Saturday, February 09, 2008

First, the gospel

I said a few posts back that I'd give more on what's been stewing and happening lately. Here's the first bit. Both in time and importance, it starts with the gospel. Actually, the starting place for me has been Jesus, which got me thinking about his 'gospel'. Most that know me know that the favorite message of Jesus, the good news of God's government, has been messing with me for last 6 years or so. Without going into that full journey, here's a summary of where I am now:

The gospel, according to Jesus, is about accepting, trusting, the leadership and provision of God right now. Importantly, this government of God is led by his son, the 'christ'-ened king of heaven and earth, Jesus. Even though God could have sent the representative of his government to judge and toss all the human rebels and just start a 'new heaven and earth' from scratch--one in which the two dimensions were united under his leadership, he opted instead to offer amnesty to anyone that wanted give up their own doomed agendas for life and get on board with the king, Jesus, and the 'new creation out of the old' agenda of his government. To accomplish this, God sent Jesus to do certain things (to be discussed later) and with basically two invitations: the gospel ("good news") of the government of God and the invitation to become Jesus' 'disciple'. To me, these are the same invitation. Why? Because Jesus is the king of the government of God; apprenticeship to him, the king, is to give up your own agendas and ways (repent) and to trust instead that God is working through Jesus as God's own chosen leader for people (trust that the kingdom of God is at hand). Different language, same outcome when the 'discipler' is also the 'king'.

This king showed up teaching, healing, and generally undoing Satan's leadership (instead of, say, executing a just and terrible judgment on a world largely run amuck--this difference actually disappointed some). His goal is still to produce a 'new heaven and earth' that is united and holy and good--completely untouched by contrary leadership and its effects. But in order to include us in this new creation project, the cross was necessary. Thanks to his substitutionary death, all humans can actually be welcomed into this great plan God has for (new) creation instead of being thrown out as part of the problem. We can, thanks to Jesus bearing the cross and death, be given amnesty and become part of God's solution, part of re-creation of the world. He rescued us so that we could be his co-operative subjects and family.

But an important caveat: We have to decide now if we want to enter and receive the government of God personified by Christ's own leadership. "Why call [him] 'lord' and do nothing that [he] says?" Is that what biblical or even practical 'trust' is? Is that what it means to "receive" and "enter" the government of God--to stay hostile to what the king of that government says to do? No one who continues a life of rebellion against God's leading, against his annointed leader's priorities, has any part, certainly no inheritance, in the kingdom of God. "The time has come. The kingdom of God is at hand. Repent and trust this good news!", or, another way Jesus put the exact same choice, "Follow me." To "receive" him is to receive his right and qualifications to lead; to trust him is to do what he says; to love him is to obey him. Those who do the will of God will live forever. Eternal life is to know God, and Jesus whom he has sent, but the one who says, "I know him" but lives contrary to him does not know him.

SO, if the invitation is not to "receive a free gift" of eternal life but to receive Jesus and his government (which has life within) . . . man! Does that change things in church world!! How do we invite people into that--into what Jesus was inviting them into!? Perhaps more importantly, for those of us that want to receive ourselves what God is offering in Jesus, how do we structure our response? To me, Jesus' invitations are more 'path' invitations and require 'path' responses.
The invitation always structures the response. More on appropriate responses to God's invitation soon.

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