Home » Posts tagged 'nations'
Tag Archives: nations
“If you work the words into your life you are like a smart carpenter who dug deep and laid a foundation of his house on bedrock. When the river burst its banks and crashed against the house, nothing could shake it; it was built to last.” (Luke 6:48 Message)
Jesus said, “These words I speak to you are not merely additions to your life, homeowner improvements to your standard of living. They are foundation words, words to build a life on.” (Luke 6:47 Message)
Sounds pretty important to me
But what was Jesus referring to exactly? What are we building and why?
Jesus was wrapping up his Sermon on the Mount, including the Beatitudes, the DNA of the Kingdom of God, and the Lord’s Prayer, instruction on how to appeal to God for his help in fulfilling his mission in the earth. Jesus was a carpenter by trade; he used the metaphor of building to get his point across. His sermon was kind of like a builder’s “shop-talk” for the large crowd that gathered to listen to him in Galilee.
Do you find it interesting that the crowds that gathered around Jesus were often too big for the buildings of his day? On one occasion when Jesus did gather people in a house, a few determined men who sought healing for their paralytic friend “removed some tiles” from the roof, and “let him down in the middle of everyone.” (Luke 5:18 Message) Of course, Jesus healed the man because he and his friends had great faith.
The Building Process: Internal and External
Imagine walking through the trailer on the site of a major new building project. On the wall is a chart showing all the various tasks for each of the contractors. Jesus sermon was about all the tasks and tools used to build our lives, our families, our communities, and our nations. He was speaking of how to build a community which would soon be called the “Church.”
Jesus was teaching his audience about the tools of the kingdom, how to love enemies, how to be merciful, giving, forgiving, and not-judging. He said, “Wipe that ugly sneer off your own face and you might be fit to offer a washcloth to your neighbor.” (v.42) He spoke of the organic nature of the kingdom when he spoke about fruit-bearing, “your true being brims over into true words and deeds.” (v.45) It appears the “building” Jesus is referring to is NOT a place of worship; it’s a people of worship.
Who is doing the building?
Neil Cole, in his book “Organic Church” asks: “Do you trust laymen on their own?”
Look again at what Jesus said: “If you work the words into your life you are like a smart carpenter …” Sounds like Jesus intends for “you” to be the builder.
Unfortunately down through the ages spiritual authorities, whether they are Pharisees or modern ministers, have too often failed to trust God’s people to “build”.
Roland Allen‘s important book focuses on the fact that Paul’s missionary activity was church planting and that he quickly turned over leadership to the “builders.” Without exception, all the churches that Paul planted in the gentile world were left alone; and, in every case, God’s people managed to survive and express Christ and His church. Certainly, Paul’s missionary work produced what we call “New Testament churches.”
Paul’s “New Testament churches” seem to be different than ours. Our concept of New Testament Church keeps coming up with a “senior” pastor and a passive and mute laity. Paul’s method was to “equip the saints for the work of the ministry” which is to proclaim Jesus is Lord in every family, every community, sphere of society and every nation.
A Changing World
Today’s world is very different than the Paul’s world, but let’s look at the similarities. The first century was dominated by a single world power, Rome. Today’s world also has a single world power. At the same time, the Roman world was culturally diverse, pluralist. And today, when you visit any major city, university, or shopping mall, you will see and hear people from many cultures. In fact, there has never been a time in history like the first century quite like there is today.
And yet, the world is vastly different from the first century and any other time in history. Within the past few years, the demographic center of the Christian world has shifted from the North and West to the South and East. The new Majority Church is in the Global South. The accessibility to information technologies is rapidly changing the world, including the Arab world and China. It appears the pressures caused by the flow of information among the people in the Arab world will effectively change Middle Eastern nations and their primary business models. OPEC will likely face pressures and break up, releasing a more market-based system. Those nations will likely shift from economies based on a single product, crude oil, to a market-based economy. That change will likely also open the way for alternative energy sources; a change that is too restrictive now due to our dependence on foreign oil.
The emerging generation has more access to information and connection with “friends” than any previous generation. Thomas Friedman’s The World is Flat helped frame the significance of these changes. Friedman’s book was out before the emergence of FaceBook. If Facebook were a country, the number of people on that one social media tool would be one of the five most populated nations on earth. It is second nature for most people today to collaborate for social change. This change alone will affect every modern institution including churches. The effect of these major socio-political, economic, and demographic shifts is “like a flood.”
Like no other time in history is it necessary to build on a solid foundation in obedience to Jesus. Building the people of God to do the work of God everywhere. We must trust God’s people to be the priesthood to proclaim the good news by every means, inside the domain of church ministries and outside that domain. If we do follow Jesus’ instruction and Paul’s method, what is built will be “build to last.”
