The Kingdom of God is the rule of a eternal sovereign God over all creatures and things (Psalm 103:19; Daniel 4:3). The Kingdom of God is also the designation for the sphere of salvation entered into at the new birth (John 3:5-7), and is synonymous with the Kingdom of Heaven. The Kingdom of God embraces all created intelligence, both in heaven and earth that are willingly subject to the Lord and are in fellowship with Him. The Kingdom of God is, therefore, universal in that it includes created angels and men. It is eternal, as God is eternal, and it is spiritual—found within all born-again believers. We enter the Kingdom of God when we are born again, and we are then part of that Kingdom for eternity. It is a relationship “born of the spirit” (John 3:5), and we have confident assurance that it is so because the Spirit bears witness with our spirits (Romans 8:16). God is sovereign, omnipotent, omniscient and the ruler over all of His creation. However, the designation “the Kingdom of God” encompasses that realm which is subject to God and will be for eternity. The rest of creation will be destroyed. Only that which is part of the “Kingdom of God” will remain. Today God mediates His Kingdom through believers indwelt by the Holy Spirit and obedient to the Word of God (1st Peter 2:9).
In the helpful new book in the Theology in Community series The Kingdom of God edited by Christopher W. Morgan and Robert A. Peterson, the contributors seeks to set forth what the Kingdom of God is from the Old and New Testament, and apply the teaching of the Kingdom of God to miracles, Satan, demons, the Church, end times, as well as what it means today.
While all of the chapters are helpful, I particularly thought Dr. Anthony Bradley’s chapters “The Kingdom today” was helpful. In this chapter Dr. Bradley argues for the connection between orthodoxy (what Christians believe) and orthopraxis (how Christians live). He notes that, “The Bible is clear that we are to be people of faith and practice” (229). He explains that “Even with the best intentions and commitments we do not always know what is best, and, if we are honest, we must recognize that what is best is not always clear. Our orthopraxis and pursuit of justice means that, in our frailty ad imperfections, the best we can do is rely on prudential judgments guided by clear principles. Is there a framework to help us get started? This chapter suggests that “God has provided such a framework in His Word and creation so that the scaffolding of the kingdom of God presented in the previous chapters can move God’s people into mission” (229-230).
The focus of Dr. Bradley’s chapter is on the question, “What are God’s people to do in the kingdom to press the claims of Christ everywhere in creation? The answer has much to do with how we understand the nature of love, human dignity, our neighbors, and civil society as well as what we believe about what humans deserve, how we are to live in equality, how we reciprocate with others, and what people need” (230). The goal of Christians in the Kingdom is to respond to God’s grace by putting His glory on display so that we may invite others to taste and see how good it is to be in covenant with God.
The Kingdom of God in the Theology in Community series is a very helpful exploration on what the Kingdom of God means from Scripture, as well as what the Church has taught on the Kingdom. Throughout the book various scholars tackle thorny issues related to the meaning of the Kingdom of God. I recommend this book to Pastors, seminary, Bible college students, and serious Bible students interested in exploring the Kingdom of God from Scripture, church history and its meaning for Christians today.
Authors: Edited by Christopher W. Morgan and Robert A. Peterson
Publisher: Crossway (2012)
Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the Crossway book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.
Acts 1:8 holds to the settings of Acts 1:1-2:13 which opens up with explaining the Promise of the Holy Spirit, and the Spirit’s descent at Pentecost. The foundation for Acts is laid in the first eleven verses as Luke discusses the Kingdom of God and the Great Commission. The Commission of Jesus is set within the context of a question concerning when the kingdom of Israel will be restored (Acts 1:6). The question the Apostles asked was a routine one since Jesus has been resurrected. The Promise of the Spirit led them to think that the Messianic Era had dawned, and the final salvation of Israel was imminent. The reality is that the Apostles were still thinking of a political and military kingdom that would drive out the Roman armies and restore national sovereignty to Israel. Jesus corrects the Apostles, telling them in Acts 1:8 that they would receive power from the Holy Spirit, not to triumph over the Roman armies, but to spread the good news of the gospel throughout the world. In other words Jesus’ return is in God’s timing, and in the meantime there are key things believers are to do.
