Friday, April 27, 2012


-by Leonard Ravenhill.

The prophet in his day is fully accepted of God and totally rejected by men.

Years back, Dr. Gregory Mantle was right when he said, "No man
can be fully accepted until he is totally rejected." The prophet of
the Lord is aware of both these experiences. They are his "brand name."

The group, challenged by the prophet because they are smug and
comfortably insulated from a perishing world in their warm but
untested theology, is not likely to vote him "Man of the year" when
he refers to them as habituates of the synagogue of Satan!

The prophet comes to set up that which is upset. His work is to
call into line those who are out of line! He is unpopular because he
opposes the popular in morality and spirituality. In a day of faceless
politicians and voiceless preachers, there is not a more urgent
national need than that we cry to God for a prophet! The function
of the prophet, as Austin-Sparks once said, "has almost always
been that of recovery."

The prophet is God's detective seeking for a lost treasure. The
degree of his effectiveness is determined by his measure of
unpopularity. Compromise is not known to him.

He has no price tags.

He is totally 'otherworldly.'

He is unquestionably controversial and unpardonably hostile.

He marches to another drummer!

He breathes the rarefied air of inspiration.

He is a "seer" who comes to lead the blind.

He lives in the heights of God and comes into the valley with a
"thus saith the Lord."

He shares some of the foreknowledge of God and so is aware of
impending judgment.

He lives in 'splendid isolation.'

He is forthright and outright, but he claims no birthright.

His message is "repent, be reconciled to God or else...!"

His prophecies are parried.

His truth brings torment, but his voice is never void.

He is the villain of today and the hero of tomorrow.

He is excommunicated while alive and exalted when dead!

He is dishonored with epithets when breathing and honored with
epitaphs when dead.

He is a schoolmaster to bring us to Christ, but few 'make the grade'
in his class.

He is friendless while living and famous when dead.

He is against the establishment in ministry; then he is established
as a saint by posterity.

He eats daily the bread of affliction while he ministers, but he feeds
the Bread of Life to those who listen.

He walks before men for days but has walked before God for years.

He is a scourge to the nation before he is scourged by the nation.

He announces, pronounces, and denounces!

He has a heart like a volcano and his words are as fire.

He talks to men about God.

He carries the lamp of truth amongst heretics while he is lampooned by men.

He faces God before he faces men, but he is self-effacing.

He hides with God in the secret place, but he has nothing to hide
in the marketplace.

He is naturally sensitive but supernaturally spiritual.

He has passion, purpose and pugnacity.

He is ordained of God but disdained by men.

Our national need at this hour is not that the dollar recover its
strength, or that we save face over the Watergate affair, or that we
find the answer to the ecology problem. We need a God-sent prophet!

I am bombarded with talk or letters about the coming shortages in
our national life: bread, fuel, energy. I read between the lines from
people not practiced in scaring folk. They feel that the "seven years
of plenty" are over for us. The "seven years of famine" are ahead.
But the greatest famine of all in this nation at this given moment is

Millions have been spent on evangelism in the last twenty-five years.
Hundreds of gospel messages streak through the air over the nation
every day. Crusades have been held; healing meetings have made
a vital contribution. "Come-outers" have "come out" and settled, too,
without a nation-shaking revival. Organizers we have. Skilled
preachers abound. Multi-million dollar Christian organizations
straddle the nation. BUT where, oh where, is the prophet? Where
are the incandescent men fresh from the holy place? Where is the
Moses to plead in fasting before the holiness of the Lord for our
moldy morality, our political perfidy, and sour and sick spirituality?


They will come.

The prophet is violated during his ministry, but he is vindicated by history.

There is a terrible vacuum in evangelical Christianity today. The
missing person in our ranks is the prophet. The man with a terrible
earnestness. The man totally otherworldly. The man rejected by
other men, even other good men, because they consider him too
austere, too severely committed, too negative and unsociable.

Let him be as plain as John the Baptist.

Let him for a season be a voice crying in the wilderness of modern
theology and stagnant "churchianity."

Let him be as selfless as Paul the apostle.

Let him, too, say and live, "This ONE thing I do."

Let him reject ecclesiastical favors.

Let him be self-abasing, nonself-seeking, nonself-projecting,
nonself-righteous, nonself-glorying, nonself-promoting.

Let him say nothing that will draw men to himself but only that which
will move men to God.

Let him come daily from the throne room of a holy God, the place
where he has received the order of the day. Let him, under God,
unstop the ears of the millions who are deaf through the clatter of
shekels milked from this hour of material mesmerism.

Let him cry with a voice this century has not heard because he
has seen a vision no man in this century has seen. God send us
this Moses to lead us from the wilderness of crass materialism,
where the rattlesnakes of lust bite us and where enlightened men,
totally blind spiritually, lead us to an ever-nearing Armageddon.
God have mercy! Send us PROPHETS!

"When a prophet is accepted and deified, his message is lost. The
prophet is only useful so long as he is stoned as a public nuisance
calling us to repentance, disturbing our comfortable routines,
breaking our respectable idols, shattering our sacred conventions."
-A. G. Gardiner.

"The function of the Prophet has almost invariably been that of
recovery. That implies that his business is related to something
lost. That something being absolutely essential to God's full
satisfaction, the dominant note of the Prophet was one of
dissatisfaction. And, there being the additional factor that, for
obvious reasons, the people were not disposed to go the costly
way of God's full purpose, the Prophet was usually an unpopular person."
-T. Austin Sparks.

"Those whom God calls to such a ministry - and a call is essential -
must be prepared for a pathway of unpopularity and misunderstanding.
"You troubler of Israel" was the way Ahab addressed Elijah."
-Arthur Wallis.

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Thursday, April 26, 2012

Rethinking How We Present the Gospel

The gospel of Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever.

In Rethinking the Gospel, I shared briefly on the content of the gospel . . . as envisioned in the New Testament.

However, I believe the way that the gospel is presented should differ depending on the people with whom we share it.

This requires sensitivity to the Spirit and attention to the person’s heart. Jesus Christ didn’t present Himself the same way to everyone.

To some, He warned. To others, He rebuked. To some, He showed compassion and mercy. To some, He asked questions or told parables, etc.

Just examine the way He interacted with various people, and you’ll see monumental differences. In a much overlooked text, Jude describes it like this:

And on some have compassion, making a distinction; but others save with fear, pulling them out of the fire, hating even the garment defiled by the flesh (Jude 22-23, NKJV).

