Reveal the Encounter Issue 7

I would like to take a moment to ask a few questions and possibly try to provoke some thought.  I know that I don’t have all the answers, but I do believe that most of the time we don’t ask enough questions or even try to start some conversations.  If we don’t ask questions, we will never discover the answers or even worse, become stagnant.  We always say in the church that our mission is to “Build the Kingdom.”  We also say that we are to make Christlike disciples among the nations.  I know that we have been saying, “Build the Kingdom” over the last 6 months in our church, but what does that really mean?  Even making disciples can sometimes be a misleading statement or at least misunderstood.  I wonder how many times we think of “Building the Kingdom” or making Christ-like disciples as just conversions.  “We are recruiting for Heaven.”  We so often think of the end of this life as being taken from this world and going to Heaven.  But, what if that’s not what it means?  What if there’s a much larger and dynamic understanding of what will happen when Christ returns?  What if we have been restricting our building of the Kingdom to only trying to get membership for the Kingdom?  What if discipleship is so much more than just being “a believer”?  What if there’s this beautiful picture and understanding that we are just missing out on?  I feel like I have to put these questions out there because I am one of those individuals who used to think that in the end, God would take us all from this place and that our job was only to save as many as possible from Hell and take them to Heaven with the rest of the believers.

First, I know that this a big topic to talk about, but we have to start asking ourselves some questions before we can seek answers.  I also want to note again that I don’t have all the answers, but I also know that there is something more than I have been taught or led on to think so far.  As I think and dwell on my Wesleyan theology, I can’t help but question that if our job is only to help people get “tickets to Heaven,” where does holiness come in?  If that is the end goal, why does it matter how Christlike I am?  If all it takes is the “abc’s of salvation” where does holiness come in, especially if I don’t have a doctrine of purgatory or system of reward waiting for me in Heaven.  These are all different conversations and topics that need to be discussed, but we can’t answer them all here unless I’m writing a novel.  I guess I am trying to start the conversation or at least help us understand that we need to have these conversations if we are going to be effective in “Building the Kingdom” or making Christlike disciples.  I also think it helps us to see that we don’t know everything or that maybe we aren’t always in harmony with our other understandings or theology.  I am reminded of the opening of N.T. Wright’s book, Surprised by Hope.  “What are we waiting for?  And what are we going to do about in the meantime?  Those two questions shape this book.  First, it is about the ultimate future hope held out in the Christian gospel: the hope, that is, for salvation, resurrection, eternal life, and the cluster of other things that go with them.  Second, it is about the discovery of the hope within the present world: about the practical ways in which hope can come alive for communities and individuals who for whatever reason may lack it.”

Yes, there is hope in this world.  No, it’s not just about getting through this world to make it to the next, Heaven.  We pray for it all the time, every time we say the Lord’s pray.  “Let your will be done on earth as it is in Heaven.”  Why bother at growing if we are just gritting and bearing through it in this world while “trying” to help save as many people from Hell?  If we look at Scripture, we see that God will restore His Creation.  If I’m not mistaken, God created more than just mankind.  Why would God destroy His entire Creation?  He saw it and said that it was good.  I believe that God has a plan to restore His entire Creation, in fact, Scripture tells us that God will restore all of Creation.  We also can’t forget that Scripture also says in Revelations 21 that the Holy City, the new Jerusalem came down and God’s voice telling people that His dwelling place is now amongst His people.  Now I know, some would argue with me right now and I’m going to tell you I’m not qualified to argue.  I’m standing on the shoulders of much smarter and wiser people than me that are saying this.  I can say that maybe we need to stop and make sure we know what we believe and not just take theological statements from all different types of sources and backgrounds and try to patch them all together and expect them to make sense and be in harmony with one another.

We also can’t forget the understanding of hope and holiness.  Ultimately, we are to be the image bearers of Christ.  We were originally created that way in the Garden of Eden and unfortunately messed it up.  Christ came so that we may once again bear His image in this world, to bear God’s image.  It’s not just about disobedience and punishment.  Yes, mankind disobeyed.  We ultimately chose to put other things before God, we fell victim to idolatry.  So, did Jesus come to help us just avoid punishment or did He ultimately come to help us be restored to the state of image bearer?  In order to be an image bearer, we have to be made clean and without sin.  Christ dying on that cross was the only way that we could be redeemed in order for that image to be restored.  However, things can’t just stop there, we have to keep working to make sure that we don’t put other things before God again.  That’s where holiness comes into this whole picture.  Holiness is being the image bearers, holiness is seeking, maintaining and living out that image so that others may see,  experience and become the same, image bearers of Christ.  Holiness is putting God first in all things.  That means we are to live out our role as the image bearers because that’s God’s desire and created purpose for mankind.  Holiness can also be about caring for the environment just like it can be about feeding the hungry or following the commandments of God.  After all, isn’t it all about being the stewards of Creation and the image-bearers of God?  Could you image a world with believers who understand and live this out?  What would this world be like?  What would your life be like?  I don’t know about you, but the thought of it gives me hope for not only myself, but this world.  I’m praying at this point you can begin to see that maybe we have narrowed our view of Christianity, holiness, salvation and the being the Church.  Christ was doing more than taking our punishment, he was helping us be restored as an image bearer, to be put back to our created purpose.  I want to honor Him and I want to live as a disciple, an image bearer, as a man who was created to help take care of His entire Creation.

I know that I may covered a lot of area in this and you may be wondering about a lot of things right now.  That’s good!  We need to start asking and seeking more than we do.  Maybe it doesn’t change a thing, but what if it betters or corrects some things?  We need to start seeking God’s truth in Scripture and not what may have become man’s narrow view.  I think we have to start asking ourselves some of these questions.  I think we aren’t doing a very good job at Building His Kingdom, of making Christlike disciples, and maybe it’s because we don’t really understand what that means.  I hear individuals who say that our job is to just preach the Gospel and let God take care of the rest, but I think that maybe we are just being lazy.  Yes, in order to get others to believe, we fundamentally have to share and let God do the rest, but being a Christian is so much more than that.  Being the image bearer of Christ is so much more just saving people from Hell.  We are called to be activists, we are called to be world changers.  We are supposed to be trying to make this world as it is in Heaven.  I can only imagine the way people looked upon Phineas F. Bresee when he was helping others in society that were looked down upon as undesirable or when William Booth started the Salvation Army.  We are called to change and see hope at work in this world, and not just hope and dream of somewhere else.  The picture is so much bigger than we give it credit for.

I felt like this needed to be said because as we work to “Build the Kingdom,” we have to remember what the Kingdom is, what it should look like and what our part is in it.  Is it just about building more churches or is it fundamentally about helping reconcile all of Creation to God?  God wants to restore this world, this entire world, and He has chosen us to partner with Him in that mission.  I don’t know about you, but I get excited when I think about it.  I dream of what this world was and what it will be again.  I dream of how I can help do my part in helping restore as many and as much of this world as I can.  Our future is before us and its behind us.  The Garden of Eden, Heaven on Earth, is the Christian’s past and thanks to Christ, it is also our future once again.

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