This iconic neon "Jesus saves" sign in downtown L.A. has a lot of history. It was once part of the Church of the Open Door, then moved to the United Artists Theater, which served as the Los Angeles University Cathedral. Now the building that the sign sits on houses one of the trendiest hotels in downtown Los Angeles. The Ace Hotel. This hotel (and this sign) are an iconic part of the downtown LA scene.
And it reminds us of the mission of Jesus Christ. One of the most misunderstood figures in all of history. I believe our culture is going to take another cycle back to a classic religious message. Partly because I believe that our world has found no answer in its current state. And it's current 'I'm ok, you're ok' pop ideology. But mostly because I believe in the enduring message of Christianity. That Jesus Saves.
God has been speaking to me about the most powerful thought in human history. And how applicable it is today for our lives. We don't need to change a thing. The message 'Jesus saves', is exactly what our world needs to hear.
The Neon Glare
One of the needed traits in the Church today is to understand the brokenness of this generation and their great need for Jesus. I have received hundreds of letters and emails from students about the kind of things they are dealing with today. BROKEN homes, BROKEN relationships, BROKEN dreams, BROKEN promises, and BROKEN hearts. The palace they live in has been infested and is broke. And they cannot find an answer anywhere. Their salvation is not in wealth, or friends, or popularity, or sports, or drugs/alcohol, or the sexual revolution. The neon sign glares the answer to their salvation.
Today, because their lives and their world are so messed up, young people try to put on paint over their rust. They try to put on bandaids over their wounds. But, you cannot put paint on rust or band-aids on cuts. Because they will still be rusty and wounded. The garden that our young people think they live in has been over-run with weeds and unwanted pests. And it looks more like a cemetery. The castle that our young people think they are living in is really cracked at its foundation. And it looks more like a prison.
Their lives are like this iconic picture in downtown LA. One of the trendiest hotels in one of the trendiest places. With a message for the ages.
Amos 9.11 says, "In that day I will restore David's fallen tent. I will repair its broken places, restore its ruins, and build it as it used to be..."
Proverbs 24.30-31, "I went past the field of the lazy man, past the vineyard of the man who lacks judgement..., and its wall was broken down."
Proverbs 25.28 says, "Like a city whose walls are broken down is a man who lacks self-control."
John 3.16, "For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten son. That whosoever believes in him, would not perish, but have everlasting life."
These texts are a perfect message for an imperfect world. Jesus came to save us from our self. Jesus is not one of the ways. He is the way. Jesus is not one of the truths. He is the truth. Jesus is not one of the life's. He is the life. And when this world realizes that they cannot find fulfillment in anything else, they will turn to the only answer.
Two simple points to this blog:
First, see past the palace. The Ace Hotel. The facade. Hidden in the secret place beyond the make-up and the labels is a broken young man and young lady. Look deeper and love people. Sure, there are hurts, rebellion, lies, fear, and materialism. But, do you see the healing, obedience, truthfulness, courage, and sacrifice? Do you see the hope - bright red sign hanging over the building?
Second, don't be afraid of the age old message that still works today. The most important part of this picture is the message. The sign. And not necessarily the building. Keep that in mind in your relationships with people. We must love them and recognize them for who they are. We must walk into their setting and context and love everyone as God's creation. It is not enough to have empathy for people. We must be able to share the simple message of the Gospel. We are all broken palaces. But the message of salvation hasn't changed.
The Unchanging Message
In this picture we see the 1st century meeting the 21st-century. The next time you see this iconic neon sign, remember the age old message that sits atop one of the trendiest hotels in Los Angeles. And remember that it doesn't matter how nice your building is or recognizable you are, you still need the age old message. It is more than just recognizing the problem. We must also present the answer. The simple message. That 'Jesus saves'.