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I can win any slam dunk contest through him who gives me strength. If I will ask God for the ability to do so “in Jesus’ name,” of course.

When I was a kid I had a poster of Philippians 4:13 — “I can do all things through him who strengthens me” — with a photo of a guy dunking a basketball. You can bet I thought long and hard about how Jesus was gonna help me dunk on some fools.

Paul wrote the letter to the church at Philippi from jail. Chapter 4, verse 13 may sound like it needs to be slapped on whatever the Christian equivalent of a PowerBar is, but Paul was not talking about Jesus being our genie, but Jesus being our satisfaction in all situations, whether rich or poor, free or enslaved, healthy or sick, successful or getting dunked on. Wherever our promised trouble-full life finds us, we will persevere only in Christ.

Similarly, Jeremiah 29:11 is a great verse, but it’s not an affirmation of the American dream. It’s an affirmation of God’s predestining purposes even when the American dream crashes down around us and we are crushed. You can put it on a coffee cup, I s’pose, but don’t throw it away when you’re on the streets and you need it to beg for change. The verse will still be true.

Jesus is no talisman. Crucify “Jesus as key to your personal achievement” and he will stay dead. But the real Jesus achieves a victory greater and far superior to any wish-dream of any man. He is life itself, and life eternal. Worship that Jesus.

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12 thoughts on “Kill Your Jesus Talisman”

  1. Well said. I see people throughout the majority world who are hungry, in abject poverty, struggling to make sense of their exploited resources and broken governments, all the while trying to figure out how they can learn to use the magic Jesus we have fashioned in the US.

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  3. Mike Shideler says:

    Acts 28: 29-31.. A rented house is not, a cell in a roman prison.
    respectfully your in Christ, Mike Shideler

    1. Jared C. Wilson says:

      Mike, I simply meant that Paul wrote the letter while under imprisonment, a view which much scholarly consensus. I make no mention of his being in a cell. Are you saying Philippians is not one of his “prison letters”?

  4. Adam says:

    Ha! Love it. “how Jesus was gonna help me dunk on some fools.” It is certainly true. Talismans are not a unique phenomena among animistic people. By our fallen nature we are all tend to make Talismans out of anything.

  5. Darren Blair says:

    I wouldn’t be so quick to just throw everything out.

    I recall hearing of more than a few studies which indicate that a lot of what different denominations ask of their members – self-discipline, personal industriousness, abstinence from harmful substances such as alcohol, et cetra – actually can have positive effects on a person’s life.

  6. jch says:

    I wonder how many professing Christians would still claim fidelity to Jesus if they found out that what your post says here is true.

  7. Jim says:

    I had a bookmark in my Bible with the same picture, I think, and the text of Philippians 4:13. So inspirational…

  8. Bauer Evans says:

    Challenging reminder, Jared, citing one of my favorite OT verses. Thanks for sharing it!

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Jared C. Wilson

Jared C. Wilson is the Director of Content Strategy for Midwestern Seminary, managing editor of For The Church, director of The Pastoral Training Center at Liberty Baptist Church, and author of more than ten books, including Gospel Wakefulness, The Pastor’s Justification, and The Prodigal Church. You can follow him on Twitter.

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