by Pastor Bob Myers
Recently I talked with a pastor who was preaching from the prophets of the Old Testament. He said the congregation loved learning, and they trusted him as an honest broker of the scriptures. But a number of them also said that they felt the emphasis of Christians leading a revolutionary life felt jarring to some. By revolutionary life, I mean a life that impacts the here and now, calls governments and the powerful to account and identifies with weak and marginalized people. As my pastor-friend thought about it, he said, it was like their bodies were getting healthy food to metabolize and digest after previously only eating Ramen noodles.
This reminded me of an experience I had years’ ago. After attending a seminar by a well-known teacher that had many sessions, the speaker opened it up for questions. A friend of mine asked him, you talked a lot about spiritual disciplines, serving in the church and evangelism and missions, but what purpose does our work have? I want to know because I spend a lot of my time working, usually 60 or more hours a week.
The speaker responded, “Work and careers are important, because through them we provide for our families, and then as we are blessed, we can give money to missions, and to establish churches so that the Word is preached.”
My friend wanted to ask him, “Why do we want the Word preached?”, just to see if he would be consistent and say, “so that people can support churches and evangelism”.
The default mode for American culture-bound Christianity is spiritualized, escapist spirituality. It mis-reads the gospels and misses the primary theme of the Kingdom of God that formed the major emphasis of Jesus’ teaching.
According to this view, Jesus came, did a lot of miracles to prove He was the Son of God, died to pay for our sins and gave us a message to help people escape so that they can live eternally. Usually that eternity is depicted as a ghost-like, disembodied, life after death in a Casper-the-friendly-ghost like existence.
But Jesus didn’t come to beam us up to heaven. He isn’t just a personal, spiritualized, Deliverer. The call is not simply to believe some short form outline of “How to get saved,” but to repent and believe the good news. And the good news is that the KINGDOM OF GOD is HERE! The Gospels go far beyond the epistles in putting the Kingdom in front of us. It almost seems like the Gospels are all about the nature of that Kingdom, while the Epistles focus more narrowly on how to make sure we get there.
In the gospels, Jesus is including the excluded, healing the hopeless, remaking Israel, reaching out to the pagan, overturning the religious professionals, redefining all the predictable terms, shocking those who know all the answers and, in general, making it unmistakably clear that the Kingdom isn’t just about forgiveness and “heaven,” but about the life we are living - and will live - in the Kingdom here, now and in the future.
In the gospels Jesus is talking about a whole life of Kingdom-dominated, life-transforming discipleship. When we accept Jesus Christ, God is not just about helping us repent of a few spiritual sins, learn how to pray, worship and share evangelistic messages with others. God is about a revolutionary change of direction in the here and now that applies to every area of life.
We are called to live in the realm of Jesus now, where we live, where we work, where we play. Jesus cares about aesthetic beauty, medicine and the healing arts, the legal system, justice and oppression and the sanctity of each and every life, and the nature of His global church putting on display a global, timeless, eternally impactful way of living: a way of living that should both be a breath of fresh air and take people’s breath away at the same time.
This is the reality of Kingdom living. Your career, your relationship to your finances and material goods, and your relationship to all the most marginalized and hurting people of the world is a major theme and aspect of the gospel’s hope.
Hebrews 12: 26 At that time his voice shook the earth, but now he has promised, “Yet once more I will shake not only the earth but also the heavens.” 27 This phrase, “Yet once more,” indicates the removal of things that are shaken—that is, things that have been made—in order that the things that cannot be shaken may remain. 28 Therefore let us be grateful for receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken…