Rediscovering the Word Evangelical

There is a beautiful word… an elegant descriptor… that has been maligned, tarnished, lampooned, distorted, and completely misunderstood. It is a name many have abandoned for all of it’s negative connotations and ugly stereotypes. But this bruised and battered identifier… this lowly mark tossed carelessly to the side by a cynical generation… is finally being rediscovered, reclaimed, renewed, and washed clean by those hungry to wear it and hold it high for the world to see clearly.

The word is Evangelical.

And it is beautiful because at it’s very heart, it’s very core, it simply describes anyone who proclaims the Good News. But it seems that many have skewed the Good News and given the name Evangelical a bad rap by proclaiming messages that don’t seem so good… that make people feel worse on the inside and not so hopeful that there is an alternative to this confusing, messed up world.

As an Evangelical, as a proud proclaimer of the Good News, I want to share with you the Good News of the Kingdom of God… and the reason why I will continue to wear the name and preach the message until the day I die.

The Good News is that there is an alternative. This is another way. There is a reason to have hope.

The great alternative to this world, that Jesus preached about and was preoccupied with establishing, operated by a new set of values, a new way of thinking, a new way of being human. The Good News that Jesus announced was like nothing the world had ever known or seen before. As such, Jesus was not preoccupied with fighting violently against the kingdoms of the world, or the prevailing governmental or political order. Jesus wasn’t even preoccupied with trying to reform them or preoccupied with trying to establish a new or different political system or governmental system. And, he was certainly not trying to build up a bricks and mortar palace where he would rule from the top-down.

The Kingdom that Jesus came to proclaim would be established much differently than those of the world, and it would not look like anything the world had ever seen, because the people in this Kingdom would do everything opposite from the ways and workings of the world. It would be a grassroots, organic movement that changes the world from the bottom-up and from the inside-out, defying every bit of worldly wisdom in the process.

When the world hits you, do not retaliate, but give the other cheek. When the world is weighing you down with heavy requests, don’t just go one mile with the request but go two miles. When the world takes everything you have, even the coat off of your back, don’t just give your coat but go even further by offering your shirt. When the way of the world harbors anger and holds grudges, be one who forgives your friends and your enemies alike. And, don’t just forgive once, but forgive and forgive and forgive.

When the world is quick to respond and rip a person to shreds, be one who controls your anger and the words that come from your mouth. When the world devalues relationships and marriages, be one who looks to the interest of others, honors commitments, and always remains selfless. When the world looks out for and protects its own pursuits and interests to the detriment of others, be one who treats others as you would want to be treated yourself. When the world is ready to cast the stone of judgment at the sinner, be one who loves and stands beside every single person without judgment. When the world shuns the outcast and pushes him to the edges of society, be one who befriends the outcast and welcomes him back into loving community.

When the world lords over you with mighty power and authority, be one who is humble and comes from the bottom-up to serve everyone. When the world takes the seat of honor so it can be seen and noticed by everyone, be one who takes the seat of low-position in the back of the room. When the world puts on a show of being pure and good but is corrupt at the very core, be one who is pure from the inside and let it work out through your life. When the world continues in the ways of injustice and is merciless to the least in society, be one who stands for the least and for those who cannot defend themselves by demanding justice and mercy.

When the world fights and wars, be one who always stands on the side of peace no matter the situation and no matter the circumstance. When the world insults, ridicules, and curses you, be one who blesses in return. When the evil of the world assaults you, be the one who does not resist the evil. And when the world beats you, spits upon you, and is preparing to crucify you, continue on the way of forgiveness and self-sacrificial love.

That is the Good News of the Kingdom of God! That is what it means to be a true, genuine, authentic Evangelical. That is the treasure of great riches that the world so desperately needs to discover. That is the pearl of great value that we sell everything we have in order to attain it. That is what will spread like an infection, a mustard seed, yeast in the dough if the world would ever hear it and see it put into practice by a transformed people. That is the in-breaking of heaven into the house that has been held hostage for far too long. That is the occupation, proclamation, task, and obsession of the follower of Christ… of every Evangelical… in the vineyard of the world!

