Saturday, August 24, 2019

The gospel, gospel ethics, discipleship, cultural transformation and the kingdom of God

Even something so "simple" as The Lord's Prayer that we routinely teach our children has in it a perhaps puzzling reference to something called the kingdom of God:


What does this mean:
Matt 6:10 [d]Your kingdom come,
Your [e]will be done
On earth as it is in heaven . . .


13 ‘And do not [h]lead us into temptation,
but deliver us from [i]evil. [j][For Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever.
Amen.]’
Clearly, God is here seen as a king as well as our Father: Creator-Sustainer and Lord, whose will is done in heaven but not fully on a sinful earth. As Creato-Sustainer, we ask for daily bread, and as Lord we ask for his will to be done here, which reflects the coming of his kingdom on earth. In the midst, we ask for forgiveness and promise to in turn forgive others. We ask for deliverance from the snares of the evil one. And more.

Clearly, already in the most common single Christian prayer there is a theology of the kingdom of God and of our part in it as penitent sinners. Where, obviously, Jesus as Messiah and Saviour is the key means of forgiveness and transformation; starting in our own surrendered hearts and lives.

Obviously, there is much more, and sometimes I have used the seven mountain model to speak to basic discipleship for penitent sinners, given the six first ABC foundational principles of Heb 6:1 - 2 and the backdrop of Nebuchadnezzar's dream of God's eternal kingdom and its impact on the kingdoms of man in Dan 2, all of which clearly fit into the framework in that prayer:


Likewise, this coming of the kingdom so that God's good will is done on earth extends to the community in light of what has sometimes been called the four R's of revival and reformation:

From such, we can already see that the kingdom of God is central to the theology of the gospel, which is in fact the good news of the kingdom of God pivoting on the coming of the long-prophesied Messiah. It is in this light that an amnesty of forgiveness and promise of cleansing transformation has been proclaimed as the answer to the chaos of kingdoms of man that too often are caught up in a chaotic, destructive demonic riot of the world, the flesh and the devil. Thus, too, we find that gospel theology and gospel ethics are inseparable and in their natural course extend to community transformation as even now we begin to do the right under God: Christ came, descending, serving, dying, rising and ascending in order to fill all things, where the church is his body, the very fullness of him who fills everything in every way. 

Similarly, we are clearly being led to the book of Daniel, which seems to have in it some key references.

Accordingly, as we ponder the gospel and the kingdom of God, I now want to share some slightly adjusted thoughts I shared yesterday in a WhatsApp group, as I explored the captioned themes:

________________________

>>As I continue thinking about the Kingdom of God perspective on the gospel, linked ethics and relevance to community transformation (implying that true liberation is first spiritual), I am led back to Daniel.

Here, to Nebuchadnezzar’s testimony after he was humbled by God because of undue pride in his achievements as king.

Pardon, therefore, a further sharing of thoughts – towards elements of a Biblical theology of evangelisation, discipleship, mission; thus of repentance, renewal, revival and reformation in our region and beyond:

Daniel 4: >>34 “But at the end of the days [that is, at the seven periods of time [→ of his beast-like insanity]], I, Nebuchadnezzar, raised my eyes toward heaven, and my understanding and reason returned to me; and I blessed the Most High [God] and I praised and honored and glorified Him who lives forever,

For His dominion is an everlasting dominion [→ God as eternal ruler];
And His kingdom endures from generation to generation.

[→ realm of that rule, in context, extending over Babylon and other human kingdoms]
35 “All the inhabitants of the earth are regarded as nothing.
But He does according to His will in the host of heaven
And among the inhabitants of the earth [→ sovereignty of God pointing to Judge and redeemer];

And no one can hold back His hand
Or say to Him, ‘What have You done?’



36 Now at the same time my reason returned to me; and for the glory of my kingdom, my majesty and splendor were returned to me, and my counselors and my nobles began seeking me out; so I was re-established in my kingdom, and still more greatness [than before] was added to me.