Learning, the kind of learning that can only transpire in vibrant community through service to the needs of neighbors, is foundational to the purpose of the Church. The modern university was borne out of such communities and, by design, served to benefit the Church. Pope Innocent 12th, 1243 AD said, “Universities are rivers of knowledge that feed and fertilize the universal church.” The attitude of the Church toward universities was at one time positive, however many in the Church today overlook the missional origins of the university. Jesus told his followers to “Go, make disciples,” that is to say, “Go teach students.”
Paul’s testimony of the “school” he ran for a few short years in the lecture hall at Tyrannus shows the mentor teacher role can be extremely effective with a wide area of influence in a relatively short period of time. Though we do not know much about the dynamics of that “school”, we must assume that there was mobilization toward practical application of what was taught. Paul, it may be assumed, mobilized his students to spread far and wide with a living witness of his message.
The formation of communities of learning was a response to Jesus’ command and core methodology for ministry and our task of completing the Great Commission. However, because many church communities have “failed to revisit the theological and biblical underpinnings of our mission,” we have reduced the scope of the Church and the scope of our mission. (Taylor 2001:7) “Crippling omissions,” such as reducing the gospel to proclamation, created Christianity without regard for culture or the nations. (2001:4) The mission for the Church is to make disciples of all nations, including the powerful institution of the university, which will in turn “feed and fertilize” the Church.
How then shall we again engage university communities, not merely to proclaim the good news of the kingdom of God with students, but in addition to obey all that Jesus commands, extending his reign beyond individual hearts, into all the world, every nation, tribe, and tongue?
Paul’s greatest contribution is his defense of the gospel for the Gentiles, most notably leading up to the Council of Jerusalem. Paul’s ethnic and educational background, his nationality, and his religious identity was useful, however he knew they also obstructed his vision and witness of Jesus. (Phil. 3:8) Paul found the center of Judaism in Jesus, who helped him interpret the Scriptures and discern points of dissent with his own and with every other culture. From his Mestizos vantage point he also understood the powerful forces at work dividing cultures and people. He was forthright at pointing out idol worship among the nations, which had also found its way into Judaism. (Acts 17:23, Rom. 1:25, Gal. 3:25) Rather than serve God’s purpose to unite all humanity (Gal. 3:26-28), humankind had erected dividing walls through the influence of invisible forces. Paul’s missionary task and the task he calls the church to undertake is to unmask the principalities and powers, exposing the cultural idols, false teachers, and elementary principles to proclaim in their place the gospel for every people. (Gal. 4:8-9) The Church is challenged to deal with these powerful forces holding people and cultures captive, blinded from seeing the gospel. (Eph. 3:10)
According to the Hebrew scriptures, the Messiah’s coming and Israel’s redemption would result in an in-gathering of all nations. (Isa. 2:3, Mic 4:2) Jewish expectation was that the purposes of God would eventually include the whole world. Paul now understands that Jesus took up Israel’s identity. The good news is that Israel’s representative has succeeded and their true fulfillment is “in Christ.” The embodiment of self-giving love, the self-designated “Son of Man,” gave Saul the task to announce God’s message of reconciliation with sinful humanity. Saul comes to be known as Paul after being sent out with Barnabas on their first missionary journey. As an apostle of Christ Jesus and faithful monotheistic Jew, Paul is chosen as an instrument to fulfill Israel’s mission to all humanity.
Paul met the One who became a human being and a servant, the One who was willing to die for sinners like a criminal and rise as the “firstborn from the dead.” Paul gave up his violent zeal because Jesus made “peace through the blood of his cross.” Paul saw the apocalyptic significance of the death and resurrection of Jesus. Paul’s theology had not changed, however he now understood that the Law, due to human weakness, could not free humankind from the consequences of sin.
Next post: Concluding thoughts on Paul and Judaism
From my experience, evangelical churches are largely Gnostic, which removes Jesus from much of any daily practical consequence.
Today’s church leaders need to consider the incarnation of Christ. Jesus incarnation is eternal, therefore the practical concerns related to Jesus’ resurrected body (and eventually our own) are eternal. Because he has eyes, ears, and a nose, arms to embrace, and taste-buds to enjoy foods, every facet of our physical existence has an eternal stamp of Jesus incarnation on it. Education, Government, Media, Arts, Sciences, every Social and Cultural concern today will have a fuller appreciation in the resurrection. If trees are for healing nations, as it states in John’s Revelation, perhaps there will still need for some further healing between peoples, such as Palestinians and Israelis.
The question this all raises for liberals and conservatives is this: How then should we live? Should we not engage every facet of our existence on this green earth with respect to the resurrected Christ?