Saturday, May 23, 2015

Happy Pentecost, Church?

"Happy Pentecost, Church!"

Regrettably, very few of you are likely to hear anything mentioned about Pentecost tomorrow morning, much less receive a well wished greeting in recognition of the holiday. There will no doubt be services dedicated to Memorial Day, in recognition of America's fallen heros, but scant few churches will even be aware of the other holiday the weekend brings our way. We give a month to Advent, leading up to Christmas, we have special services and celebrations in recognition of Easter, but we do nothing to celebrate Pentecost.

Why is that?

Perhaps, it's because most don't understand what Pentecost is, why it happened, or why it even matters. Well, I want you to know something about it because, if it isn't the most important event that's ever happened in the history of the world, it certainly ranks a close second or third. So, to help you with this, I'm posting a paper that I wrote in seminary that I think will help shed some light upon this most important but unfortunately neglected holiday — oh, don't forget the endnotes!




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Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Re: Millennials leaving church in droves, study finds


When you sell Christianity as a commodity people will dump their stock when its market value drops.

The following from the article (above) is key:
"It's not as if young people today are being raised in a way completely different from Christianity," said Smith, the Pew researcher. "But as adults they are simply dropping that part of their identity."
That tells me the roots of the phenomenon go much deeper and further back than the last number of years. There's a systemic problem with our discipleship and an incipient sub-biblical gospel and ecclesiology that's infected evangelicalism for some time; and it's only been in the last number of years, since Christianity has been pushed toward the margins of the culture, that the effects of these things has been noticed.

To be honest, I'm not overly concerned about the trend. God is just removing the dross that's rising to the top. And, in the end, I'd much rather have the culture filled with agnostic 'nones' than I would apathetic moralistic false disciples. 

The visible church might be shrinking but the invisible church militant is still storming the gates of hell. 
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Sunday, May 3, 2015

Doing Good Deeds for the Sake of the Good News

In my last article, I wrote about the importance of rightly understanding what Peter meant when he wrote, “...in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect...” in 1 Peter 3:15. I explained that contrary to its popular interpretation and Apologetics application, Peter was not instructing the Church to be ready to give a defense of their Christian faith. Rather, he was instructing them to be prepared to give a defense of their godly behavior. I went on to suggest that, for Peter, doing good works and abstaining from sin serve a broader purpose in the world than merely demonstrating our obedience to God and our love for one another. They also serve Jesus’ mission of making disciples. As a follow up to that, I want to take a minute to expand on the role of godly living in the disciple making mission.1

First, a caution. We must be careful to preserve the distinction that exists between law and gospel. In other words, we mustn't ever confuse our good works for the gospel itself. If gospel means good news and news is information that must be communicated coherently to be understood, then we must conclude that our good works, by themselves, are insufficient to explain the gospel. They have no explanatory power. So, good works are not the gospel. Jesus and him crucified, risen, and exalted, he is the gospel. 

That said, good works do showcase the gospel by making it more attractive to outsiders (Titus 2:7—10).  That’s not to say that our good works add any saving power to the gospel, it’s only to say that our message is more compelling when our behavior is consistent with our good news message. Think of it as evidence supporting a claim. A claim by itself is merely an assertion. But a claim buttressed with evidence is a persuasive argument. The evidence of the claim is not the claim itself, but the evidence is proof that the claim is true. So, good works are not the gospel, but good works being performed by the Church are an evidence to the world that our good news about Jesus is true (James 2:18).