You have the same thing in Paul.

Sometimes Paul says things like “it’s the kindness and mercy of God that leads us to repentance.” In other places he says things like “knowing the terror of the Lord we persuade men.”

Forgive the personal reference, but as I think back on all the times I’ve shared Christ in one-on-one settings over the years (which includes many miserable failures at trying), I’ve noticed a few interesting things.

With some, I never mentioned the afterlife and focused only on the mercy and love of God for the moment. And I watched people repent and believe on Christ.

With others, I talked about the consequences of their actions and the reality of divine judgment and the suffering of our Lord to deliver us from such. And I watched people repent and believe on Christ.

With still others, I talked about how life only makes sense with Jesus. Without Him, it’s an elegant mixture of vanity and meaningless. And I watched people repent and believe on Christ.

To some (those sick or hurting), I’ve shared Christ as Healer. To others (those in present rebellion against God), I’ve shared Him as Judge. To some (those wracked with guilt), I’ve shared Him as Forgiver. To others (artists), I’ve shared Him as Beauty incarnate.

You get the idea.

Perhaps your experience is different, but most of the people I’ve shared the Lord with didn’t come to Him . . . immediately at least. But they were certainly nudged in His direction.

Some of them surrendered to Christ years later. Others still haven’t trusted in Him. Others, well, I have no idea as I’ve lost touch with them.

All told: I’ve learned that while the message of the gospel is always the same and changeth not, how Christ is presented should differ from person to person. I could be wrong of course, but that’s how it seems to me. And this principle has shaped the way I talk with non-followers about the Lord.

That said, here are several things I personally keep in view when speaking to a non Christian about Jesus:

Try to listen intently to the person and ask them questions. Listen outwardly.

Try to be sensitive to the Spirit while talking to them. Seek to discover what God has already done and is doing in their heart. Listen inwardly.

Look for an opportunity to allow the love of Christ to bleed through in their circumstances. Embody the gospel.

Never view an individual as a project, but as a person. A fellow human being. No more or less deserving than myself. The attitude is that of one beggar telling another where to find bread.

The goal is never to “close the deal.” (As a young believer, I thought that was the name of the game and did some damage as a result.) The goal is to be obedient to the Lord in the moment. The results are with Him. And sometimes they don’t show up for years. In fact, you may never end up seeing them in this life.

Keep in mind also that one of the greatest testimonies to the world that Jesus of Nazareth is indeed who He claimed to be is when His people love one another visibly (John 17).

Like the pagan of old once said upon observing the Christians, “Behold how they love one another.”

May it be so again . . .

Share some things you’ve learned about sharing Christ with those who don’t yet know Him from either your failures or successes.

P.S. In the introduction to this talk, I tell a tale of two people who share the gospel with their waitresses. You might find it of interest as it goes along with this post.


NOTE: Of course there is much comment starting to arise in Christian
circles about the upcoming US election. It very much looks like it
will be down to electing either a devout Mormon or Obama as president.
We would be interested in hearing your comments. But first, some
controversial points to ponder from two of our readers related to this:-

-Frank 'Appolus'.

It will be interesting to see how the Evangelical community responds
to Governor Romney. The vast majority of Evangelicals consider
Mormonism to be a cult and heretical... Will they vote for, not only
a cult member, but one of high standing within the cult? It seems
clear to me that God is creating a set of circumstances to expose
what truly lies in the hearts of those who call themselves Christians.
For decades now the notion has been put forward, as a reason for
being involved in politics, that we need more Christian men on Capitol
Hill, we need a Christian man in the White-House. Nowhere was this
more clearly seen and heard than when President Bush was running
and re-running for office. Now, where will all those arguments go?
Will we be deafened by the silence of those whose true loyalty may
lie in other places rather than in the Lord? Will we hear perhaps
that "Mormonism is not really that bad, it may not even be a cult
(shush, no using the "cult" word for the next 6 months, it will make
people very uncomfortable)....

-by 'Davo'. (USA).

There is a recent history lesson in all this. I am old enough to recall
the inception of the "Moral Majority" in the late 70´s and the rise of
the religious right.

The religious right and it´s rise, as I recall, was focused on the issue
of abortion. President Jimmy Carter professed to be a Christian and
claimed a personal objection to abortion but was determined to
uphold Roe v Wade as the law of the land. The opposition to abortion
and Jimmy Carter by association and the dreaded Equal Rights
Amendment were the two prominent issues that I remember that
helped advance the so-called "Moral Majority" of that time. Ronald
Reagan became the darling of the moral majority crowd and then
there was the idea for a National Prayer Amendment to allow prayer
back into schools which became another hook for getting more
and more Christians on board to getting Reagan elected.

Well, the prayer amendment initially flopped and to pursue it was
too costly from a political standpoint for Reagen so it was dropped.
The appointment of supreme court justices by both Reagan and
Bush Sr., who weren´t as conservative as promised, derailed the
overturning of the abortion ruling. They did stop the ERA, barely.
I forget the dreadful evil that this amendment was supposed to
have caused.

With all the religious political bluster that began in those days what
has actually been accomplished in relation to it´s initial goals and
all the promised expectations? Have they stopped abortion? No.
Did they get prayer back in schools? No. Have they thwarted the
homosexual agenda? No. What about evolution being taught in
schools? Did they keep the ten commandments in school? Are
they stopping the assault on marriage and family today?

If God is with us why can´t we win these battles? If this is God
and His leading, why has there been no fruit? Why all the failure?

As I look at things today in this country I have concluded that it
hasn´t made anything better but has likely made it worse. It has
prejudiced many, many people against the gospel. Christianity has
been reduced in many people´s minds as to fighting for religious
control of this world as opposed to fighting for the eternal souls
of those who are lost and dying in this world. You end up
fighting the ones you are supposedly trying to reach.

The simplicity and purity of devotion to Jesus Christ which consists
of following Him and keeping His word which He tells us over and
over is the way and practice of true faith. Jesus Christ came into
the world to save sinners, He didn´t come into the world to fix the
world and set public policy. It´s actually a form of worldliness.

It´s a deception and a delusion and completely unwarranted by
Scripture. Imagine that, religious leaders deceiving their followers
and leading them astray. There´s a biblical theme for you. It is a
false agenda that thwarts the true gospel and it´s purpose. It uses
carnal weapons to fight a futile battle against spiritual enemies.
Some people are waking up to that fact.

