On a Path Together, Part III: God of the World

To round out our series of On a Path Together, I’d like to explore one final, but huge, concept — that God is the God of the world.

Of course everyone believes this in theory, but the way we as the Church have acted for far too long now is that God is simply the God of our faith. The God of our church. The God of our beliefs, and our kind of people.

In betraying those beliefs and taking them to their logical conclusions, we’ve managed to separate ourselves from the culture, society, and world around us in order to strengthen our claim on our God – as discussed in part two of this series. And in so doing, the Church has caused an interesting byproduct – the division of this world into sacred parts and secular parts.

And that byproduct has been pressed so long it’s probably ingrained deeply in you now: these activities over here I do for God, these over here are just boring secular stuff. We listen to Christian music and secular music, read Christian books and secular books, watch Christian movies and secular movies, have Christian friends and non-Christian friends. It just seems like life.

But it’s contrary to what God’s mission is, and the reason Jesus came. Understanding God’s heart means understanding that he is restoring all of creation. Jesus came to sanctify the whole of our lives – not just the “religious” parts of them. And God is bigger than we can ever imagine – big enough to be God over, and working in, all of the world, not just the parts that we’ve labeled as being “holy”.

This means that the whole of your life is holy and matters deeply to God. What you do at your job is just as important and worshipful to God as what you do at a church service on Sunday mornings. How you treat your waiter or barber or coworker means just as much to God as whether or not you read your Bible this morning. God is just as present at places like school board meetings and football games as he is when we sing songs to him.

It means that there isn’t “Christian” and “secular” music as much as there is just “good” and “bad” music. There’s music that is considered secular that is very much good music and contains elements of truth and, I know it’s hard to believe, but there is “Christian” music out there that is downright awful.

In fact, the church has acted for centuries now like we have the cornerstone on truth — that truth doesn’t exist outside of our beliefs or institutions or holy book. But that’s simply not the case. While everything in the Bible is certainly truth, it doesn’t mean that is the only truth or the full extent of truth. And if that sounds blasphemous to your ears (or eyes) that have been trained to repeat and believe “sola scriptura”, consider this: at least three times in Scripture Paul quoted pagan poets and philosophers and affirmed that they did, in fact, understand a bit of Truth (Acts 17, Titus 1, 1 Corinthians 6 & 10). If God is Truth (capital T) and is bigger than our imaginations could ever contain, then why is it so hard to believe that the Truth which is also that huge could exist outside of our belief system?

We’ve got to stop dividing the world into two distinct portions – the sacred and the secular – and start seeing it through Jesus’ eyes. He’s the one who taught us, after all, that we ought to live “in the world” – a world that collectively fell under the Curse and is collectively groaning to be restored. And we are friends with a God who is God of, and at work in, that entire world – not just certain parts of it.

On a Path Together, Part III: God of the World

To round out our series of On a Path Together, I’d like to explore one final, but huge, concept — that God is the God of the world.

Of course everyone believes this in theory, but the way we as the Church have acted for far too long now is that God is simply the God of our faith. The God of our church. The God of our beliefs, and our kind of people.

In betraying those beliefs and taking them to their logical conclusions, we’ve managed to separate ourselves from the culture, society, and world around us in order to strengthen our claim on our God – as discussed in part two of this series. And in so doing, the Church has caused an interesting byproduct – the division of this world into sacred parts and secular parts.

And that byproduct has been pressed so long it’s probably ingrained deeply in you now: these activities over here I do for God, these over here are just boring secular stuff. We listen to Christian music and secular music, read Christian books and secular books, watch Christian movies and secular movies, have Christian friends and non-Christian friends. It just seems like life.

But it’s contrary to what God’s mission is, and the reason Jesus came. Understanding God’s heart means understanding that he is restoring all of creation. Jesus came to sanctify the whole of our lives – not just the “religious” parts of them. And God is bigger than we can ever imagine – big enough to be God over, and working in, all of the world, not just the parts that we’ve labeled as being “holy”.

This means that the whole of your life is holy and matters deeply to God. What you do at your job is just as important and worshipful to God as what you do at a church service on Sunday mornings. How you treat your waiter or barber or coworker means just as much to God as whether or not you read your Bible this morning. God is just as present at places like school board meetings and football games as he is when we sing songs to him.

It means that there isn’t “Christian” and “secular” music as much as there is just “good” and “bad” music. There’s music that is considered secular that is very much good music and contains elements of truth and, I know it’s hard to believe, but there is “Christian” music out there that is downright awful.

