The Light of the World

That ye would walk worthy of God, who hath called you unto his kingdom and glory.”                                                                                                                                         (1Th. 2:12)

In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus says as current and future Christians that we are to be the light of the world, that a city on a hill cannot be hid, and that a lit candle is placed on a candlestick (lampstand)…not under a “bushel”…to give light to all who are inside the house.  This implies that Christians are to be different…but in what way?  In the way of demeanor, attitudes, tone and tenor, and character…not “conforming to this world” (Rom. 12:2).

Paul says of the Jews of his day: “For the name of God is blasphemed among the Gentiles through you, as it is written” (Rom. 2:24).  The Jews were supposed to be the light to the Gentiles, showing them the way to the one, true, living God and away from polytheistic idol-worship.  Instead the Jews were worldly-minded in the worst way (Jn. 8:32; 11:48).  They were bound by horizontally conventional, worldly thinking…not having journeys of faith like Abraham…not following in the heritage and footsteps of the great men and women of faith in the Hebrew Bible.

What this has to say to Spirit-born Christians today is that we are not supposed to be living in the reactive mode in the zone of worldly conventional thinking. We are not supposed to be merely responding to whatever comes our way in life in conformity to the current social paradigm of random, chance-driven progress based upon the slowly dissolving and disappearing theory of Darwinian naturalistic evolution, unfortunately still pervasive in our modern culture.

God has detailed and specific life-scripts to procure our eternal happiness through the cross and the resurrection…His cross and our cross…above and beyond human imagination or literary invention.

What is more whimsical and irrational…to place our faith and trust in the God who crafted the extraordinary biblical narrative stories of faith…fully formed, premeditated, and ready to step into right out of the box…no tools required…or to culturally conform to a system based upon random chance that by definition has no foresight, no expectations, no goals, no purpose, no meaning, no end-point to aim for and thus no path to get there?

The undirected relativism of post-modernism pervasive in our culture has the potential to go in meaningless circles…leading nowhere.  A God-composed journey of faith life-script for Spirit-born Christians today is intended to craft us into becoming the light of the world…a very specific outcome.  This is one goal of the Christian life in the danger zone.

An Adventure of Faith is a Better Alternative

When Christ, who is our life, shall appear, then shall ye also appear with him in glory.”                                                                                                                                              (Col. 3:4)

When God connects with people of faith the result is unconventional.  A biblical-quality journey of faith is not interchangeable with worldly conventional normalcy…they are on two different levels…two different domains of reality.

Yes, it is blasphemy to claim to be the Son of God…but only because Jesus and His mission did not fit the worldly horizontal expectations of the leadership in Jerusalem and a large portion of the populace…who were told for centuries to expect a warrior/prophet king in the mold of a Moses or David or one of the judges, as messiah.

All of the humiliation of the inflexibly close-minded, stubbornly blind rejection of Jesus Christ as messiah is condensed down into the cross of Calvary.  But if we unpack it and spread it out backwards in reverse order leading up to Calvary, part of the rejection of Jesus is based upon a rejection of God-composed, risk-filled journey of faith life-scripts that begin with Abraham (Lk. 11:52; Jn. 8:39-40), starting way back in time in the 12th chapter of Genesis…the first book in the Bible.

The narrative stories of faith recorded in the Bible are at the core of Judaism in the Old Testament and Christianity in the New Testament.  A journey of faith like that of Abraham, Joseph, Moses, Joshua, Ruth, Samuel, David, Esther and Mordecai, Elijah, Jeremiah, and Daniel, to name only a few, is precisely how the new covenant least-to-the-greatest all get to know God personally.

A biblical-quality journey of faith has no parallels with world conventional thinking.  This is not a new interpretation of the Bible.  This is not some version of self-energized asceticism.  God displacing our ways with His higher ways in the real, concrete events and circumstances of the lives of believers is the core central theme in the biblical narrative stories of faith.  This concept of the cross of Christ in our lives is right there in plainly spoken words and action-examples throughout the Bible.

I particularly like the quote by G.K. Chesterton that Christianity has not been “tried and found wanting” but “found difficult and never tried.”[1]  Committed Christian discipleship, over time, leads to a manifestation of the positive fruits of the Spirit (Gal. 5:22-23) within the characters of Spirit-born and Spirit-led Christians.  A God-composed journey of faith is the best and highest route to take in all of human experience, even when this route involves a difficult and challenging good-works ministry to mankind in a particular area of need, or the outcome of outright persecution and possible martyrdom.

In other words, a biblical-quality, God-composed adventure of faith is a better alternative to the mediocrity of worldly conventional normalcy.

The reality is that a perfectly lived journey of faith as exemplified in the life and ministry of Jesus the divine Son of God, leads directly to the cross on Calvary Hill.  Jesus instructs His followers to pick up their crosses…not to shun or ignore the cross element in our journeys of faith.  God displacing our ways with His higher ways is the essence of the danger zone of a Christian life of faith.

 

 

 

[1] Patrick Glynn, God: The Evidence (New York: Three Rivers Press, 1999), 149.

