Yesterday morning, we completed the “iWitness Series” at The Blue Point Bible Church (www.bluepontbiblechurch.org). Through this series we have been dealing with the fact that We, the Church, are called to be a witness to the world around us of the glory and works of God. I made mention of Dueteronomy 4:1-4:8 and Ephesians chapter 3. This has truly been an amazing series. I hope you have been thoroughly encouraged as I sought to lay the foundation for all that we represent in this world. You can listen to the whole series by visiting out podcast page at www.buzzsprout.com/11630
We are at an interesting point in our culture. Church history is full of reformations and revivals that helped focus the Church back on its mission in the world. This work requires both courage and diligence. Postmodern society has led us to a point where we must know what we express in a clear and consistent manner. In a pluralist society which had rejected any view of “absolute truth” we must engage in discussion and our mission to “make known the manifold wisdom of God” with a strong solid foundation. Do you know if what you believe is really true? Can you heed the command of 1 Peter 3:15 to “always be able to give reason for the hope that is within you” & 1 Thessalonians 5:21 to “prove all things”.
In a society that places opinion above absolute truth, We, the Church, sadly have failed to “demolish all strongholds and bring all thoughts captive to Christ (2 Corinthians 10:5)”, largely because we have succumbed to and therefore offered to others, a false hope and “another gospel” as is condemned by Galatians chapter 3.
Constantine “baptized the empire” in the 4th century, initiating a long road of “empire religion” mixed with Christian values which then violently persecuted anyone who did not agree with their brand of Christianity. This confusion reigned despite the many attempts of many to return to a more pure expression of Christianity (i.e., monasticism), all the way up to the Protestant Reformation in the 1500’s. After such a great moment of reform in the church- division has run rampant ever since.
So what do we do when the Gospel has ‘possibly’ been compromised? Semper Reformanda. The Church should be “always reforming”. We must ‘search the Scriptures’ as the noble Bereans did (Acts 17:11). We must seek to understand the entirety of Scripture, bringing the “full gospel” to bear on all of life. This is the ‘water’ we are called to give the ‘thirsty’ that will ‘heal the nations’! Sadly the Church has only been exhibiting and telling half the story and this is to our detriment. A contextual look at the whole narrative contained within Scripture reveals the Truth about the ever-expanding, ever growing, Kingdom of God- which requires ‘evangelion’.
Evangelion, is the Greek word from which we have derived the English equivalent “Evangelism”. Evangelion was a term used to tell of a new king coming to the throne or of a distant battle that was won. It was a glorious proclamation used by the Romans. Understanding the term enables us to understand what Jesus Christ was professing. The “evangelion” of the Kingdom. When Jesus preached “repent for the kingdom of God is at hand (Matthew 4:17)” he was speaking about the ‘nearness’ of the fully consummated Kingdom of God .
So yes, due to a faulty understanding of the kingdom of God (is it here, is it in the future, where is it?) and a poor understanding of the Kingdom’s nature and its proclamation- the Church and those the Church is called to heal, suffer.
Preterist presents the full the full aspects of the Gospel as realized. Charles Meek made the following statement in his book, Christian Hope through Fulfilled Prophecy:
“Christ’s death on the cross paid the penalty for sin. His resurrection provided the hope for eternal life. His parousia sealed our salvation. The old pre-Christ world of shadows and prophecies, the things which were ‘imperfect’ and ‘in part’ were brought to completion. Unlike the futurist paradigm in which the Christian age is but a comma, in Covenant Eschatology confirms Christ as completely triumphant- victorious in the midst of sin”.
In a world falling apart, ravaged by war, violence, selfishness, and offers no meaning to life- the characterization is DEATH. We need to make it clear that Jesus Christ offers LIFE. Not life as the world knows it, not some far away “not yet” life in a fantasy place, not “afterlife”, but ‘life to the full’ right here, right now “in the world, but not of the world”. The world is desperately seeking light while groping in the dark and finding nothing but death. Granted, for many it is hard to see how life here on Earth can be blessed, it seems so unrealistic, and sadly many Christians have bought into this paradigm, however that’s the error. The Church is called to make known a new life that happens right here, in this life, but not of this life- it’s called being “born again”. No man can see the kingdom of God without being “born again”!
This is the message that the Apostles knew and proclaimed even to their deaths. That is exactly why we can read through the book of Acts and read how they “turned the world upside down”. Just imagine….what sort of truth do you need to know to know to be so passionate that you will get arrested for preaching it, beaten then released, only to go back to preaching it? It was the Apostle Paul who said, “For if I preach the gospel, I have nothing to boast of, for I am under compulsion; for woe is me if I do not preach the gospel”.
