What’s Wrong With The World, Part I

Ever wonder what’s wrong with the world?  Here’s the answer from a kingdom perspective.  I will have to give it to you in two installments to keep below my goal of no more than 500 words per post.  Just consider it like the book-of-the-month club, except it’s a blog and not books, but pages, and you get the installments in days not months.

The world God created was a pretty cool place.  It was a place of beauty, peace and prosperity.  God created for man a garden that was beautiful and bountiful, containing trees of every kind, bearing every kind of fruit.  (Gen. 2:9).  There was a river running through the garden, providing a convenient, endless supply of fresh water.  (Gen. 2:10).  There was also an abundance of precious gems and metals. (Gen. 2:12).  This was kind of like living next door to a grocery story, jewelry store and art gallery where everything you wanted was free. 

There is no record of any natural disasters in or around the garden—no earthquakes, tornadoes or violent storms.  You wouldn’t have had to worry about Giraldo Rivera showing up with a crew to shoot the hurricane or flood.  Man gathered fruit and vegetables easily without contending with weeds, thorns or disease.  God created animals for man and brought them to him to name, presumably so the animals would know to come when man called them.  (Gen. 2:18-20).   It was like a zoo without the need for cages   Man was at peace with his environment, surrounded by beauty and abundance, and by any definition of the word was wealthy. 

Things were going pretty well for Adam, but being a single, successful guy was still not completely fulfilling.  So, God hooked him up with a gal named Eve, and the two of them started the world’s first nudist colony,… sort of.  They had the perfect relationship, free of strife, hurtful words and selfishness, and they loved one another unreservedly.  They suffered from no disease or sickness, emotional or mental problems.  They were completely secure with who they were and who God had created them to be. 

God gave what he created the cosmic seal of approval, calling it very good. (Gen. 1:31). It was so good God intended it last and that man export it to the rest of the world.  After placing Adam and Eve in the garden, God blessed them and instructed them to “…fill the earth, and subdue it.” (Gen. 1:28).   The Garden of Eden would have functioned as a reference point to which man could always return to view the blueprint for the world.  At this point, things were looking pretty good.  You think you know what went wrong?  Tune in for part II tomorrow.  There may be more to it than you thought.  GS

How The Destruction of Jerusalem Advanced the Kingdom of God

The opposition from the first century Jewish community was the biggest hindrance to the spread of the Gospel in Judea.  They constantly opposed and persecuted Jesus, and after Jesus’ death and resurrection, His followers as well.   The Jews stoned Stephen, beheaded James the brother of John and killed James, the head of the Church in Jerusalem and the advance of the kingdom of God. 

 Jesus had previously warned His disciples that judgment was coming on Israel.  Jesus told his disciples that the axe had already been laid the root of the tree (Matt. 3:10) and that within a generation the temple would be destroyed. (Matt. 24).  As a warning to the judgment to come, Jesus also told His disciples that when they saw Jerusalem surrounded, they were to leave the city immediately. (Luke 21:20-21). 

Within a generation, just over thirty years later, the Roman army surrounded Jerusalem and began a 3½ year struggle against the city that would culminate in the destruction of Jerusalem and the temple.  In the year AD 70 the Roman general Titus had a siege wall built around Jerusalem cutting off all supplies to Jerusalem and then destroyed the city.  Jesus had predicted this would happen as a judgment on Israel for rejecting Him. (Luke 19:41-44). 

After the Christians saw Jerusalem surrounded, they left the city (just as Jesus had commanded) and avoided the massacre that followed.  Prior to the sacking of Jerusalem, the Jews had been the biggest hindrance to the spread of the gospel in Judea.  After God executed His judgment, Christianity began to take hold and spread as many of the Christians who left settled in other areas or returned to Jerusalem where they found the Jewish opposition to the gospel had largely been eradicated.  

Philip Schaff describes the effect of the destruction of Jerusalem as follows: “The destruction of Jerusalem, therefore, marks that momentous crisis at which the Christian church as a whole burst forth forever from the chrysalis of Judaism, awoke to a sense of its maturity, and in government and worship at once took its independent stand before the world.” (Schaff, History of the Christian Church, Volume 1, Chapter VI, Section 39). 

