February 10 2018
ARE CHURCHES STILL RELEVANT?
It is one of my totally gut-originating rules of Christian life that only when we have become what we are, when we have really lived before we die, we are allowed to enter the Kingdom. The Kingdom being the New Creation, for which Jesus gave his life, and which soon will become reality.
The central point of the Gospel is not us poor humans and our pain and suffering: no, the entire focus of the Gospel is aimed at the unique, powerful reality that God wants to reinstate his Kingdom, and so undo the damage Adam and Eve did in the Garden of Eden. He wants a complete new start, one that will succeed this time because we have learned the lesson.
That’s why God intends to unite all of today’s fractured parts of his creation into one over¬arching harmonious total.
Forget about cozying up with Jesus and expect him to save you, while totally living at the detriment of creation, with not a single thought even hinting that there’s something wrong with such an attitude. Fact is that we have been completely brainwashed by pious secularism, the main message of churches everywhere.
The harsh biblical truth is that there is no such thing as individual salvation. All salvation is of necessity universal. The goal of our life can never be that we personally may enjoy God and be saved in him. The goal of our life can only be that we again become part of the greater context of the Kingdom of God, where everything is again unified under the one and only all wise will of him who lives and rules for ever, because the reality is that God, we and the earth are one, forever.
That’s what I believe with every fiber of my being.
I wholeheartedly believe that when we try to implement that total KINGDOM concept in our lives, only then can we truly live before we die, and truly become what we are.
That ties in with Jesus’ words, “love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind and with all your strength,” a declamation found in all three of the synoptic gospels of Matthew, Mark and Luke.
This triple affirmation shows the significance of this statement. Loving God is a hands-on matter, that’s why we need to love God in a truly down-to-earth- way. After all, says 1 Timothy 6: 16, “God lives in inapproachable light whom nobody has seen or can see.” It’s impossible to love the unseen.
Here’s an example: we know next to nothing about Shakespeare as a person, not even how he looks like, yet his name is on everybody’s lips and his works are always quoted and performed.
The same is true about God. We can’t picture him – we are not even allowed to – but we know him through his works, “This is my Father’s world”, we sing, “his hands the wonders wrought.”
So does it then not make sense to love his creation, just as we treasure Shakespearean plays, or delight in Mozart’s music?
Jesus came “To restore a world that is now beyond repair”. He came for that purpose only, and in order to become a future citizen of that NEW CREATION, we now have to live the LIFE OF ETERNITY.
That’s what the churches have to preach, continually, because we are a stubborn bunch, far more integrated in the world than in the Kingdom, which, for most church goers, is a totally foreign concept: I repeat: it is the NEW CREATION to come!!
That’s why I see John 3: 16 as my guiding light in my life, which centers on THE COSMOS, all that is and moves and has a being.
God, in his grace, steered me to read the right books, and meet the right people. In 1972-3 one of my friends alerted me to THE LIMITS OF GROWTH which convinced me that we live in A FINITE EARTH. Then one of my employees gave me a book, “After Death…What?” This book opened my eyes to THE HEAVEN HERESY, further explained by Dr. C. A. van Peursen, in his book, Body, Soul and Spirit, in which he exposed the Greek pagan thinking behind the HEAVEN HERESY. He wrote, “When Socrates died, he welcomed death. In The Trials of Socrates, Plato depicts Socrates’ last moments. Plato quotes Socrates: “I’ll no longer stay put, but will take my leave of you and depart for certain happy conditions of the blessed”.
Socrates is certain that he’s on the way to heaven, and even says a prayer to the gods after drinking the poison: “‘One is, I suppose, permitted to utter a prayer to the gods – and one should do so – that one’s journey from this world to the next will prove fortunate”.
Yes, there’s where the HEAVEN HERESY originates: Greek Pagan Thinking!
I love the church.
Let me from the outset say that, even though I am often critical of the church, I still love it because it provides fellowship. Somehow I believe that Nulla Salus extra ecclesiam: no salvation outside the church.
Yet it pains me when I see it slowly dying.
It pains me to see it failing to live up to its ultimate task, and failing to express her great longing for the end time.
It pains me to see it squander her mission: its flagrant failure to prepare its people for THE KINGDOM TO COME.
It pains me to see her neglect to point out that, basically, she is not of this world, but belongs to the coming age and that she must aim all her efforts in that direction.
Today all signs point to SYSTEMIC COLLAPSE of the current way of life. No wonder eschatological con¬sciousness is undergoing a revival throughout the world for obvious reasons, but somehow it seems to bypass the church of Christ, even though the entire Bible is written with THE END in mind.