The backdrop for Acts 1:8 is Luke 24:44-48, “4Then he said to them, “These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you, that everything written about me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled.” 45Then he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures, 46and said to them, “Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, 47and that repentance and forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. 48You are witnesses of these things.” Jesus statement “my words” refers to His teaching concerning His death and resurrection (Luke 9:21-22). Jesus of Nazareth and the risen Lord Jesus are one and the same. The Law of Moses and the Prophets and Psalms refers to the divisions in the Old Testament in Jesus’ day. “Psalms” is an example of a synecdoche, in which one of the books in the Writings represents the whole. True understanding of the Scripture occurs when one understands how all of redemptive history fits together and is a gift of God (Luke 9:45; 18:34). Luke 24:45 teaches that the Christ should suffer, which repeats verse 26 and emphasizes that Jesus’ death and resurrection were necessary in order to fulfill God’s providential plan. Repentance and forgiveness of sins form the basis for the content of the Gospel while in His name provides the authority for how salvation is affected. As eyewitnesses, the Disciples served as guardians of the Gospel (Luke 1:2). The Promise of My Father refers to the Holy Spirit who had been promised by God the Father (Acts 2:33). The coming of the Holy Spirit had been announced by John the Baptist as a sign that the Messiah had come (Luke 3:15-17). The Holy Spirit would enable the disciples to fulfill their commission as Jesus’ witnesses (Acts 1:8). The futuristic present tense of the words (“I am sending”) emphasizes the certainty of the Spirit’s coming.
Acts 1:8 teaches that the Apostles (and every believer after them) will “receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” Jesus corrects the disciple’s question (v.6) with a commission: “this time” (v.6) would be for them a time of witnessing for the gospel, and the scope of their witness was not to be just Israel but the entire world. The word translated witness is the Greek martus meaning, “One who testifies, bears witness, declares, confirms.” A witness for Jesus Christ is simply someone who tells the Truth about Him. There is a sense in which believers do not choose whether or not to be witnesses. They are witnesses, and the only question is how effective their witness is.
Verse 8 is the thematic statement for all of Acts. It begins with the Spirit’s power that stands behind and drives the witness to Jesus. Then it provides a rough outline of the book: Jerusalem (chapters 1-7), Jude and Samaria (chapters 8-12), and the ends of the earth (chapters 13-28). “You will receiver power” is a phrase that has caused a great deal of discussion among interpreters on whether the Holy Spirit was at work in the lives of ordinary believers prior to Pentecost or in a lesser way or not at all, except for the empowering for special tasks. On either view, something new that needed to be waited for was here. This powerful new work of the Holy Spirit after Pentecost brought several beneficial results: more effectiveness in witness and ministry (1:8), effective proclamation of the gospel (Matthew 28:19), power for victory over sin (Acts 2:42-46; Romans 6:11-14; 8:13-14; Gal 2:20; Phil 3:10), power for victory over Satan and demonic forces (Acts 2:42-46; 16:16-18; 2 Cor. 10:3-4; Eph 6:10-18; 1 John 4:4), and a wide distribution of gifts for ministry (2:16-18; 1 Cor. 12:7, 11; 1 Peter 4:10; Numbers 11:17, 24-29). The Spirit is tied to power, which refers here to being empowered to speak boldly by testifying to the message of God’s work through Jesus. The Disciples’ direct and real experience of Jesus and his resurrection qualifies them as witnesses, but the Spirit will give them the capability to articulate their experience with boldness. The Disciples likely understood “power” in this context to include both the power to preach the gospel effectively and also the power (through the Holy Spirit) to work miracles confirming the message. The same word (dynamis) is used at least seven other times in Acts to refer to power to work miracles in connection with gospel proclamation (Acts 2:22; 3:12; 4:7;; 6:8; 8:10; 10:38; 19:11).