37 Now I, Nebuchadnezzar, praise and exalt and honor the King of heaven [→ kingdom of Heaven],
for all His works are true and faithful and His ways are just [→ inherently good, utterly wise, Judge],
and He is able to humiliate and humble [→ acts against arrogance]
those who walk in [self-centered, self-righteous] pride.” [AMP]>>
At once, we see that God is king of the eternal kingdom of heaven that intervenes in the affairs of men. Indeed, from v 32, the lesson Nebuchadnezzar needed to heed was that “the Most High God rules over the kingdom of mankind and He bestows it on whomever He desires.”


This, of course, cuts clean across certain common notions of our day which are now being pushed hard in our region (and which would end in a chaotic Rom 1 world).


For example, in the course of his ruling that attempts to usurp power to unilaterally amend a constitution from the judge’s bench, Justice Anthony Smellie of the Cayman Islands recently claimed that many inequities have existed in the name of tradition but neither tradition nor religion could form the “rational basis for a law.” He then proceeds to try to redefine marriage chaotically, away from the naturally evident creation order rooted in the complementary sexes, substituting the false for the true and implying perversion of rights, justice and judgement.


Similarly, in its ill-advised August 2, 2019 Editorial, the Gleaner dismissed “emaciated notions of morality,” directly implying Jesus’ teachings in Matt 19:4 – 6 regarding the naturally evident, creation order based institutions of maleness, femaleness, lifelong committed marriage of man and woman, family as the natural fruit of conjugal union. They inadvertently reveal that to advance a dubious agenda they would overturn the moral government that is the basis for a sound civilisation and its government. Such signs point to the ill-advised, ruinous counsel that now rises up on the ship of state at Fair Havens, across our region. (See Ac 27.)


Others have said much the same.


There is also, a Christo-phobia, an irrational fear that perceives the Christian faith, the gospel, gospel ethics and godly reformation as backward, oppressive, outright fascist threats to progress, freedom and reason.


(I have even recently seen an evolutionary materialist scientism advocate assert that “Creationists” cannot do Math because they are utterly irrational, shown by their rejection of “Evolution.” Which is widely regarded as the yardstick of science. This is doubly nonsense as first many “Creationists” are effective Mathematicians, thank you. Secondly, this is a bit of turnabout propagandistic projection: in fact, demonstrably, evolutionary materialism would reduce mindedness to computation on a brain “wetware” computer and whatever mysteriously emerges from but is determined by the physics and chemistry involved. That is exactly what rational insight, intuition, intentionality and inference CANNOT be. That is, evolutionary materialism is self-referential and self-contradictory thus self-falsifying. Thus, utterly, irretrievably irrational. Never mind the impressive lab coats, polished manner and posh accents.)


No, instead we recognise that we are creatures of the God who is inherently good and utterly wise.


Indeed, as LOGOS, he is Reason Himself, upholding all things by his powerful word. As creatures made in his image we have the precious gift of conscience-guided reason leading to ability to know and serve the truth and the right. Accordingly, in the spirit of Ac17, let us see: the first point of wisdom is to know and respect our Creator God, the inherently good, necessary, maximally great being who is the root-source of reality. In him we live, move and have our being, with our minds being governed by undeniable duty to truth, right reason, sound conscience, neighbour-love, justice, etc. He is our rightful eternal king, worthy of our loyalty and of the reasonable, responsible service of doing the good that accords with our evident nature.


Such a view is just the opposite of being backward, irrational, unjust, oppressive.


It is time that that devillish lie be ferreted out and skewered.


Yes, the history of Christendom (like that of any civilisation) is decidedly mixed, with great evils and – notably – great struggles of reformation. Often, directly based on Scripture. For example, it is no accident that the Motto of the antislavery society directly comes from Philemon in the NT: “Am I not a man and a brother?” (Sometimes, even more tellingly, “ . . . a woman and a sister?”)




Civilisation’s course will ever be so.


For, we are finite, fallible, fallen, morally struggling, too often ill-willed.


Likewise, in the great liberating struggle that launched the first successful modern democratic, constitutional experiment, we find in the key second paragraph of their Declaration of Independence, July 4th, 1776:
>>We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. — That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, — That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security. >>
Notice, self-evident moral government focussed on rights. By implications, nations are under God our Creator and supreme Lord who is Just Judge. Governments are created by covenants under God, to defend justice; by implication the due balance of rights, freedoms and duties in community. Where a fundamental right is a binding moral claim to be respected and protected in some regard, implying the duty of others. Thus, to justly claim a right, one must first manifestly be in the right, which cannot call for others to do or enable wrong to support oneself.


Where also, government can fail; perhaps badly enough to require radical reform or replacement. This BTW is a main reason for the blessing of the peaceful general election: a solemn assembly of the people under God to audit and if needs be reform or replace government. Thus, not to be trifled with and perverted into manipulating the people to vote for a voyage of reckless folly (as we see in Ac 27). Those who rise up as an alternative have a solemn duty under God.


Yes, there is an ages-long struggle between the wrong and the right, the false and the true.


But there is no reason whatsoever to assume that the Christian Faith and its adherents who take the Bible seriously as God’s Word, are always and forever backward oppressors.


No, that is part of why it is GOOD NEWS that the Most High God lives forever, exerting an everlasting dominion, the kingdom of God. Where, in love, he intervened, bringing salvation and deliverance that liberates from the first slavery of all.


Sin.


Thus, Saviour who is also Son of Man, Just Judge, Wounded Healer, Deliverer, Lord. Of Him, Daniel writes – as Jesus would quote (applying to himself) at his trial before a kangaroo court:
>>Dan 7: 13 “I kept looking in the night visions,
And behold, [c]on the clouds of heaven
One like a Son of Man was coming,
And He came up to the Ancient of Days
And was presented before Him.


14 “And to Him (the Messiah) was given dominion (supreme authority),
Glory and a kingdom,
That all the peoples, nations, and speakers of every language
Should serve and worship Him.
His dominion is an everlasting dominion
Which will not pass away;
And His kingdom is one
Which will not be destroyed. [AMP] >>
Obviously, this is supremely manifest only at the culmination of all things, but already he commissioned us in Matt 28:18 – 20, noting that he holds “All authority in heaven and on earth,” i.e. he is Lord to the glory of God the Father. In that context he has instructed us to go, making disciples of the nations, teaching them to obey him. For, all his ways are just and he is Truth Himself. It is undeniable that the gospel embeds gospel ethics, lives in the context of the kingdom of God, and points to a call of amnesty requiring transformation of lives and families that must by its inherent force affect communities. 

The four R’s appear:
R1 → Repentance, meta+noia as we turn from sin in surrender to God
R2 → Renewal, through cleansing of mind and life under the Word
R3 → Revival, as seasons of refreshing are poured out (generally in contest with a demonic riot)
R4 → Reformation, as R1 – 3 have cumulative impact
There was a time in the which God excused ignorance but now he commands all men everywhere to repent in the face of eternal judgement. For he has appointed The Son of Man as Judge, giving proof of this truth to all men by raising him from the dead, with 500 eyewitnesses.


So, while we find nowhere a call to lead lawless rebellions, as the Kingdom is not of this world and its wars are not with the weapons of this age, we are indeed called to break fallacies and schemes of deception that lead men away from the knowledge of God, taking every thought captive to obedience of Christ. He, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.


In our day, such fallacies clearly include the oppression thesis, the denial of God’s reality by creating the false impression that “Science” [= atheism in a lab coat] has put him out of a job, and the attempt to undermine sound moral government testified to by conscience. Instead, let us restore moral sanity and truth that leads men to acknowledge God, receiving him who is our Lord and Saviour.


AMEN and AMEN>>

______________________ 

Clearly, the gospel embeds a theology of the kingdom of God and necessarily implies ethical transformation that applies to the individual, the family, the church, the community, the civilisation. Let us therefore acknowledge that Jesus came, descending and ascending in order to fill all things. So, often imperceptibly, there is a rising of the tide of that kingdom where God's will is done on earth as it is in heaven. It starts in our hearts and lives and (despite the chaos of the demonic riot) even now it spreads to the family, the church, the community, the civilisation as we grow in discipleship under Messiah. 

The "simple" gospel -- even so simple as what is embedded in the Lord's Prayer (recall, a part of the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus' central ethical summary) -- has in it an ethics of transformation and reformation that holds out a liberating hope for us all:
1 Cor 6:Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit or have any share in the kingdom of God? 

Do not be deceived; [d]neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate [by perversion], nor [e]those who participate in homosexuality, 10 nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers [whose words are used as weapons to abuse, insult, humiliate, intimidate, or slander], nor swindlers will inherit or have any share in the kingdom of God. 

  11 And such were some of you [before you believed]. 

But you were washed [by the atoning sacrifice of Christ], you were sanctified [set apart for God, and made holy], you were justified [declared free of guilt] in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and in the [Holy] Spirit of our God [the source of the believer’s new life and changed behavior]. [AMP]
Thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth, starting with me. In Jesus' name. Amen.

Let us remind ourselves of the Mordecai challenge: why not now, why not here, why not us? END


Saturday, August 03, 2019

It begins: Is the church the vanguard of liberation, or entrenched in the status quo? CMVAN Conversations I, part 1

Video 1, Rev Dr Garnett Roper:



(With apologies for streaming challenges on August 1, 2019. Updates will bring in further parts as they come in.)

Video, 2, Rev Dr Stephen Jennings:



Video, 3, Mr Arnold "Scree" Bertram:




 Video 4 (added Aug 20), Summary & questions:



Video 5 (added August 20th), Colonial legacy & the Caribbean church - Q&A:





Note, I think it may help to look at the discussion here on in context, on the sins and blessings of Christendom; which in my view are now necessary if we are to systematically study theology in the Caribbean, towards a serious missionary vision and action. 

Our tainted past is where we must begin if we are to resolve the ghosts that haunt us and find a way to freely move forward in the power of gospel truth and gospel ethics calling us to sound discipleship and so too to Christ-filled blessed transformation. We must start with people where they credibly are, not with what interests us. To build a gospel-bridge, we must address candidate sites to bridge to people where they are physically, culturally, historically, situationally.

Surely, that is a lesson from how Paul pointed to the famous altar to the unknown god; as is recorded in Acts 17.

I pause to highlight a searing accusation:




Notice, the impact of precisely where the Antislavery Society's motto came from, and the model of reformation implicit in the premise of undeniable equality and brotherhood or sisterhood in Christ. Too often we have not fully lived up to that standard but we are duty-bound to acknowledge and move towards living out its truth.  (And we must also take due note of the history of the past 250 years on the nihilism that as a rule comes from radical revolutionism, starting with Robespierre and company thus their reign of terror.)

It is in that context that we may address God as credible root of reality, Christ as how God is there and is not silent, and how Christ's coming and the birth of a gospel-bearing church challenged and yet challenges worldviews, cultural agendas, communities and the course of history.

As one tool for that, consider the tidal waves challenge facing our region now:




and the wider global geostrategic challenge:



thus also the missionary opportunity facing the Caribbean church:






From this, let us ponder how the mountains of influence model further informed by Nebuchadnezzar's puzzling dream raises a challenge of godly repentance, renewal, revival and reformation through discipleship:



Yes, we must go right back to foundations if we are to rebuild our lives, families, churches, community and civilisation soundly.

Let us ponder. END