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Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Weak Christians in an Age of Gospel-Manipulators

I will lift up my eyes to the hills—
From whence comes my help?
My help [ comes ] from the Lord,
Who made heaven and earth.
Psalm 121:1 & 2 

Why is the standard question in evangelistic exercise today, 'If you died today, where would you spend eternity?' Shouldn't the question be something more like, 'if you died today, what difference would you have made on earth while you were alive?' Not to take away the Hope for Something Better, but now that our Heavenly Father once again dwells in the midst of His People, Heaven has come down, Glory has filled our Soul & Hell has been thrown into the Lake of Fire ( destroyed-Revelation 20:14 ), along with Death itself; there is no more threat of Hell to use as a tool for 'evangelization', no more 'Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God' to scare unbelievers into submission with!

The Gospel of Jesus the Christ, the Gospel of the Kingdom, in this day & age, has been relegated to a mere Salvation Gospel; 'be saved from this wicked generation', so that you can go to heaven when you die! Aside from the fact that Peter's remonstrance here was aimed at those ( Jews ) of his own generation ( 1st century ), we may see, from reading through the Gospel accounts, that Jesus, rather than preaching a ( personal/individual ) Salvation Gospel, taught His followers to 'seek first the Kingdom of God, and His Righteousness'! Jesus, as He ministered, not only spoke often of the nearness of 'the Kingdom of God', but 'He sent them to preach the kingdom of God and to heal the sick.' The Gospel of the Kingdom that Jesus, Paul & the Apostles preached was never about 'going to heaven when you die'; it was a message of Good News to His People that they ( 1st century ) were about to be saved from that 'wicked generation' ( Acts 2:40 ) !

The strength of Christianity today, to a large extent, is one which comes from 'the hills'; the Hope of Heaven pervades modern theology to such an extent that you can't avoid it! The hope of 'going to heaven when you die', where there will be 'no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying' ( Revelation 21:4 ) has been held so long, by evangelism & traditional Christianity for so long that even those who have begun to realize the Present Kingdom of Heaven/God have difficulty in letting go of that misplaced hope!

'The grass is always greener on the other side of the fence'!

This saying, which indicates a natural emotion in most, if not all people, signals a dissatisfaction with what we have been blessed with ( in most cases )! We are a naturally greedy race; if there is a hope, no matter how dream-like, of something more, something better, 'Beyond the Horizon', if you will, we will cling desperately, even vociferously, to that hope!

Since there is such a focus on leaving this earthly realm, with all of its accompanying dangers & evils, and spending an eternity in a place called 'Heaven', free of all the glorious dangers & evils that await us here on earth; it is easy to forget why we were put on this earth in the first place! When God 'God created ( formed ) man in His [ own ] image' ( Genesis 1:27 ), He told them to 'have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth'; however one looks at this command to the first Adam, it tells us that we were put here for a reason, as the Scriptures tell us later, 'to till the ground' ( Genesis 2:5 ), to tend the Garden that God had planted! 

Jesus, in His intercessory prayer ( John 17:15 ), said, 'I do not pray that You should take them out of the world, but that You should keep them from the evil one'! The Gospel of the Kingdom which Jesus taught His disciples to pray for ( Matthew 6 ) was not one of escape from this dangerous & evil world; rather it was for a transformation on this glorious world, with all its present dangers & evils, not just protection from them, but dominion over them, for the glory & advantage of the Kingdom! It is because of the misplaced hope of the Church, the Body of Christ on Earth, that Christianity has itself become weak & ineffective in dealing with the problem of evil!

What is to be done; how can we ever hope to offer this world a more effective solution to the problem of evil? Is there a Solution to the dangers & evils that beset us? Without question, there is a Solution to ALL our problems! That Solution is not to be 'raptured' out of our current situation; it is not even for Jesus to return at the end of time, in wrath & vengeance destroying those who do not obey Him, and especially not to destroy this good earth where He has set us to rule ( Psalm 2 )! The Solution to our problem is within us; He's been there all along! The Church, for the most part, denies this glorious fact, having believed & taught, for the past number of centuries, that He must return in the selfsame Body, in which 'Day of the Lord', 'the heavens will pass away with a great noise, and the elements will melt with fervent heat; both the earth and the works that are in it will be burned up' ( II Peter 3:10 )!

Weak Christianity believes that their help, their hope, comes from some certain 'place', whether it be from 'the hills' or from a 'place' called 'Heaven'! Because they do not believe that the Marriage Supper of the Lamb has yet occurred ( although it is 'already' a reality, in our hearts ), many of these same Christians are living their lives in preparation for an Eternity in 'Heaven'! Oh, Blessed Hope; to enjoy forever the Presence of God, without having to worry about all the dangers & evils around us! 

Scripture plainly tells us, both through the prophets & apostles, to say nothing of the Law & Jesus, that God's Presence with His People would be revealed in the first century! Jesus spoke these words plainly; 'If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word; and My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make Our home with him' ( John 14:23 ), but the prophets, Isaiah through Daniel, and even Ezekiel & Jeremiah, prophesied of this Day! Daniel ( Daniel 2 ) spoke of the Day when God would do a work in this world wherein all the world would become His Kingdom! Chapters 26-29 of Isaiah are called 'the little apocalypse ( revelation )' for good reason; there is also a revelation of God's ( suffering ) Servant in in his book of Prophecy ( Isaiah 42, 49 & 60, to name a few )! Jeremiah spoke hopefully of the coming 'new covenant' in his prophecy ( Jeremiah 31:31 )!

When individual Christians understand that 'Heaven' is not some place out there, where God is watching over His People from a distance, but that 'Heaven' is in our hearts ( Luke 17:21 ), once that understanding begins to boil over & leech out through their fingertips, then we will see the kind of Transformation that the Gospel of the Kingdom can bring about, as opposed to a mere Salvation ( 'going to heaven when you die' ) Gospel! Once Christians begin to realize that their Blessed Hope is within them, we may begin to see such a Kingdom explosion as the world has not witnessed since the first century; probably even greater, in fact!

To this End, 
Charles Haddon Shank

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