The church has an important role in restoring the earth as God’s kingdom, but the church isn’t the goal. The church points to something bigger than itself: life under Jesus’ kingship.
The gospel of the Lord is the good news of his kingdom — his kingship restored to the earth in his anointed. Here it is in summary:
Ephesians 4 10 He who descended is the very one who ascended higher than all the heavens, in order to fill the whole universe. (NIV)
The Bible’s whole story in that verse. Our heavenly sovereign entrusted his earthly realm to people who rebelled against his kingship and ended up as captives to evil instead. Instead of using force to defeat force, God’s anointed ruler joined us in our captivity, dying at the hands of the rulers who were puppets of evil. When God raised him out of death, the captives enslaved under death were set free — free to live in the reign of God’s anointed. When the king was restored to us, his kingdom was restored to the universe.
Since God designed humans to be agents of the divine sovereign’s reign in his earthly realm (Genesis 1), the Messiah restored this mandate to humanity. The resurrected king gave gifts to humanity. His gifts were people — people entrusted with the responsibility to share in his management of the planet, by leading humanity into communal life under his kingship:
Ephesians 4 11 So Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, 12 to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up 13 until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ. (NIV)
This is unique. Any other ruler would have been wary of trusting power to ex-rebels, but Jesus entrusts his regal dominion to people, servants who empower the whole of humanity to grow up into Christ, our king.
Divine benevolence beyond imagination.
If you want to handle Scripture well, you’ll be very interested in how the New Testament writers handled the Old. What they do can seem puzzling, but it’s so informative.
Consider this example where Paul seems to misquote a Psalm: Continue reading “Grace is a generous king (Ephesians 4:7–10)”
How will you respond to children asking for a trick or treat?
Tomorrow is 31 October. Children from your neighbourhood may dress up as ghouls or superheros and knock on your door. How will you respond?
Some church-goers fear the demonic realm and worry that Halloween leads children into the occult through its focus on all things spooky. Horror, zombies, the undead, witches and ghosts — it all revolves around fear.
Some Australians object to Halloween as a foreign festival that doesn’t belong in our calendar or culture. They want to leave the pumpkins where they belong.
Or perhaps you’re more worried about what those sugar sweets are doing to the children.
So is Halloween evil? What do you make of it?
It may surprise you to know that Halloween was once a Christian festival. It’s the eve of All Saints’ Day. The “saints” literally means the holy ones, the people devoted to God. Some of those have already died, so they’re awaiting resurrection (according to 1 Corinthians 15:23). The church honoured particular saints on particular days (e.g. St Patrick’s Day), and they set aside 1 November to honour all the saints. The name Hallow’een means the eve of Saints’ Day.
As so often happens, popular culture corrupted this Christian festival. Imaginations ran riot on the evening before Saints’ Day as people pictured the ghostly forms of the dead saints they were to honour the next day. Pagan ideas were mixed with Christian beliefs.
How should Christians respond now? If you have children whose friends are into Halloween, take the opportunity to discuss what it means and how it’s so easy for something good to be corrupted. Ask them if they have noticed the commercialization and corruption of other Christian festivals too. (Hint: Santa Claus, Easter bunny.) If it’s appropriate to your children’s age, talk about the authority of Christ over evil in all of its forms.
Whether you have children or not, what do you do when those little ones approach you for a trick or treat? Before you turn them away with your self-righteous indignation against all things evil, ask yourself this question: how often do the people of your neighbourhood come to your door? Is opportunity knocking here?
A few years ago, we started stocking up for Halloween by buying two things: individually wrapped sweets, and pencils with “Jesus loves you” on the side. Okay, that’s pretty corny: you can probably think of something better. Each child who knocked on our door was offered something from the sweets bag and something from the stationery box. We asked their names, and spoke to their parents if they were watching from the road.
We wanted them to know Christians as people who cared for their precious lives. Is that better than rejecting them because of their ignorance or our fear?
What others are saying
Ben Witherington III: The Origins of Halloween (3 minute video on YouTube).
John S. Leonard, Get Real: Sharing Your Everyday Faith Every Day electronic edition (Greensboro, NC: New Growth Press, 2013):
In my opinion, if you’re interested in reaching your neighbors, one of the most important holidays to participate in, for Christ’s sake, is Halloween. One reason is that it’s the one night of the year that you can go and knock on all your neighbors’ doors, and they will be happy to see you!
At the hinge of the book, Ephesians calls us to outwork the gospel: to live a life worthy of the calling you have received (4:1).
Previously, it explained the good news: God is reuniting humanity in the reign of his anointed. Now it explains how the good news people embody his reign: in community (4:1-16), in ourselves (4:17 – 5:20), in home and business life (5:21 – 6:9), and in the wider community (6:10-23).
Did you notice what’s missing? In a book about the gospel, he forgot to advise us on how to get the unsaved to make a decision, how to get our neighbours into church, how to get that aunt to pray the Sinner’s Prayer before she dies. Continue reading “Being good news (Ephesians 4:1-6)”
“As a jailbird, I urge you to live up to your calling.” That has to be one of the funniest sentences in the Bible. Do you really want to learn ethics from a criminal?
It makes no sense if you don’t understand the gospel of the kingdom, the nature of sin and salvation.
Enrol now for 2020.
If you’re in Perth and serious about serving Jesus, would you consider devoting a year to learning how to do it well?
In twelve months at Riverview College, you could have:
- a Diploma of Ministry (10574NAT),
- leadership masterclasses from experts like Tim Healy and Aash Parmar,
- hands-on ministry experience (internship).
The Diploma studies are your deep-dive into the Bible, theology, practical skills, and personal development: six hours of lectures each Thursday. On Wednesdays you’ll be engaged with the Riverview staff, soaking up the leadership masterclasses, and serving in the internship. There are also assessments to complete for the Diploma, and you will be serving in a ministry team on the weekends as well.
This Facebook video is your invitation.