In spite of everyday signs that this world is on its final legs, that everywhere there are signs of global fatigue, of pure environmental exhaustion, the church stubbornly refuses to see and read the ‘signs of the times.’
It was different right after Pentecost: then the early church understood this, as is evident from the writings of that period.
In the Didachè, one of the oldest writings of the early church, the prayer for the Lord’s Supper went as follows: “Let grace abound, and let this world pass away. Maranatha!” (Maranatha means, “Lord come quickly” my mantra when I run three times each week).
Over the years the centre of the Good News has changed: Psalm 19, among many, makes it clear that God’s word vibrates throughout the universe, and Romans 1: 20 affirms that, seeing, living, being part of creation, should be sufficient evidence that there is a MASTERMIND behind it all, but the church has lost THE GOSPEL OF THE EARTH.
Today the church’s singular focus is on the saving of souls and pays scant attention to the saving of species. “Jesus came to save sinners”, true, but his real mission was to save THE COSMOS.
No wonder Luke 18: 8 laments: “Nevertheless, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?” This explains Matthew 7: 13-14:
“For the gate is small and the way is narrow that leads to life, and there are FEW who find it.”
Personal salvation is part and parcel of the salvation of the cosmos: they go hand in hand. We cannot love Jesus while consciously harming the cosmos for which he gave his life (John 3: 16). Love for Jesus and love for the cosmos are two sides of the same coin: they are the coin. You can’t have one without the other.
In Revelation 18 the Fall of Babylon is announced. Then all the merchants of the world mourn over the big city, but the saints call out, “Rejoice over her, O heaven! Rejoice, saints and apostles and prophets! God has judged her for the way she treated you” (Rev. 18:20).
Soon collapse is here because we live in an environment of extinction. We have subjected the planet to the pernicious perils of global warming which speeds up the coming of the Kingdom.
That rejoicing comes from a genuine conviction that this world is hastening toward destruction and that through that destruction the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ will come.
What then is the place of the church today, in these END TIMES?
The church always has had a dual calling: it is in the world, but not of the world, just like all the believers: it is separate from the world and constantly has to show compassion for the world.
We have this hymn which indicates its separateness: “the church’s one foundation is Jesus Christ the Lord”. The church stands apart because she is rooted in a different soil than the human race and belongs to a different age.
Jesus in his prayer as recorded in John 17 ardently prays for the church, “I have given them your word and the world has hated them, for they are not of the world any more than I am of the world. My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one. They are not of the world, even as I am not of it.”
That we do not belong to this world is repeated in 1 John 5:19, “we are children of God, but the whole world is under the control of the evil one”
Yet the church can never be indifferent to the plight of the world and treat it with disdain or lack of concern. The church can never aban¬don the world, never let go of her, because till the very last she sees the world as the territory of God’s infinite possibilities.
God is able to perform great miracles in that fallen world, and can still involve many in the world in the plan he has for the redemption of the world. In that redemption plan the church herself is an instrument in God’s hand: “as the Father has sent me, so I send you.”
The two poles.
Those are the two poles between which the life of the church moves. She can only be fully engaged in the plight of the world when she knows to be “different” from the world, when she is keenly aware of the knowledge: today that knowledge is more keenly focused on THE END. Only when rooted in that knowledge that the church can engage the world with unflagging energy.
Today the message of the church must be geared to the times. “Is Western civilization on the brink of collapse?”, the lead article in last week’s New Scientist asks. And the answer is “yes”.
So will the church warn the world of its pending demise? Or will it keep on hammering on personal salvation, because that is so much safer, and doesn’t disturb the ‘wo(man) in the pew” too much. But still the church cannot escape that summons, so poignantly formulated in the Revelation of John:
“Come out of her, my people, so that you will not share in her sins, so that you will not receive any of her plagues” (Rev. 18:4).
Are churches still relevant?
Churches are only relevant when they become like Noah. For decades he built the Ark in the Middle of Nowhere: the butt of jokes, “Look at that man: he builds a huge ship in the desert: he’s totally off his rocker.”
The church too must become the butt of JOKES: preaching a renewed earth where also all animals, alive and extinct, will find refuge.
Jesus tells us in that fateful Matthew 24: 38-39, “For as in those days before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noah entered the ark, and they did not understand until the flood came and TOOK ALL THE SINNERS AWAY; so will the coming of the Son of Man be.
Noah, the believer, was LEFT BEHIND, and the sinners were taken away.
And, says Jesus, when he returns, just like Noah, the believers are left behind on God’s Holy Earth, and the sinners are taken away.
So Church, if you want to be relevant: preach the immediate return of the Lord and the coming of the New Creation and become the butt of jokes.