Christ’s death and resurrection form the basis for the Christian faith. Paul said in Romans 4:25 that Jesus “was delivered up for our trespasses and raised for our justification.” The death and resurrection of Jesus Christ are necessary for forgiveness of sins and justification. When God the Father raised Christ from the dead, it was a demonstration that he accepted Christ’s suffering and death as full payment for sin, and that the Father’s favor no longer his wrath against sin, was directed toward Christ, and through Christ toward those who believe. Paul saw Christians as united with Christ in His death and resurrection (Romans 6:6; 8:-11; Eph 2:6; Col 2:12; 3:1). God’s approval of Christ at the resurrection resulted in God’s approval of all who are united to Christ, and in this way results in their “justification.” As a result of believing in the death and resurrection of Christ, the Holy Spirit, who is the supernatural and sovereign agent in regeneration, baptizes all believers into the Body of Christ (1st Corinthians 12:13). The Holy Spirit also indwells, sanctifies, instructs, empowers for service, and seals believers unto the day of redemption (Romans 8:9-11; 2nd Corinthians 3:6; Ephesians 1:13). The significance of the resurrection is that Jesus empowers believers through the Gospel to live lives that are transformed by His grace and empowered by the Holy Spirit to make disciples and be used for His glory.
Paul in Ephesians 1:19-20 gives us a hint of the meaning of Jesus “sitting at God’s right hand” when he said, “And what is the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe, according to the working of his great might that he worked in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at the right hand in the heavenly places.” God’s great power that very power which raised Jesus from the dead and lifted Him by ascension back to glory to take His seat at God’s right hand, is given to every believer at the time of salvation and is always available (Acts 1:8, Col 1:29). Paul therefore did not pray that God’s power be given to believers but that they be aware of the power they already possessed in Christ and use it (Ephesians 3:20). The power Jesus gave us was power to be His witnesses. The term “power” appears ten times in Acts, sometimes referring to miracles or other effects of power (Acts 2:22; 3:12; 4:7; 8:13; 10:38; 19:11) and other times to enablement (Acts 3:33; 6:8). The “right hand of God” was a sign to the disciples that Jesus had gone to heaven. Jesus told the disciples that He had to go away so that He could send the Holy Spirit (John 16:7-15). He had told them in Acts 1:8 that they would, “receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you,” which would be on the day of Pentecost (Acts 2:1-13), proving Jesus’ statement as truth. Paul says in Romans 8:34 that Jesus, “is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us. The meaning of “God’s right hand” refers to the Messiah, the Lord Jesus. Jesus is of equal position, honor, power and authority with God the Father (John 1:1-5). The very fact Jesus is sitting refers to the fact that His work of redemption is done.
There is much discussion in Christianity today regarding the definitions of biblical evangelism and discipleship. Luke teaches in Acts 1:8 that power was granted not to establish believers own kingdom but to build the Kingdom of God. John Calvin on Acts 1:8 said, “For hereby he meant to drive out of his disciples’ mind that fond and false imaginations which they have conceived of the terrestrial kingdom, because he showeth unto them briefly, that his kingdom consisteth in the preaching of the gospel. There was no cause, therefore, why they should dream of riches, of external principality, or of any other earthly thing, whilst they heard that Christ did then reign when as he subdueth unto himself (all the whole) world by the preaching of the Gospel. Whereupon it followeth that he doth reign spiritually and not after any worldly manner.” Much of the discussion regarding evangelism and discipleship in the Church begins with, “How can I reach postmodern people?” While this question is valid by beginning immediately with, “How can I reach postmodern people?” and not with the Gospel the Church is relegated to the arena of philosophical speculation rather than authority from God’s Word. The Church does not stand on its own authority but on the authority of Christ’s finished work. Believers have received power from the Holy Spirit to be witnesses for Christ’s glory.
The Church is robbed of its God given authority when it compromises the person and work of Jesus. There is a need for a clear understanding and a rediscovery of the gospel in the 21st century. Jerry Bridges says, “The gospel is not the most important message in history; it is the only essential message in all of history. Yet we allow thousands of professing Christians to live their entire lives without clearly understanding it and experiencing the joy of living their lives by it. Only the Holy Spirit can take the gospel to the hearts and minds of men and women and change them into disciples of the Lord.” Liberal Christianity has contributed to a faulty understanding of Christianity that focuses on what a believer needs to do in order to please God rather than living out the truth of the Gospel. The Church is being robbed of its power not from just false doctrine, false teachers but by a faulty approach to the Gospel. American Christianity is experiencing decline because of a Gospel of performance rather than Gospel of transformation.
