People are Pendulums

“And he called the twelve together and gave them power and authority over all demons and to cure diseases, and he sent them out to proclaim the kingdom of God and to heal.” ~ Luke 9.1-2 [ESV]

We human beings are so often creatures of extremes or imbalance.  People are pendulums.  Say THAT ten times fast (yeah, I have kids!)…

This either/or approach to life makes its way into our churches because, contrary to what some false teachers may promote, even after we are “born of the Spirit” we still have some earthliness in us that needs to be shot and killed.  This newness of life from Romans 6 is completely ours, yes, but it takes some growing into (as we grow out of some other nastiness).  But I digress…

Jesus is in action here in Luke 9, and for those of us who are really trying to follow him in an effort to learn from him, let’s get our heads in the game and start paying attention!  The first thing we notice is that Jesus doesn’t have disciples because he’s lonely.  These twelve are not spiritual court jesters meant to keep Jesus occupied.  Jesus has disciples so he can advance his Father’s Kingdom, so he can restore a ruined world.  He makes us disciples; we don’t make ourselves disciples.  But ultimately, Kingdom “being” should result in Kingdom “doing.”  My guess is that this is what Paul is referring to in Ephesians 2.10…excellent works that we walk in.

So yes, Jesus has disciples, and these men have a very compact to-do list:

1.)  proclaim the Kingdom of God

2.)  heal people

How does the church fare when held accountable to these two objectives?  How do I?  There’s one camp that would lean towards the first objective.  We might score ourselves pretty high on #1.  We do a lot of talking, but are we proclaiming a Kingdom or are we teaching self-help principles, seasoned with a pinch of Bible-talk?  Do we explore and consider the implications of living in a Kingdom and how starkly different it is than living in this historical anomaly known as the United States?  Or maybe we do take our theology and our Bibles seriously – are we proclaiming this good news with free refills to the parched and dying people who need to hear it, or are we sipping it like 12-year old scotch in our personal studies?  Good theology is vital, but it needs an ever-expanding audience.

Or maybe we’re more about the healing.  We like to be out with “the people,” giving out cups of cold water to “the least of these.”  This crowd is so much more practical – and popular! – than the “proclaim the Kingdom of God” crew.  We become the good listener/shoulder to cry on for those who need emotional healing.  We serve up food at the local food pantry for those who need financial healing.  We might even offer to pray for a sick co-worker who needs physical healing.  But the name of Jesus never comes up.  The announcement that this same Jesus is now Lord and King of a new world, and he calls men everywhere to repent is somehow mysteriously lacking with this second “heal people” group.  We find code words like “love” and “peace” and even “god” but there’s no Kingdom proclamation.

The Jesus way isn’t Kingdom at the expense of healing.  And likewise, no vague healing is ever offered independently of King Jesus.  It must be Kingdom + healing.  Theological truth + practical restoration.  The Kingdom of God is the very context and pretext on which all true healing will take place anyway.  If the church would focus on these two objectives, maybe we wouldn’t see a better world, but an altogether new one unfolding before us.

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4 thoughts on “People are Pendulums

  1. Patrick says:

    Hi Mark,

    Bless you brother.

    I enjoyed reading your post, “People are like Pendulums”, and I wholeheartedly agree with what you said about those who engage in good works, yet do not preach the gospel of the kingdom, or mention the name of Jesus to others.

    Luke 4:18: “…the Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because He has anointed Me to preach the gospel to the poor; He has sent Me to….”

    verse: 43: “And He [Jesus] said unto them, ‘I must preach the Kingdom of God to other cities also: for therefore an I sent.'”

    Mark 16:15-17: “And He said unto them, “Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature. He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned.
    And these signs shall follow them that believe: In my name they shall cast out devils; they shall speak with new tongues, ……”

    Jesus declared that his main mission was to preach the gospel of the kingdom. Signs, miracles and wonders followed ( and especially towards those who believed his message).

    Apparently in Mark 16, this is what he instructed his disciples to do as well.

    I love to share the gospel with others, but there’s always an uncomfortable feeling present in breaking the ice with others. The gospel message is really exclusive, and it poses a real challenge. Ideally, I believe the unbeliever should be brought to the place of self-loathing and contempt for his lifestyle of rebellion against the Lord. (The truth of the kingdom gospel is sufficient to do this.) “Men and brethren, what shall we do?!” was the response of Peter’s first sermon from those whose hearts were pricked.

    It is interesting that this first sermon of Peter is (among other things) about the resurrection. I believe the expounding of this event should be central to our preaching of the gospel.

