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April 25, 2011

The Destination

   I've been a follower of Christ for a very long time...next month is my 31st birthday and I "prayed the prayer" when I was 5. I'll follow that statement up by saying that probably didn't start trying to really follow Jesus until I was about 20.  For many years, I thought I was following Him.  I spent a great deal of effort in making sure I was listening to the "right" music and doing the "right" things.  I also spent a lot of time trying to figure out all the "right" answers and best ways to convince other people why those answers were the right ones.  Even back in the days of Prodigy when you could post on bulletin boards I would let people know what the Bible really said and why they were wrong.

   Like my friend Jen, I find the longer I am a Christian, the more confusing I find things.  I'm learning to be ok with that.  Jesus said a lot of things, and the people around him every single day didn't "get" it.  Why do we in the Church feel that we have to have all the right answers?

   I was in that boat for many years where I was super concerned with the destination.  I always wanted to have the right answers and do the right things and always had heaven to look forward to when things weren't going well in the day to day stuff.  After many years, I've come to see that God is in the journey and not just in the destination.  In short, I was much more concerned with the destination, the goal, the answer, that I missed everything God wanted me to experience in the everyday journey.  Moses, Abraham, the disciples...over and over in the Bible, God works and speaks through the journey.

   When Jesus says the Kingdom of Heaven is in you, or the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand, those things speak to the here and now.  He doesn't talk about experiencing them after you die, but how you can live them now.  This has so many implications about who we are supposed to be living right now!  It feels like there should be so much more to the Church than having a meeting on Sundays or a mid-week Bible study.  I feel like we are missing the point of what it means to follow Christ and experience the Kingdom of Heaven.

   It's time for you to joint the conversation...what do you think?  Are we too concerned with the destination?  Where do you experience God the most - the journey or the destination?  Are churches missing the point of what the Gospel is really about?  If it is really just about Jesus dying on the cross for our sins, what was the Gospel that Jesus and the disciples were teaching before He died?  Jump in and lets learn from each other.  Thanks for stopping by!

9 comments:

Chevy350ls1 said...

Jon,

Good questions. There is a new movement in our thinking today that is influencing us, even as we speak, and we are unaware of it. It is called postmodernism and it is a movement that says that everything is relative - there is no absolute truth. You see this a great deal in culture with regard to homosexuality, unitarianism, etc. I see this belief affecting Christians because we are becoming afraid to stand up for what we believe to be absolute truth. In your statement about 'always being right' about doctrine, the view today is that if it is 'offensive' to someone that we shouldn't talk about it. In this we are becoming increasingly liberal about our beliefs. The extreme form of this is that 'all roads lead to the same destination.' The view that all religions are the same.

Personally I think that we can understand more of the Bible than we think if we will study its truths and I believe that we should uphold those beliefs fervently. (I am speaking of essentials here - the Holy Trinity, man's sinful condition, the Incarnation, and salvation by grace through faith) The real truth is that the Gospel message is offensive by design because it causes people to lay their pride aside and realize that they need Christ in order to reach God. The Gospel message is all about admitting failure, admitting that we can't do it on our own. In this, they must admit that Christ is THE absolute truth and they must bow to Him and admit that they are a fallen being. How can this message be said if we are increasingly liberal about our views? In order for a person to recognize that what they are doing is wrong, it must first be defined as sin. We can't do this by washing the Gospel message down.

I know that this wasn't the purpose of your article, but it is something that I am passionate about. In response to your other question the answer is balance, we live life here and now with the hope of tomorrow. This is not an easy balance to achieve, but it is the goal nonetheless. Well enough of my ramblings..

-Scott

Jon Kelly said...

It is possible for local churches to miss the mark in how they preach and live the gospel, however, Christ's church cannot be prevailed against. According to 1Cor 15:3-5 the actual gospel is very distinct and clear. I guess I am a little unclear of your definition of the gospel. As far as scripture is conscerned, yes the Gospel is "just about Jesus dying on the cross" and my I add being buried and rising the 3rd day according to Paul.
Now the implications of this message should cause us to react like David in Psalm 40. v3 on, "He put a new song in my mouth a song of praise to my God. Many will see and fear and put their trust in the Lord...You have multiplied your wonderous deeds and your thoughts towards us; none can compare to you! I will proclaim and tell of them, yet thet are more than I can tell... I have told the glad news of deliverence in the great congregation, behold I have not restrained my lips".
David's reaction God's delieverence was the praise and declaration of God's goodness to all men, so should ours be. We should be a beacon for those seeking peace with God. Please help me understand what you mean by "what the gospel is all about". I think I understand what you mean, but its a little fuzzy. What do you mean by "jouney"?

Jon Kelly said...

I'm with you there Scott. Postmodernism is poisinous to the cause of the Gospel and our confidence in God's word.

Jon Kelly said...

