It always amazing me that no matter how much I prepare ahead of time, the Lord always takes my sermons off track. This week was no different – granted, I stayed on ‘track’ for most of the time. It was the ending that God really took over…but considering He gave some words of knowledge and healed some folks, I guess I will let you continue to run the show. 😉
Kingdom Theology and Practice
Last week we started a series looking at who we are as a church – what are our values?
- The Theology and Practice of the Kingdom of God
- Experiencing God
- Culturally Relevant Mission
- Reconciling Community
- Compassionate Ministry
We started this series off by talking about how we are a center-set people focused on moving towards King Jesus – living a life of doing what God is doing and saying what He is saying.
Today we are going to be talking about the theology and practice of the Kingdom of God.
Now before you all get scared or nervous about “theology” – let me tell you that is really just about fried chicken.
Juicy, buttermilk batter, on-the-bone, deep-fat fried chicken – the kind that clogs your arteries the moment you take a bite. To a Southern boy like myself, that is a description of a piece of mouth watering fried chicken. Right?!
Well, image my surprise when I came home one day to a meal of fried chicken a few months into my marriage only to find a piece of lightly battered, boneless, skinless chicken breast fried in a small amount of olive oil on my plate. A bit taken back, I politely asked for clarification on what was being served – as I knew that the thing on my plate was not fried chicken.
I quickly discovered that to my Northwestern raised health cautious wife, “fried chicken” simply meant chicken that was fried.
What happened? How could the two of us have two totally different images for the same food dish? Was one right and the other wrong? For that matter, what is “fried chicken”?
My wonderful wife and I had just experienced the first of many cultural differences that was to surface of the next nine years. Even though we had both grown up in the United States of America, we processed the same words and/or phrases differently. In the case of fried chicken, my heart and waist line praises the Lord for a healthy meal – shoot, I can’t even eat deep-fat fried chicken now without having a heart attack!
Each person on this earth has a unique view on the world around them. This “worldview” is a framework of ideas and beliefs through which a person processes information. It is the “glasses” through which we, as humans, see and interact with the world – emotionally, spiritually and physically.
It’s like when you read a story or a portion of Scripture and something really jumps out at you like a billboard. Yet, when you show a friend the same passage, they don’t see anything!
British author Terry Pratchett does a great job in exploring worldviews in his Discworld series – abet in a satirical way. On Discworld, which is round flat “world” going through space on the backs of four elephants walking in a circle on the shell of a great turtle; people are known to walk on air simply because no one told them they couldn’t. Or, in other cases, a monster would walk through the streets of Ankh-Morpork unnoticed. Not because it wasn’t there, but because everyone “knows” that monsters don’t walk through cities. The peoples’ perception of reality kept them from seeing what was really there.
We do the same thing here in this world.
Last year I was at a meeting in Boise where God grew out about ten or 15 legs – including mine. Some of you may be skeptical – for we KNOW that legs don’t just grow. There are bones, muscles, blood veins, skin and a host of other stuff in that leg that would have to change and lengthen as well.
Yet, if you modified your worldview from a purely scientific view, in which nothing happens without a logical and scientific explanation, to a worldview that allows the Maker of Heaven and Earth to reach down and touch His children…then you have a leg that grew and a prayer that was answered.
So what affects our worldview?
The short answer is “almost everything”. The culture around us, the books we read, the music we listen too, the people we hang out with and the beliefs we hold all affect our worldview.
For example, remember the story about the fried chicken? The culture that I grew up in valued food cooked in oil with lots of batter. As such, I grew up thinking that there was only “one correct” way to fried chicken. My wife, on the other hand, grew up in a health cautious culture which place value on foods with little fat content. Seeing that we had different values or worldviews about how to cook fried chicken, things where bound to get messy at some point.
Science can also play a part in the development of one’s worldview. Ever since the Age of Enlightenment in the eighteenth century, people in Europe and the USA have focused on logic, science and technology. These three things were going to solve all of mankind’s problems in this world: hungry would be eliminated; wars would be stopped; diseases and famine would be cured.
As a result of this “Enlightenment”, emotions and experience were downplayed why logic and “truth” was placed on a pedestal. No longer was it “ok” to merely experience the “touch of God”. Now you had to “prove” it using logic and the truth – and possibly the Bible, depending on your belief.
What’s your “theology”?
I was on the advisory board of a college-age discipleship program at my local church for a while. During one of our meetings, I asked the primary leader/teacher of the program what “kind of theology” was he teaching. He responded with the brisk comment: “I don’t teach ‘theology’, I teach the Bible!”
A lot of you might agree with him – waving your fists at anyone who might dare teach anything but the simple black and white of the Bible. I know that feeling well for I used to be the one waving my fist and screaming at the top of my lungs. Yet in the mysterious ways of the Lord Almighty, He changed my heart and mind. How? Well, for starters I found out that the word “theology” simply means the “utterances, sayings, or oracles (logia) of God (theo)”.