The message of the Gospel is the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ (1st Corinthians 15:1-8; Romans 4:25). The Gospel is the message of the Bible and the means God uses to draw sinners to Christ, bring them into relationship with Himself, build the Church, and expand the Kingdom of God. The Gospel is not just a call to salvation but the call to discipleship. Jesus’ “call to discipleship” is the call to abandon all, take up the Cross and follow Him. Jesus in [Luke 9:23-27] said, “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will save it. What good is it for a man to gain the whole world, and yet lose or forfeit his very self? If anyone is ashamed of me and my words, the Son of Man will be ashamed of him when he comes in his glory and in the glory of the Father and of the holy angels. I tell you the truth, some who are standing here will not taste death before they see the kingdom of God.”
Discipleship is not a program, but the very mission Jesus gave the Church to fulfill. Discipleship is not just an object to be achieved because that focuses on the numbers of people. Biblical discipleship focuses on becoming like Jesus. In His ministry, Jesus cared about where people were going, and spent time with people who were hurting, ill, sick, afflicted, and demonized. Jesus shows people in His life how not only to care for people, but how to love people the way they were created to experience love. Biblical discipleship is thoroughly grounded in the person and work of Jesus.
Bock, L, Darrel, Acts (Michigan, Baker Academic, 2008), 63-64.
Boice, James Montgomery, Acts (Michigan, Baker Books, 1997), 10.
Bevins, Winfield. “Gospel Centered Discipleship: The Foundation for the Gospel”, July 2009, accessed August 9th, 2009. http://theresurgence.com/gospel-centered-discipleship
Calvin, John, Acts 1-13, Calvin’s Commentaries Volume XVII (Baker Books, 2009), 47.
Ger, Steven, The Book of Acts: Witnesses to the World (Tennessee, AMG Publishers, 1994), 25.
Macarthur, John, The Macarthur New Testament Commentary: Acts 1-12 (Illinois, The Moody Bible Institute of Chicago, 1994), 21.
J.C. Ryle, from A Call to Prayer:
I do not deny that a person may pray without heart and without sincerity. I do not for a moment pretend to say that the mere fact of a people praying, proves everything about their soul. As in every other part of religion, so also in this — there may be deception and hypocrisy.
But this I do say — that not praying is a clear proof that a person is not yet a true Christian. They cannot really feel their sins. They cannot love God. They cannot feel themselves a debtor to Christ. They cannot long after holiness. They cannot desire Heaven. They have yet to be born again. They have yet to be made a new creature. They may boast confidently of election, grace, faith, hope and knowledge, and deceive ignorant people. But you may rest assured it is all vain talk — if they do not pray.
The traditional definition of marriage and family in our culture is under attack by those who wish to not only redefine what the family is but also what is socially and therefore culturally acceptable definition of the family. Into this fray many writers in the past year or two have written books on marriage to try and help Christians to think through what the Bible teaches about marriage and the family. Many of these books make helpful contributions but very few of them help us to think through what it means to be a family on mission and to reach our neighbors for Christ. Thankfully the Harneys have written a very helpful book to address this concern called Organic Outreach For Families Turning Your Home Into A Lighthouse.
At the heart of the book is the “recognition that we can’t given what we don’t have. If we want our homes to be lighthouses of God’s grace, it begins with us, with our grasp of the gospel of God’s grace and our walk with the Lord. As we walk with Jesus, revel in his grace, long for him to be glorified, and delight in our friendship with the Savior, we naturally bring this good news to the most important people in our lives, our children” (27)
The more I think about marriage and the family the more convinced I become as the Harney’s have already that our witness in our homes matters just as much if not more than our witness outside the home. As a married man how I treat my wife, and the animals in my home is a reflection of what is really in my heart. I say with my mouth, and type with my fingers for others to hear and read that I love Jesus Christ. It’s all too easy to walk through the motions as if that is what is what biblical Christianity is: a life to “show off” what we know rather than a life of truly delighting in and savoring the precious promises God has extended to us in and through the person and work of Jesus Christ. All is not well in the homes of many Christians throughout our country and our world because many can just walk through the motions but when the rubber meets the road and times get tough—those are the times that we run to what we truly love—ourselves or our Savior, Jesus Christ. This is why I’m convinced more than I ever have been (and apply this truth to my own home) that the message we preach to ourselves must be the Gospel and not a false gospel of self-improvement.
