Endings that Bring HOPE of New Beginnings

I am hoping that you will follow the link in my Advent post to the great orientation to this year’s theme and Scriptures. If you do you will find a special surprise for your spiritual meditations: “The focus on endings to come that bring the hope of New Beginnings”.

I happen to believe that it is precisely this emphasis in the Gospel that has been tragically neglected in American Christianity and means that we have largely failed our own society by failing to include this part. And that is that the announcement of the coming to earth of God’s Promised Redeemer and thus His Kingly rule, means the utter judgement, destruction, and replacement of the world’s kingdoms and powers. And that is precisely why it is such Good News. deathbylove

In keeping with this theme, “ending that brings the hope of new beginnings”, I have started reading a new book called, Death by Love. I plan to take my time on this one because I really want to understand the main author’s view of the death of Christ. It will be the first book I have read by Mark Driscoll.

I have just started so I will let you know what I find as I go along. I always try to do a preliminary survey of a book like this before digging in- like reading the preface ( a good author will often tell exactly why she/he wrote it and what they are trying to accomplish), the table of contents, the index, the notes, and the Scripture index. I will leave you with this morsel from the preface:

One theologian has called the cross the great jewel of the Christian Faith, and like every great jewel it has many precious facets that are each worthy of examing for their brilliance and beauty… most poor teaching about the cross results from someone’s denying one of these facets, ignoring one of these facets, or over emphasizing one of these facets at the expense of the others… such narrow and reactionary theology has tragically caused the beauty of the cross to become obscured by the various warring teams that have risen up to argue for their systematic theology rather than bowing in humble worship of the crucified Jesus.

WONDER of WONDERS

Were we not a little surprised at how religious topics suddenly have been very openly discussed in the political square? On a national media event the candidates were asked to respond to some specific questions. Among the most interesting was related to the existence of evil and the determination to defeat it. I have to say that I was impressed with Obama’s fuller response than I was with that of John McCain. McCain was short and direct: evil was Alkida and terrorism and he was committed to defeating it “over there” so that it would never be able to hurt us here in the U-S-of A.

Senator Obama’s answer was much more Biblical and in keeping with the world-view of the Apostle Paul. In his answer, he made it clear that evil was not limited to Alkida, not even to the terrorists. It included a number of different forms including the Aids virus in Africa that has caused such human tragedy and suffering. Then he said that evil was present in the cities and on the streets of America. Though he did not say directly, I think the clear message was there; evil cannot be defeated by military force. Sounds exactly like the Apostle to me.

“Concerning the times and seasons, brethren, you have no need that I should write to you…see that no one renders evil for evil to anyone, but always pursue what is good both for yourselves, and for all.” First Thessalonian letter.

“For the mystery of lawlessness  is already at work…the lawless one will be revealed, whom the Lord will consume with the breath of His mouth and destroy with the brightness of His coming.” Second Thessalonian letter.

These two letters are generally thought to be among the Apostle’s earliest and go along way toward answering our original question. But please don’t take my word for it. Imitate the noble Bereans and do your own search in the Pauline scriptures this week-end. I’m glad the subject has come up in the run up to the elections.

THE BATTLE for MIDDLE EARTH WAS REAL TO THE APOSTLE PAUL

The Battle on Earth

We noted before that the challenges the Human Race is faced with in the 21st Century are simply staggering. Just to speak of the twin goals of unity and peace which this blog seeks to focus upon and advocate, not to mention the gigantic logistical concerns such as hunger, energy, health, and security. No wonder large numbers are either pessimistic about any positive gains at all or, are so overcome with “gloom and doom” that they have given up on all but just seeking to survive by any means possible.

For those that do seek to be responsible and do what they can to make the world better, there are many sincere folks who still reject a basic premise of Holy Scriptures: Adamic humankind cannot win this battle. If there is to be a “salvation/redemption” it must come from outside the Race, from above- from heaven itself. Many Christians are still trying to “patch up” the old Race when God has already clearly condemned it and testified to His provision of an entirely new humanity. Thus the emphasis on “the Ten Commandments”, or “disciplines of the christian life”, or the “how-to’s”, or tradition, or ceremony, or ritual, or a host of “contemporary worship” styles. Now none of these may be wrong-headed ideas in themselves(some of them come from God), they just fail to preach and teach the heart of the Gospel of Christ: salvation is of the Lord and it is His GIFT to sinful and rebellious humanity. But this gift is a Person who brings an entirely new thing to the earth, namely, Himself. It is “external” to every one of us, and for this reason we must repudiate every dependence upon ourselves and learn to live in total dependence upon Another. Christ has inaugurated the Kingdom of God on planet earth!

This is really so simply to demonstrate from the Biblical Narrative that it proves much more is going on in this present confusion and darkness than just our own ignorance and refusal to let God be God. No there’s conspiracy at the highest levels- on the levels of  the “powers and principalities”, or the powers behind the pawns of world commerce and governments. Listen to Paul’s own “pulling back the curtains” on what our real battle involves:

…Be strong in the LORD and in the power of His might. Put on the whole armor of GOD, that you may be able to stand against the schemings of the devil. For we do not wrestle agianst flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places.” (Ephesians 6:10-12)

This view of reality comes out in the Biblical narrative over and over again. To neglect it or to take it at less than face value is to already shut yourself off to the light that can effectively lead you out of darkness. The “children of light” are those who have already accepted this as God’s testimony to the unseen things faith must live by. This is why in the Apostles of Christ you will not find anything remotely resembling our current confusion of “smoke and mirrors” but a clear declaration of truth (see 2COR.3:12-4:6).

This is God’s GIFT to the world. Just say NO to Adam’s way of making things better and YES to God’s GIFT. As we consider the Apostle Paul and his writings, we must let him be who he tells us he is. It will require disciplined listening to his own statements of the chief factors in his understanding of and complete trust in the Anointed One of Jehovah!

The victory in this battle belongs to the TRUE VINE, the Servant of Jehovah. Our only hope is to participate in His victory as branches in dynamic-union with Him. Read the Gospel of John, chapter 15!

My Favorite commentary on Ephesians 6:10-20 by D.M.Lloyd-Jones (1977)