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Thursday, April 19, 2012


by Jennifer LeClaire (Charisma Magazine)

I recently heard a prophetic word that described an angelic visitation. Of course, I am all for angelic visitations. Both the Old and New Testament offer plenty of examples of angels appearing to people to deliver heavenly messages. But this angel apparently had a creative name. Its name was supposedly "Safe Passage."

It grieves me that we have to go around this mountain yet again in the body of Christ. Wasn´t the controversy over Emma - the female angel who purportedly started the modern-day prophetic movement - enough to put an end to this sort of nonsense? Apparently not.

Let me be clear: There is no angel named Emma and there is no angel named Safe Passage - and it´s assignment is not to escort you safely into new opportunities or to clear fearsome corners and honor your unsung courage.

However, if you Google the keywords "angel safe passage," you might see where a misguided prophetic pen could draw such erroneous inspiration. There´s a Safe Passage playing card that´s a prominent "white angel" in a Dungeons and Dragons-style game.

In this context, "Safe Passage" is a sorcerer. On the more benign side, "Safe Passage" was the title of a script for a 1997 episode of Touched by an Angel. Either way, there is no God-sent angel named Safe Passage.

It just so happened that when I stumbled upon the so-called revelation of this angel named Safe Passage I was already studying the topic of angels. In fact, I was in the midst of reading Dr. Lester Sumrall´s Angels to Help You for a second time.

Sumrall offered abundant Scripture about the reality of angels, the categories of angels-including their names and ranks - what angels do, what angels know, angels and prophecy, what kind of people receive angelic service, and much more.

Angels are real. Angels are mentioned 108 times in the Old Testament and 165 times in the New Testament. Angels are messengers. Angels are innumerable. The Bible mentions three angels by name: Michael, Gabriel and Lucifer. But beyond that, you have to go to religions like Zoroastrianism to find the names of angels.

Zoroastrianism, also called Mazdaism, is a religion based on a self-styled prophet named Zoroaster (also known as Avestan or Zarathustra). Zoroastrianism was once among the largest religions in the world, a political power in pre-Islamic Iran. Mazdaism believers prayed to angels like Ameretat, Asha Vahishta and Vohu Mano for protection.

In modern times, the New Age movement has an A-to-Z list of named angels, some of which are supposedly rooted in Scripture.

There´s Abdiel, the professed "Angel of Faith." At the end of the New Age list, you´ll find Zuriel, the "Angel of Harmony" who has dominion over the sun sign of Libra.

As you can see, false teaching about angels has been circulating the world since before Christ was born and well after He ascended to the right hand of the Father. False teachings about angels was an issue in the early church and it´s an issue in the end-time church. "And no wonder! For Satan himself transforms himself into an angel of light" (2 Cor. 11:14).

Paul had an apostolic message for those who hyper-focused on angels and their "teachings" at the expense of exalting Christ.

Paul was so bold as to say that if he - or an angel from heaven - preached any other gospel than the gospel of Christ he should be accursed (Gal. 1:8). Those are pretty strong words and ones that should be heeded before we preach sermons or pen articles that exalt angels.

Paul also said, "Let no one cheat you of your reward, taking delight in false humility and worship of angels, intruding into those things which he has not seen, vainly puffed up by his fleshly mind, and not holding fast to the Head, from whom all the body, nourished and knit together by joints and ligaments, grows with the increase that is from God" (Col. 2:18-19).

Matthew Henry, an 18th century minister whose well-known commentary provides an exhaustive verse-by-verse study of the Bible, gets to the root of such angel exaltation: "They advanced those notions to gratify their own carnal fancy, and were fond of being thought wiser than other people. Pride is at the bottom of
a great many errors and corruptions, and even of many evil practices, which have great show and appearance of humility."

Yes, angels are ministering spirits sent forth to minister to those who will inherit salvation (Heb. 1:14). That´s us! Angels are sent to execute God´s Word. By revelation of the Holy Spirit, David wrote, "Bless the Lord, you His angels, who excel in strength, who do His word, heeding the voice of His word" (Ps.103:20).
Angels stand ready to obey the Word of God and bring it to pass.

Yes, in a way angels may help provide us with safe passage.

When we make the Lord our dwelling place, no evil shall befall us nor shall any plague come near our dwelling; for He shall give His angels charge over us, to keep us in all our ways. In their hands they shall bear us up, lest we dash our foot against a stone (Psalm 91:9-12). But there is no angel named Safe Passage, at least none of God´s angels.

One last thought: John mistakenly fell down to worship at the feet of an angel who had shown him the revelations he recorded in the book of Revelation. The angel immediately told him to worship God (Rev. 22:8-9). We don´t know the name of this angel. If it were important, the Holy Spirit would have revealed it. I suppose some in the modern church would name him "Revelation," - some may even claim "Revelation" is a female - and that would be yet another error.
Let me end with the words of Jesus Himself: "Take heed that no one deceives you... for false christs and false prophets will rise and show signs and wonders to deceive, if possible, even the elect" (Mk 13:5; 22). Amen. -Jennifer LeClaire, news editor, Charisma.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012


Andrew Strom:- A reader wrote to me recently about the radical
ministry of George Fox from centuries ago. Here was a man who
feared nothing, who walked the earth in leather clothes, who was
so against the organized religion of his day that he called church
buildings "steeple houses" and frightened off many a "hireling" in
the charge thereof - before preaching to the congregation himself!!
There has rarely been an anointed Reformer or Revivalist as radical
as George Fox.

As reader 'Tom' wrote to me:

"I have read a number of items on revival, but to my knowledge, no
one has referenced George Fox who lived in the 1600s in England
during a tumultuous time. He spent times in jail for his outspoken
faith and because he challenged the clergy of the day. His teaching
was the most practical and uncompromising I have encountered
on the matter of holiness and regeneration.

An interesting thing about him and perhaps the reason he goes
unnoticed, is that his ministry mirrors that of the book of Acts,
except that his foes are not Judaism but apostate Christianity.
In other words, his time is contemporary in many ways with ours.
Because of this, many may avoid him since he was entirely
separated from organized religion!"

-by David Smithers.

In the year of 1647, a large man with piercing eyes named George
Fox started preaching throughout the towns and villages of England.
He prayed and fasted often, traveling with no other companion but
his Bible. He proclaimed a gospel of purity, power and repentance.

