Another Long-winded Rant About God and Church and Stuff

long winded GOThronesWhy do you go to “church”? That building, that home group, the coffee shop fellowship, wherever you go- why do you go? Now let me ask you this. Do your reasons for going have anything at all to do with anything other than yourself? Sadly, one of the things we have done is make our relationship with God mostly a personal experience. No doubt, we have turned inward. Our songs, our “worship,” our whole life in Christ; you name it- it’s usually centered on “me.” I think this has a lot to do with our concept of God. In particular, the doctrine of the Trinity.

For the most part, we give a mere head-nod to the Trinity. In our “belief statements” we acknowledge that God is Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, and that’s about it. I have begun to think that maybe we descendants of the Reformers have been more than a bit deprived. Most of us have never heard of Gregory Palamas, Basil of Caesarea, Gregory Nazianzus, Gregory of Nyssa, John of Damascus, or Athanasius. Anyway, it’s interesting to look back through history and see where the Eastern and Western church fathers kind of went their separate ways, and how we came to be where we are today.

The “brand of Christianity” we practice here in the West comes largely from the teachings of Augustine. As this is not intended to be a lesson in Church History, I’ll leave it to you to study and see if what I’m saying is accurate. But put VERY, VERY, VERY (you get the idea.) SIMPLY, it goes kind of like this: Augustine was greatly influenced by Plato, and the Reformers were GREATLY influenced by Augustine and we are a product of the Reformers. As a result, the Christianity that has been passed down to us has evolved into an inward, individualistic experience, having little to do with the way God has revealed himself in scripture as a Triune being. And, this has direct implications upon the way we understand salvation and the
way we see each other.

Growing up here in the “buckle” of the bible-belt, I was taught that I needed to accept Jesus into my heart as my personal Savior. If I did that, I’d be spared hell, and would get a mansion somewhere on the streets of Gold. I was never told that I had been invited ‘by’ God to participate ‘in’ the very life, the very communion of the Trinity. My salvation was about ME. “Me and Jesus got our own thing goin’.” We didn’t spend too much time on verses like:

“… that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me. The glory that you have given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one, I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me.” (John 17:21-23)

Or

“For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body.” (I Corinthians 12:13)

Can you see the connection? If we have no concept of salvation as an invitation by the Father, in Jesus, through the Spirit, to partake in the very life of the Triune God it’s hard for us to understand how necessary we are to each other. When we reflect on the Triune nature of God it begins to make more sense as to how our salvation, our relationships together in the body of Christ ought to reflect the very communion of the Trinity.

So many go to “church” because: “I need to get fed.” or “I want to get my praise on.” We come, we sit, we “pick up the remote control,” and if the praise team doesn’t sing “my” favorite songs, or if “my” favorite preacher isn’t preaching, I simply press the “mute button,” or maybe even just” turn the channel.” We forget that Paul tells us,

“Let the word of Christ dwell in you [ the “you” is plural in the Greek ] richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God.” (Colossians 3:16)

And again,

Ephesians 5, “And do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit, addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart.”

We are to be in communion with each other, and as Jesus speaks his words into our lives, we are to teach each other. As a result, we are continuously being filled with the Spirit. Can’t you see how this reflects the very Triune nature of God? Doesn’t it make sense for God who has enjoyed communion, love, and “WORSHIP” in himself for all eternity (in a way we can’t completely describe or understand) to design our salvation experience to be that which “mirrors” himself? It is as we are in relationship with each other, mutually submitting, clothed in humility, putting others before ourselves that we more closely resemble Him who is three in one.

We may come to Christ as individuals, but we live in Christ as his body, members of one another.When we grasp the reality of how our salvation and life together in the body of Christ reflects the very Triune nature of God, we will stop being mere religious spectators. When we realize that through faith in Jesus we are made participants in the communion of the Trinity, we will begin to view each other as we should, and understand how we are indeed one body, each a living stone being built up as a dwelling place for God, in the Spirit.

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Of Mice, Men, Peppermint Oil and Malls

I don’t do the “mall thing” very often. I can count on one hand the times I’ve been to a mall in the past couple of years. However, today I found myself having need of some peppermint oil, and I figured the mall would be the surest place to find some. I live out in the country, and from time to time a mouse will find his way into my home. According to my internet research, peppermint oil strategically placed in the house can serve to deter “unwelcome visitors.” So, it was off to the mall.