It’s shocking to see what Peter actually writes in his letter. Remember, 1 Peter was written to people who were being persecuted for following Jesus. His instruction is counterintuitive. At least to my thinking it is. He doesn’t tell the church to go underground or to lay low until the persecution passes, instead he tells them to abstain from sin and to do good works. He doesn’t write, “Run for the hills!” He tells them to submit to the governing authorities who were oppressing them, to work hard for their masters, to submit to one another in marriage, and to suffer with joy. Why did he do that? Well, two reasons, I think. First, Peter understood that good works are centripetal, they project a light that attracts the attention of curious eyes. Curious people ask questions and faithful disciples boldly give witness to the living hope residing within them. Second, he realized that the mission of making disciples of Jesus was more important to the Church than the suffering of any of her members — persecution was not an excuse to push pause on the mission, it was an opportunity to make the gospel even more believable. In fact, we can extrapolate from 1 Peter 2:12 that Peter is teaching us that persecution actually makes the light of our good works more brilliant by providing a contrasting backdrop of suffering. A diamond is beautiful sitting all by itself, but put that diamond on piece of black velvet and it’s absolutely radiant. 

Our situation as it currently stands in the United States can hardly be compared to the persecution that was experienced by our triumphant brothers and sisters who suffered under Nero, nineteen centuries ago, but there’s little doubt, we are being marginalized in our culture. And that’s not a bad thing if your priorities are aligned with Jesus’. Because the further the Church is pushed to the margins of the culture the more brilliant the light of our good works will shine. And the brighter we shine the more compelling our gospel will become.  

Steve Timmis has said, “People are often attracted to the Christian community before they are attracted to the Christian message.” I think that is true (2 Corinthians 2:15—16). But that can only be true for a church if they don’t hide the lighted lamp of their good works under a steeple. God has called his Church to be a City within the city (Matthew 5:14). A contrast community, in the midst of the world, who are zealous for good works. The more hostile the world becomes, the more vigilant we ought to be in the outworking of our love for God and for our neighbor. So stop sinning and do good works for the sake of the gospel. Because when you do, people will start asking you questions.


Examples from Church history:

Julian the Apostate

Emperor Julian the Apostate reigned 1700 years ago. He was called the ‘Apostate’ because of his fierce rejection of Christianity and his sometimes brutal attempt to repress it. Julian was smart. He knew that he could not just eradicate Christianity without dealing with the things that made it attractive. He complained:

“Whilst the pagan priests neglect the poor, the hated Galileans devote themselves to works of charity, and by a display of false compassion have established and given effect to their pernicious errors. See their love-feasts, and their tables spread for the indigent. Such practice is common among them, and causes a contempt for our gods.”

In response, Julian launched government philanthropic programs in an attempt to render the Christian message impotent.2

Dionysius 

“[Sociologist Rodney] Stark notes that there were at least two great plagues in the first three centuries (160 and 250 AD) that actually were instrumental in the nascent church’s incredible growth rate, which he estimates at 40% per decade. When the plagues came, those who were able fled the city but not the Christians. They stayed and ministered to the sick and dying--Christians and non-Christians alike."3

"Most of our brother Christians showed unbounded love and loyalty; never sparing themselves and thinking only of one another. Heedless of danger, they took charge of the sick, attending to their every need and ministering to them in Christ, and with them departed this life serenely happy; for they were infected by others with the disease, drawing on themselves the sickness of their neighbors and cheerfully accepting their pains. Many, in nursing and caring for others, transferred their death to themselves and died in their stead…. The best of our brothers lost their lives in this manner, a number of presbyters, deacons, and laymen winning high commendation so that death in this form, the result of great piety and strong faith, seems in every way the equal of martyrdom. The heathen behaved in the very opposite way. At the first onset of the disease, they pushed the sufferers away and fled from their dearest, throwing them into the roads before they were dead and treated unburied corpses as dirt, hoping thereby to avert the spread and contagion of the fatal disease; but do what they might, they found it difficult to escape."

Eusebius

“Then did they show themselves to the heathen in the clearest light. For the Christians were the only people who amid such terrible ills showed their feeling and humanity by their actions. Day by day some would busy themselves with attending to the dead and burying them (for there were numbers to whom no one else paid any heed); others gathered in one spot all who were afflicted by hunger throughout the whole city and gave bread to them all. When this became known, people glorified the Christians’ God and, convinced by the very facts, confessed the Christians alone were truly pious and religious.”