In fact, the church has acted for centuries now like we have the cornerstone on truth — that truth doesn’t exist outside of our beliefs or institutions or holy book. But that’s simply not the case. While everything in the Bible is certainly truth, it doesn’t mean that is the only truth or the full extent of truth. And if that sounds blasphemous to your ears (or eyes) that have been trained to repeat and believe “sola scriptura”, consider this: at least three times in Scripture Paul quoted pagan poets and philosophers and affirmed that they did, in fact, understand a bit of Truth (Acts 17, Titus 1, 1 Corinthians 6 & 10). If God is Truth (capital T) and is bigger than our imaginations could ever contain, then why is it so hard to believe that the Truth which is also that huge could exist outside of our belief system?

We’ve got to stop dividing the world into two distinct portions – the sacred and the secular – and start seeing it through Jesus’ eyes. He’s the one who taught us, after all, that we ought to live “in the world” – a world that collectively fell under the Curse and is collectively groaning to be restored. And we are friends with a God who is God of, and at work in, that entire world – not just certain parts of it.

On a Path Together, Part Two

Wheat and Tares, Sheep and Goats, and a Field

See this post for the introduction to this topic.

Some folks may object to this worldview of there not being a divide between Christians and non-Christians (the terminology alone betrays how ingrained this fictional division has become in the Church), and many who do will object based on two parables Jesus told in Matthew chapters 13 and 25.

Here’s the first of those, from Matthew 13: the wheat and the weeds.

“The kingdom of heaven is like a man who sowed good seed in his field. But while everyone was sleeping, his enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat, and went away. When the wheat sprouted and formed heads, then the weeds also appeared. “The owner’s servants came to him and said, ‘Sir, didn’t you sow good seed in your field? Where then did the weeds come from?’

‘An enemy did this,’ he replied.

“The servants asked him, ‘Do you want us to go and pull them up?’

“‘No,’ he answered, ‘because while you are pulling the weeds, you may root up the wheat with them. Let both grow together until the harvest. At that time I will tell the harvesters: First collect the weeds and tie them in bundles to be burned; then gather the wheat and bring it into my barn.'”

And then from chapter 25: the Sheep and the Goats.

“When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his throne in heavenly glory. All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left.

“Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’

“Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.’

“Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.”

Here’s the major problem: every sermon I’ve heard on these passages teaches that you are either a wheat or a weed; a sheep or a goat. That’s it. Period. Jesus came to divide the world into these two categories.

I find it utterly ironic now that Jesus was actually talking about quite the exact opposite in these parables. Notice phrases such as “until the harvest” and “when the Son of Man comes in glory”… no, Jesus did not tell us these parables so we could create two different classes of citizens. He told these parables so we’d realize something; that is, until He returns to earth and all of Creation is restored, all the sheep and the goats and the wheat and the weeds all share the same field.

We all grow in the same place. We all eat the same grass. We all use the same soil. We share so much more than what our differences are. We are, you might say, on a path together.

But oh, how the Church has tried and tried and strained over the years to create an entirely different field for us to live in! We have our own music, our own movies, our own books, our own language, our own schools, our own subculture and counterculture — all so we don’t have to get dirty and messy living in that nasty field with all those goats or all those weeds. Uck!

How sad it must make Jesus – and how humorous he must find our attempts – when he made it so clear to us. We exist in the same field, side by side with everyone. In fact, he called it being “in the world but not of it” – something we’ll touch on in part three of this series, “The God of This World.”

On a Path Together, Part Two

Wheat and Tares, Sheep and Goats, and a Field

See this post for the introduction to this topic.

Some folks may object to this worldview of there not being a divide between Christians and non-Christians (the terminology alone betrays how ingrained this fictional division has become in the Church), and many who do will object based on two parables Jesus told in Matthew chapters 13 and 25.

Here’s the first of those, from Matthew 13: the wheat and the weeds.

“The kingdom of heaven is like a man who sowed good seed in his field. But while everyone was sleeping, his enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat, and went away. When the wheat sprouted and formed heads, then the weeds also appeared. “The owner’s servants came to him and said, ‘Sir, didn’t you sow good seed in your field? Where then did the weeds come from?’

‘An enemy did this,’ he replied.

“The servants asked him, ‘Do you want us to go and pull them up?’

