In a culture paralyzed by fear and worry the idea that we can live a life free from the bondage of worry is a foreign concept. Yet, Jesus says we have no need to worry because our Father desires to give us the kingdom.
Why Worry? – Luke 12:22-34
(Due to a technical error the audio for the first few minutes is low so you will need to turn up the volume.)
For several months I have been thinking, off and on, about the theme of cosmic warfare in scripture and how it is reconciled to the sovereignty of God. Below is a concise statement I have written. I’m not yet settled in my view, but this is a possibility.
In God’s original ordering of creation he gave humanity great freedom in their role as vice-regents mediating his kingdom reign on earth. He likewise gave the angelic beings (Son’s of God) great freedom to execute their role in administering his kingdom. After the fall, God chose not to completely rescind the freedom he had given, but rather has determined to demonstrate his sovereignty and power by achieving his ends in spite of the free choices of sinful creatures to oppose his kingdom rule. He is redeeming the fallen world under the original parameters of his design.
I think this understanding avoids the extremes of both open theism and meticulous control. It rightly maintains the tension between an all-knowing sovereign God and the reality of a powerful enemy and fallen image bearers whose kingdom legitimately opposes the kingdom of God. What do you think?
Please keep the discussion civil.
At Living Bread Ministries (LBM) one of the values we hold dearly is interdependence. In the world of global missions you hear a lot of talk about dependence and independence, but not so much about interdependence. This a comprehensive issue but the discussion almost always boils down to money. The basic premise is that for indigenous church plants to be considered “successful” they must be financially independent (not dependent on outside sources of financial support).
The problem with this long standing rationale is that it curbs generosity and has stifled church planting efforts among the global poor. Since poor communities are not able to be financially independent and Western agencies are unwilling to invest financially for fear of creating dependence, church planting movements are rare among the global poor. There are very effective house church movements in poor communities around the world. However, in these areas the house churches are primarily only able to deal with spiritual needs while Western humanitarian groups deal with the physical.
The net result often is a divorce of social ministry from the local church, and to what end?Yes the house church may avoid “dependency” but only because the Westerners are funding the social ministry through other entities. If the local church is “independent” in its worship centers, but very much “dependent” for social ministry, which is the responsibility of the church, then we have not avoided this issue. We have only traded one problem for another. As if Western led and executed humanitarian programs to provide food, healthcare, education and housing for the poor are perfectly acceptable, yet helping a local church with local leadership implement their own program as they see fit is wrong because some financial resources are given to them directly.
In reality, interdependence is the best solution to the difficult problem of dependency. Think of the body. Each part of the body is interdependent on the other parts. The foot needs the leg as much as the leg needs the foot. It’s the same with the body of Christ. All of the parts of the body must work together for it to function properly. This is the case with church planting among the global poor. When everyone brings what they have to the table and invests it, churches can be planted among the poor and they can minister in a comprehensive way as the local leadership sees fit. Neither side is independent or dependent, rather they are interdependent. They need each other.
This type of partnership is hard and risky. It is often messy. It requires a level of vulnerability that most are unwilling to accept. As a practical example, this week I prepared a comprehensive monthly income and expense report for LBM and our partner ministry in Brazil. Since we value interdependence we shared this report with the national leadership in Brazil giving them complete access to our monthly budget including individual salaries, benefits, etc. In doing this we are seeking to foster interdependence. We know their budget and it’s only right that they should know ours. We hold them accountable and they hold us accountable. There may be other Western organizations that do this, but I do not know of any. However, I believe this is the best approach to a very complex issue.
What does a Christian look like? This is a question all of us must answer as we seek to follow Christ. The short answer of course is we are to look like Jesus. For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers (Romans 8:29). In Jesus, the Word became flesh and dwelt among us ( John 1:14). He manifested himself to us and revealed his image, thus showing us what our lives as Christians should look like.
He made himself our model (John 13:34-35, 20:21). However, it is often hard to translate the life of Christ into our context. Recently I was reading a biography on John Wesley, who is one of my heroes in the faith. While I disagree with him on some secondary issues of theology I greatly respect him as a practical theologian. As such, he was very much concerned with living out what we believe.
In light of this, the book I was reading dedicated the entire first chapter to a tract that Wesley had written in the mid 1700s which I have found to be exceedingly relevant today. It is entitled The Character of a Methodist. The term Methodist was given to the group Wesley founded as a derogatory name mocking the methodical way in which they approached life and Bible study. Thus Wesley is not writing a denominational statement, but is simply making it clear that a Methodist, indeed all Christians should look like Jesus.
I encourage you to read this tract and meditate on what it really means to be conformed to the image of Christ.
When we come to know Christ as Lord and Savior we become a child of God. As such we are members of the body of Christ, part of the temple of the Holy Spirit, and Christ’s bride (Rom 12:4-5, 1 Cor 12:12-13, 27, Eph 3:6, 4:4-6, 11-16, Col 1:18, 1 Peter 2:4-5, Rev 21:9). Each of these descriptions of the Church describe it in its global corporate sense. In truth there is only one church of Christ. Every true believer is a member of the Church and therefore is united to Christ and to one another. As members of the body (the Church) we each have a function which contributes to the whole; just as each member of the human body contributes to its proper functioning. We have been gifted by the Holy Spirit to fulfill our function within the body of Christ and thus contribute to the work of the whole. So, if we are members of the Church and function within it, why must we join a church?
Many people have this mindset. They love Christ and even the global Church, but they have marginalized the local church. Likewise many have exalted their local church and seemingly divorced it from the global Church. Both of these practices are unbiblical. There is only one church, but there are many local expressions of it. Just as each individual believer is one contributing member of the body of Christ, likewise each local expression of the church is contributing to the work of the whole.
The local church is the expression of the body of Christ in a given community. It does not replace the global church nor become more significant than the global church, but it is how the global church is expressed and represented in that community. We cannot function in the body of Christ and willfully bypass the local church anymore than the foot can function in the human body and bypass the leg. If the local church is the local expression of the body of Christ, then our membership in the body necessitates membership in its local expression.
In our present state it is impossible for the global church to gather together for worship, yet the writer of Hebrews says its essential for the stirring up of love and good works both of which the Church is called to (Heb 10:25). One day the Church (the full body of Christ) will gather together to worship Christ (Rev 19:6-8); however, until that day we each gather in our local churches to worship Christ and encourage one another to love and good works. More than simply gathering to worship and encouraging one another we must be members of a local church.
Membership involves commitment and accountability. Culturally we are individualistic and value our privacy. Thus, we want to avoid the commitment and vulnerability that biblical church membership requires. We like the idea of being part of a global entity that is distant with no perceived tangible involvement in our lives. A local expression that requires things from us and holds us accountable is undesirable for many of us. However, our role as members in the body of Christ cannot properly be fulfilled apart from the local expression of the body, that is the local church.