Central to the brimming urban centers that draw many people far and wide is the allure of success. The notion we have of success in culture can take on a multitude of shapes and forms, but at its heart we observe its self-aggrandizement. For the believer and seeker who is navigating the corridors of culture and its picturesque success, what does it mean to be successful in our spiritual calling? The mark of success for the gospel calling appears vastly different and against the grain of the culture, because it points unambiguously to the success of Christ, the Savior.
Dr. Darrell Johnson, Teaching Fellow at Regent College, helps us make sense of our present through an unseen reality revealed by John's vision of God in the book of Revelations. For many of us, things can seem apocalyptic when there's pain in our present circumstances and fear of the future, but when we are feeling discouraged, we remember the two commands that the God's voice gave to John: to not be afraid, and to look at Him. When we orient ourselves to the great unseen reality of His rule and reign, we thus experience a true apocalypse - the revelation that we can be encouraged because Jesus is on the throne.
In the third installment of the "The Bible Made Simple" series, we explore one of our greatest problems when interpreting the Bible, that we generalize it, and use it without considering its original context. This is dangerous, as the text of the Bible can then be used to justify all kinds of injustices and falsehoods. Instead, we must realize that the Bible is about Jesus, and not about elevating old cultural norms, nor about predicting the apocalypse. The Bible before Christ is always prospective, heralding the coming of Christ, and the Bible after Christ is almost always retrospective, looking back to His life, death, and resurrection. Only by grounding ourselves in Christ and His love can we truly appreciate and glean meaning from the Bible.
Coming back to “The Bible Made Simple” series, we focus on the foundations on which the Bible is written. The Bible’s origins wasn’t subject to supernatural claims such as a book fallen from the sky, but was written by humans, divinely inspired by the Holy Spirit, yet subject to human anthropology. Though the Bible being a human invention can make it seemed flawed, to trust in Scripture doesn’t mean ignoring reason to place our faith in some fantastic claim about its origins. We are also placing our faith in a process when the Church thought critically about God’s story for us. So the good news is we can trust in the Bible’s foundations as a literary work that can not only allow us to acquire knowledge about God, but also help us enter His presence.
As we find ourselves living out the call in our day-to-days, week after week, year-in and year-out at our workplaces, with our families, friends, and our communities, weariness and burnout often seep into our bodies and spirit. When bombarded by life under extraordinary circumstances, how we rest is not only revitalizing to our faith, but could make all the difference for us to endure and experience breakthrough with our call. How do we experience rest when weariness gets a hold of us in living out our calling? Perhaps a few practical countermeasures are in order to address that we all sometimes need a pick-me-up of hope and help from the Father.
To truly abide in the presence of God requires that we address our sin through atonement. Throughout the Bible, we see a recurring motif of atonement by way of two goats: one goat is sacrificed and bled out to purify sin, and a second goat bears man's confession of sin and is exiled away from the presence of God. We see this motif paralleled by people - like Cain and Abel, or Isaac and Ishmael - as well as in the ritual of animal sacrifice carried out throughout history. However, over time, we became calloused and forgot the ritual's significance; and no matter how many times we offered up sacrifices, our hearts remained far from God. Mercifully, God gave man the ritual of sacrifice not as a permanent solution, but as a promise - that He would ultimately offer up Himself as the blameless scapegoat, and that He by His own doing would bridge the gap between us through His Son Jesus Christ.
Join us every Sunday at noon! In-person service meets at @AMC Theater or you can tune in live via Youtube! (180ChurchNyc)
Ministry is war. In a life of ministry, we face not only external struggles, but also deeply internal ones: demoralizing thoughts and emotions that feel like, and indeed are, demonic assaults. This is the cost of ministry. Elijah, John the Baptist, and even Jesus are not immune and have suffered through depression and feelings of isolation. When faced with this constant embattlement, we should turn to God for hope and pray to Him for healing. Amidst the struggles, there is something we can take comfort in. For when we suffer for the sake of Christ, we begin to understand and draw ever closer to the heart of God.
The goal of the “Simple” series is to clarify Jesus’ intention for systems and cultural ideas in which certain promoted values are against the heart of God. This week, we try to simplify the Bible by focussing on its limitations. Scripture is good in being the written word of God’s values, but we miss the point of it when the Bible is used as an end in itself for our own self-righteousness. Instead when used a means of grace, the correcting nature of scripture can reveal where we are living against God’s values, yet it cannot shield us from demonic trouble and the tension we feel when we confront areas where cultural and God’s values clash. But the encouragement is when we face our greatest resistance, there will be our greatest spiritual breakthrough.
For many of us along the journey with Christ, our modern internalization of calling and purpose is often found swept up along with our generalized understanding of careers and positions. We tend towards deriving our calling or a sense of purpose from our careers, although through the lens of the gospels, our calling to Christ and for Christ hardly necessitates our jobs. Although we can mix up our notions of purpose and career, the Fathers calling has been one and the same for generations of seekers and believers: to come and see who Jesus is and to invite others to a relationship with his son.
In the Bible, the Hebrew term Shema is often translated as "hear," but hearing is only the first part of the word's deeper meaning. To truly Shema means not only to hear, but also to recall, to internalize, and ultimately to take action. Clinging to and repeating the word of God is how we can understand it; truly understanding God's word is how we can then apply it to our lives; and applying God's word to our lives is what leads to the change we are looking for. Shema requires much effort, but the fruit of that effort is redemption from our cycles of brokenness and hopelessness. When we Shema, we abide in God and thereby delight in His Truth: that the life He has to offer is glorious and everlasting, that by His doing we are seated with Christ in the heavenly realms.