marriage and divorce, he stated in part: “But at the beginning of creation God ‘made them male and female.’” (Mark 10:6, also Matthew 19:4). These are the very words of Jesus (who we are told we should be focusing on). What is He saying here? He’s saying that God created Adam and Eve, real literal people, and bases His teaching of marriage on that history in Genesis. What’s more, He makes it clear that He places them at the very beginning of creation. Why is that significant today? Because it is contrary to the “modern” view of Genesis that many, perhaps even most, Christians hold and that is taught from many pulpits across the country and around the world (as well as most Christian colleges and seminaries). It seems to be very much in vogue at present to hold to the view that God used the “Big Bang” to create the universe and that He may have even used evolution as His “creative process”. Others, while questioning Darwinian evolution, still accept the notion of billions of years and state that the days in Genesis must have been millions or billions of years each, in order to mesh with current beliefs in secular geology and astronomy.
The problem with these types of views is that they all have Adam and Eve “showing up” towards the “end” of creation, not at the “beginning” (contrary to the words of Jesus). In current thinking, the universe is some 15 billion years old. Modern man is only supposed to have appeared 100,000 or so years ago, or less. If true, this would put mankind at the very end of an interminably long “creation” process. How can we claim we are ‘focusing on Jesus” if at the same time we’re prepared to hold a view that is 180 degrees the opposite of what He taught? The only view that makes sense of Jesus’ words in these passages is the one that Genesis is straightforward history— that the days in Genesis 1 were normal-length, solar days and that God created everything in those six days within the recent past, not billions of years ago. This is exactly what Hebrew professors at worldclass universities concede is the only thing that the Hebrew language in Genesis can have been intended to mean. Not that they believe it to be true—most are unbelievers, not trying to juggle their faith with “science”—just “telling it like it is” (see creation.com/barr).
Jesus also said, “You are in error because you do not know the Scriptures or the power of God.” (Matthew 22:29) Pastors have been given the responsibility of teaching God’s Word to their congregations. I would encourage each one to study the Genesis creation account and come up with their own personal, Holy-Spirit-directed conviction from Scripture, rather than relying on the supposed expertise of other Christians who claim authority in some area of science and teach that the Bible is perfectly compatible with current thinking in modern origins science.
Jesus also said, “If you believed Moses, you would believe me, for he wrote about me. But since you don’t believe what he wrote, how are you going to believe what I say?” (John 5:46–47) The words of Moses in Genesis 1 and 2 are no less inspired than those of Jesus in the New Testament.
Much more could be said (and has been) in defense of the literal six-day creation account, but it comes down to a choice each of us has to make. Do we trust God and His Word, or do we yield to the transient ideas of many of today’s scientists, who do not have a biblical worldview nor a proper reverence for God and his Word?
By all means, let’s “focus on Jesus”. Because what He said is true.
- Belief in “long ages” puts the fossils as millions of years old, well before there were any people in any view of origins—and these show evidence of death, disease and violence in the animal kingdom.
Thank you for this excellent article. I do think that CMI could focus on some other issues which impact the church and society in a real way today. eg. the power of the ideology behind communism/capitalism; a dualism created out of the traditional judaism (talmud/kaballa etc) (Evidenced by the fact that Wall Street bankrolled the Russian Revolution resulting in the death of 60 million)
This belief is the same one which existed in the days of Jesus and confronts Christians every day through control of media/news/capital. This belief has the Devil as its father. Thank God for the victory of the cross.
Many thanks for your feedback, it is appreciated.
There are a lot of other issues, but we believe that we would dilute our thrust and ability to penetrate the church and thus the culture if we were to try to tackle others than our primary calling. Also, some of the other issues have the origins/Bible-authority issue at their core. For example, without Darwinism providing the intellectual foundation for the materialism that lay at the core of Marx’s message, it’s doubtful that things would have gotten off the ground for him as it did. The creation/evolution issue is really on about the main issue, which is the truth and authority of the Bible. So by focusing people onto that truth and authority, bringing people to it/back to it, more will be raised up to deal with these other issues. Get the foundations right, in a sense, and it’s then of more value to deal with the rest.
Thanks once again for writing in …
Hi there.Thanks for your excellent article.Please continue exactly as you are! Your ministry is excellent. Ministries are like pieces in a jigsaw puzzle. There are many, but all are needed to make the picture complete. Your ministry equips us all with the bigger picture … An excellent witnessing tool as well as faith strengthening. God bless you.