Thursday, February 12, 2004

Brain Dump 2002, Part 5


What is the Gospel? I remember being taught that it is something like this:

“Jesus Christ died, was buried, rose again, ascended, will come back. If you believe, confess, repent, get baptized, and live the Christian life, you will go to heaven when you die. If you don’t . . . . .”

I have come to a shocking realization. This wasn’t the sermon Jesus preached. In fact, his basic outline was 1) Repent 2) The kingdom of heaven is near. I learned part one pretty well. Part two was left out. The good news according to Jesus was that the kingdom of heaven was near. Upon closer study of the Gospels, (not just Paul’s letters, but the Gospels) it seemed Jesus was announcing the arrival of a kingdom that was BOTH “already” and “not yet.” The Gospel is just as much about “already” as it is about “not yet.” Fire insurance theology is all about the “not yet.” The church should at very least be a preview, a sneak-taste of what the kingdom of God is all about. It should be a taste of heaven on earth. This is difficult because it calls us to live in a counter-culture community that bears witness to the power of the Gospel. We must be a people who live out the Sermon on the Mount and Romans 12 literally. This changes everything!

And, (hold your breath!), it absolutely does not mix well with the American Dream or the American Political System as we know it (exhale). Shoot me, condemn me, write me off at this point, but we must get this point! It is huge. The Kingdom of God does not equal America. Never has, never will. I like America as much as the next guy, but my primary allegiance is to another kingdom whose “constitution” and “declaration” are at odds with some of the ideas behind America’s “constitution” and “declaration”. Until we can all acknowledge that without feeling nervous or guilty, than we probably still need the commandments about idolatry more than we realize.

I believe that the two great idols in our Western Culture are: individualism & consumerism. They are just as present in many churches as they are in mainstream culture. They are just hidden. We pick the church we want to go to as consumers, then we go there to get our needs met effectively. It aint much different from the process we use to buy a car, buy a steak, or plan a vacation. Some smart church leaders have figured this out and have started making church feed individualism & consumerism better than it used to, which results in dramatic growth. I know this because I was one of them. And God will use this in spite of itself to reach some people. But it is definitely not the best.


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