Tertullian 

"It is our care of the helpless, our practice of loving kindness, that brands us in the eyes of many of our opponents. 'Only look' they say. 'Look how they love one another...Look how they are prepared to die for one another."

The Epistle of Mathetes to Diognetus

For the Christians are distinguished from other men neither by country, nor language, nor the customs which they observe. For they neither inhabit cities of their own, nor employ a peculiar form of speech, nor lead a life which is marked out by any singularity. The course of conduct which they follow has not been devised by any speculation or deliberation of inquisitive men; nor do they, like some, proclaim themselves the advocates of any merely human doctrines. But, inhabiting Greek as well as barbarian cities, according as the lot of each of them has determined, and following the customs of the natives in respect to clothing, food, and the rest of their ordinary conduct, they display to us their wonderful and confessedly striking method of life. They dwell in their own countries, but simply as sojourners. As citizens, they share in all things with others, and yet endure all things as if foreigners. Every foreign land is to them as their native country, and every land of their birth as a land of strangers. They marry, as do all [others]; they beget children; but they do not destroy their offspring. They have a common table, but not a common bed. They are in the flesh, but they do not live after the flesh. They pass their days on earth, but they are citizens of heaven. They obey the prescribed laws, and at the same time surpass the laws by their lives. They love all men, and are persecuted by all. They are unknown and condemned; they are put to death, and restored to life. They are poor, yet make many rich; they are in lack of all things, and yet abound in all; they are dishonored, and yet in their very dishonor are glorified. They are evil spoken of, and yet are justified; they are reviled, and bless; they are insulted, and repay the insult with honor; they do good, yet are punished as evil-doers. When punished, they rejoice as if quickened into life; they are assailed by the Jews as foreigners, and are persecuted by the Greeks; yet those who hate them are unable to assign any reason for their hatred.


Questions for your consideration:

What are your neighbors’ opinions of you? 

If you moved from your home, would your neighbors notice your absence?

Is the life you live in front of your neighbors compelling enough to invite their inquiry? 

If you were asked by your neighbor for the reason for your good works, would you be prepared to give witness to Jesus?

How are you doing life in community with your church family?

Are you hiding your good works under your steeple; aside from gospel proclamation, does your church do anything else to benefit your city?

Does your church community invite inquiry from the outsiders living in your city? Does your church’s existence demand an answer that only the gospel can explain?

How are you responding on social media to the riots in Baltimore and the same-sex marriage question being debated before SCOTUS? 

How will you and your church family respond to government overreach when the government revokes your church’s tax-exemption or seizes your church’s assets for reading Romans 1 or refusing a gay couple their constitutional right to marry?


Suggested reading:

To Transform a City — Eric Swanson and Sam Williams

The Rise of Christianity: How the Obscure, Marginal Jesus Movement Became the Dominant Religious Force in the Western World in a Few Centuries — Rodney Stark

Total Church: A Radical Reshaping around Gospel and Community — Tim Chester and Steve Timmis

Halloween and Gospel Success — Me



1  By godly living we mean abstaining from sin and doing good deeds (doing justice and showing mercy) demonstrating love for neighbor, both to those within the church and to those without.

2  http://sntjohnny.com/front/christians-should-not-use-the-government-to-do-their-good-deeds/598.html
3  http://ericswanson.blogspot.com/2005/12/how-gospel-grew.html


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Friday, May 1, 2015

Rescuing 1 Peter 3:15 from Apologetic Ministry

Given the rise of Christian persecution around the world and our continued marginalization in the West, I think it's time we rescued 1 Peter 3:15 from apologetic ministries.

“...in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect...” (1 Peter 3:15 ESV)

At first glance, you'd think there couldn’t be a more appropriate verse to use as a mission statement for an apologetics ministry. But there’s one problem. Peter isn’t actually telling anyone to give a defense of their Christian faith in the passage. Quite the opposite. Surprised?

