Saturday, February 17, 2007

what's happened to me?

Williams-Start-Here-3I'm now reading Don Williams' Start Here. Just chapter 1 alone has captured my heart and serves as a refreshing contrast to the last book I read, Emerging Churches.

Williams starts by noting that regardless of the format of your "accepting" Christ, something truly miraculous happened. Something that was initiated by God and completed by God. You were delivered from the domain of darkness to the Kingdom of God (Col 1.13). This Kingdom is within reach and within our midst. We need to repent and believe this Good News (Mk 1.15; Lk 11.20).
When we submit to Him [Jesus], He enters in by His Spirit. Our conversion immediately depletes the population of Satan's kingdom by one as our little stories become a part of Jesus' big story, and we now participate in His purpose to re-establish God's reign throughout the universe. Two problems must be solved for us to become Christians. First, we must be delivered from Satan's kingdom. Second, we must be delivered from God's wrath. But for many people today, these two problems are almost incomprehensible.
The first is excellent because it helps us understand the radical nature of our falleness. We are utterly helpless to help ourselves. We submit daily to the one who would destroy us. We are so captivated by this that we actually see this slavery as freedom and we choose to do nothing about it - driving ourselves deeper and deeper into it. But when God's Kingdom breaks in, our whole world is turned upside down. Repenting isn't simply turning from sin to get to heaven, it is the freeing of every aspect of our being from an evil ruler to being servants of a new King, a King who brings life, a new kind of life, both here and forever.

The second is equally important and these days often ignored. We are rebel sinners deserving and destined for eternal wrath. There is absolute truth and there is justice based on that truth. As law breakers, we are standing against the Almighty Creator of all heaven and earth - and we definitely come out on the losing end of that deal. We should not be so deceived into thinking that this is not true nor into thinking that perhaps God doesn't mind that His creation stands in rebellion to Him. That somehow He will simply overlook what we've done as simple "mistakes" or acts of unimportance. Or, as seems popular today, that God is so loving that He somehow sweeps this aside because His great love allows Him to overlook our rebellion. No, the real Good News is that Christ died and took our sin and that those who He calls to enter His Kingdom receive His righteousness - no longer rebel sinners but righteous friends. We now serve a new King who has suffered, died, and rose again in our stead so that we can be fully transformed into a new people, a new nation, under His great Lordship.

And all of this is in reach today. Justice has been satisfied. God's mercy is extended to His children now.
[God] didn't quit being a God of wrath and suddenly become a God of love; He has loved us continually from all eternity. But the ground on which He could accept us was dramatically changed. The penalty for sin was paid, and all who have faith in Jesus are freely and fully justified. At the cross, God lifted His wrath from us and placed it upon Himself through His Son. The death we deserve to die He died for us in our place.

Martin Luther said that to become a Christian is like being married. When we are wedded to Christ by faith, we give Him all we have and He gives us all He has. We give Him all our sins, and He gives us all His righteousness. We are no righteous before God through the righteousness of His Son.
We can now enter His Kingdom.

Today, we see many distortions or even absence of these truths. Under the guise of loving all, we see many openly accepting those that are yet in the Kingdom of darkness. I'm not talking accepting in the sense of acknowledging that they also are in the image of God and treating them with that sense of dignity and love - thereby honoring the truth that we both have the same creator. No, the trend today is to accept those as having some spiritual truth or partial light within them - that we can somehow be evangelized by them. No, this is not the truth of the Gospel. We need to fully understand how dark our darkness was and how light our new Kingdom really is. The problem today is as Williams infers when he quotes Allan Bloom, "To look into an open mind is to look into an empty mind; nothing is there."

Light can only break into darkness. Darkness cannot break into light. And when the light comes into the darkness, there is no more darkness, only light.

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