Judgment is a tool to be wielded exclusively by the hand of God, but it’s wise for Christians to be aware of when it’s occurring because it often provides an opportunity for the advancement of the kingdom of God.  GS

Tiberius Caesar on King Jesus

Tiberius Caesar was Roman Emperor from AD 14-37, that is, during the earthly ministry of Jesus.  The Roman governor of Judea from AD 26-36 was Pontius Pilate, who reported directly to Tiberius.  Given the miracles attributed to Jesus, it’s reasonable to assume Pilate spoke to Tiberius regarding Jesus.  And in fact that’s what Eusebius reports.

Eusebius, the first great Church historian, writing in the early fourth century, states that Pilate, in accordance with the custom of rulers of nations to report unusual occurrences to the emperor, transmitted to Tiberius an account of the circumstances concerning Jesus’ miracles and resurrection, a report that was already spreading throughout Palestine.  Tiberius, apparently persuaded by Pilate’s report, submitted the matter to the Senate with the request Jesus be recognized as a god.  However, the Senate had not investigated the matter fully and rejected the request.

Pilate’s report must have had some effect on Tiberius though because he did not encourage persecution of Christians during his reign and actually threatened the death of those who did accuse and persecute Christians.  As a result, the kingdom of God advanced more freely than it might have otherwise under a more hostile ruler.

None of this is to suggest that Tiberius was a Christian. To the contrary, he was a perv who kept a harem of boys to use as objects of his sexual perversions.  When he finally died, even the Romans rejoiced.  What it does show, assuming Eusebius’s report is correct–and there is no persuasive reason to believe it is not–is that the evidence for Jesus’ miracles and resurrection was compelling enough to find its way to the most powerful earthly ruler of the day.  GS

Against A Christian Counter-Culture

I have to admit I’ve never been excited about the idea of “Christian” music, “Christian” movies, or even the “Christian” Yellow Pages.  I don’t listen to Christian radio stations, I rarely go to Christian movies, and the last time I found the Christian Yellow Pages on the front door stoop I threw it away without even removing the plastic wrapper.  It’s not because I don’t like Christians.  I do.  I am one.  And, I think Christians have more to offer in the way of culture than any other worldview, philosophy or religion.

The problem is instead of infiltrating the prevailing culture and transforming it, Christians seek to create a counter-culture.  They create music only Christians will like and movies with religious language only Christians will understand and a phone book so Christians will only have to do business with Christians.  As a result, Christians end up intellectually ingrown, relationally incestuous and culturally irrelevant.

Jesus said the kingdom of God was like yeast which a woman took and worked into dough until it permeated the dough. (Matt. 13:33).  Yeast doesn’t work unless it is worked into the dough.  Jesus also said Christians are to be the salt of the earth. (Matt. 5:13). Salt doesn’t do any good unless it is in food.  Christians are called to be ethically separate from the world, not separated from the world.  In fact, Jesus prayed for Christians saying, “I’m not asking that you take them out of the world.” (John 17:15).  Too many Christians are trying to get out of the world; Jesus is trying to get them into the world.

The game is in the world, not in an insulated cultural cloister.  If you are a Christian, King Jesus wants you in the game, engaging the culture, changing the world.

How Your Job is Integral to the Kingdom

“I just wish I didn’t have to work so much so I could have more time for ministry.” It’s a noble thought, but for most people, i.e., those not called into the full-time ministry, it is misguided. If you are not called to the full-time ministry your need to understand how your job is integral to the kingdom of God.

Your job is not justified merely by how many people you reach for Jesus. Your job is integral to the kingdom of God for a more fundamental, but perhaps less obvious reason than that.

The kingdom of God, like most earthly kingdoms, is concerned about two things: 1) managing territory already under its jurisdiction; and 2) expanding its borders. In discussing the kingdom of God it’s easy to skip over the first and focus only on the second. In fact, I suspect most Christians have never considered the importance of managing earthly territory for the kingdom of God. We tend to justify everything in light of heaven. Continue reading “How Your Job is Integral to the Kingdom”