Read the text, Peter isn’t saying that you need to provide unbelievers or skeptics with the reasons why you believe Jesus was an actual person who existed 2000 years ago, or why you're a 6-Day Creationist, or why the bible is a reliable source of revelation, or a thousand other things that need defending in Christianity. — We need to be prepared to defend those beliefs, but that’s not what Peter is after in his letter. — He’s telling the church that we need to be prepared to give a defense for the reason why we continue to live the way we live in the face of mounting persecution.

Here are a few questions that I suspect Peter would expect we’d be asked by outsiders if we lived according to the instructions he provides in the preceding chapters of his letter:

“Why do you people of the Way continue to submit to oppressive governments and kings (1 Peter 2:13–17); why do you slaves work so hard for your masters (2:18–25); why are your marriages doing so well (3:1–7); how do you and the people of your sect love one another so well (3:8–12); how do you suffer with joy when all you're guilty of is doing good (3:13–14)?”

And these are the answers to those questions that I suspect Peter would have us provide:

“Thanks for asking, let me tell you! I'm born again to a living hope (1:3–12), that's why I live a holy life (1:13–25); I'm one of many living stones who are being built into the temple of God, which has been built upon Jesus, the cornerstone (2:1–12). Let me tell you about him!”

So, contrary to it’s popular apologetics application, Peter isn’t telling us in 1 Peter 3:15 to be prepared to give an answer for our Christian beliefs, he's telling us to be prepared to give an answer for our godly behavior when living in an adversarial culture. And the reason Peter wants the Church to live holy lives and to live ready to give an answer for that holy living, is that he knew that a community of persecuted disciples living holy lives ultimately serves the mission of making disciples of Jesus. In other words, Peter understood that good works serve a missional purpose — particularly when the light emitted through those good works is contrast against the black backdrop of persecution.

When Peter wrote, "Keep your conduct among the Gentiles honorable, so that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day of visitation.” (1 Peter 2:12 ESV), he wasn't teaching anything novel, he was repeating what he'd learned from Jesus years before. “You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.” (Matthew 5:14–16 ESV). And when Jesus gave his exposition of the Law on that mountain, he was directing his disciples back to an earlier point in redemptive history when Moses told Israel that their faithfulness to the Law would cause the nations to inquire about their wisdom and about the LORD (Deuteronomy 4:5–8).

Finally, in Peter's thinking, the greatest apologists in the Kingdom aren't necessarily the people who are skilled Greek and Hebrew exegetes, specialized theological scholars, or Christian philosophers, cosmologists and geneticists, whose names are adorned by multiple Ph.D.s. Nope. The greatest apologists are those who, with unwavering commitment in their obedience to God, give bold witness to Jesus when outsiders ask about the hope they have within them.  

And that's why 1 Peter 3:15 needs to be rescued from apologetics ministry.We need it now more than ever.

Recommended listening:

Todd Friel on Wretched Radio gives a fantastic exposition of 1 Peter, giving particular emphasis to the theme of suffering and the Christian response throughout. WretchedRadio.com (Shows airing from 4/24–5/1/2015) 

Jeff Vanderstelt of Doxa Church (formerly Mars Hill Church Bellevue) recently began an expositional series on 1 Peter. — doxa-church.com/sermons



Full disclosure here, I'm not overly concerned whether an apologetics ministry continues to use 1 Peter 3:15 as their mission statement (I actually think the principle can be stretched to accommodate their application). I used a provocative approach to put the context of this passage before you, the reader. Persecution of the American Church may be years away, if it ever happens at all. But there's no question, we have been marginalized. And Peter's instruction to the marginalized Church in America today is the same instruction he delivered to our triumphant brothers and sisters who suffered under the hand of Nero, nineteen centuries ago; abstain from doing evil, do good works, and be prepared to defend the reason why you're living such an extraordinary and unexpected life in an antagonistic culture.
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Monday, February 9, 2015

To Yoga Pants or not to Yoga Pants


Perhaps you'll remember a couple weeks back when your News Feeds and Twitter Feeds were blowing up with Veronica Partridge's Why I Chose to no Longer Wear Leggings article. Well, as with any article that goes viral, there are going to be responses offered. Today I ran across one of these response articles. It's called Ten Things We Should Get Angry about Before Yoga Pants

You should read both of these articles before moving on to mine. 