The Harney’s are onto something in their book that I think is missing in most of the marriage books I’ve read in the past five years or so, and that is an emphasis on our grasp of God’s grace and our growth in that grace. This is not to say that the other books primarily focused on this point, because many make other contributions to the topic of the family that this book does not. Where this book excels and offers a significant contribution is in the area of how we as Christians can by growing in the grace of God—advance the mission of God by first focusing on our growth in grace. This approach is one that personally resonates with me because growing up as I did in a dysfunctional home, I saw how dangerous it can be to know the right answers without also experiencing and living by the truth from God’s Word.
Organic Outreach For Families Turning Your Home Into A Lighthouse is an important book that is grounded in the Word of God that will help families to remain focused on what is eternal in order to advance the work of Christ’s in and through the home for the praise and glory of God. This book will help families to learn how to practically be on mission for Jesus by first helping teach you how reach your children with the Gospel, second, how to share God’s grace with your extended family, and finally help you to understand what it means to open the doors of your home in order to make it attractive and welcoming for the purpose of shining the light of God’s grace into your broader community.
Authors: Kevin G. Harney and Sherry Harney
Publisher: Zondervan (2012)
Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the Zondervan book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”
First, I want to first thank Crossway, Christian Focus, Dutton Adult, Zondervan, New Growth Press and David Cook, for allowing me the opportunity to do this book giveaway. Second, I want thank all of you who shared and commented on the book giveaway. Thirdly, the winners of the book giveaway are Marguerite Harrell who won a copy of Pleasing God by R.C. Sproul, Chris Land won a copy of Every Good Endeavor: Connecting Your Work to God’s Work, Michael Boling won a copy of Glorious Ruin, Kevin Fiske won a copy of Gospel Deeps, Jeremy Seifert won a copy of InDoctrination, Bill Chandler won a copy of Accidental Pharisees, Chad Carlson won a copy of Dangerous Calling, Paul Emery won a copy of Life in the Fairway, Evan Lee won a copy of Glorious Ruin, Mark Lamprecht won a copy of The Hole in Our Holiness, David Norman won a copy of Multiply Disciples Making Disciples, Paul Emery won a copy of Life in the Fairway, Chad Miller won a copy of The Work of Christ by R.C. Sproul, Jonathan Holmes won a copy of Sexual Sanity, Austin Nelson won a copy of Sexual Sanity, Elizabeth won a copy of Nothing Is Impossible with God, Jason Stonehouse won a copy of The Life of God in the Soul of the Church: The Root and Fruit of Spiritual Fellowship, Aaron Crews won a copy of Accidental Pharisees, Julie won a copy of When Your Husband Is Addicted to Pornography, Jordan Andlovec won a copy of How Do We Know the Bible is True Vol. 1, Gretta Johns won a copy of When Your Husband Is Addicted to Pornography, K. Hughes won a copy of The Work of Christ, Roger Leonhardt won a copy of Pleasing God by R.C. Sproul, Zachary Uram won a copy of Heart of the Matter, Philip won a copy of Heart of the Matter, Tom Perry won a copy of Multiply Disciples Making Disciples, Ron Mioni won a copy of The Life of God in the Soul of the Church: The Root and Fruit of Spiritual Fellowship, Doug Connelly won a copy of How Do We know the Bible is True? Volume 2, Austin Ross won a copy of Every Good Endeavor: Connecting Your Work to God’s Work by Dr. Tim Keller.
Fourthly, I want to welcome the new visitors to Servants of Grace. Running this giveaway encourages some of you who have been long-time readers or new readers to leave your first comments on a blog post here. I sincerely want to thank you whether you are new or old to Servants of Grace for taking the time to leave a comment, and hope and pray you will join in on future discussions on content on Servants of Grace.
