A Mess of the Message

I recently watched a documentary on Christianity in America. The focus of this documentary was how Christianity has been and is being used by various groups in America to foster their own agendas! The producers interviewed various people, from scholars, preachers, and church leaders, to people on the street, to get an idea of how they defined the Christian faith. As I watched, I was saddened to realize how much we have made a mess of the message!

It seems that the message of the Bible, more often than not, has been traditionally and historically manipulated to serve self-serving purposes! For example, ‘Christian’ slave-owners and segregationist abused the Bible in order to give a sense of divine sanction to slavery, segregation, White privilege, and White supremacy. I said ‘abused,’ but sadly even today, many of the same attitudes and beliefs that were prevalent back then, are still strong today! In fact, it seems that not only are they strong, but as of late they are experiencing a revival!

The LBGT community, White supremist groups, prosperity advocates, Civil Rights groups, traditional family values groups, White evangelicals, advocates of Gay-marriage and countless more, ‘all’ claim scriptural authority and legitimacy for their causes! The Bible declares that God is one, but from the looks of the mess we have made of the message today, God is many!

The core of the issue is the tendency for man to always create idols! What is an idol? An idol is a god of our own making! The Apostle Paul wrote to the Romans in regard to his people; Israel: “For I bear them record that they have a zeal of God, but not according to knowledge. For they being ignorant of God’s righteousness, and going about to establish their own righteousness, have not submitted themselves unto the righteousness of God.” (Romans 10:2-3 KJV) Now, the problem with Israel was not that they were ‘ignorant’ of God’s righteousness (God’s standard or what God requires) because they did not have knowledge. No! They were ignorant of God’s righteousness because they rejected the knowledge they had been given! Why did they reject it? They rejected it because it did not fit their agenda or their idea of how they wanted to live! As a consequence, instead adapting to God, they sought to make God adapt to them!

Isn’t that the same thing we are doing today? Instead of submitting ourselves to the message of God, as God gave it, we seek to alter the message to fit our own agendas and lifestyles!

And what have we made? A mess! People who scoff at the idea of a Supreme God have gain some degree of credibility because those who claim to know God and be in relationship God, are speaking mixed and often contradictory messages about what God is like! And then, the people who are sincerely seeking God are also confused because Church A is preaching one message as ‘the truth,’ while Church B is preaching a diametrically opposite message, but is also claiming to be speaking the truth! Now, logic dictates that Church A and Church B cannot both be right! (However, Church A and Church B can both be wrong!)

We have certainly made a mess of things! But that’s just the nature of humans; to make the simple complicated! That’s just the nature of humans, whenever we are unable or refuse to rise to the bar; we lower the bar! Before we will let go and trust something or someone other than ourselves, we will seek to make that something or someone a reflection of ourselves!

What is the solution? Is there such a thing as absolute truth? Now, the predominate thinking of the current culture says that there is not, but there is! How do we find it? I think the first step, even before addressing the concept of religion or morality is to just stop and think: Man didn’t invent himself with all of his intelligence. Therefore logic dictates that a being even more intelligent had to create him! So it’s really a matter of faith! Faith, not just as a religious concept, but also as a practical concept! You see, from a practical standpoint, EVERYBODY has and uses faith every day! At this very moment, thousands of people are boarding aircrafts to fly to various destinations around the world. But, you would be hard-pressed to find anyone refusing to board a plane because they don’t believe the pilot can fly the plane! Of all those thousands of people, no one wants to see the pilot’s licenses or certification papers! In fact, most don’t even care to even ‘see’ the pilot! Why? Because they have ‘faith’ the airline would not allow an incapable person to fly the plane! They have ‘faith’ the mechanics are doing their jobs to ensure the plane is flight-worthy! Most have no clue how the aerodynamics of lift and thrust work! Every single day, we trust and have faith in people we don’t know and in concepts we don’t understand! EVERYBODY has faith! So the issue is not a matter of faith, the issue is the matter of the placement of faith!