When George Fox began preaching, many churches were dead
and bound in man-made traditions and formalism. When the Church
drifts into formalism, the world drifts into further ungodliness. The
methods and appearance of George Fox to some, seemed quite
offensive and extreme. It is sometimes necessary for God's
prophets to be unconventional in order to thoroughly awaken the
indifferent and hard hearted.

Soon after George Fox began to preach, he had a remarkable
spiritual experience that lasted fourteen days. A certain Mr. Brown,
while on his death bed prophesied many great things concerning
Fox. "When this man was buried," says Fox, "a great work of the
Lord fell on me." During this mighty baptism of the Spirit, Fox
received a remarkable gift of discernment. "He seemed to be able
to read the character of men by looking at them." Miraculous
healings also accompanied his ministry. Through prayer and the
laying on of hands, the sick were often healed and devils were
cast out to the glory of Christ. When George Fox preached men
would shake and tremble. "The name Quaker was given to Fox
and his followers because of the quaking of the men who came
to scoff but stayed to pray." This remarkable power seemed to
accompany the preaching of Fox wherever he went.

Fox preached that Jesus Christ is the author of a faith which
purifies and gives victory over sin. He fervently exhorted men to
pursue complete holiness rather than empty religious ceremonies.
As a result, he was often beaten, stoned and driven out of town.
It is estimated that perhaps no other man since the time of the
Reformation was persecuted and imprisoned as often as George
Fox. He usually went about the country on foot, dressed in his
famous suit of leather clothes, which it is believed he made
himself. He often slept outside under a tree or in some haystack.
Fox also often pointed out that what was commonly called the
Church was only a building. He boldly declared that only the
fervent believers of Christ were the living stones of the true Church.

"Above all George Fox excelled in prayer." It was his habit to wait
in silence for the movement of the Holy Spirit and then begin to
pray, causing whole congregations to be shaken and humbled
under the hand of God Almighty. "As he prayed the power of God
came down in such a marvelous manner the very building seemed
to rock." Through the ministry of George Fox, a glimmer of Apostolic
power was revealed to seventeenth century England. He was a man
of the Spirit in an age that emphasized theological and scriptural
accuracy at the expense of the power of the Holy Ghost. He always
stressed the importance of a Spirit filled life and refused to let dead
orthodoxy be a veil for the works of the flesh.

If we as believers are content with a gospel that merely comforts
our conscience and perseveres our traditions, then we are also
content to forsake the gospel of Christ and the Apostles. God
help us to truly seek the kind of praying and preaching that will
once again make men tremble in the presence of Jesus Christ.

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-Original Source-

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

A Farewell to Self-Righteousness

by Frank Viola

I tell you, her sins—and they are many—have been forgiven, so she has shown me much love. But a person who is forgiven little shows only little love ~ Luke 7:47

Women have a large part to play in the New Testament story. They funded Jesus’ earthly ministry (Luke 8:1–3). They were also the most faithful of His disciples, staying with Him to the bitter end.

But of all the women mentioned in the New Testament, none can compare with Mary of Magdala.

Magdala was a city along the Sea of Galilee. The town was very unclean—filthy and unkempt—and known for its rampant prostitution.

Many of the city’s young girls grew up learning how to sin. Mary was one of them.*

*This story is based on Luke 7:36-50. According to most traditional scholars and the testimony of ancient church history, Mary Magdalene is the “unnamed woman” (the prostitute) mentioned in Luke 7. Luke doesn’t name her for obvious reasons, but he mentions her by name in Luke 8. Mary Magdalene is not to be confused with Mary of Bethany, who anointed Him near the end of the Lord’s earthly life. Some modern scholars question all of this, however. But it’s impossible to tell either way. Even if you don’t believe that Mary Magdalene is the “unnamed woman” in Luke 7, it doesn’t effect the main plot-points of the story. Just insert “the unnamed woman” for Mary and read on . . .

At a young age, Mary learned the dark trade of selling her body for money. She became a harlot, a woman of the night.

Little did anyone know that this hopeless, sinful, demon-possessed prostitute was destined to meet the Lover of her soul. And as a result, women and men in every century would herald her.

By using a bit of consecrated imagination, I would like us to return to the first century and meet this incredible woman as she encounters her incredible Lord.

Human Desperation Meets Divine Fullness
It is the year AD 28. Like most people in Palestine, Mary of Magdala has heard the grand reports of a miracle-working prophet named Jesus of Nazareth. Everywhere He goes, Jesus heals the sick and casts out demons. Not long ago, Mary moved to the village of Nain in Galilee.

At this point in her adult life, Mary is a desperate soul. Ever since she was a young teen, she has made her living as a prostitute. She suffers from depression and suicidal tendencies.

For years she has been vexed with evil spirits, seven to be exact (Luke 8:2). All of her adult life she has known nothing but torment, degradation, and utter defilement (Matt. 12:45).

The day has come. Mary hears that Jesus has entered the town of Nain. She catches wind of reports that He raised a man from the dead (Luke 7:11–17). Upon hearing this, she looks for Him.

Not far from her home, she sees a large crowd gathered. And she spots Him. She is riveted by the authority with which He speaks. She also detects a graciousness and purity that she has never before witnessed in any man.

Jesus finishes His message and begins praying for the sick who are before Him. Without any timidity, Mary approaches Him. Jesus looks upon her with surprising familiarity.

In a flash of divine revelation, the Lord remembers. He remembers that she was chosen to be part of His glorious bride before the foundation of the world (Eph. 1:4).

As He puts His hands upon her head, Mary weeps. With uncommon authority, the Lord utters this simple word: “Evil spirits I command you to come out of her, never to enter her again!”

Immediately, Mary lets out a loud wail and collapses before Jesus as if in a coma. Those looking on wonder if she is dead. The Lord assures them that she is just sleeping.

An hour goes by, and Mary awakens. When she rises from the ground, she feels clean and whole.

She can only remember feeling this way in the innocence of her childhood, when she was a little girl. She begins to weep again. Mary looks for Jesus, but He is gone.

She is told that He has been invited to a Pharisee’s home for dinner. With tears of deep gratitude and joyful anticipation, she heads off to find Jesus.

She has with her the most valuable asset she owns: a small vial filled with costly perfume that hangs from a leather strap around her neck.

This vial represents her savings account. The money has come from her trade.

Without forethought or deliberation, she wishes to give it to Jesus as a gift, a token of her gratitude.

As she diligently inquires the exact whereabouts of Jesus, someone points to the home of Simon the Pharisee. Simon has invited the Lord to be his guest for dinner.

