In an earlier blog, “The Fullness of Grace,” I shared about the two parts of Grace in the life of a Christian: the first part is free and brings salvation and access to the gifts of the Holy Spirit; whereas the second part costs us everything as we allow the Holy Spirit to actually change how we live and we become transformed by the renewing of our minds. The first part involves faith, while the second part involves love. As Paul explains in 1 Corinthians 12 and 13, the faith gifts are important and should be pursued, but love is a better way and will endure into eternity.
The primary emphasis in the teachings of Jesus was not salvation, but the Kingdom of Heaven. It was not primarily what to believe; it was instructions on how we are to live. Jesus didn’t die just to bring a new “belief system,” but to offer the world a new “life system” that began at Pentecost and will endure forever.
The doctrine of “Separation of Church and State” only makes sense if we fall for the lie that Jesus only came to teach us what to believe; in other words, if we separate “faith” from “life.” In that case Christianity is purely hypothetical and the Kingdom of Heaven advances through clever arguments as we go out convincing other people that they need to believe what we believe. It seems to me that this is what mainstream Protestantism in America generally teaches. We evangelize by telling people that salvation is a “free gift” and that they receive it by saying the “sinner’s prayer.” Well, Jesus didn’t say that the Kingdom of Heaven is free, and the “sinner’s prayer” is not found in the Bible!
Remember, Jesus did not commission us to make believers, but to make disciples. A disciple of Jesus is not someone that can be identified solely by what they believe; true disciples of Jesus stand out from the crowd because of the faith and love that flows through them as they demonstrate a better way to live!
The Kingdom of Heaven is an amazing reality that is supposed to radically change our priorities for doing life. It was this message that intrigued Nicodemus the Pharisee, causing him to visit Jesus in the night. He wasn’t intrigued because Jesus was preaching about a free gift that is the answer to all of life’s problems. He was intrigued because Jesus preached that the Kingdom of Heaven is the most expensive thing in the whole world! It is the pearl of great price, a hidden treasure in the field, which wise men would give everything for! And Jesus never promised that gaining this Kingdom would bring an end to life’s problems. On the contrary, He taught that it would increase one’s problems and bring persecution and tribulation! Yet this straight talk inspired Nicodemus to want to know more…
The message of John 3:16 is the doorway to the Kingdom of Heaven. But once the door is opened we must cross the threshold and by the power of the Spirit begin to demonstrate that we truly have been born again! Believing leads to doing, as it says in John 3:21, which are the final words that Jesus spoke to Nicodemus that night:
“But he who practices the truth comes to the Light, so that his deeds may be manifested as having been wrought in God.”
I truly believe that today the Body of Christ needs to transition away from emphasizing what to believe and begin to demonstrate to the world, once again, a better way to live. If you look at how we live we really are no different from the world. It is true that God promises to take care of His people so that they can prosper even within wicked worldly systems, yet I believe a major problem comes in when a prosperous Church looks around at the worldly system that they are thriving in and begins to say, “This is good.” Isn’t that the problem of the Laodicean Church? They see that they are rich and have an abundance of possessions and they say, “This is good, what more do we need?” (Rev.3:17).
Today, global capitalism has conquered the world. It is a system in which the “free market” and the pursuit of profit through commerce has overtaken virtually every aspect of our lives. Everything and everyone is turned into a commodity within a system based upon selfishness and competition where the prophecy of 2 Timothy 3:1-2 is being fulfilled, “But mark this: There will be terrible times in the last days. People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money…”
Everyone is looking for something valuable to possess and for something to buy or sell. In this environment we can understand why Christians are often mocked when we try to market the Gospel to the world by saying, “I have just what you need… and it’s free!” Why would such a commercially-oriented world see any value in something that we say is “free”? Instead, we should return to the straight talk of Jesus. The Kingdom of Heaven is not free. It is as expensive as anything you can imagine, and worth paying any price to receive. It will radically change you, show you a better way to live, and put you at odds with the world, leading you into persecution and tribulation. But of course, before we begin to preach this message to the world, the Body of Christ must first begin to live it.
“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).
July 1, 2012
On July 15, Sunday morning (10:30am), Peter Goodgame will be continuing this message at New Beginning Christian Fellowship, located at the Calvary Episcopal Church, 45-435 Aumoku Street, in Kaneohe.