We are the light bearers of the world. Catch the essence of that- we bring light to the dark areas of this world. Our words of truth, dispelling the lies that captivate many, are water to those who are thirsty.
Yet we are stifled in our approach. Stifled means to be choked and unable to breathe, and being that we hold the message of Life and yet the world is dying all around us- WE SURELY ARE STIFLED!! We are called to be the “healing of the nations”. So I wonder, why the lack of effectiveness?
“Jesus was going through all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom, and healing every kind of disease and every kind of sickness. Seeing the people, He felt compassion for them, because they were distressed and dispirited like sheep without a shepherd (Matthew 9:36-37)”.
Do we feel that burden when we look at the world? If we don’t, I believe that is the beginning of the problem right there! We do not understand the gospel and what it offers this world. One blogger expressed his frustration this way, “I applaud and endorse the obedient, sacrificial evangelism that goes forth from individual Christians and local churches, but unless and until the full gospel is presented to an unsaved world, those who trust in Christ by God’s grace through faith will not understand the fullness of what Christ has done for them and in them. He not only died for our sins, but He rose again for our justification, and He came again and brought the fullness that takes us into God’s presence in His kingdom for all of eternity. The blessed hope is the Biblical teaching of Preterism. In futurism, hope is deferred and it is making the heart of the Church sick!”
The failure of the Church to comitt to and diligently “evangelize” the world has been called by some “the great ommission” is reponse to Jesus Christ giving the “Great Commission” in Matthew chapter 28. Granted, as a Preterist I know that their was a “time statement” and time of completion for the “Great Commission” (“the end of the age”), however this does not stop “evangelism”. Again noting that “evangelion” was the declaration that a distant war had been won and a new king was taking over the throne.
We must learn how to properly “contextualize” the declaration of the Kingdom of God as a present reality in our world. The Apostle Paul gave us a great example as he preached to those at Athens in Acts chapter 17. It must not be an aferlife message that falls short of the full gospel, it must be an “in this life” message.
As we witness the world around us plunge further into sinful lives characterized by death, there is only one thing that can be offered of substance to “heal all things”- the Gospel of the Kingdom! As “prince of preachers”, Charles Spurgeon said:
“Brethren, do something; do something; do something! While societies and unions make constitutions, let us win souls. I pray you, be men of action all of you. Get to work and quite yourselves like men. Old Suvarov’s idea of war is mine: ‘Forward and strike! No theory! Attack! Form a column! Charge bayonets! Plunge into the center of the enemy! Our one aim is to win souls; and this we are not to talk about, but do in the power of God”.
It’s been noted by one speaker, “Evangelism is one of the most counter-cultural things we can do today. It strikes hard against the relativism of this postmodern age”.
As I preached in my sermon yesterday morning detailing “Telling the Story”. We don’t need theories, gimmicks, and gadgets. We simply need to be authentic in telling and showing the realities of the Kingdom to the world around us. Pastor Dan Kimball said it best, “I’ve learned that what brings people to Jesus isn’t usually anything genius or innovative. It isn’t a program or amazing sermons or glamorious Christmas productions. It’s Christians caring enough to pray for, befriend, and simply hang out with people who do not know Jesus”.
Do you have doubt regarding the success of our call in the world? Do things look too dismal to you? I beseech you this morning to remove that unbelief from among you, for the sake of the ‘Body of Christ’, the Church, remove that mindset from among the people of God. That which is not done in faith, is not done of God. I end this article with the encouraging and challenging words of German theologian Gerhard Lohfink:
“Jesus is very aware of the ‘impossibility’ the cause of God seems in the world. In His seed parables He depicts not only the unstoppable growth of the reign of God, but also the frightening smallness…of its beginning: still more, He describes the superior power of the opponents who threaten the work of God from beginning to end. The blessing of the world through the people of God is not like a violent, quick revolution that takes over power. It starts small, grows silently, faces setbacks, but nevertheless permeates the world with love. That’s difficult for us in a world where we bounce between aggressive impatience and paralyzing cynicism. Without a doubt, Jesus portrays patience and perseverance as essential characteristics for dealing with the crazy world, His caution on ridding the world of evil makes no sense without them”.
Let’s get to work!
Blessings in Christ,
Pastor Michael Miano
Blue Point Bible Church