Talk about a humbling experience. Here I was waving the flag of the Bible, cussing anyone who was teaching “theology”, only to find out that I was the one in error. Instead of ignoring “theology”, I had to open my worldview to include the study of God.
This brings us back full circle back to some fried chicken. We all have a different way of reading the Bible and applying it to our lives. Different ways of describing or imaging “fried chicken”. It’s not a question of “right” or “wrong”. It is a question about what is the framework on which you hang Biblical truth. In the same way that the frame of a house, though unseen, is extremely important, so is the Biblical framework or worldview that you hold is important in how you live your life and approach the Living Creator of Heaven and Earth.
Is it really THAT important?
For most people, “theology” has been delegated to the university classroom where grumpy old men stare at ancient scrolls and debate the meaning of foreign words. Perhaps they may bring it out whenever a new pastor comes to town or if their children start attending a different church. However, I think it is a safe bet that the only time most Christians think about “theology” is when they are trying to prove someone else wrong. Then, and only then, does “theology” really matter.
You might even agree with that mentality. Yet, I have to ask – if “theology” is the “utterances of God”, shouldn’t it carry more weight? And, if so, wouldn’t the conclusion of such study impact my day to day life?
Every fiber of my being cries out with a huge “YES” to both of these questions. It does matter what you believe about God and it does impact your day to day life. The glasses through which you read the Bible will influence the way you apply scripture in your daily life.
And we have to apply scripture to our daily life – not to do so is to not follow Jesus.
Jesus said that, “If you love me, keep my commands” (john 14:15)… this means that we must walk out our faith – our theology. We are to walk it out. It is not enough to simply believe a set of intellectual facts – or to go to church on Sunday…hello?
Let us read James 2:14-26:
What does it profit, my brethren, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can faith save him? If a brother or sister is naked and destitute of daily food, and one of you says to them, “Depart in peace, be warmed and filled,” but you do not give them the things which are needed for the body, what does it profit? Thus also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.
But someone will say, “You have faith, and I have works.” Show me your faith without your works, and I will show you my faith by my works. You believe that there is one God. You do well. Even the demons believe—and tremble! But do you want to know, O foolish man, that faith without works is dead? Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered Isaac his son on the altar? Do you see that faith was working together with his works, and by works faith was made perfect?
And the Scripture was fulfilled which says, “Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness.” And he was called the friend of God. You see then that a man is justified by works, and not by faith only. Likewise, was not Rahab the harlot also justified by works when she received the messengers and sent them out another way? For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also.
Jesus wants to affect every area of our life – how we think, how we act, how we treat others… how we spend our money… What we do with our time…
This is scary – ‘cause it means giving up control. It means trust someone – trusting Jesus to walk you through the mind field of life…. Listen closely – When I say that you are to trust Jesus, I really mean that you are to trust Jesus. Not the church, not the pastor, or your best friend – Jesus is alive and well – He is here today and He wants to talk to you.
Yes, He speaks through the Bible – we must read it and understand it – He also speaks to our hearts through dreams, visions, audible and impressions… these things NEVER contradict each other!
Oh, Jesus may challenge our view – interpretation – of the Bible. This is why we need each other – we need a safe place to bounce thoughts, concepts and ideas around – to stand with each other as we seek to follow Jesus.
Kingdom Theology – this is the glue that holds everything we do together. It is theology – a framework or a way of looking at the Bible that holds that Jesus is King of everything. God’s rule and reign – His kingdom – is real and powerful.
The things that are to come have broken into our world today – The Here and Not Yet. This means that we are an end time people – we live life focused not the past – not on the garden of Eden – not on what happened to us – we live life focused on the future – on the Age to Come.
Jesus told us to pray, “your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven” (Mt 6:10)
We pray for the sick – we live life focused on the Coming Age while at the same time understanding that we live a fallen world. That things don’t always go as planned – that sometimes people don’t get healed when we pray…
But instead of trying to explain this disappointment away – or trying to figure out whose to blame – or what ritual we did wrong – we similar say, “Jesus you are king. You said to ask, you said to pray over the sick. You are in charge of the outcome – not us. We will continue to ask you until you tell us to stop or you heal this person.”
This mindset goes beyond just praying for the sick – this mindset – framework – theology affects how we view each other – we are the happiest sadist people on the planet. We are a walking fight – there are two worlds, two ages fighting within us.
Part of us still lives in the Present Evil Age – the other part lives in the Age to Come. This is not a spirit versus flesh thing – as God made the flesh and called it “Good”(Genesis 1). This is a tension that comes from being a people of the Age to Come right now in this Age.
Paul says in Romans 8:22-25:
We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption to sonship, the redemption of our bodies. For in this hope we were saved. But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what they already have? But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently.
We groan as we wait for the redemption of our bodies for we have the firstfruits of the Spirit within. This is who we are…we must embrace the tension instead of trying to explain it way as this “here and not yet” framework is the life we have been called too.
Let us live this – let us walk it out. Let us be a people of the Kingdom of God.