Over the last several years, I’ve been learning to surrender my vision of community to the Lord, to just be part of community, and to let it express itself in all its wonderful diversity – in His timing, as He wants.
German Homeschool Case May Impact U.S. Homeschool Freedom, by Michael Farris:
Michael Farris and I go way back. We worked shoulder to shoulder together in the ’80s on many issues – and have the battle scars to prove it.
For the last several decades, he has been on the forefront of homeschool and religious liberty issues. We would do well to heed his warning.
Rob Moley, in his blog Restore the Word, wrote yesterday on “The Great Commission: Discipling Individuals or Nations?”.
In it, he says this about the Great Commission:
Rather than being a command to influence nations with the principles and truths of God’s kingdom, the logic of the command in Matt. 28:19-20 is to make disciples from every nation. Then, as ambassadors of God’s kingdom, these disciples are able to influence all aspects of society, and God willing, even disciple whole nations.
His point is that the Great Commission is about transforming individuals into disciples who obey all that Christ commands, who in turn transform the world around them.
Leading up to Tuesday’s elections here in the United States, I often used this blog and Facebook to urge Christians to vote. (See Does Jesus Want You to Vote?)
When I did, I always got heated push back – mainly from other Christians who oppose Biblical civic engagement.
Generally, they think God is only interested our personal relationships with Him, or that He is solely focused on the Church.
Our nation’s continuing moral and economic decline, and the growing malaise of our increasingly dysfunctional churches, has caused a renewed focus on intercessory prayer.
But intercession without transformational repentance – which Biblically involves changing the way we act by changing the way we think – is seldom effective.
While desperately seeking to touch the heart of God through intercession, few seem willing to do the concurrent hard work of understanding the mind of God. The challenges facing our nation, and our churches, require both.
It hasn’t taken long for the Christian postmodernists among us to start accusing their brothers and sisters in the Lord of bigotry, intolerance and hate simply for eating yesterday at Chick-fil-A.
In the last 24 hours, I’ve seen several blogs and related Facebook comments along those lines.
Really? Bigotry, intolerance and hate? I saw no evidence of that yesterday.
Have some become so trapped in their postmodern sensibilities that it now is wrong to stand up in a civil, respectful manner against those who want to use the power of government to silence a man of faith – and block his businesses?
And his “sin”?
Simply this: Affirming his personal support of marriage as God has ordained it in His written Word, while nonetheless being open and embracing of all who patronize his establishments regardless of their sexual orientation or differing views.
Let’s get a grip, folks.
Have some Christians become so preempted by the spirit of this age that virtue – and the support of virtue – is now a vice?
Even if there were a few on the fringe (which I certainly didn’t see), we must avoid the trap of those who always seem driven to disingenuously malign other Christians based on the crazy few. We can’t let them define us, even though they will always be vocal in trying to do so.
Are some Christians so trapped in the Jesus of their own creation that they are now compelled to promote the public embrace and state sanction of what God says is wrong?
Can’t they understand that many of us routinely, lovingly embrace those trapped in the bondage of homosexuality – as an affirmation our shared, God-given humanity – while still affirming unambiguous moral standards which God has given us in Scripture for our cultural and personal well being?
Are the postmodernists among us so twisted in their perception of the Gospel, or so removed from the actual reality of ministering tangible hope to hurting people, that they think it is hate to lovingly and respectfully affirm truth and the power of repentance?
Or must we all now sacrifice external moral standards on the altar of their postmodern sensibilities, and acquiesce to those who want to use the power of the state to enforce those sensibilities?
So long as we continue to act with integrity, civility and respect, I think not.
After all, there’s more than one way to speak truth to power. I just never imagined that eating a chicken sandwich would be one of them.
Yesterday was the 123rd anniversary of Hitler’s birth. The fact that we do not celebrate his birth or the evil he did is a testimony to those who gave their lives to stop him.
One such man was Dietrich Bonhoeffer, a brilliant theologian and humble pastor who wrote two of the great Christian classics of the twentieth century, The Cost of Discipleship and Life Together.
For Bonhoeffer, his faith was not just a private matter or limited only to the church. As he saw firsthand the horrors of Nazi Germany, he resolved to stop them and became involved in a plot to overthrow the government. The plot failed and Bonhoeffer was arrested. He eventually was martyred by Hitler, who imprisoned him in a German concentration camp and then hanged him.