Let’s walk into Simon’s home and see what’s happening there.

The Scandal of Shameless Love

Simon is quite intrigued by this famous prophet named Jesus. He has heard many stories about Him.

Simon belongs to the class of “nonsinners” called Pharisees.

They are the self-appointed monitors of the kingdom of God. They are the self-proclaimed and self-anointed experts at sin management.

They are beyond sin in their own eyes, and their “ministry” is to make sure that others keep sin to an absolute minimum.

Simon and his Pharisee friends are now afforded the opportunity to interview the Nazarene prophet up close and personal.

Jesus is the guest of honor. Simon, however, ignores all of the common courtesies of an Eastern home.

He fails to greet Jesus with a kiss. He doesn’t anoint His head with oil. He also fails to wash His feet.

Note that Simon has in his home the very God whom he has been serving all of his life. Yet he is pathetically unaware of it.

Jesus makes no mention of Simon’s neglect as a host. Instead, He graciously reclines at the table with Simon and his friends.

The door opens, and in walks Mary of Magdala. She is uninvited.

Yet she enters unashamedly.*

*Private life was virtually unheard of in Jesus’ day. The doors of homes were often wide open for friends, beggars, and even the curious to march in on a whim.
As Mary enters, she quickly spots Jesus. And she begins to weep.

She walks straight over to Him and positions herself in the highest place possible, at His feet.

As she kneels before Jesus, her tears fall upon His feet. She opens the vial of valuable perfume that’s suspended from her neck and pours it out upon the feet of Christ. She anoints His feet with the perfume, mixing it with her tears.

She then does something outrageous. Scandalous even. She begins to kiss His feet. And she does not stop. (In the Greek, the thought conveyed is that she “smothers” His feet with kisses.)

What happens next horrifies both Simon and his fellow Pharisees.

She unbinds her hair and turns it into a towel. She then proceeds to wipe the Lord’s feet with it.

(In that day for a woman to unbind her hair in public was no small scandal. It would be akin to a woman going topless in our day.)

The Pharisees are in shock. They are mortified. Her attire makes clear that she is a prostitute. A sinner. There’s no question about it. And they are livid.

Why? Because Jesus, this so-called prophet, does not stop her from engaging in what they consider to be shamelessly erotic acts: unbinding her hair and kissing His feet.

Please note: Jesus never rebukes her.

The Pharisees think to themselves that Jesus cannot possibly be a prophet. If He were, He would not allow this sinner to perform such disgraceful acts upon Him.

Jesus perceives their thoughts. But He doesn’t seem to care what they think. The Lord knows exactly who she is. She is part of His glorious bride, chosen in Him before creation.

And she is doing what the bride was designed to do: She is loving Him shamelessly. She is loving Him passionately. She is loving Him extravagantly.

And your Lord is not offended.

Never in His entire ministry has the Lord been loved like this. What is Mary doing? She is simply returning the love that He poured upon her earlier that day.

What are Simon and the other Pharisees doing? They are passing judgment upon her.

To their feeble minds, they are in a different class than this woman. She is a sinner. They are nonsinners.

They are also engaging in something far worse: They are unwittingly passing judgment on the God whom they are trying to serve.

Jesus launches into a parable: “There are two men who owed money. One owed a great deal; the other owed very little. The money lender had a wide heart, and he forgave them both.”

Jesus then turns to Simon and presses him with this query: “Simon, which one will love the most?”

Simon answers reluctantly: “I suppose the one who owed more.”

Jesus commends Simon for a correct answer. He then proceeds to reprove him: “I came into your home, and you did not greet Me with a kiss. This woman not only kissed Me. But she has kissed My feet, and she has not yet stopped. Simon, you didn’t anoint My head.

But this woman has anointed My feet with her life’s fortune.

Simon, you didn’t wash My feet. But this woman has washed My feet with her tears and she has dried them with her hair. This woman’s many sins are forgiven. So she loves much. But the person who has been forgiven little will love little.”

In this little parable, Jesus turns the tables on this Pharisee. Simon is the one whom God doesn’t approve of. Simon can’t appreciate God’s love even when it’s sitting at his own table.

Herein we are faced with one of the great truths of the gospel: If you are not part of the class called “sinner,” then you are out of favor with God.

This story gives us great insight into the heart of a Pharisee.

A Pharisee is someone who is completely out of touch with the fact that he is a sinner.

A Pharisee sits in the seat of the Almighty and judges others as being sinners.

A Pharisee does not view himself as a sinner, though he is guilty of the greatest of all sins, self-righteousness and judgmentalism.

Nothing can bring salvation but repentance. And for the spiritually smug, that’s quite a hard commodity to come by.

Thus there is no salvation for a Pharisee, unless he comes to grips with the fact that he is a sinner. For only sinners have a chance in the kingdom of God. The self-righteous forfeit it altogether.

The Greatest of All Sins
A careful survey of the Gospels will reveal this one penetrating truth: Jesus Christ was the friend and defender of sinners.

It was the tax collectors, the thieves, the prostitutes, and the adulterers that He welcomed into His kingdom.

And it was to the highly religious, the self-righteous, and the morally upright (and uptight) that He leveled His severest criticisms. For such had disqualified themselves from the kingdom of God.

Your Lord was a specialist at inducing the fury of the self-righteous, religious elite. Presumably, this is the reason why the stories in the Gospels (let alone the Old Testament) are not peopled with the morally upright. We’re quite hard-pressed to find moral heroes in most of them.

Now let’s put a modern Christian in that room with Jesus, Mary Magdalene, and the Pharisees. A self-righteous Christian, mind you.

“Um [cough] … Lord Jesus, did she ask You to forgive her? I didn’t hear her say she was sorry for living as a prostitute. How do we know if she has really repented, Lord? Do You mind if I interrogate her for a bit, please?”

Such is the spirit of a Pharisee. And we have not so learned Jesus Christ.

Repeat: The greatest sins above all else are self-righteousness and judgmentalism. These will bar one from entrance into the kingdom.

In this connection, there is only one person in the universe who has the right to be self-righteous. It is Jesus Christ. And there is no such spirit within Him.

Thank God that our Lord is not self-righteous. For if He were, none of us would have any hope.

I am deeply impressed that the Lord demanded nothing of Mary. Instead, He received her shameless act as proof of her love for Him.

Mary loved Jesus at great cost. She loved Him in the presence of judgmental Pharisees, in their home, uninvited.

