Apr 28, 2021
Scripture says woe to those who say that good is evil and that evil is good. That’s a culture-wide feature of our world. Each day, it seems, brings new and audacious ideas aimed at unravelling and misordering God’s very good creation.
Our first impulse might be to “blame the culture,” but it should be, instead, to take a hard look in the mirror. If the Church exists to proclaim and bear witness to the rule and reign of Christ, we may find that our culture’s woes aren’t as much the result of a secular occupation as they are the result of a Christian evacuation.
Francis Schaeffer noted how Christians think about life in terms of “bits and pieces” instead of “totals.” For example, many Christians able to recite core beliefs of the Christian faith struggle to see all of life as it truly is, the Story of creation, fall, redemption and restoration.
To see what we are missing, consider who the Book of Acts describes Apollos. A man “fervent in spirit,” Apollos “spoke and taught accurately the things concerning Jesus.” And yet, he missed certain things related to the full life and work of Jesus. It’s not that he had wrong ideas, but that he didn’t understand where they fit within the larger Story of Jesus the Christ. This is similar to our situation today.
What we often miss, as Christians today, can be thought of in three broad categories: the past, the present and the future. Or, to put it another way, what was, what is, and what is to come.
To clarify what was, recall that first calling of God for His image bearers, a calling that has never been removed, is what might be called the “creation mandate.” God didn’t create His world in all of its glory to simply destroy it. He created the world to glorify Himself. He created His image bearers to glorify God by living out what He intended for us, where He intended us live. This created purpose, for humanity and the world, God called very good.
God’s created intent is restored, renewed in Christ. Another way to say this is that Christ has not come to save us from our God-given humanity, but to save us to it. To confess Christ as Savior from sin but to deny His relevance in society and culture is to miss, or perhaps even reject, His kingship over the entire world. Working to restore the world to its God-given order is itself gospel ministry.
The what is of the present is nothing less than the most extraordinary event in all of history, the Incarnation. Jesus atones for the sins of the world by His obedience and death, and launches the new creation by His resurrection. Thus, His Gospel, the good news, is not less than how we can be saved from our sin and be in heaven when we die, but it is more. The good news of Christ is, in reality, the Gospel of the Kingdom. In Christ, the Kingdom of God has come and will one day be fully realized in the full and final defeat of the enemies of God.
Finally, we must recover a biblical understanding of what is to come. Theologian N.T. Wright described what Christians should look forward to this way:
“In the New Testament, we do not find a life after death in heaven, but a life after life after death. In other words, a newly embodied life in a newly reconstituted creation. And ... all the great Christian teachers for centuries after that, taught the same thing: that what God did for Jesus on Easter, he will do for all his people at the end, raising them to new bodily life to share in the life of the new world.”
Together, the Christian vision of what was, what is, and what is to come, offers a broad and rich understanding of God’s Story. Unless Christians, especially in this time of cultural chaos, rediscover our place in that story, we’ll be confused and often ineffective, our witness diminished.
There is no greater task, then, in the church today than to re-catechize, to rethink what the Gospel is and what it means for us to, by the power of the Holy Spirit, to champion the rule and reign of Christ in this cultural moment. Hundreds of Christians will be joining us this year to dig deep into Christian worldview, cultural analysis and restorative leadership as Colson Fellows. If you’d like to join them, and rediscover your place in the Great Story of creation, fall, redemption, and restoration, consider joining the Colson Fellows program. To learn more, please visit www.colsonfellows.org