The newly touted idea that “ekklesia” (the Greek word translated “church” in the New Testament) and the Great Commission are at odds is itself odd.
Jesus told His disciples:
“All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” (Matt. 28:18-20 ESV)
The Great Commission applies, according to Jesus’ own words, through the “end of the age”. Any theology or view of “ekklesia” which ignores or somehow discounts that reality – out of reaction to real wrongs like man-centered discipleship or overwhelming external agendas that suck the life out of a church – is fundamentally flawed.
I may be a citizen of the Kingdom of God, but the precinct where God has me live and vote is here in Virginia.
Because of my citizenship in Christ’s Kingdom…
Because the Lord rose triumphantly from the grave and declared that “all authority on heaven and earth has been given to me”…
And because of His concurrent command in Matt. 28 to therefore go transform all “nations” (the Greek word is “ethne”, which actually means cultures)…
I take the time to understand the issues and the candidates – and then vote.
Unfortunately, there are those within the Christian community who discourage us from extending the blessing of Christ’s Kingdom into in the civic life of our nation.
They have embraced post-modern isolationism, and think the Kingdom of God is some insular enclave of believers who should just focus on “spiritual” matters and each other.
Some have even gone so far as to rebuke us if we don’t join in their retreat from Christ’s command that we become transformationally engaged in our nation and culture.
I don’t know about them, but the Jesus I know and love – and whose passion courses through my veins – is big enough to embrace all of life. He calls me to bring illuminating light to my culture and flavoring salt to my nation.
In essence, the Christian isolationists of our day deny Christ’s comprehensive Lordship over all creation and all spheres of human endeavor.
Lord of All
In contrast, Scripture makes it clear that the institution of civil government – as imperfect as it may be today and as imperfect as it was when the Roman Empire ruled the Mediterranean world of the New Testament – is ordained by God.
That doesn’t mean God ordains the evil of abusive government power, but it does mean that civil government nonetheless is an essential component of God’s intended order – and, when it operates properly as He intended, it is a good thing and becomes blessing.
Likewise, the Lord says that governing officials – even those who were part of Roman’s domination – are to be “ministers of God“. (See, e.g., Rom. 13:1-7)
In that same passage, He tells us that government and government officials have a proper role to play in His providence: To uphold justice, protect the innocent, and restrain evil.
I want to see justice upheld, the innocent protected, and evil restrained – and therefore refuse to surrender my delegated authority as a citizen of God’s Kingdom those who want to use government for other agendas.
And so I vote.
The Lord also admonishes us that: “When the righteous increase, the people rejoice, but when the wicked rule, the people groan.” (Prov. 29:2)
I want to see people rejoice by supporting righteous (even if not perfect) governance, and I care enough to want to stop the burden of wicked rule.
And so I vote.
Regardless of who you support, and regardless of the fact that there are never perfect choices, it is time to stop groaning and to start bringing the blessings of God into the civic life of our nation by caring enough to vote.
If your Jesus is fractured and thus not Lord of all…
If He is indifferent to government and its proper function, despite saying otherwise in scripture…
If He has called you to retreat into post-modern isolationism…
If your faith is too small to believe that God can impact civil government as He people affirm His providence even there…
Then by all means, don’t vote. That just means my vote will count all the more.
But for me, I affirm the radical proclamation of His Lordship over all things – including civil government.
And I love Him and those around me enough to want His intended blessings of righteousness even in the civil arena.
As an act of love, I therefore will do my part by voting even when our choices are imperfect (as they always will be short of His return) – and trust God for the rest.
My Jesus is yet sovereign over history and the course of nations!
If that’s the Jesus you know, love and serve, then please join me – as a citizen of God’s Kingdom in the precinct where He’s placed you – by voting your values and voting your faith.
If this resonates with you, feel free to share it by clicking the Facebook, Twitter, Google Plus or Email buttons below.
For a related blog, see The Growing Idolatry of Civil Government.
While killing time waiting for an Apple tech to look at my trouble-plagued iPhone, I browsed the racks at an adjacent bookstore.
There was a section for “Philosophy/Humor”.
That was bad enough to make me feel sorrow at our cultural malaise.
But then I saw the section “Faith/Self Help”.