Done?

Okay, as someone who has a penchant for medium-rare red meat, turbocharged horsepower, and the smell of discharged .223 cartridges, my mojo probably has me reading the "Ten Things" article a little bit differently than you fairer, more beautifully shaped image bearers. 

I'll be the first to agree with the author, that we spend lots of time —too much time— in our public Christian discourse arguing about stuff that's largely irrelevant to our primary mission of making disciples; and that many of those stupid intramural arguments, when they've gone public, do much to undermine the good news message of Jesus we want people to receive. That said, I don't think the "to yoga pants or not to yoga pants" conversation is one of those irrelevant discussions. Modesty matters. 

I'm sorta left wondering why Ashley didn't contrast her "Ten Things We Should Get Angry About Before Yoga Pants" against something that's truly irrelevant. Like, whether or not Katy "the Apostate" Perry was covertly communicating Illuminati propaganda to millions of unsuspecting viewers during her Super Bowl Half Time performance. Yup, I've actually seen plenty of speculation and arguments online about that stupid topic. Why go after modesty? 

I'd like it if we Christians could be known for getting angry about the types of things she thinks we need to get angry about too. Leggings just don't sound like they rank very high on a list that includes Sudanese refugees and global malnutrition. But before we blanch at discussing the topic based on its relatively low appearing priority, let's make sure we understand that leggings here merely serve as a place holder for a broader discussion of Christian liberty and appropriate Christian attire. And that's not irrelevant for Christian living at all. Modesty matters. 

Unfortunately, I suspect that Ashley may be after something other than her stated purpose —possibly unbeknownst to herself. I could be wrong—and I reserve my right to be wrong— but the article reads to my testosterone bathed brain like she may just like her "...beloved yoga pants" too much to bear the conversation. 

To that end, I think the premise of her argument —to get angry at worthwhile injustices and not at yoga pants— is a Tu quoque fallacy (an appeal to hypocrisy). If you boil her argument down, it's this, "Don't talk about the immodesty of Christian women wearing leggings —and the desire they incite in men who catch a glimpse of the well-toned posteriors that those pants are designed to showcase— because we Christians have hungry people to feed and lonely orphans to adopt." You'll note that her argument doesn't demonstrate why the leggings conversation is irrelevant or unimportant to men who might stumble into sin. It's more like, let's just sideline yoga pants because the blogosphere needs to be working for something more noble than Christian modesty. It's certainly not the most important thing upon which we need to spend our day, but neither is it unimportant. —And, for the record, the analogy she draws from Luke 6 breaks down rather quickly on this topic.  

Fact is, modesty does matter to Christians and our disciple-making mission a great deal. What we wear tells our neighbor something of what we believe about fallen humanity and our Christian understanding of sexuality. And if our clothing can communicate those things then our clothing has the capacity to teach people what we believe about anthropology and human flourishing. That's discipleship, sisters. Lock this one in, the question isn't whether or not you're going to endeavor to disciple people —you're always discipling those around you— the question is what are you going to disciple those people to believe? What you wear, ladies, teaches uninformed and weaker Christian brothers and sisters how they should think about a woman's body. It teaches our daughters how to bare their figures in public so that they too can one day become a consumable commodity for voracious male libidos. It teaches our sons that what you tell them about pornography, and how it objectifies and uses women, only applies to naked woman on the computer, not Christian women who wear pants that put their heart-shaped rear ends on full display. 

Besides all that, I see lots of people getting upset and advocating for the types of things she'd rather have us worry about. The problem is, is that most people don't find appeals for more Christian adoption or fighting against sex slavery overly controversial —and controversy is the engine that drives these types of stories viral. But you know what? People do get upset when controversy surrounds or threatens their idol. If you throw a rock into a pack of dogs, the one that yelps is the dog you hit. What's your idol? Could it be yoga pants, leggings, feminism, pride, or autonomy? I'm not trying to answer that question for you. What do you think?

It's a worthwhile discussion to have, whether we should spend time talking about such things in front of a watching world, but Ashley's well written argument just doesn't convince me that she's really thought the topic through —or the thousands of other ladies she's led to share her article online. It seems to me that the article, while sincerely conceived, devalues an important discussion about modesty and provides women with an apologetic —albeit a flawed one— for wearing leggings and silencing the people who'd question the wisdom of their liberty to do so in public. 

I could be wrong, but I don't think I am. 


[Some of you ladies will undoubtedly balk at the notion that we men are so driven by our sexual urges. You are either incredibly naive or willfully ignorant. Let me put it this way, the degree to which I don't understand what it's like to go through your PMS and all its associated symptoms, is proportionate to the degree that you don't understand what it's like for me to resist looking at you in your tight little form fitting pants. And lest you miss this little chestnut of information, your husbands and your sons and your dads and your pastors and your creepy neighbor down the street —all of us guys— we all come equipped with the same God given hormones that —left unrestrained by grace-driven effort— make us want to have sex with what we imagine to be a scant millimeter's breadth beneath that Lycra you're sporting. Think about it!

True story: Just as I was finishing pounding out this article on my iPhone —on a very slow day at work— I heard one of my workmates say to another, "Dude, I can't stop thinking about sex." 

Yesterday, I walked in on my boss as he was looking at porn on his computer. 

Men, apart from the grace of God, are dogs.]
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Sunday, November 9, 2014

Halloween and Gospel Success!

The following was just sent to the Gospel Community I lead. I pray that you find it encouraging.

About an hour ago John drove past our house. John was one of our neighbors with whom we spoke on the night we went into the neighborhood to pass out invitations to our Halloweenie party (Halloweenies = hot dogs). I was in the front yard so John stopped to ask me how the night went. He wasn’t able to make it to the party and he apologized for that too. I told him not to worry because we were planning on having a pancake breakfast in the front yard sometime after Thanksgiving. He laughed. At first I thought he was laughing at the idea of cooking pancakes on a grill in the front yard. But then he asked the question…
“Why do you guys do this?”

I wish I could tell you that I made the right play. I wish I could tell you that I told him about that hope of Jesus that lay with in us. To my shame, I did not. I failed. I told John that, like him, we have hope for our neighborhood. I told him that we love people and we want to see things go well where we live. He liked that answer but I was ashamed. He pitched me a softball and I struck out.
But God…

I began asking the Spirit for an opportunity to recover the opportunity and give John the actual reason why we do what we do. And about 15 minutes later God gave me the chance to speak. In the intervening conversation, from the moment I balked until God opened up the door, John spent the better part warning us about the people on our street who we need to avoid and what houses are known for slinging dope. When the occasion naturally presented itself, I told John, “You know, the other reason we do what we do is that we believe God is about the business of restoring things. He restores stuff and he restores people. That’s why we like the neighborhood. We want to see it restored and we want to serve the people who live around us. We want them to understand that they are loved and worthy of dignity.”

His follow up, “Where do you guys go to church?”

We spent a few more minutes getting to hear his story and his church experience. He’s de-churched and has a bad taste in his mouth for the hypocrites he’s known in the past. That’s why we’re here, gang! John has heard gospel doctrine but has not experienced a genuine gospel culture. We are the light of the world in our neighborhood. A city within a city. My gut says that John will come to the gospel message because he’ll eventually see the gospel of the Kingdom of God his heart was created to desire. He’s groping for God and God is not far from him.

You all had part in this! The body came together with all the right parts working in their proper order. The administrators planned, the servants served, the intercessors prayed, so that the evangelist would have room to speak!

God willing John and his wife will be spending dinner with us on Thursdays very soon.