A Calling to a Higher Level

“Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth. For ye are dead, and your life is hid with Christ in God.”                                                                                                                                                                       (Col. 3:2-3)

If the things that underlie the cross of Christ seem complex, it is now the time in human redemptive history to unpack the cross and divide its meaning into the various parts that make up the rejection of Jesus Christ now and in the first century.  It is very important for the Christian church today to be able to understand the costs and the benefits of Christian discipleship.

Proverbs 3:5-6…”Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding.  In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths”…is worldly unconventional and completely contrary to self-direction, self-reliance, and self-autonomy.

Galatians 2:20…”I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me”…is worldly unconventional in the extreme.

The new covenant relationship to God as spelled-out in Jeremiah 31:31-34 is as opposite to our culturally modern thinking of naturalism and our post-modern thinking of the relative equality of ideas…as can be.  All new covenant believers knowing God personally through God-composed journeys of faith is both supernatural to the core and politically incorrect in its exclusivity regarding true-life experience.

Every word in Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount (Mt. 5-7) is worldly unconventional, creating a philosophically moral paradigm shift in the cultural thinking of the ancient world and setting a high standard for a modern, liberating worldview that is only accessible through the divinely crafted specifications of picking up our cross and following Jesus Christ for the sake of the gospel (Mk. 8:35).

What if in the very near future the prophecy of Joel 2:28-29 energizes the widespread preaching of the gospel message that many people, because of worldly conventional thinking, again do not want to hear?  What if people who are stuck in horizontally conventional normalcy only want solutions to worldly conventional problems, creating again a culture-dividing collision between the Holy Spirit inspired salvation, priceless in its eternal impact, contrasted with the horizontally flat, worldly salvation of temporary solutions to our current world problems?

This would again for many people set-up a rejection of Jesus Christ for some of the same repeat reasons He was rejected in the first century.  The unconventionality of a God-composed journey of faith introduces a concept into human experience that is disruptive and divisive at a fundamental level (Mt. 10:34).

The Christian life in the danger zone is a call to a higher level of thinking and living built upon actionable faith and trust in God, to match the example of faith began in the life-script of Abraham and continued in variations-on-a- common-theme in the great men and women of faith recorded in the Bible.

A Journey of Faith is Unconventional

If ye then be risen with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God.”                                                                                                                                                                                         (Col. 3:1)

When Abraham walked the earth he was not only the “father of faith” but also the entirety of the Jewish nation.  After Abraham came Isaac, then Jacob and Esau, then the twelve sons of Jacob, and then the rapidly growing nation of Israelites in Egypt.  Being the first, Abraham set the singularly unique example of a journey of faith following the promise of God that produced a personal relationship with the living God, making Abraham forever-after a blessing to “all the nations of the earth” (Gen. 12:3; 22:18).  The Israelites were supposed to follow in these same footsteps in their own journeys of faith individually and collectively, producing a similar high-quality personal relationship with the God of Abraham.

This arrangement of life’s events and circumstances following the living God creates a journey of faith that is foreign to and falls outside of what I call worldly conventional normalcy.

If the life of Abraham the father of faith was about fulfilling horizontally conventional thinking only, he could have stayed in the city of Haran.  Abraham could have gotten for himself, through self-direction, a second and third wife in addition to Sarah, and produced many children and heirs according to conventional expectations, cleverly working around the fact that Sarah up to that point in time was “barren.”  Abraham potentially could have become an influential civic and political leader in Haran…all the while maintaining complete control over the destiny of his life…and prospering both financially and in stature as a person according to the socially universal aspirations and expectations of worldly conventional normalcy.  But then Abraham would have passed out of history as an unknown, worldly conventional, unremarkable person (Mk. 8:35-37).

Abraham journeys out into an adventure of faith following God into the Promised Land…the land of Canaan…and by doing so God displaces the conventionally normative life that Abraham would have lived in Haran with a new, elevated life of faith having purpose and scope beyond anything Abraham could have imagined or self-engineered.  The life of Abraham is the opening example in a long series of God-composed life-scripts recorded in the Bible, having the cross of Christ applied to people’s lives that produces a divinely crafted context for a personal relationship with the living God.  This is clearly unique to human history and common experience, and is not found anywhere else in philosophy, religion, or literature.  A God-composed life-script journeying through the cross of Christ that displaces our plans with God’s higher plans (Isa. 55:8-9), is above and outside of human imagination, invention, or contrivance.

The main point I want to make in this opening section is that when the leaders in Jerusalem rejected the person and teaching of Jesus in favor of the concerns of practical, worldly conventional thinking (Jn. 11:48), when they rejected the novelty and the inherent risk in a biblical-quality adventure of faith patterned after Abraham, they were in the most profound and concrete way being un-Jewish (Rom. 9:6-7).  The rejection of Jesus as messiah equates to an endorsement of worldly horizontal, conventional normalcy because it is a rejection of the bold and uninhibited life-zone of faith starting with Abraham.

A journey of faith through the cross of Christ is what ties today’s Christian life-in-the-danger-zone to the prophetic statement spoken long ago in Genesis 12:3 that Abraham will be a blessing to all nations.  The new covenant of Jeremiah 31:31-34 says that all believers will personally know God from the least to the greatest.  This is accomplished through a God-composed journey of faith life-script for every Spirit-born Christian today.  This is the core element…the distinguishing feature of faith and trust in God above the norms of otherwise worldly conventional thinking…of the Christian life in the danger zone.