Tag Archives: False Messiahs

Not Reliant

Read Mark 13:3-13

“For false messiahs and false prophets will rise up and perform signs and wonders so as to deceive, if possible, even God’s chosen ones.”  (Mark 13:22, NLT)

FacepalmJesusA friend and colleague of mine just recently shared with me a trailer for an upcoming “faith-based” film, called The Reliant. The film takes place in America following a collapse of the American economy, where people are in social disarray and are rioting and resorting to extreme violence due to their financial and social circumstances. It stars the likes of Kevin Sorbo (of Hercules and God’s Not Dead fame), Brian Bosworth, Eric Roberts, and others.

The premise itself is very realistic. Many of us have lived the economic collapse of 2008 and the devastating panic that such an event causes in society as a whole. When finances get tight, but the cost of living remains the same and people cannot make end’s meet, things can go southward very quickly. Add to that fact that we have, in recent years, seen a rise in militant white nationalists and “progressive” anti-fascists (aka Antifa) violently marching through streets at the cost of property damage and even the loss of lives; yes, the premise of The Reliant is quite believable.

The question is NOT about it’s believability; rather, the question is in what it places its reliance. After all, the very title of the film is The Reliant. When one watches the trailer it, on the one hand, is claiming to be a faith-based film. The words faith, God, family, and other things all appear on the screen. We can hear people say the words “God is good”. On the other hand, the film is about a man fighting to defend his faith and his family through gun violence.

You heard me right. This film is an action film about a man who uses his gun to shoot and, presumably kill, the Antifa-like protesters that are resorting to violence. Granted, he’s doing it to “protect” his family from violent protesters and people who have a beef with him and his faith. I am not quite sure how the faith aspect fits in; however, the film’s slogan is as follows: “Protect family and faith at all costs.”

The problem with this premise is that it ABSOLUTELY NOT faith based. The characters are supposedly reliant on God; however, all it seems they are reliant on are guns. Nowhere, in all of the Gospels, will you hear Jesus utter the words, “protect family and faith at all costs”. Quite the opposite. Jesus taught about not responding violently to violence. He taught to turn the other cheek, to love one’s enemies, to pray for those who persecute you, and he told Peter that, “those who live by the sword will die by the sword” (Matthew 26:52).

In Mark, Jesus went so far as to say, “A brother will betray his brother to death, a father will betray his own child, and children will rebel against their parents and cause them to be killed. And everyone will hate you because you are my followers. But the one who endures to the end will be saved” (Mark 13:12-13, NLT). The endurance that Jesus was speaking of was endurance in the faith and in living by his teachings. He is NOT saying those who endure to the end by blowing their enemies away will be saved.

While this film might claim to be a “faith-based” film, the kind of faith it promotes is a faith in guns and their ability to protect us. That is counter to the teachings of Christ and the Gospel message. Do not hear me wrong. I AM NOT saying that people shouldn’t own guns or that they should be banned. So, don’t read that into this. The critique being made is not about guns, or violent movies, or  but about people who promote a false-Christian message. It is about people who are blasphemously using Christ’s name to call for faith in guns.

Let us not be deceived. Jesus warned that many would come in his name and claim this or that his him, but that we ought not to be deceived. When something comes in the name of Christ, but looks, sounds and acts nothing like Christ, we can be sure it is NOT Christ. I pray that you will not support this film as it we should not support something that sells the world a false Messiah or a false Gospel. While the characters and filmmakers are clearly not reliant in Jesus Christ, I pray you place your reliance in Him, sharing his love and grace to all people.

“I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one can come to the Father except through me.” – Jesus Christ in John 14:6, NLT

Lord, draw me close to you and help me to grow in my trust and reliance on you! Amen.

God’s People, part 131: Zealots

Read Acts 5

“‘Nazareth!’ exclaimed Nathanael. ‘Can anything good come from Nazareth?’ ‘Come and see for yourself,’ Philip replied.”  (John 1:46 NLT)

When we think of God’s people, we tend to think one of two things. We might think of the Israelites who were God’s “chosen people”, or we might think of specific characters in the Bible. Either way, we tend to idealize the people we are thinking about. For instance, we may think that God’s people are super faithful, holy, perform miracles and live wholly devout and righteous lives. Unfortunately, this idealism enables us to distance ourselves from being God’s people, because we feel that we fall short of those ideals. As such, I have decided to write a devotion series on specific characters in the Bible in order to show you how much these Biblical people are truly like us, and how much we are truly called to be God’s people.

great-revoltPart 131: Zealots. We have talked about the three main political movements in Judaea during the time of Jesus. There were the Sadducees, the Pharisees, and the Essenes. According to Josephus, and we see much evidence for this in the Bible as well, there was a fourth political philosophy at the time: the Zealots.

The Zealots were a theocratic political movement founded by Judas the Galilean in 6 CE. To put the timing of this into perspective. If Jesus was born in 4 BCE (at the latest), he would have been about 10 years old (at least) when Judas started the Zealot movement. It is possible Jesus was 12 years old and considered an adult at the time that the Zealots were formed.

This is significant because the memory of what Judas the Galilean did would have been etched into Jesus’ memory at a formative time in his life. In 6 CE, he led a revolt against the Roman governor Quirinius when he came into Judaea to take a census of the Jews. The census was decreed for tax purposes and we have already discussed what the Jews felt about Roman taxes.

Judas encouraged people not to register and if anyone did his followers burned their houses down and stole their cattle. He and his followers preached that God, and God alone, was true king and sovereign over Israel. Judas was hailed as the messiah; however, like all revolts against Roman power, his was crushed. Eventually, Judas was likely caught and executed. His sons were also later crucified for carrying on the cause.

What’s more, another family member ended up fleeing to the Roman fortress at Masada with an extremely militant group of Zealots known as the Sicarii. They took the fortress over; however, to make a long story short, they eventually were besieged by the Romans and, when the Romans finally succeeded, they discovered that the entire community of Sicarii had committed mass suicide to avoid being captured. This happened during the Great Jewish Revolt (lead by the Zealots) in 70 CE which also resulted in all of Jerusalem and the Temple being burned to the ground. All that remained of the Second Temple is now known as the Wailing Wall.

Important to note, this group originated in Galilee, Jesus’ home region. Also, while Judas is credited as having formed the Zealots, there were rebels who came before him from that same region. One such rebel, also named Judas, rebelled in the city of Sepphoris (only 4 miles away from Nazareth) in the year 4 BCE. Herod crushed the revolt, executed all who participated in it, and reportedly burned the entire city to the ground. This happened the around the time, or a couple of years following, Jesus’ birth.

It goes without saying that times were extremely tense in Jesus’ world. In fact, his times make ours seem like Walt Disney World’s Fantasyland! Here’s what is extremely important for us to grasp. The world’s response to oppression and injustice has always a been tit-for-tat, eye for an eye approach. False messiahs such as Judas the Galilean come and go promising what they cannot give: PEACE. In our day and age, we have false messiahs claiming the same thing. PEACE through FORCE. Sisters and brothers, be not deceived. There is only one Messiah, Jesus, and His way is THE WAY, THE TRUTH, and THE LIFE. I pray more begin to follow Him.

“Don’t let anyone mislead you, for many will come in my name, claiming, ‘I am the Messiah.’ They will deceive many.” – Jesus of Nazareth (Matthew 24:4-5 NLT)

Lord, I only look to you and you alone for my salvation. Amen.