"the kingdom of heaven" although we are citizens, we are not experiencing the kingdom of heaven. Jesus will one day come and establish His kingdom on earth. If it had come in our hearts, the disciples would not have asked when Jesus would establish His Kingdom (Acts 1:6-8). Until then, Christ gave us a commission: Matt 28:19-20. We have a job to do. When Christ returns He will look for those who were faithful to do His will. The extent of my "journey" is to seek what the will of the Lord is and do it to the praise of His glorious name. THis life is not about my jouney, My journey ended when I was crucified with Christ (Gal 2:20).
As for the Church, She is Christ's bride and we desire to maintain unity under the elders God has appointed as they follow the Lord. We preach the Word, pray for one another, support one another (in deed as well as in moral), and together shine the light of truth into a lost world via the proclaimed word and via holy lives.
We've got a job.

Jon Kelly said...

I wanted to clarify what you mean about the kingdom...When Jesus said the kingdom of God or the kingdom of heaven was among you, or was at hand, do you think he was speaking in general futuristic terms?

Historically, Jews were looking for a military leader who would establish a literal kingdom and kick out the occupiers. If I were a first century Jew and someone came saying the kingdom was at hand, but meant that it was generally, futuristically, someday going to be here, that wouldn't seem like very good news. They already knew that was going to happen someday. Acts 1 appears to fall in line with typical Jewish ideas at the time - when was Jesus going to get rid of the Romans and give them a new King.

Here's a couple interesting passages about the kingdom are in Luke 9:27 where Jesus says that some standing there will not taste death before they see the kingdom of God. Or Mark 12:34 one of the teachers of the law sums up the "greatest commandment" and Jesus tells him "You are not far from the kingdom of God." There are many similar passages that seem to talk about a present tense experience of the kingdom.

In terms of scripture and the Gospel, it says that Jesus and the disciples shared the gospel, but that was mentioned in the passages before Jesus starts predicting his death. Other passages in scripture indicate that Jesus death on the cross was about the restoration of creation. I just wonder what does our responsibility as Christians look like in terms of restoring all of creation? Maybe those two things would have been better as separate posts. I grew up in extremely conservative Independent Baptist churches which teach pretty differently than the Southern Baptist churches I've been a member of as well. Living in Laramie, I'm sure you know a lot of hippie/Christians who interpret these ideas very differently than either of us was raised.

Jon Kelly said...

One other feature we should look at is in vers 26. Jesus references His return when "he comes in his glory and the glory of the Father and of the holy angels". On one hand, to say that the kingdom has come, would be to say that this also has ocurred. On the other hand, to say it has not come means that Jesus has yet to establish His theocracy on earth as we see in themillenial Kingdom. I would weigh in more on the latter. I believe the kingdom of God was a legitimate offer to the Jews as well. When Jesus says things like "if you will, John the Baptist is Elijah" and the end of malachi closes with the promise of Elijah before the "great and awesome day of the Lord". When Christ establishes His Kingdom on earth (though in the heart may be another matter entirely if you can conceed that these are 2 different things) it will be when Christ rules absolutely.
It could be that the Jews still assumed Jesus would conquer the Romans, but notice His response: He calls them to be witnesses, then two men in white robes call out that He would return in the same manner. This parallels with the story of the ten minas in Luke 19:11-27. The Noblemen recieves the Kingdom then told servents to do business until he returned. Although the Noblemen had recieved the kingdom, he would not reign over it until He returned. This would corrlate to the verse you addressed in Luke because although Jesus has recieved the earth as His kingdom, and that with all authority in heaven and earth (Matt 28:18), we await the day of His return to rule and reign.
I hope this made sense. Basically, yes although this is God's kingdom by title (Rev 5:1-10) notice our reign is still to come, and we await His return to rule it personally. This earth is still under the old management until it is set free along with us (ROm 8:18-25). We may be saying the same thing here, just at different angles.

Before we get into the gospel, I'd like to hear your response on this. Was it clear?

Jon Kelly said...

I don't think necessarily the kingdom has come and it is complete. When it says in Colossians 1 that through Jesus all things are reconciled - things of earth and of heaven, that doesn't mean it was already finished. Man is not automatically reconciled, although they can choose reconciliation. I believe when we choose to live as God intended it is restoration and that is a process an doesn't mean the kingdom is complete. Imagery like being the light of the world speak to me that we have the Holy Spirit in us, we live under a new covenant and we can give glimpses to the world of what living in the kingdom is like. We get the opportunity to "be Jesus" to them and they are drawn to God by the work of the Holy Spirit and those glimpses of the kingdom. More or less, it is how I interpret those ideas together in terms of how we live scripture. I like the imagery.

Jon Kelly said...

I can jive with that. Your naot saying the kingdom is established, but aspects of the Kingdom can be seen in the lives of the believers since we are his ambassadors. Amen. As far as the gospel goes I believe that 1Cor 15 1-4 says it the most basic. THe fact that men can be righteous before God making peace by the blood of the cross is the amazing news that we need to make known to all men.

Jon Kelly said...

John, I noticed that you had originally planned to go to seminary after college. I attend the west institute here in Laramie. We offer a MA in Church Ministry. Its a 47 credit accredited degree and it only takes one year. If your interrested our site is www.thewestinstitute.com The site is at my church building (Laramie Valley Chapel).