The Kingdom of God is the full-on reign of God in the hearts and minds of those who believe in the way, life, and teachings of Jesus, who have died to the old, tired, and worn-out ways of the world, and who have been made new by the working and empowering of the Spirit of God in order to bring heaven on earth, while awaiting and anticipating the return of Christ as Lord at the renewal of all things!!! It is what a life looks like when God reigns in and through a person here on earth in every single thought, action, attitude, situation, or scenario. The Kingdom of God looks like an invasion from heaven into the strongholds of a person’s life, a cleaning out of the house, a light breaking through into the darkness, and a constant and continual in-breaking of heaven through one’s life into the world. It is a Kingdom that reigns in the hearts and minds of people, not through the political, governmental, bureaucratic, religious, institutional brick and mortar systems of the world. The Kingdom of God will never come through those systems, because they will all pass away one day.

That is why Jesus said that the Kingdom of God is not something that can be seen or observed. It is not visible with the eye for anyone to see or to visibly discover. In fact, people will not be able to say, “Here it is,” or “There it is,” because the Kingdom of God is within the hearts and minds of those who follow the way, life, and teachings of Jesus. In this way, the Kingdom of God can not be conquered, destroyed, or defeated, but it continues to grow larger and continues to spread from person to person all throughout the world like a mustard seed in a field or yeast in dough. It breaks into our world like an infection to displace the kingdoms of the world and to establish the reign of God, through and through, in the hearts, minds, and lives of people who are like Jesus in everything we do.

That is what it means to be an Evangelical. That is why I wear the name with honor and will hold the banner high. It is to Jesus Christ and the Good News of his Kingdom that I pledge my allegiance and give my life.

Heaven: Heaven and Earth Be One

Over my last four posts, I have centrally focused my attention on deconstructing the predominant belief of many within mainstream Christianity, which asserts that the goal of God is to ultimately take His people away to a disembodied heaven to live for eternity while destroying all of creation.

At the same time, I have been offering glimpses from Scripture of what God’s true intention has always been and what it continues to be- not whisking people away to a disembodied heaven for eternity, but rather working to redeem, renew, and restore all of His good creation through the defeat of sin and death as evidenced and initiated in the resurrection of Jesus Christ. In Jesus, the bringing together of heaven and earth has been launched in the present and we look forward to the day in which the full consummation of heaven and earth will be complete with God making His dwelling place among us in a renewed and restored earth.

We didn’t arrive in this place by accident. The Scriptures from Genesis forward evidence a God who has been working painstakingly to remedy, mend, and heal that which was fractured and broken from the very beginning- not just people, but all things.  

The central purpose, the grand narrative, the over-arching achievement of God is to- bring heaven and earth back together as one.  

Jesus said to them, Truly I say to you, in the new age [the Messianic rebirth of the world], when the Son of Man shall sit down on the throne of His glory, you who have [become My disciples, sided with My party and] followed Me will also sit on twelve thrones and judge the twelve tribes of Israel. Matthew 19: 28 AMP

So repent (change your mind and purpose); turn around and return [to God], that your sins may be erased (blotted out, wiped clean), that times of refreshing (of recovering from the effects of heat, of reviving with fresh air) may come from the presence of the Lord; And that He may send [to you] the Christ (the Messiah), Who before was designated and appointed for you–even Jesus, Whom heaven must receive [and retain] until the time for the complete restorationof all that God spoke by the mouth of all His holy prophets for ages past [from the most ancient time in the memory of man]. Acts 3: 19-21 AMP

For [even the whole] creation (all nature) waits expectantly and longs earnestly for God’s sons to be made known [waits for the revealing, the disclosing of their sonship]. For the creation (nature) was subjected to frailty (to futility, condemned to frustration), not because of some intentional fault on its part, but by the will of Him Who so subjected it–[yet] with the hope that nature (creation) itself will be set free from its bondage to decay and corruption [and gain an entrance] into the glorious freedom of God’s children. We know that the whole creation [of irrational creatures] has been moaning together in the pains of labor until now. And not only the creation, but we ourselves too, who have and enjoy the firstfruits of the [Holy] Spirit [a foretaste of the blissful things to come] groan inwardly as we wait for the redemption of our bodies [from sensuality and the grave, which will reveal] our adoption (our manifestation as God’s sons). Romans 8: 19-23 AMP

