The Simple Kingdom, IntroductionFriday, January 21, 2011
On Sunday Morning, January 9, 2011 I laid out the vision for Church in the Boro for the upcoming year. After several months spent studying the Lord's Prayer, and several weeks introducing the prayer and preaching through the first couple of words, a realization has settled upon me more starkly than ever. The American church does not resemble the kingdom of God Jesus preached about in the gospels. Big duh, huh? I'm the poster child for late blooming.
This realization has come slowly over the last several years, to be sure. But the emphasis Jesus puts on the centrality of the kingdom, as well as the simplicity of it, has caused some of my observations and realizations to gel into some initial conclusions. The conclusions, some of them at least, are offensive to mainline American Christianity. They hit hard, cut deep, or rub the wrong way, in the very least. Much like many of Jesus' teachings. But they need to be said, if for no other reason than that so many people take the wide road of destruction in a false sense of security thinking they are following Jesus into heaven. In reality, they are not. Many people will come to Jesus on the day of judgment thinking they should be let in. But Jesus will tell them He has no earthly idea who they are. He won't know any of them (Matt. 7:21-27; 25:31-46).
I don't want to be one of those people. Do you?
What we need to do as Christians then is to freshly approach the gospels once more to discover what the kingdom of God is. That's what I plan to do with my family this year. And that's what I encouraged my church family to do also. There are alternate realities of Christianity that we have allowed our culture to develop around us, and in some cases swallow us whole. And we need to repent from these realities so that we are not dumbing ourselves into thinking that we are pursuing the kingdom of God and His righteousness when we really aren't. What I want to do then in this series of posts is several things (giving me the author the full slack to interrupt the series with other things that seem more urgent in my mind).
First, I plan to introduce the series with some comment and observations on some of the effects of modernism on Christianity. As we globally and culturally shift from modernism to postmodernism, we will find some much-needed mental and emotional relief as Christians who've largely been trapped under a tyranny of the lust for knowledge. Such a tyranny has created a "catch 22" for us in which we have come to believe that our problems and issues are just too complex for anyone to really understand, yet at the same time demanding quick and instant fixes to all of our problems and issues. Try to put the kingdom of God in between those two bookends, and it just doesn't fit.
Second, I want to talk about a few of the alternate realities American (or Western) Christians in particular, have either established themselves, or else have allowed to be established around them. Specifically, I want to discuss the alternate realities of reductionism, patriotism, fundamentalism, futurism, skepticism, and cynicism. Each one of these realities is dangerous and anti-kingdom, which makes them anti-Christ. (This is not to be confused with the antichrist, whom many Christians believe is a very bad guy who will run the one-world empire one day soon with the mark of the beast.)
Third, I'd like to briefly look at several passages in which Jesus' teachings and views on the kingdom will deconstruct our alternate realities and reestablish a simplicity about the kingdom which clears things up. Subsequently, a line is drawn in the sand clearly distinguishing between whose really following Jesus and who's not. I've found it interesting that the more I read the gospels the clearer the kingdom gets. In addition, I've found that we have it all in reverse. It's not our issues and problems that are complex. Rather, it's our obedience to what Jesus said. The issues and problems are really simple when all of the crap and excuses are boiled out.
Fourth, I'll try to close to what the consequences look like for those who embrace a simple kingdom mindset. There are positive and negative consequences, and Jesus was equally clear about these, just as much as He was about the kingdom itself. And if Christians are not clear about these consequences, then they will be surprised when the negative ones hit, and more than likely fade away like the seed that sprung up among on the rocky ground, in Jesus' parable in Matthew 13. Instead, knowing ahead of time what to expect helps us persevere because we know what comes after all of it, good or bad. We have Jesus Himself.
Miscellanies on the Gospel has suffered some neglect over the past year, largely due to church planting endeavors. Between this and parenting and marriage, there isn't much room for anything else. However, much has solidified in my mind and heart during the last couple of years, and I thought it best to blog only when the water is not so muddy.
The internet is full of blogs in which people enjoy airing their own opinions. (And I read some of them...and enjoy them!). Miscellanies, however, are about discoveries made while on the mission of the gospel. That mission is about the kingdom. And now that the kingdom has become a little more clear, so has the gospel message. So this blog will become a little more active. I look forward to interaction and comments as we deal together with some pretty difficult stuff...which is the stuff repentance is made of. This is the stuff we need in order to take the kingdom of heaven by storm.