Double sigh …
We have met the enemy, and it is us.
“Pietism” is a theology of personal retreat, defeat and escape.
It believes that I am God’s highest purpose, thus making everything about me (or us) – and about our purely subjective and often self-focused relationship with Jesus – but not much more.
“Post Modernism” is a philosophy that defines reality solely in terms of me, myself and I – because everything is determined by my own perceptions, experiences and sensibilities.
Christian post-modernism teaches that we should disengage from the world because it is irrelevant and is a distraction from God’s ultimate purpose – which is a relationship with me and those like me.
Building on one or more of those “isms”, in some circles “ekklesia” is now becoming a theology of ecclesiastical self-absorption.
Under the banner of “ekklesia” (the Greek word for “church”), some want to deny or explain away the Kingdom of God and the Great Commission and promote ekklesia – built on their own pietistic post-modern sensibilities – to the exclusion of all else.
Jesus, in turn, becomes only about me and those like me among post-modern pietists, as they create Him in their own image. Some even promote the view in blogs and upcoming books that they are now “beyond” all other parts of the Body of Christ.
My Jesus, however, is bigger than their Jesus!
Vision and Mission
This latest theological fad is a reaction to a “mission” mentality that has, I agree, wounded many people by pushing the centrality of Jesus out of too many churches. Everything, including Jesus and His people, becomes secondary to some vision or mission, and many Christians have been deeply offended and hurt as a result.
But an extreme reaction to a problem can often be just as problematic as the original wrong.
As I read some bloggers who are trying to promote “ekklesia” (the latest buzz word for “organic” or “simple” church), my spirit has become troubled as I see them create new problems in reaction to old problems.
Often, in their zeal to promote their vision of ekklesia as against everything else, they say it’s all about Jesus because true ekklesia – to use a New Testament metaphor – is the Body of Christ.
But the Jesus they see is really a Jesus created in their own image – shaped by the hurts they’ve suffered or their reaction to the wrongs they’ve witnessed or just simply their own post-modern sensibilities – in order to promote some concept of the Body of Christ which is little more than a justification for their safely-ensconced retreat into self-constructed cocoons.
Like any truth out of balance, the irony is that those who most loudly protest that ekklesia should be only about Jesus have, in fact, created a false and emasculated Jesus to justify their own personal and reactionary theology.
Yes, ekklesia is about Jesus …
… but Jesus is about more than just ekklesia – and thus, is about more than just me and “us”.
Boxing God In?
I am not going to box God in by telling Him – or you – what His life must look like in you or in your church. Sure, there are basic components for authentically biblical church, and for the most part institutional churches fall far short.
But apart from those basic components, neither will I box God in, and thus limit His people, by proclaiming what church can’t look like – because what Jesus in me and my fellowship looks like often will be different than what Jesus in you and your fellowship will look like.
We each have different gifts and callings, with different graces, and thus should expect there to be different expressions of Jesus within the Church, within the larger Kingdom of God, and within our fulfillment of the Great Commission.
There also are different seasons, and different cultures, and different stages of growth and maturity, and so the life of Jesus in each of us also will look and be expressed differently – individually, collectively as the church, and culturally as salt and light to a desperate world – for those reasons.
It is immaturity to say – apart from some biblical basics that I fully affirm – that because my experience of Jesus is such and such, then your experience of Jesus must look the same. It is even greater immaturity to say that because my experience of Jesus is NOT such and such, then Jesus himself is NOT about such and such.
And it is pure, unmitigated gall to tell everyone how your tribe (i.e., those who share your own post-modern, pietisitc sensibilities) is “beyond” all the rest of the Body of Christ – especially when the fruit of your tribe has been little more than ingrown, anemic Christianity that can’t seem to gain traction outside your own post-modern, pietistic circles.
It is time for some fruit inspection!
The Grand Epic
If Jesus in me does not result in Jesus among us, there is a problem. On this, I agree with those who have reacted against “mission” or “discipleship” or whatever else might become more important than the life of Jesus in us and among us.
But we need to take it further. Colossians chapter 1 is a great exposition on this. If Jesus living in us and among us does not result in Jesus living through us – for the transformation of our culture and even history itself as “all things, whether on earth or in heaven,” are “reconciled to Christ” (Col. 1:20) – then we serve a false Jesus.