    Along this line, I realize that if I do not seek to increase my knowledge – or a least evaluate my beliefs from time to time – in regards to this topic – that I run the risk of it becoming “old hat”. Recently, my joy in regards to the resurrection has increased due to some insights gleaned from personal study, and evaluating other minister’s remarks regarding this subject.

    Would you be interested in reading and considering some of these with me on a separate blog topic?

    Thanks for making this blog available. Like you, I also enjoy writing thoughts and insights down and discussing them with people regarding the scriptures.

    Cheers,

    Patrick

    • Mark Aarstad says:

      Patrick,

      Thanks for stopping by and taking the time to chat! I do think you’ve hit on a vital point when you talk about “resurrection” as being a key focus in presenting the Gospel. My concern is that resurrection has to do with supernatural living, and while we certainly do not know the fulness of resurrection living (and cannot) as long as we walk around in these mortal tents, we can share in it. We can put a glimpse of it on display. And it is in proportion to our capacity to LIVE resurrection that we can effectively PROCLAIM the Gospel.

  2. Patrick says:

    Hey Mark,

    Thanks for getting back to me.

    I agree with you…I once heard a man say, “people really don’t care much about what you know until they know that you care”.

    That makes so much sense to me because of the quallity of love that we can manifest to our neighbors, friends and family, which is, among other things, supernatural. To love our enemies (as our Lord commanded in the Sermon on the Mount) is most definitely a holy spirit energizing thing because there’s nothing “natural” about this type of response to an adversary.

    My concern (as is yours as well?) is also that the resurrection is about imparting comfort and assurance amidst the trials and suffering so characteristic of this age we live in.

    I believe part of what enables us to live supernaturally is to be “superconvinced” of the hope that awaits us. Aside from his (Apostle Paul’s) preaching of the resurrection of Jesus, everything that Paul spoke about regarding the resurrection was EXACTLY what the Jews believed. It must have bewildered him to no extent that his own nation was so intent on persecuting him.

    Acts 24:14-16: “But this I confess unto thee, that after the way which they call heresy, so worship I the God of my fathers, believing all things which are written in the law and in the prophets: And have hope toward God, which they themselves also allow, that there shall be a resurrection of the dead, both of the just and unjust. And herein [in this hope] do I excercise myself to have a conscience void of offense toward God and men.”

    Acts 28:17 …”Men and brethren [Jews living in Rome], though I have committed nothing against the people or customs of our fathers, yet was I delivered prisoner from Jerusalem into the hands of the Romans. Who, when they had examined me, would have let me go, because there was no cause of death in me. But when the Jews spake against it, I was constrained to appeal to Caesar; not that I had ought to accuse my nation of.

    verse 20: “For this cause therefore have I called for you, to see you, and to speak with you: because that for the hope of Israel I am bound with this chain.”

    Paul said “for the hope of Israel I am bound with this chain”, which according to the (above) verses as well as Acts 23:5-9 is the exact same hope that Paul believed in, and also preached to others.

    Have you ever asked yourself why it is that the hope of being in heaven with Jesus at death ( that is, if one dies before Jesus returns) is such a common orthodox belief? And further, that the soul separates from the body at death (because it never really dies)

    As a young teen Christian ( back in 1973) , I used to despair at the thought of being suspended in the heavens with the happy angel band (I used to get vertigo thinking about it). Today, I’m blessed (and somewhat relieved) because I believe God has graciously granted me understanding about the hope that I didn’t have as a youth.

    I believe the Christian community needs to be challenged to look into the meaning of Jesus’ statement: “the meek shall inherit the earth” a bit more closely. I have never read anything that comes even close to the suggestion that the hope of the dead is instant glorification with the saints in the heavens in the Old Testament, have you?

    To me, it seems obvious (but I’m willing to consider your viewpoint) that Lazarus in Abraham’s bosom (Luke 16:19-31) is more about Jesus exposing the absurdity and futility of the Pharsaical teachings regarding life after death. I have yet to find a place in the Old Testament that indicates that Abraham’s bosom is the final resting place of the deceased, or that it is a place of conscience existence for the saints. Speaking of Abraham and other prophets such as David, both Peter and Stephen agree that these men are dead “and his sepulchre is with us to this day” Acts 2:29; Acts 7:16.

    In view of the impressive testimony of that grouping of Old Testaments saints found in Hebrews chapter 11 (including, among others, ENOCH) verse 13 says very succinctly:

    “These all died in faith, not having received the promises…”

    Have you ever taken the time to seriously ponder from the scriptures what the “blessing of Abraham” is (this blessing is supposed to come upon the Gentiles according to Galatians 3:14)?