In Him we have redemption (deliverance and salvation) through His blood, the remission (forgiveness) of our offenses (shortcomings and trespasses), in accordance with the riches and the generosity of His gracious favor, Which He lavished upon us in every kind of wisdom and understanding (practical insight and prudence), Making known to us the mystery (secret) of His will (of His plan, of His purpose). [And it is this:] In accordance with His good pleasure (His merciful intention) which He had previously purposed and set forth in Him, [He planned] for the maturity of the times and the climax of the ages to unify all things and head them up and consummate them in Christ, [both] things in heaven and things on the earth. Ephesians 1: 7-10 AMP

For it was in Him that all things were created, in heaven and on earth, things seen and things unseen, whether thrones, dominions, rulers, or authorities; all things were created and exist through Him [by His service, intervention] and in and for Him. And He Himself existed before all things, and in Him all things consist (cohere, are held together). He also is the Head of [His] body, the church; seeing He is the Beginning, the Firstborn from among the dead, so that He alone in everything and in every respect might occupy the chief place [stand first and be preeminent]. For it has pleased [the Father] that all the divine fullness (the sum total of the divine perfection, powers, and attributes) should dwell in Him permanently. And God purposed that through (by the service, the intervention of) Him [the Son] all things should be completely reconciled back to Himself, whether on earth or in heaven, as through Him, [the Father] made peace by means of the blood of His cross. Colossians 1: 16-20 AMP

It is obvious that the weight and trajectory of the Scriptures come together in the victory and accomplishment of Jesus Christ through His death on the cross and resurrection to new life…and describe the objects of this salvific activity as a complete reconciliation and restoration of all thing in the Age to Come- our bodies, the creation, everything, and all things in heaven and earth.

For all that had gone wrong in the garden, it is the gardener who fixes it and restores it.

In every way our paths have been crooked, there will be a day when they are all made straight.

In every way God intended for us to be helpers and caretakers of His good creation, His original intention will be realized in the new heaven and new earth.

In every way nature has suffered the curse, producing thorn and thistle, and animals have had enmity toward man and one another, there will be a time when wine will flow from mountains an the lion will lie with the lamb in peace.

In every way we have been told, or have come to believe, that we are of little value or significance, we will fully and finally realize the profound value we have in God’s eyes since the creation of the world.

In every way relationships were fractured and broken because of our rebellion against God and our distrust and hatred of one another, there will be perfect harmony, unity, and community one with another and all with God.

In every way we have longed for peace and justice, and held out hope that there would be a better day, we will one day beat our swords into plowshares and our spears into pruning hooks, never again lifting a sword against another, nor learning of war any more, for the love of God will fill the cosmos.

In every way nation has risen against nation and kingdom against kingdom, the fullness and completeness of God’s glory and peace throughout the land will reveal the cultural beauty and uniqueness of every nation as they are healed and celebrated.

In every way rulers have crushed, oppressed, and killed those whom they have subjugated, we will one day experience the loving, merciful, and victorious leadership of Jesus and those who rule with Him.

In every way we have split and divided over race, social status, and economic achievement, dishonoring God in the process, the nations will one day gather united in our diversity and worship God as one.

In every way our bodies have given out, been debilitated or handicapped, and suffered the crushing weight of disease and death, we will one day have incorruptible, resurrection bodies that will do things we could never imagine.

And in every way we have longed for and anticipated eating and drinking anew with Christ and one another in the fully realized and consummated Kingdom of God, we will one day sing praises, give thanks, break bread, and celebrate the salvation and the power and the Kingdom of our God, and the power of His Messiah.

peace…

brandon

Heaven: A New Heaven and New Earth

This is part three in a series looking in depth at our understanding and misunderstanding of heaven… and then why a proper understanding of heaven is important for the present identity and task of the Christian in the world.

Here is part one of the heaven series if you would like to start at the beginning.