She “pressed into the kingdom of God violently” and loved her Lord unabashedly and without shame (Matt. 11:12; Luke 16:16).

But what I find even more jolting is that Mary was completely confident that Jesus would receive her act of adoration. She had no fear of Him, only love. This observation alone is quite telling.

Luke closes the curtains on this scene with the Lord saying to Mary, “Your sins are forgiven. Your faith has saved you; go in peace.”

Throughout the many years that I have been a Christian, I have made the following observation: You’ll never know if self-righteousness is in your heart until something tragic happens to a fellow Christian that you know.

When somebody you know (or know of ) falls short, makes a mistake, or is the subject of an ugly rumor, it is at that moment that a self-righteous spirit—if it exists—will rear its head.

To be self-righteous and judgmental is to disqualify yourself from the kingdom of God. It is to deny the fact that you are a sinner who is hanging by a cobweb of grace, just like the rest of us.

If you get in touch with your humanity, you will make an important discovery: You are just as fallen as everyone else and just as undeserving of God’s mercy as everyone else. Such a revelation should remove any judgmental bone in your body.

I find this story so very encouraging on many levels. But the point that I am most impressed with is in who Mary Magdalene was.

To my mind, she embodies the very depths of the fall. She was a harlot, sold into sin, possessed by seven devils. Yet despite all of that, she was chosen to be part of the spotless bride of Christ.

Even more startling, despite her tragic condition, she believed that she was worthy to love the Lord Jesus Christ.

Somehow, Mary touched His grace. Somehow, she saw in His eyes the love He had for her. And with an unbridled audacity, she accepted His forgiveness and she loved Him with a blind passion.

Mary’s love for her Lord was but a reflection of His unconditional love for her.

The story ends with the Lord telling her to “go in peace.” And in peace she went. In fact, she followed the incarnation of peace for the rest of her life (Eph. 2:14). For she became one of the Lord’s most faithful disciples (Luke 8:1–3).

Undying Devotion
The devotion that Mary had for the Lord Jesus is remarkable. For it lasted beyond the Lord’s earthly life. After Jesus dies, we find her loving

Him beyond the grave.

All that remained was the lifeless corpse of the God whom she loved. Yet this devoted woman was following Him still. Blindly and just as passionately. Though He was dead, she was still taking care of Him (Mark 16:1).

What a lesson for us who do not see Him. She loved Him even though He was dead. Perhaps this is the reason why she was given the high privilege of being the first witness to the resurrected Christ (John 20:13–16).

Indeed, Mary of Magdala is a study in undying love.

I ask you: What provoked such unending devotion? It was simply this: Mary believed the Lord’s opinion of her. She took His opinion of herself rather than her own. In so doing, love was awakened within her own heart for Christ.

The resurrection scene contains strong echoes of the garden of Eden. The first Adam found his bride in a garden. When she came forth from his side, Adam named her “Woman” (Gen. 2:23). But by his sin, the first Adam ended his life in a grave (Gen. 2:17; 5:5).

The Last Adam, Jesus Christ, was put in a grave, but He was raised in a garden (John 19:40—20:15). In His resurrected state, the first eyes to see Him were Mary’s. And His words to her are revealing. He said, “Woman” (John 20:15).

When Mary recognized the Lord, she sought to embrace Him. But it wasn’t yet His wedding day, so He restrained her (John 20:16–17).

What a beautiful picture. The first Adam found his bride—the first woman, in a garden, but he turned that garden into a grave. The Second Adam found His bride, the secondwoman, in a garden, which was once a grave.

Who, then, is Mary Magdalene? She is you and she is me. Deeply fallen vessels. But chosen in Christ before time, holy and without blame, a part of the loveliest girl in the world.

If Mary of Magdala could love her Lord and enjoy His presence boldly, flagrantly, extravagantly, shamelessly, and without inhibition, then so can you. And so can I.

Therefore, the next time you feel condemnation over your past, please remember this one thing: The first person to lay eyes upon the resurrected Lord was a former prostitute.

God chose Mary Magdalene from the foundation of the world, knowing the kind of life she would live. And He chose you and me from the foundation of the world, knowing full well all the mistakes we would make this side of the veil.

You have a Lord who wishes to cherish you. Neither your fallen nature nor your sins are an obstacle for Him. He has dealt with them thoroughly, completely, and willingly by His death and resurrection.

Never forget: This God of yours allowed a prostitute to love Him extravagantly in the house of a Pharisee.

Such is the wonder of the sacred romance into which every believer has been swept up.

So go in peace, and love your Lord like Mary did.

Andrew Sullivan: Christianity in Crisis

Christianity has been destroyed by politics, priests, and get-rich evangelists. Ignore them, writes Andrew Sullivan, and embrace Him.

If you go to the second floor of the National Museum of American History inWashington, D.C., you’ll find a small room containing an 18th-century Bible whose pages are full of holes. They are carefully razor-cut empty spaces, so this was not an act of vandalism. It was, rather, a project begun by Thomas Jefferson when he was 77 years old. Painstakingly removing those passages he thought reflected the actual teachings of Jesus of Nazareth, Jefferson literally cut and pasted them into a slimmer, different New Testament, and left behind the remnants (all on display until July 15). What did he edit out? He told us: “We must reduce our volume to the simple evangelists, select, even from them, the very words only of Jesus.” He removed what he felt were the “misconceptions” of Jesus’ followers, “expressing unintelligibly for others what they had not understood themselves.” And it wasn’t hard for him. He described the difference between the real Jesus and the evangelists’ embellishments as “diamonds” in a “dunghill,” glittering as “the most sublime and benevolent code of morals which has ever been offered to man.” Yes, he was calling vast parts of the Bible religious manure.

When we think of Jefferson as the great architect of the separation of church and state, this, perhaps, was what he meant by “church”: the purest, simplest, apolitical Christianity, purged of the agendas of those who had sought to use Jesus to advance their own power decades and centuries after Jesus’ death. If Jefferson’s greatest political legacy was the Declaration of Independence, this pure, precious moral teaching was his religious legacy. “I am a real Christian,” Jefferson insisted against the fundamentalists and clerics of his time. “That is to say, a disciple of the doctrines of Jesus.”