 Once at the mall, I simply couldn’t resist a trip to the food court. I completely justified my actions with, “Well, I’ve been doing good for nine months, I’m at the mall, what harm can a sandwich and some fries really do at this point? I’ll run it off tomorrow…blah, blah, blah.” Anyhow, as I sat at the table surrounded by hundreds of others, I felt my eyes began to burn and tears welled up. Children were riding the carousel, music and videos blared out of TVs hung high up on the walls, and the whole atmosphere was kind of like a carnival. I thought how strange I must look, sitting there eating, crying, and looking around like some kind of weirdo who just discovered that there was such a thing as malls. But I couldn’t stop.

I decided to walk a bit, and as I did; I passed a man sitting on one of the benches. He reminded me of a figure out of the old west, weathered and square-jawed. There seemed to be an inner strength within him, but what really struck me was the sadness in his eyes. We made eye contact, I gave the cordial head-nod, but he would barely look at me. I wondered what made him so sad, and felt as if I should stop and say something, but I didn’t. As families walked by laughing, and lovers lazily strolled, holding hands, oblivious to everyone else; I considered the sad “cowboy,” and my heart broke within me.

As we occupy ourselves with playing church and going about the business of religion, we have become no better than shopping malls. We do what we can to attract the people into our little “shop.” We do the coolest worship songs, have the hippest preachers, and know all the latest religious catch-phrases. And hey, if you don’t find what you need in here; there’s another shop just around the corner that may have what you’re looking for. Sadly, while we’re trying to be relevant and hold onto our little corner of the “church mall,” people are sitting right outside our doors, broken-hearted, without hope, and in need of Jesus.

Today, thinking of mice and men, peppermint oil and malls, my prayer is that we who call ourselves Christians will be done with our shopping mall mentality, come out of the carnival we call church and take Jesus to the world around us.

Thy Kingdom Come

(While I most definitely “see through a glass darkly,” I wanted to share with you  some of the research I’ve done as I have tried to understand a little bit more about the Kingdom of God. As you will see, I am really fond of Ladd’s The Presence of The Future , probably because  I agree with a lot of what he has to say (just being honest). While this is in no way a comprehensive study on the Kingdom of God, I do hope it will cause you to think and seek the Lord earnestly about these things.)

There is an abundance of discussion pertaining to the Kingdom within the ecclesia today. One could almost say that we have become inundated with “Kingdom Talk,” and there are as many points of view as there are people discussing them. If we are to understand the relationship between the Church and the kingdom we must first understand exactly what the kingdom is. Are the Kingdom and the church synonymous? If not, what is the church’s role and message in the world as it relates to the Kingdom? These are the questions we shall explore in our present endeavor.

According to George Eldon Ladd, the relationship between the church and the Kingdom will ultimately be defined by what one understands the Kingdom of God to be. If the dynamic concept of the Kingdom is correct, it is never to be identified with the church. The kingdom is primarily the dynamic reign, or kingly rule of God, and derivatively, the sphere in which the rule is experienced. In biblical idiom, the kingdom is not identified with its subjects. They are the people of God’s rule who enter it, live under it, and are governed by it. The church is the community of the kingdom, but never the kingdom it self. Jesus’ disciples belong to the kingdom as the kingdom belongs to them; but they are not the kingdom. The kingdom is the rule of God; the church is a society of men.[1]

Ladd insists that the New Testament never equates the believers with the kingdom, and that the message of the early church was the Kingdom of God and not the church itself.[2] Despite the analogies in the parables of the Kingdom given by Jesus in the gospels, one must resist the temptation of declaring the Kingdom and the church as synonymous. Ladd concludes that the parables, specifically the parable of the tares found in Matthew 13, have “nothing to do with the nature of the church but rather teach that the kingdom of God has invaded history without disrupting the present structure of society.”[3]

There is without a doubt an inseparable relationship between the church and the Kingdom of God; but one must be sure to recognize that there is, at the same time, an overt distinction in identity between the two. Entering the church is not tantamount with entering the Kingdom in that the Kingdom, in its present form, is an invisible realm in which God rules, whereas the church is both visible and tangible. True, to enter the Kingdom means to participate with the church; but one can see, as in the parable of the dragnet, that an entrance into the church does not guarantee one’s participation with the Kingdom. The church is the result of the Kingdom entering the world and is itself a creation of the Kingdom.[4]

The Kingdom takes its departure from God, the church from men. The Kingdom is God’s reign and the realm in which the blessings of his reign are experienced; the church is the fellowship of those who have experienced God’s reign and entered into the enjoyment of its blessings. The Kingdom creates the Church, works through the church, and is proclaimed in the world by the church. There can be no Kingdom without a church- those who have acknowledged God’s rule- and there can be no church without God’s Kingdom; but they remain two distinguishable concepts: the rule of God and the fellowship of men.[5]

Once it as been established that the Kingdom and the church are indeed separate entities, perhaps the question should be asked in what way is the church an instrument of the Kingdom. Is the church the means by which the Kingdom of God is ushered into the world?