Whether you are new or old to Servants of Grace, I wanted to take a moment to tell you what you can expect from Servants of Grace on a typical week. A typical week will see between 6-10 posts. Monday, we usually post a book review, or an article. On Tuesday’s we have a blog post geared towards men. On Wed, we have a post geared towards ministry. On Thursday, we typically post a book review or article. On Friday, we have a book review or article. Coming soon we will also have regular sermons from some of our contributors based on the Bible. On Saturday, we post a book review or article. On Sunday’s we post a book review, or quote and a weekly roundup of the week’s posts. On some weeks we will have more blog posts as we now have a variety of contributors. This schedule gives you an idea of a typical week here at Servants of Grace.
Finally we have many contributors to Servants of Grace, all of whom love the Gospel and want to strengthen believers and local Churches with the Gospel. These are exciting times for Servants of Grace, and I am truly thankful that so many of you have participated in the book giveaway. I look forward to future discussions with many of you in the coming weeks and months on a variety of biblical, theological and practical issues. May the Lord richly bless you.
I’m putting up this post for the Holidays to make our readers aware of any deals. I’ll be periodically updating this post as I hear about such deals. If you know of any deals for Christians on books, music, etc, please let me know in the comments and I’ll put them up.
Crossway is having a 40% sale and is also has other books sale for discounted prices: http://www.crossway.org/blog/2012/11/black-friday-cyber-monday-sale-40-off-crossway-org-and-other-larger-discounts/
P & R is having a sale until today http://prpbooks.com/blog/2012/11/online-special-november-23-26/
35 % off Old Story New Story Ten-Minute devotions to Draw Your Family To God (New Testament) and Long Story Short Ten Minutes To Draw Your Family to God (Old Testament). They are also having a sale on Gospel Story Bible buy one get one free. Heart of the Matter (CCEF), and Nothing Is Impossible with God (Rose Marie Miller) are all 35% off. The deals last until Wed November 28th, 2012 at 2pm Eastern.
Cruciform Press is offering 11 titles for $4.99 each (9.99 list). Books on sanctification, parenting, adoption, apologetics, discipleship, marriage. Bible interpretation, and more: http://cruciformpress.com/news/christmas-print-book-sale
It would be hard to find a more boring word in ministry circles than “balance.” There is a lot of talk about being “radical”, “edgy”, “relevant”, etc. But balance sounds rather unhip. But I’m finding this word may be the key to lifelong, steady, sustained ministry success.
There is a part of all of us in ministry that desperately wants to be noticed. And our American culture seems to celebrate such unbridled ambition. We want to be thought of as being successful, even if we cover it with a nice Jesus gloss and call it impact. And so pastors are on Twitter crafting statements they hope will be retweeted. Or we are coming up with more outrageous ways to have our message rise above the cultural noise. I’m guessing most of the time this comes from a pure heart: we want to see a lost world embrace Jesus and we’ll do anything to get them to notice.
But there is a cost to a sort of pragmatic, no-hold-barred, entertainment-is-the-answer approach. There’s a cost to pastors being outlandish, carnival barkers, a bit crazy. Sure, you’ll be seen as a different kind of pastor and you’ll likely get written up in the latest ministry magazines. You might get a lot of traffic to your website or land that coveted speaking engagement. But the cost is something valuable: credibility. Maturity. Pastors, as God’s representatives to His people, should, at the very least, be the adults in the room. We should be sober-minded, steady, strong. This is the kind of leadership every generation needs.
Now, to be balanced isn’t necessarily the same as being “safe.” To be “safe” is to shy away from the hard call of the gospel, it’s to seek our own comfort, it’s to bend our ear more frequently to the applause of the culture. To be safe is to do the same things, over and over again, without new results. To be safe is to preach only of the culturally acceptable parts of the Bible (love, forgiveness, justice, unity) and ignore those that sound like fingernails on a cultural backboard (Hell, sin, repentance, God’s wrath, morality, forgiveness, grace). In it’s own way, being the most obnoxious, radical, attention-seeking preacher is, in a way, safe. It’s safe because you create a lot of easy heat without much light. It’s safe because building a ministry by scheme and flash is a shortcut through a lot of hard, faithful, tireless ministry work.