“‘No,’ he answered, ‘because while you are pulling the weeds, you may root up the wheat with them. Let both grow together until the harvest. At that time I will tell the harvesters: First collect the weeds and tie them in bundles to be burned; then gather the wheat and bring it into my barn.'”

And then from chapter 25: the Sheep and the Goats.

“When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his throne in heavenly glory. All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left.

“Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’

“Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.’

“Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.”

Here’s the major problem: every sermon I’ve heard on these passages teaches that you are either a wheat or a weed; a sheep or a goat. That’s it. Period. Jesus came to divide the world into these two categories.

I find it utterly ironic now that Jesus was actually talking about quite the exact opposite in these parables. Notice phrases such as “until the harvest” and “when the Son of Man comes in glory”… no, Jesus did not tell us these parables so we could create two different classes of citizens. He told these parables so we’d realize something; that is, until He returns to earth and all of Creation is restored, all the sheep and the goats and the wheat and the weeds all share the same field.

We all grow in the same place. We all eat the same grass. We all use the same soil. We share so much more than what our differences are. We are, you might say, on a path together.

But oh, how the Church has tried and tried and strained over the years to create an entirely different field for us to live in! We have our own music, our own movies, our own books, our own language, our own schools, our own subculture and counterculture — all so we don’t have to get dirty and messy living in that nasty field with all those goats or all those weeds. Uck!

How sad it must make Jesus – and how humorous he must find our attempts – when he made it so clear to us. We exist in the same field, side by side with everyone. In fact, he called it being “in the world but not of it” – something we’ll touch on in part three of this series, “The God of This World.”

On a Path Together, Part One

One thing I love about Emmaus (the church where I work) is that we try, with our language and our lifestyle, to knock down the dividing wall between the “saved” and “unsaved”. For far, far too long the Church has seen the world in only two different colors: Christians and non-Christians. I’ve heard too many sermons to count that have taught this philosophy.

It’s time we as the Church opened our eyes to the magnificent array of colors in which life really exists.

At Emmaus, we view all people as being on a journey together. There are several reasons why this is so – enough to do several blog entries on the subject.

For now, I will leave you with this thought. Most churches struggle over the church version of the chicken and the egg question: which comes first, evangelism or discipleship? In other words, do we focus on those inside or outside the church? Helping Christians grow or helping non-Christians become Christians?

The strange thing is, Jesus never made those kinds of distinctions between people. In fact, when he gave his apostles their ministry charge after his resurrection (what we today call the “Great Commission”), he made it very simple. He didn’t say “Go and evangelize and then make disciples,” or “Go and make disciples and teach them to evangelize.” Here is what he said:

“Go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.”

To Jesus, evangelism is a part of discipleship. Stop reading and take a moment to ingest that. Isn’t that simplicity of worldview refreshing and breathtaking?

We are all on journey. God’s call to us when we come in contact with people — whether or not they know Jesus — is to nudge them closer to Him. That’s discipleship, and that’s life the way Jesus intended it.

Next:
Part Two — Sheep and Goats, Wheat and Tares
Part Three — The God of the World

On a Path Together, Part One

One thing I love about Emmaus (the church where I work) is that we try, with our language and our lifestyle, to knock down the dividing wall between the “saved” and “unsaved”. For far, far too long the Church has seen the world in only two different colors: Christians and non-Christians. I’ve heard too many sermons to count that have taught this philosophy.

It’s time we as the Church opened our eyes to the magnificent array of colors in which life really exists.

At Emmaus, we view all people as being on a journey together. There are several reasons why this is so – enough to do several blog entries on the subject.

For now, I will leave you with this thought. Most churches struggle over the church version of the chicken and the egg question: which comes first, evangelism or discipleship? In other words, do we focus on those inside or outside the church? Helping Christians grow or helping non-Christians become Christians?

The strange thing is, Jesus never made those kinds of distinctions between people. In fact, when he gave his apostles their ministry charge after his resurrection (what we today call the “Great Commission”), he made it very simple. He didn’t say “Go and evangelize and then make disciples,” or “Go and make disciples and teach them to evangelize.” Here is what he said:

“Go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.”

To Jesus, evangelism is a part of discipleship. Stop reading and take a moment to ingest that. Isn’t that simplicity of worldview refreshing and breathtaking?

We are all on journey. God’s call to us when we come in contact with people — whether or not they know Jesus — is to nudge them closer to Him. That’s discipleship, and that’s life the way Jesus intended it.

Next:
Part Two — Sheep and Goats, Wheat and Tares
Part Three — The God of the World