    From my studies, the blessing that God promised to Abraham (as well as, by extension, to Enoch, Moses, David, Sampson, etc., that these HAVE NOT YET received because, at present, these men are deceased – Hebrews 11:13) has to do with land promises found in Genesis chapters 13, 15, 16, 17, 22. Take a look at this stuff, I think it is really cool!

    Probably I’ve written enough for now. You may be thinking: “alright, so isn’t this splitting hairs over nuances of doctrine, let’s just get the ball rollling with talking about Jesus and the resurrection!” I would challenge that statement by repeating a statement that the Apostle Paul mentioned earllier: “and herein do I excercise myself to always have a conscience void of offense towards God and towards men.” (Acts 24:16). From this verse, couldn’t it be argued that our conscience is something that needs to be excercised (II Timothy 2:15) ; and that what we hold to be hold to be true has a powerful effect on our ethical and moral lifestyle (particularly regard the subject matter of the resurrection – I Corinthians 15:33?)

    Have a great day, and once again, thanks for the opportunity of sharings.

    blessings,

    Patrick

  3. Patrick says:

    Mark,

    May I take an extra minute to clarify the reason I believe the doctrinal issue brought up in my last post is so important and weighty?

    When I was a senior in high school, I knew a kid who committed suicide along with another friend of his. I wasn’t a close friend, but it still struck me, as well as some of my peers (who were closer to him) pretty hard. Judging from the brief conversations I engaged with him as well as what others said about this guy, he supposedly was highly intelligent and was consistently on the Dean’s List. To me, he also carried himself in with confidence, and had a clean-cut apple pie American type of personality. Also, he wasn’t inundated with recent girlfriend problems (we went to an all boys, boarding type of military academy similar to NYMA), and he proclaimed to be a Christian.

    There were some strange rumors that circled around, but the one rumor I heard from some of his closer cohorts was that he believed in Universalism [that in the end, God saves all people], and that he had convinced this other kid (who also took his own life) that upon death, they would be instantly glorified into the new existence of The Hereafter. In other words, these kids believed (at least in one respect) what is commonly taught in most Christian churches in America: that is, that upon death, people aren’t really dead, they just go to another existence, either heaven or hell. And when Jesus returns, their soul (which never really died) will be re-united into a new body.

    I understand the motivation of ministers who say these things at funerals. This teaching on the surface has the ability to take away some of the sting of death ( but does it really if it is not true?). I personally do not believe that lies have the ability to minister healing to the human heart; but that only the truth has the ability to set people free. If anything, I believe lies have a way of adding additional injury in this scenario by giving people a perverse perspective of God (I’ve heard people say: “God took her because He wanted another rose petal in heaven”)

    In the books of Ecclesiastes, and in the Psalms, there are multiple verses that deal with the subject matter of death. Statements such as: “there is no knowledge, or wisdom or device in the grave where thou goest” Eccl 9:10; “in that very day, his thoughts perish”, Ps 146:4, “also, their love, and their hatred, and their envy; neither have they a portion for ever in anything that is done under the sun. Eccl 9:6, Verse 5 says: “For the living know that they shall die: but the dead know not anything, neither have they anymore a reward; for the memory of them is forgotten”.

    From these verses, it doesn’t sound like much is going on in the land of gravedom. Somehow, I’m missing the stain=glassed imagery of being with the happy angel band strumming a harp in the heavens.

    And then there’s the teaching that Jesus’ soul never really died on the cross, but that it was only his body that died (Plato and Socrates were big proponents of this philosophy, that is, that upon death, the soul separates from the body,and then goes on to another conscience existence. Sometimes I wonder if Greek philosophy somehow crept into Christian thought when the Hellenist [Jewish Greek speaking] Christian Community became antagonistic towards the gentile [Greek] Christians and never resolved their differences after the time of Titus’ invasion of Jerusalem in 70 AD). I’ve heard from several Protestant ministers that Jesus’ soul sent to hell during that three day period of gravedom, and that it was during this time that he preached to the imprisoned spirits.

    I think this would be an interesting thread topic to cover in this forum if you’re game for it. My personal belief is that souls die (I’ll provide verses in future posts if you’re interested), and that Jesus’ soul also died on the cross (he tasted death for every man). And that when God raised him from the dead, it was the WHOLE person that got up from the grave (not just his body). It’s interesting that Jesus, in his highly exalted position in the heavens, is still called a man. I timothy 2:5: “For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the MAN Christ Jesus.”

    I look forward to hearing your thoughts on these matters,

    Blessings,

    Patrick

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