What were those doctrines? Not the supernatural claims that, fused with politics and power, gave successive generations wars, inquisitions, pogroms, reformations, and counterreformations. Jesus’ doctrines were the practical commandments, the truly radical ideas that immediately leap out in the simple stories he told and which he exemplified in everything he did. Not simply love one another, but love your enemy and forgive those who harm you; give up all material wealth; love the ineffable Being behind all things, and know that this Being is actually your truest Father, in whose image you were made. Above all: give up power over others, because power, if it is to be effective, ultimately requires the threat of violence, and violence is incompatible with the total acceptance and love of all other human beings that is at the sacred heart of Jesus’ teaching. That’s why, in his final apolitical act, Jesus never defended his innocence at trial, never resisted his crucifixion, and even turned to those nailing his hands to the wood on the cross and forgave them, and loved them.

Politicized Faith
Whether or not you believe, as I do, in Jesus’ divinity and resurrection—and in the importance of celebrating both on Easter Sunday—Jefferson’s point is crucially important. Because it was Jesus’ point. What does it matter how strictly you proclaim your belief in various doctrines if you do not live as these doctrines demand? What is politics if not a dangerous temptation toward controlling others rather than reforming oneself? If we return to what Jesus actually asked us to do and to be - rather than the unknowable intricacies of what we believe he was—he actually emerges more powerfully and more purely.

And more intensely relevant to our times. Jefferson’s vision of a simpler, purer, apolitical Christianity couldn’t be further from the 21st-century American reality. We inhabit a polity now saturated with religion. On one side, the Republican base is made up of evangelical Protestants who believe that religion must consume and influence every aspect of public life. On the other side, the last Democratic primary had candidates profess their faith in public forums, and more recently President Obama appeared at the National Prayer Breakfast, invoking Jesus to defend his plan for universal health care. The crisis of Christianity is perhaps best captured in the new meaning of the word “secular.” It once meant belief in separating the spheres of faith and politics; it now means, for many, simply atheism. The ability to be faithful in a religious space and reasonable in a political one has atrophied before our eyes.

Organized Religion in Decline
Meanwhile, organized religion itself is in trouble. The Catholic Church’s hierarchy lost much of its authority over the American flock with the unilateral prohibition of the pill in 1968 by Pope Paul VI. But in the last decade, whatever shred of moral authority that remained has evaporated. The hierarchy was exposed as enabling, and then covering up, an international conspiracy to abuse and rape countless youths and children. I don’t know what greater indictment of a church’s authority there can be—except the refusal, even now, of the entire leadership to face their responsibility and resign. Instead, they obsess about others’ sex lives, about who is entitled to civil marriage, and about who pays for birth control in health insurance. Inequality, poverty, even the torture institutionalized by the government after 9/11: these issues attract far less of their public attention.

For their part, the mainline Protestant churches, which long promoted religious moderation, have rapidly declined in the past 50 years. Evangelical Protestantism has stepped into the vacuum, but it has serious defects of its own. As New York Times columnist Ross Douthat explores in his unsparing new book,Bad Religion: How We Became a Nation of Heretics, many suburban evangelicals embrace a gospel of prosperity, which teaches that living a Christian life will make you successful and rich. Others defend a rigid biblical literalism, adamantly wishing away a century and a half of scholarship that has clearly shown that the canonized Gospels were written decades after Jesus’ ministry, and are copies of copies of stories told by those with fallible memory. Still others insist that the earth is merely 6,000 years old—something we now know by the light of reason and science is simply untrue. And what group of Americans have pollsters found to be most supportive of torturing terror suspects? Evangelical Christians. Something has gone very wrong. These are impulses born of panic in the face of modernity, and fear before an amorphous “other.” This version of Christianity could not contrast more strongly with Jesus’ constant refrain: “Be not afraid.” It would make Jefferson shudder.

It would also, one imagines, baffle Jesus of Nazareth. The issues that Christianity obsesses over today simply do not appear in either Jefferson’s or the original New Testament. Jesus never spoke of homosexuality or abortion, and his only remarks on marriage were a condemnation of divorce (now commonplace among American Christians) and forgiveness for adultery. The family? He disowned his parents in public as a teen, and told his followers to abandon theirs if they wanted to follow him. Sex? He was a celibate who, along with his followers, anticipated an imminent End of the World where reproduction was completely irrelevant.

The Crisis of Our Time
All of which is to say something so obvious it is almost taboo: Christianity itself is in crisis. It seems no accident to me that so many Christians now embrace materialist self-help rather than ascetic self-denial—or that most Catholics, even regular churchgoers, have tuned out the hierarchy in embarrassment or disgust. Given this crisis, it is no surprise that the fastest-growing segment of belief among the young is atheism, which has leapt in popularity in the new millennium. Nor is it a shock that so many have turned away from organized Christianity and toward “spirituality,” co-opting or adapting the practices of meditation or yoga, or wandering as lapsed Catholics in an inquisitive spiritual desert. The thirst for God is still there. How could it not be, when the profoundest human questions—Why does the universe exist rather than nothing? How did humanity come to be on this remote blue speck of a planet? What happens to us after death?—remain as pressing and mysterious as they’ve always been?

That’s why polls show a huge majority of Americans still believing in a Higher Power. But the need for new questioning—of Christian institutions as well as ideas and priorities—is as real as the crisis is deep.

Back to Jesus
Where to start? Jefferson’s act of cutting out those parts of the Bible that offended his moral and scientific imagination is one approach. But another can be found in the life of a well-to-do son of a fabric trader in 12th-century Italy who went off to fight a war with a neighboring city, saw his friends killed in battle in front of him, lived a year as a prisoner of war, and then experienced a clarifying vision that changed the world. In Francis of Assisi: A New Biography, Augustine Thompson cuts through the legends and apocryphal prayers to describe Saint Francis as he truly lived. Gone are the fashionable stories of an erstwhile hippie, communing with flowers and animals. Instead we have this typical young secular figure who suddenly found peace in service to those he previously shrank from: lepers, whose sores and lesions he tended to and whose company he sought—as much as for himself as for them.

The religious order that goes by his name began quite simply with a couple of friends who were captured by the sheer spiritual intensity of how Francis lived. His inspiration was even purer than Jefferson’s. He did not cut out passages of the Gospels to render them more reasonable than they appear to the modern mind. He simply opened the Gospels at random - as was often the custom at the time - and found three passages. They told him to “sell what you have and give to the poor,” to “take nothing for your journey,” not even a second tunic, and to “deny himself” and follow the path of Jesus. That was it. So Francis renounced his inheritance, becoming homeless and earning food by manual labor. When that wouldn’t feed him, he begged, just for food - with the indignity of begging part of his spiritual humbling.