We have faith in men, who often fail because of limitations. Why not have faith in a God who never fails? A God who is loving! A God who longs to have a relationship with each and every person! How can we discover and meet this God? We cannot truly meet this God through our tainted and prejudicial traditions and doctrines, we can only meet Him as we read and study His word and allow that word to reveal God as God is and not as we want God to be! How do we know when we are doing that? When the God we meet in the Scriptures does not look, act, or think like us, but confronts and challenges us to look, act and think like Him! We will meet the true God when we give up the fight to shape Him and allow Him to shape us! We will meet the true God when we recognize the fact that other people are not really just ‘other’ people, but other people are, in a sense; us! We all need and are looking for the same thing, from the same Source, that is able to abundantly provided for all!

Until then, we should all pray for God to reveal and do our part to work to find and proclaim the good news that has been lost in the mess that we have made of the message!

The Message of Jesus

“From that time Jesus began to preach, and to say, Repent: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.”

Matthew 4:17 King James Version

“From that time on Jesus began to preach, ‘Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.”

Matthew 4:17 New International Version

“From that time onward Jesus began to preach this message: Repent, because the kingdom of heaven has come close to realization.”

Matthew 4:17 MacDonald Idiomatic Translation

kingdom at hand

It would seem from reading the accounts of Jesus in the Gospel narratives that Jesus really only preached one message: The Kingdom of God! He talked about the Kingdom of God, he preached about the Kingdom of God, most of his parables were illustrations to show what the Kingdom of God was like! Yet, it has been until only very recent that modern Christianity has paid much attention to the Kingdom of God.

What was Jesus talking about when he referred to the Kingdom of God? Well, there has been much ink spilled attempting to answer that question, but one thing can be certain; most of the time Jesus was NOT talking about a place called Heaven! When he taught his disciples to pray, he didn’t teach them to pray that they would “go” to the Kingdom; he taught them to pray: “Thy Kingdom come!” So apparently, in that instance at least, Jesus was not talking about a place, but rather a state of being or situation. Perhaps a hint of what he meant is found in the next statement that is in the appositive position: “Thy will be done on earth as it is in Heaven.” In the mind of Jesus, the Kingdom of God is present or realized whenever and wherever God’s will is being done on earth in the same manner that it is done in Heaven. Well, how is God’s will done in Heaven? It is done perfectly! It is done without any resistance from any other will! It is done completely! So apparently, the realization of the Kingdom of God is connected to the will of God.

In doing some research on the subject, I discovered the term “kingdom of heaven/God” as it is used in the Synoptic Gospels by Jesus, does not refer primarily to a place (although sometimes it does). Most of the time, Jesus was NOT talking about “going to Heaven!” Note this entry from the Louw-Nida Greek Lexicon of the New Testament: “It is generally a serious mistake to translate the phrase ‘the kingdom of God’ as referring to a particular area in which God rules. The meaning of this phrase in the NT involves not a particular place or special period of time but the fact of ruling. An expression such as ‘to enter the kingdom of God’ thus does not refer to ‘going to heaven’ but should be understood as ‘accepting God’s rule’ or ‘welcoming God to rule over.” Wow! Do you see that? We’ve been preaching, teaching, sweating and snorting, trying to prepare people to “go to the Kingdom” and all the while, the primary message of Jesus was and is about the Kingdom coming to us!

Now in order for us to properly process this, we must do what Jesus said in the text, we must repent! However, we must also understand that in the text, the word “repent” doesn’t mean what we have traditionally thought it to mean! In this text, the word “repent” means “to change one’s mind, or to change the way you think.” We must quit thinking of the Kingdom of God as only being a place called Heaven that we will inhabit one day in the future. The Kingdom of God is “now and later!” It is present and not yet! It is a place, but it is also a state of being! It is God’s country where the streets are paved with gold, but it is also God’s rule and authority in our lives right now!

I shall be posting a series of messages to investigate this further, but I want to end this post with this observation. For many years, it seemed to me that the Old Testament and the New Testament were two different stories until I got some understanding about the Kingdom of God. The Bible, from Genesis to Revelation is really just a story about a kingdom lost and a kingdom re-gained! The message of Jesus was and is, “I’ve got good news for you! What Adam lost is now regained! The Kingdom of God is at hand!’