God’s Word is Not a Buffet

John 20:11-16, But Mary stood weeping outside the tomb, and as she wept she stooped to look into the tomb. And she saw two angels in white, sitting where the body of Jesus had lain, one at the head and one at the feet. They said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping?” She said to them, “They have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid Him.” Having said this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing, but she did not know that it was Jesus. Jesus said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you seeking?” Supposing Him to be the gardener, she said to Him, “Sir, if you have carried Him away, tell me where you have laid Him, and I will take Him away.” Jesus said to her, “Mary.” She turned and said to Him in Aramaic, “Rabboni!” (which means Teacher).

When I was a kid, I loved going to this restaurant that’s been long out of business called Old Country Buffet. I could take as much chicken, corn, and mashed potatoes as I wanted and eat as much as I wanted. But green beans? No way!

I’m going to ask you a question, and I want you to think seriously about it before answering because it’s easy to say “yes” impulsively… Do you trust Jesus? Think before you answer. Trusting Jesus means you believe He is right about everything, including the teachings of the apostles inspired by the Holy Spirit (2 Timothy 3:16). Today, it seems people like to separate Jesus’ salvation from His teachings, practising a “buffet Christianity.” They take what they like and leave out the rest. The Bible is not a bag of Trail Mix. You can’t take out what you like and leave out the rest. That’s not how Christianity works.

Mary exclaims, “Rabboni!” to Jesus at His resurrection. Yes, Jesus is indeed Teacher, but He is also Saviour, Messiah, Prince of Peace, Redeemer, and many other superlatives of His divinity. So, it is apparent that Jesus is not only a teacher. When we only take the parts we like and leave out the things that offend us, or make us uncomfortable, which are the things that convict us of our sin, we are ignoring Jesus’ primary role of Son of God to redeem us from our sins. To say adultery is a sin but homosexuality is not is to deny His role as Redeemer. We also deny His role as Redeemer when we condone premarital sex but condemn adultery, when we are generous to the poor but refuse to love our enemies, when we judge which poor person “deserves” our giving, when we oppose judgements being made but turn to gossip, and the list goes on.

What do you think Jesus meant when He gave the Great Commission, “Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptising them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you” (Matthew 28:19-20a)? When He commanded His apostles and all of us to teach everyone to observe all He’s commanded us, He was not speaking lightly. We are to observe all His commands, not some of it. The word “all” is not exclusionary. He didn’t say, “Do this if you agree with it,” but, “You must do this because I command you to.” We may not like some parts of what God’s Word says, but it’s not about what you like or happen to agree with. If the Christian life promised perpetual comfort, Jesus would not have said, “In the world you will have tribulation” (John 16:33), along with other predictions that we would be persecuted and killed because of Him (Matthew 24:9), which has been happening since the first century. But He continues to give us comfort in John’s gospel, “But take heart; I have overcome the world.” Why does He encourage us to take heart? Because He is the firstfruits of the dead (1 Corinthians 15:20).

He has redeemed us from death because He conquered it, and we thus follow Him from death to life (see Romans 6:1-14). Because of our redemption, Paul therefore says in this epistle to the Romans, “Let not sin, therefore, reign in your mortal body, to make you obey its passions. Do not present your members to sin as instruments for unrighteousness, but present yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life, and your members to God as instruments for righteousness” (6:12-13). Why? Because we have died to sin in our baptism (6:2) and therefore have no reason to continue living in it. Yes, we still suffer with the tension between saint and sinner, but to indefatigably remain unrepentant over a certain sin because we treat God’s Word like a buffet is not to present ourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life, but as those who remain in death (sin). It is to live as though we were never forgiven in the first place, which is not the action God calls us to do as believers. He calls us to grace, which it is by this grace that He gives us the command and the ability to forsake our sins.

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