Francis insisted on living utterly without power over others. As stories of his strangeness and holiness spread, more joined him and he faced a real dilemma: how to lead a group of men, and also some women, in an organization. Suddenly, faith met politics. And it tormented, wracked, and almost killed him. He had to be last, not first. He wanted to be always the “lesser brother,” not the founder of an order. And so he would often go on pilgrimages and ask others to run things. Or he would sit at the feet of his brothers at communal meetings and if an issue could not be resolved without his say-so, he would whisper in the leader’s ear.

A Vision of Holiness
As Jesus was without politics, so was Francis. As Jesus fled from crowds, so did Francis—often to bare shacks in woodlands, to pray and be with God and nature. It’s critical to recall that he did not do this in rebellion against orthodoxy or even church authority. He obeyed orders from bishops and even the pope himself. His main obsession wasn’t nature, which came to sublime fruition in his final “Canticle of the Sun,” but the cleanliness of the cloths, chalices, and ornaments surrounding the holy eucharist.

His revulsion at even the hint of comfort or wealth could be extreme. As he lay dying and was offered a pillow to rest on, he slept through the night only to wake the next day in a rage, hitting the monk who had given him the pillow and recoiling in disgust at his own weakness in accepting its balm. One of his few commands was that his brothers never ride a horse; they had to walk or ride a donkey. What inspired his fellow Christians to rebuild and reform the church in his day was simply his own example of humility, service, and sanctity.

A modern person would see such a man as crazy, and there were many at the time who thought so too. He sang sermons in the streets, sometimes just miming them. He suffered intense bouts of doubt, self-loathing, and depression. He had visions. You could have diagnosed his postwar conversion as an outgrowth of posttraumatic-stress disorder. Or you can simply observe what those around him testified to: something special, unique, mysterious, holy. To reduce one’s life to essentials, to ask merely for daily bread, forgiveness of others, and denial of self is, in many ways, a form of madness. It is also a form of liberation. It lets go of complexity and focuses on simplicity. Francis did not found an order designed to think or control. He insisted on the simplicity of manual labor, prayer, and the sacraments. That was enough for him.

Learning How to Live
It wouldn’t be enough for most of us. And yet, there can be wisdom in the acceptance of mystery. I’ve pondered the Incarnation my whole life. I’ve read theology and history. I think I grasp what it means to be both God and human—but I don’t think my understanding is any richer than my Irish grandmother’s. Barely literate, she would lose herself in the rosary at mass. In her simplicity, beneath her veil in front of a cascade of flickering candles, she seemed to know God more deeply than I, with all my education and privilege, ever will.

This doesn’t imply, as some claim, the privatization of faith, or its relegation to a subordinate sphere. There are times when great injustices—slavery, imperialism, totalitarianism, segregation—require spiritual mobilization and public witness. But from Gandhi to King, the greatest examples of these movements renounce power as well. They embrace nonviolence as a moral example, and that paradox changes the world more than politics or violence ever can or will. When politics is necessary, as it is, the kind of Christianity I am describing seeks always to translate religious truths into reasoned, secular arguments that can appeal to those of other faiths and none at all. But it also means, at times, renouncing Caesar in favor of the Christ to whom Jefferson, Francis, my grandmother, and countless generations of believers have selflessly devoted themselves.

The saints, after all, became known as saints not because of their success in fighting political battles, or winning a few news cycles, or funding an anti-abortion super PAC. They were saints purely and simply because of the way they lived. And this, of course, was Jefferson’s deeply American insight: “No man can conform his faith to the dictates of another. The life and essence of religion consists in the internal persuasion or belief of the mind.”

Jefferson feared that the alternative to a Christianity founded on “internal persuasion” was a revival of the brutal, bloody wars of religion that America was founded to escape. And what he grasped in his sacrilegious mutilation of a sacred text was the core simplicity of Jesus’ message of renunciation. He believed that stripped of the doctrines of the Incarnation, Resurrection, and the various miracles, the message of Jesus was the deepest miracle. And that it was radically simple. It was explained in stories, parables, and metaphors—not theological doctrines of immense complexity. It was proven by his willingness to submit himself to an unjustified execution. The cross itself was not the point; nor was the intense physical suffering he endured. The point was how he conducted himself through it all - calm, loving, accepting, radically surrendering even the basic control of his own body and telling us that this was what it means to truly transcend our world and be with God. Jesus, like Francis, was a homeless person, as were his closest followers. He possessed nothing - and thereby everything.

Christianity ResurrectedI have no concrete idea how Christianity will wrestle free of its current crisis, of its distractions and temptations, and above all its enmeshment with the things of this world. But I do know it won’t happen by even more furious denunciations of others, by focusing on politics rather than prayer, by concerning ourselves with the sex lives and heretical thoughts of others rather than with the constant struggle to liberate ourselves from what keeps us from God. What Jefferson saw in Jesus of Nazareth was utterly compatible with reason and with the future; what Saint Francis trusted in was the simple, terrifying love of God for Creation itself. That never ends.

This Christianity comes not from the head or the gut, but from the soul. It is as meek as it is quietly liberating. It does not seize the moment; it lets it be. It doesn’t seek worldly recognition, or success, and it flees from power and wealth. It is the religion of unachievement. And it is not afraid. In the anxious, crammed lives of our modern twittering souls, in the materialist obsessions we cling to for security in recession, in a world where sectarian extremism threatens to unleash mass destruction, this sheer Christianity, seeking truth without the expectation of resolution, simply living each day doing what we can to fulfill God’s will, is more vital than ever. It may, in fact, be the only spiritual transformation that can in the end transcend the nagging emptiness of our late-capitalist lives, or the cult of distracting contemporaneity, or the threat of apocalyptic war where Jesus once walked. You see attempts to find this everywhere—from experimental spirituality to resurgent fundamentalism. Something inside is telling us we need radical spiritual change.

But the essence of this change has been with us, and defining our own civilization, for two millennia. And one day soon, when politics and doctrine and pride recede, it will rise again.

CORRECTION: Due to an editing error, the print version of this piece incorrectly stated that Thomas Jefferson started editing the Bible when he was 27 years old. Jefferson was 77 years old when he began the project. The text has been updated to reflect the change.

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Andrew Sullivan, former editor of The New Republic, weekly columnist for the Sunday Times of London, brought his hugely popular blog, The Dish, to the Daily Beast in 2011. He's the author of several books, including "Virtually Normal," "Love Undetectable," and "The Conservative Soul.