Monday, September 29, 2008

moving along

In Scripture God speaks to each person (e.g., Jeremiah) in their ways for their day. This continues for us today. Not only is it true that God's word would speak into John Wesley's day in a different way than today's, but it's likewise true it would speak differently into any number of different cultures today than our own.

The truth in Jesus remains the same. It's our task to see how it is to be lived out in every culture beginning with our own. This is part of the genius (not human genius) of Scripture: the truth as it is in Jesus will be the same truth but will be expressed according to each culture that receives it, both in terms of judging what is wrong and sinful and redeeming what is of the image of God in each culture. And this towards the goal of fulfilling the kingdom of God in the new creation in Jesus, which begins now (tried to link 2 Corinthians 5:17 to "now" but unable to this morning, either from the TNIV site or from Bible Gateway).

I'm guessing this is what can help us in reading challenging thinkers such as Dietrich Bonhoeffer, who was trying to grapple with what it meant to live out the truth of Scripture which for him included the heart of the message of the Reformation, in his day in Nazi Germany. His was a stark message against nationalism, at least in warning that it can be an idol to Christians and the church, to lead them astray from truly following Christ, and therefore truly being Christians.

There is timeless truth in Scripture, but it must be shared in timely fashion. Of course how God's word is lived out in one generation or place differs from another generation or place. Not because God's word changes, but partly because God's word has within it a goal to which we must be moving along towards. We must seek to understand God's will in creation and in new creation in Jesus, and then find how we're to fulfill that in at least moving towards it in our own day and in whatever culture we're seeking to reach with the gospel of Jesus. This must be sensitive to each time and place.

Of course we all need to hear the same message of reconciliation through Jesus. That he is the Messiah fulfilling God's promises in the old covenant, and thus being a light to all nations, to the world. Beginning with each of us in bearing our sins in his body on the Tree, that we might die to sins and live to righteousness, that by his stripes we are healed (1 Peter 2:24).

God's word must speak in fresh ways and it's meant to. The gospel is about each of us in Jesus, being reconciled to God through his death. But it goes beyond that to include all of creation. Therefore it has application to all of life. This must be searched out and lived out in the church for the world. With hopefully an impact on the world in transforming culture. God's kingdom in Jesus is not from this world (John 18:36; NRSV). But it's in the world to change the world. This is meant from top to bottom beginning now, even in a fallen world, and to be completed when Jesus returns.

This is why for me both a constant intake of God's word, and a study of the culture we live in and what is taking place, are both important. Only then can God help us know how we should live in our time and place. Of course always subject to correction and continued change as we continue to move along with God in his unfolding Story and work in Jesus.

What thoughts do you have here?


Lanny said...

I some times wonder if today's cultural problem isn't nationalism but individualism. Jesus' truth is that we are tangled in selfishness, for some in Nazi Germany and other places through out time, selfishness was served best by adherence to an ideologue leading a nation.

In today's society, through this country woman's perspective, I see that there is a drive to shout disapproval of everything that doesn't serve our self interest first and others definately last, calling it protesting imperialism, and practice it under the guise of being for the underdog. We pass it off as freeing everyone from from the tyranny of the state but in reality we have gone far into binding ourselves and others to Satan, his footholds and his evils and call it liberation.

Just thinking but maybe I need more coffee, or less.

Anonymous said...

God's word is good fuel.

Deb said...

I really like this post! Our lives being part of the continuing story of God's Word as " God speaks to each person in their ways for their day."

Ted M. Gossard said...

Actually as far as I can tell, politics was the furthest thing from my mind when I was typing this post. Actually due to having something of an Anabaptist theology (Mennonite, etc.), nationalism is something basically looked down on, contra C.S. Lewis (so you're in great company if you disagree with me on that!). Bonhoeffer saw it as a big stumbling block in his day, and if you read his book, "Cost of Discipleship", you'll find that he takes a pretty literal, strong stand on how we live out Jesus' teaching in "the Sermon on the Mount" (Matthew 5-7).

But your points are well taken.

Another passage that would be key in part of what I was thinking about in this post is 1 Corinthians 9 where Paul talks about being all things to all people. Of course this doesn't mean sinning because they sin.

Ted M. Gossard said...

Yes, God's word moves us to do God's will revealed in it, I believe. How that's to be lived out precisely takes plenty of prayer and study and thought, I would think.

Ted M. Gossard said...