From the words of the prophets in the Old Testament leading up to and culminating in the teachings of Jesus and then passed along through the writings to the early Church, there is a sense that God isn’t giving up on the creation that was called “good” from the very beginning. In fact, there is very clear Scriptural evidence that God has always had every intention of renewing and restoring the entire created order, rather than destroying it.

This is a strong assertion, being that it contradicts the teaching and understanding of many Churches that teach how God will one day destroy the heavens and the earth…and then take Christians away to a spiritual heaven to live for eternity.

But as we look through the Biblical narrative: we find all of creation suffering under the weight of death and decay. We find all of creation subjected to frustration. We find all of creation groaning for liberation from the curse under which it is has been placed.

It is a physical creation.

It is a tangible creation.

It is a touchable creation.

It is a physical, tangible, touchable creation that wants to be liberated, freed, released from bondage.

It is a creation that is enslavedand longs to be as it once wasnot destroyed, not annihilated, not discarded, and not thrown into the trash bin of history. It is a creation that yearns to be saved, renewed, and restored.

And it is not just the creation in which we live and which surrounds us that will be completely renewed and restored! We long for liberation from death and decay as well. Presently we have and enjoy the first fruits of the Holy Spirit given to us by God, which gives us a foretaste of the blissful things to come, but we also groan inwardly as we wait for the redemption of our bodies, which will reveal our adoption, or our manifestation as God’s sons and daughters.

This surprising discovery, which stands in contrast to the belief that God will one day destroy the heavens and the earth, is a beautiful synergy of God’s restorative work through Jesus Christ, not just for humanity, but also for the entire created order.

For God so loved the world (kosmos– the entire created order) that He sent His Son…

But despite all that Paul has written about how creation will be set free from its bondage to decay and corruption, despite Paul writing about how heaven and earth will be brought together under Christ, despite Jesus talking to the disciples about the renewal of all things, and despite Peter stating that God willrestore everything, there are still a couple of misunderstood verses that have led us to the belief that the earth will one day be destroyed and that our future hope is a disembodied, spiritual heaven.

…and the material elements of the universe will flare and melt with fire? But we look for new heavens and a new earth according to His promise, in which righteousness (uprightness, freedom from sin, and right standing with God) is to abide. 2 Peter 3: 12-13

THEN I saw a new sky (heaven) and a new earth, for the former sky and the former earth had passed away, and there no longer existed any sea. Revelation 21: 1

At first glance, these verses seemingly contradict the very position I have proposed- that God is in the process of renewing and restoring all of creation. But the key to unlocking these verses, and having a better and more comprehensive understanding of what the text is really saying, lies with the word new.

As we look at the original Greek language we find something very interesting. There are two words that can be used to describe something as new. The first word is neo and is used to describe something that is new in time. For example, a house that is newly restored to its original condition could never be neo because it is not new in time. When the house was first built it was neo, but being that it is now something old (archaios) being renewed or restored, it can ever be described as neo again. Neo is not the word used in the passages from 2 Peter or Revelation.

The word that is used to describe the new heavens and the new earth in those passages is kainos. Kainos also means new, but it is describing something that is qualitatively new or renewed. Interestingly enough, it is the word kainos that Paul uses to describe the Christian, as a new (kainos) creation. The individual Christian has not been vaporized into non-existence and newly created, rather the old (archaios) has passed away, and the new (kainos) has come. 2 Corinthians 5: 17

Therefore, the passages are not alluding to a heaven and earth that are destroyed and then replaced by a heaven and earth that are newly created. They are both speaking of the current heaven and earth passing from one condition to another (parachomai), being refined by the refiner’s fire, and then being qualitatively renewed (kainos) to their full glory, which is beyond anything that we can comprehend.

Behold, I am making all things new (kainos)…

The final destination for God’s people is not “going up” to God in heaven, while the earth and sky is destroyed. Rather, our future hope is in a renewed world and cosmos in which God’s dwelling place is among His people. If that doesn’t get you excited about the possibilities in our future I don’t know what will…but more on that in another post.

Read the next post here

peace…

brandon