There is something inside all of us who do public ministry that has to die. It’s the desire to be someone, something. I must fight this regularly with the empowerment of the Holy Spirit in me. We must make Jesus Christ the story of our ministries. We must work hard to create cultures where the gospel, not the leader, is celebrated. We must ask ourselves, with every new, creative idea we have: is this to make me more famous, is this to get other Christians talking about me? Or, does this have the intent of edifying the body of Christ and bringing those who don’t know Jesus to Him?
This is why balance matters. One of my best friends, a ministry mentor, Dr. Rich McCarrell of Byron Center Bible Church, says, “Balance is the elixer of ministry.” He has always cautioned me not to make one issue, one controversial position, one methodology the main thing. Keep Christ the main thing, he says, and that will give you wisdom in leadership.
As I look around the Church, I see that God has granted some of his servants favor and prominence. But mostly the Church is built by ordinary men and women, serving faithfully, day in and day out.
I know balance and maturity and boring old faithfulness are not the hot stuff of the Christian conference and publishing circuit. But they are vital, I think, for lifelong gospel ministry.
This is our weekly roundup of posts for 11/19-11/24/2012. If you have any feedback on how we can serve you our readers better, I would appreciate it. Thank you for reading and allowing us to minister to you throughout this past week through these posts.
Monday 11/19- The Stronghold of the Lord by Dave Jenkins http://servantsofgrace.org/2012/11/19/the-stronghold-of-the-lord/
Tuesday 11/20- Death, Identity and Jesus by Dave Jenkins http://servantsofgrace.org/2012/11/20/death-identity-and-jesus/
Wed 11/21- Book Review Gospel Deeps by Jared Wilson Reviewed by Dave Jenkins http://servantsofgrace.org/2012/11/21/book-review-gospel-deeps/
Friday 11/23- Boundaries, Mere Entertainment and a More Joyful Way by Jared Moore http://servantsofgrace.org/2012/11/23/boundaries-mere-entertainment-and-a-more-joyful-way/
Saturday 11/24- Are you on your knees as you interact with media? by Jared Moore http://servantsofgrace.org/2012/11/24/are-you-on-your-knees-as-your-interact-with-media/
In God’s creating work, He set mankind apart from the rest of creation by making us in His image (Gen. 1:26-27). Mankind was meant to reflect God in His creation. In setting mankind apart as His image-bearers, God shared some of His attributes with mankind. He made us spiritual, personal, rational, emotional, creative, moral, etc. As a result, God’s fingerprints are clearly seen in humanity.
Although man was created in God’s image, he was never meant to be a little god, or, as Satan put it, “like God” (Gen. 3:5). Even in the Garden of Eden man was created to be ever dependent on God and His word (Gen. 1-3). Furthermore, God had perfect fellowship with man in the Garden prior to the Fall. Humans were meant to enjoy God forever in a wonderful, sinless world. But man sinned.
Since the Fall of man into sin, humans need God’s word even more due to the darkness of sin infecting all creation (Gen. 3). Thus, as Christians interact with culture, they must understand this world in light of God’s truth, being willing to compare and contrast all they see with the word of God. All forms of story/media either reveal God’s glory by agreeing with God’s word or hide God’s glory by telling lies. All forms of media make truth claims. The authors, singers, characters, directors, etc. are always arguing a point, perspective or truth-claim, and their arguments either agree or disagree with God’s word. Christians must test all things, keeping what is true, trashing what is false, while constantly unveiling where these authors reveal they live in God’s world.
In God’s world, all truth is God’s truth and all lies are the devil’s lies. Christians know the Who and the Why behind the truth presented by God’s image-bearers. We know our Creator intimately through Scripture and through Jesus Christ. The world knows our Creator as well through creation and conscience, but they often suppress this truth (John 1:3-4; Rom. 1). Because all humans possess some knowledge of God, Christians must engage media and the rest of the world for the purpose of recognizing God’s fingerprints. As we recognize God’s fingerprints, we will be on our knees worshiping the Triune God who gave His only Son to redeem sinners and sinful creation (Rom. 8:19-23). We will enjoy media/stories, not for the purpose of enjoying media/stores, but on the contrary, for the purpose of enjoying God through enjoying media/stories.