Some say ekklesia is all about Jesus, and I agree. But we nonetheless need to ask whether they are touting a Jesus created in their own image to justify some reactive retreat. It could be a negative reaction to a totalitarian and thus abusive affirmation of Christ’s preeminence over all things. Or it could be a negative reaction to hierarchical and thus controlling forms of discipleship. Or it could be a negative reaction to any number of wrongs.
But in doing so, they risk throwing out the proverbial baby with the proverbial bath water. If we buy into any reactive and thus false concept of “ekklesia”, by pursuing a false and emasculated Jesus, then we concede defeat, deny the Great Commission, limit the Kingdom of God, and are left with only one option: to escape into ever more introspective and introverted cocoons.
Let’s deal with legitimate wrongs, but without limiting Jesus or His sovereign Lordship over all things!
Let’s stop dissing other segments and “tribes” within the larger Body of Christ – whether they be Charismatic, fundamentalist, evangelical, neo-Calvinist, politically engaged, or whatever – by mis-characterizing them through negative stereotypes in order to claim we are somehow better than them.
I am not better than the the rest of the Body of Christ, because they have things that I need, and I have things they need.
In our own fellowships, we have worked hard to develop resources and ministries to help people get to an authentic Jesus, by finding healing and wholeness. This frees them to experience true ekklesia, because they have the life of Jesus where before there was only hurt or reaction. And in that freedom, they are doing wonderful things to advance the will of the Father in all spheres of human endeavor.
It is wonderful when people come into fellowship hurting or wounded, and find healing. But those who want to be national influences or insist on publishing public blogs to promote a crippled vision of ekklesia – out of negative reactions to admittedly real problems – are doing a great disservice to the Body of Christ.
Let’s guard against “ekklesia” becoming just another name for reactive, self-imposed cocoons built around our own sensibilities.
Let’s stop with the “beyond” stuff, which is really just an ill-considered attempt to say that the sensibilities of one’s own “tribe” should be normative for everyone else.
Let’s truly be all about Jesus, but let’s make sure He’s the Jesus He Himself reveals to us in the Great Commission: Jesus, Lord of all who is over all – in heaven and on earth!
For a follow-up series of blogs, see Beyond Evangelical, Parts 1 through 3.
I’m a generally conservative Republican, so it pains me to see presidential candidate Herman Cain stumble. But even more so, I am appalled at the blogs and comments supporting Mr. Cain from folks who, I suspect, were on President Clinton like white on rice when allegations first surfaced about him.
As Christians, we must speak truth to power, but with integrity and without applying double standards!
I’ve seen this same phenomena in pastoral sex abuse cases that I’ve handled. Folks will defend a pastor who – under the Biblical standard of two or three witnesses like we now have with Mr. Cain – is a confirmed sexual predator, simply because they like him or he helped them in the past. The fact is, sexual predators of all stripes are the most charming, charismatic, and capable people I’ve ever met!
Let me repeat that: Sexual predators are the MOST CHARMING, CHARISMATIC AND CAPABLE PEOPLE you, too, will ever meet.
God seems to be laying a foundation for yet another of His periodic, history-changing interventions in the affairs of man. Over the last two thousand years there have been many such paradigm shifts, and it’s naive to think that our current, settled status quo will somehow be exempt from the unsettling but progressive advance of His Kingdom.
This newest paradigm shift is starting with pioneers who realize that God’s primary goal in history is to change not only individuals but also whole cultures and nations — as per the Great Commission.
Likewise, as with all prior interventions in history, His will is being applied to more and more aspects of His creation here on earth, just as it is in heaven — as per the Lord’s Prayer.
We also are coming to realize that the Kingdom of God — His will being done on earth (including all spheres of human endeavor) as it is in heaven — is bigger than the church. Nonetheless, we are beginning to understand that His Kingdom is not going to advance much further unless the church re-discovers her New Testament roots.
Admittedly, there is comfort in the familiar status quo of “church” as we’ve all come to know it. Some, however, are so hungry for God’s Kingdom — as it continues to progressively advance through history — that they’re willing hit to the reboot button and look afresh at God’ s purposes.
If evangelical Christians have the equivalent of a “sacred cow,” it must be foreign missions. At the risk of martyrdom, I hereby declare that it’s time to slay that cow (or at least herd it into a different pasture!).