There is much talk within the church, especially within the Dominionist and Emergent factions, that the church should infiltrate the various sectors of “secular” governance, and work to usher in the Kingdom of God upon the earth. These factions see it as necessity for the church to institute the rule of God in the society and culture of contemporary historicity; a posture which has had adverse effects when assumed in the past.

According to Murray Rothbard, it was ideology including Christian involvement in politics that precipitated the “welfare state” now entrenched in American society. Rothbard says: “A critical but largely untold story in American political history is the gradual but inexorable secularization of Protestant postmillennial pietism over the decades of the middle and late 19th century. The emphasis, almost from the beginning, was to use government to stamp out sin and to create a perfect society, in order to usher in the Kingdom of God on Earth. Over the decades, the emphasis slowly but surely shifted: more and more away from Christ and religion, which became ever-vaguer and woollier, and more and more toward a Social Gospel, with government correcting, organizing, and eventually planning the perfect society. No matter how commendable the goal of such tactics, there is not one example in the entire Bible of political or social “activism” ever being advocated or used by God’s people.”[6]

It would seem to this writer that the function of the church as an instrument of the Kingdom should perhaps be understood in an evangelistic context as opposed to a political movement. It may be that the church, in preaching the gospel of the Kingdom, is the means by which men are exposed to the message of the Kingdom and are thereby born again into the Kingdom of God’s rule. Instead of attempting to subjugate an unbelieving world, perhaps the church’s true mission is to preach the gospel of the Kingdom, subjugating the hearts of men, and as a result the ethics of the Kingdom would become more and more prevalent within the society in which man lives.

If the Church is an instrument of the Kingdom and not the Kingdom itself, if it is indeed to be understood as an evangelistic tool and not a political movement, it behooves the church to understand the message it is expected to declare to the world. What is the declaration the King would have His citizens declare to those who have not yet submitted to the rule of God?

The King himself has given the church the paradigm for Kingdom preaching. The gospel that Jesus preached was that the Kingdom of God, while to be completely consummated in the future, had indeed, by the appearing of himself, come into history. Again, Ladd gives a beautiful summation asserting that Jesus’ Kingdom message was: God is a seeking God, God is an inviting God, God is a Fatherly God, and God of judgment, who in the person of Christ is acting redemptively upon the earth.[7]

“Jesus proclamation of the presence of the Kingdom means that God has become redemptively active in history on behalf of his people. This does not empty the eschatological aspect of the Kingdom of its content, for the God who was acting in history in the person and mission of Jesus will again act at the end of the age to manifest his glory and saving power. Both the present and the future display God’s Kingdom, for both present and future are the scene of the redemptive acting of God.”[8]

The message the church should be preaching to the world is the same one Jesus preached during his earthly ministry. The gospel of the Kingdom is that God has now come in the person of his Son to seek out, and invite mankind into a relationship with himself through Christ, thereby escaping the judgment which will be executed upon those who are unwilling to submit to his rule. The church proclaims in its message, and displays by its ethics that while the final consummation of the Kingdom awaits future realization, the reality is that the Kingdom of God has indeed come.

While the church is not synonymous with the Kingdom, it nevertheless exists in an inseparable relationship with it. The church, as often has been said, is a people who live “between the times.” They are caught up in a tension between the Kingdom of God and a sinful world, between the age to come and the present evil age. The church has experienced the victory of the Kingdom of God; and yet the church is, like other men, at the mercy of the powers of this world. The church is a symbol of hope, a proof that God has forsaken neither this age nor human history to the powers of evil. The Kingdom of God has created the church and continues to work in the world through the church.[9]

While Jesus never talked about building the kingdom or of his disciples ushering in the kingdom as do so many within today’s ecclesia,[10] the church is indeed inextricably bound to the Kingdom in that it is both its creation and instrument. Until that time in which the not yet is eternally transformed into the now, the church will be that which is made up of them who cry, “Thy Kingdom come thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.”


1. George Eldon Ladd, The Presence of The Future, (Grand Rapids, Michigan- Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1974), 262.

2. Ibid., 263.

3. Ibid.

4. Ibid., 264, 265.

5. Ibid., 277.

6. Murry N Rothbard, “Origins of the Welfare State in America,” Ludwig von Mises Institute (August 11, 2006), http://mises.org/daily/2225, (accessed October 4, 2011).

 7. George Eldon Ladd, The Presence of The Future, (Grand Rapids, Michigan- Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1974), 171-217.

8. Ibid., 172.

9. Ibid., 338.

10. Ibid., 333.