The problem at the heart of living in a media saturated world is that, like everything in life, media is made up of truth and lies interwoven into a complicated web. All of life is a mixture of grace and idolatry. No created thing is so good as to only be full of grace (except Christ), and no created thing is so evil as to be absent of God’s fingerprints. Since God created all things for His glory, creation serves the purpose of declaring His glory (Ps. 19:1-6). However, sin has infected all creation, including humanity, causing God’s glory to be hidden by sin. God originally created man in His image for the purpose of mirroring Him in His creation (Gen. 1:26-28). Due to sin, man is unable to mirror God as clearly as he did prior to the Fall, but still mirrors Him nonetheless (Gen. 1:26-28; James 3:9). Believers especially are able to mirror God as He gradually conforms us to His likeness (2 Cor. 3:18; Eph. 4:24; Col. 3:10). The task of the Christian observer—who himself is sinful and who also lives in a sinful world—is to untangle all the webs of truth and lies in life for the glory of God; or as the apostle Paul said, to “destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ” (2 Cor. 10:5). Christians realize the difficulty of this task due to living in a media saturated world, but have unfortunately provided answers that do not adequately help Christians “take every thought captive to obey Christ” as they interact with media.
There are two popular approaches to interacting with media in Christianity today. Christians either live by a set of boundaries or they virtually eliminate boundaries altogether. As a result of these two attitudes, Christians either reject media that violates their boundaries or they embrace media as “mere entertainment.” Each view has some strengths, but they also have many weaknesses.
Boundaries provide Christians with a “black and white” standard to live by that practically eliminates the need for discernment. Even a child can understand boundaries, but he or she may not understand how to “test all things.” It’s easier to live by and teach others, “Don’t watch R-rated movies or listen to secular music,” than to say, “You must practice discernment by interacting with movies and music on a case by case basis for the glory of God.” For example, if we set up a boundary against watching R-rated movies, then we’ll be protected from the content of those movies that makes them R-rated. The weaknesses, however, far outweigh the strengths. Boundaries cannot save us from the reality that we live in an R-rated world, a sin-corrupted world. Also, boundaries cannot save us from the reality that Christians have R-rated hearts and minds that plague them on a daily basis. The gospel—the life, death, and resurrection of Christ to bring all creation into right relationship with God—is the only cure for the “sin-disease” that has infected all humanity and creation. Boundaries are not the gospel; therefore, they cannot accomplish what only the gospel can: salvation from our evil hearts and this evil world.
Furthermore, eliminating boundaries altogether has its benefits as well. It’s easier to live by and tell someone, “Interact with whatever media you want; it’s only harmless entertainment,” than to say, “You must ‘take every thought captive to obey Christ’ as you interact with media” (2 Cor. 10:5). Even a child can understand “enjoying media is fun,” but he or she may not understand “the purpose of interacting with media is to ‘love God with all your heart, soul, and mind, and to love your neighbor as yourself’” (Matt.22:37-39). The weaknesses of this approach, however, far outweigh the strengths. Mislabeling interacting with media as “mere entertainment” cannot save us from our desire to tolerate and enjoy the sins of others or our desire to be like the evil world we see in media; only the gospel can save us. Also, embracing the myth that interacting with media is neutral (neither good nor bad), cannot save us from ourselves or others; only the gospel can. Only the gospel can save us from our wicked hearts and the wicked hearts of others.
To summarize, if you set up subjective boundaries or eliminate boundaries altogether, your life will appear easier. You won’t need to think through the numerous arguments media is making against God or the various nuggets of truth presented by these creators of media who silently admit they live in our God’s world. You, however, will lack the joy that comes with applying the gospel as the only answer for the sin-disease that has corrupted media. You will also lack the tools to enjoy God through media and all other areas of life; and thus, you will lack the ability to fully enjoy on earth the “abundant life” Christ came to give.
What are your thoughts?