John did not hear the fullness of what God has done for him in Christ but he came very near to the Kingdom of God this afternoon.


Reflect on these this week:
Matthew 5:13-16 and 1 Peter 2:11-12, 3:15-16 — These passages speak about how our righteous obedience creates both the light of the Kingdom and the opportunity for us to speak of the gospel that gives us hope. Remember, our gospel ethics have a missional purpose!

Psalm 139:13-16 and Acts 17:26-27 — These passages tell us two things. First, God has intricately made each of us. We are each gifted in very different but significant ways; all for the sake of bringing God glory. Second, God has chosen the places where we live and the times that we would live there. He’s chosen those things for our neighbors too, and they’re groping for God. Let’s, together, in community, show them that God is not far from any of them!

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Monday, September 1, 2014

What is the Gospel?


Is the gospel justification by grace through faith?


The gospel IS salvation from God's wrath against sin, by grace through Spirit-wrought faith in the finished work of Jesus' perfect life, his substitutionary and atoning death upon the cross, and his victorious resurrection from among the dead. But, the gospel IS NOT limited to justification by grace through faith in Jesus. (Justification may very well be the decisive and principle action whereby we experience the benefits of the gospel, but it is not by itself the good news of the kingdom.)

To understand the good news of Jesus rightly one must first understand what bad news the good news of his kingdom purports to correct.

What is the bad news?

The bad news IS that, in Adam, we are enslaved to disobedience, we are a fallen people, utterly incapable of rightly imaging God and obeying his moral law; and because of that improper imaging and failure to keep his commands, the warrant of eternal death looms grimly over all humanity. But, the bad news IS NOT limited to damnation for sin.

To understand the bad news rightly one must go back to that moment in history when the first law was broken, when sin entered the world through Adam. What was lost in that first seditious act? The answer to that question is the bad news that the good news of Jesus corrects. Expulsion from paradise; separation from God, from the Tree of Life, from shalom, perfect health, safety, purpose, work without toil, ease in childbearing, and relational and marital harmony. That is the bad news. The bad news of death through sin is, of course, part of the curse through sin, but it is not the sum total of the bad news.

If that is true, that the bad news is not limited to salvation from death through sin, then the good news cannot be limited to eternal life by grace through faith in Jesus Christ. It is certainly not less than eternal life, but it cannot be limited to eternal life alone. Eternal life with God is good news, to be sure, but the gospel of Jesus and his kingdom is much bigger news than mere forever-life after death.

This is the Good News!

The gospel IS the good news that Jesus is King and his kingdom is come — and is yet to come; that he's the long awaited serpent's-head-crushing-bruised-heel seed of the woman and seed of Abraham, through whom all the world is now blessed and the curse is broken; that he’s disarmed the cherubim guarding the Garden's gate, that we may eat freely from the Tree of Life; that he’s soon coming to purge the Land and eject all wickedness, evildoers, Satan, sin, death, and Hell into eternal perdition; that he's going to recreate the heavens and the earth into an edenic heavenly city flowing with milk and honey, where there is no need of the sun because Jesus is our light; that he’s reconciled us to our Father, restored shalom, perfect health, safety, purpose, work without toil, and relational harmony among his people; that the lamb will lie down with the wolf, that weapons of war will be beaten into plowshares, that the last will be first, that the marginalized will be brought to the center, that the downtrodden and outcast are invited to feast at the table of our great King; that he's given us a new forever family in the church; and, that he's given us a mission of delighting in him to such a degree that our hearts overflow our lips and we proclaim the good news of Jesus and his kingdom come, with our hands and feet following suit.

The gospel is the good news that we are justified by grace through faith in Jesus. However, the gospel is also the good news that through King Jesus, by King Jesus, and because of King Jesus, everything that was lost by Adam through sin is now suddenly all becoming untrue!

You're not just being saved from wrath, Beloved, you've also been saved into a family and unto the mission of covering the earth with the knowledge of God by discipling the nations!

"This gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all the nations..." Matt 24:14



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