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Social justice and post-modern worship lives or dies based on the Word of God

January 7, 2011

Wednesday I spewed vision for The Esther Project and 2011. We’re breaking almost all of the rules and seemingly aiming to drive readers away in droves, but it has to be done.

In short: The Esther Project is becoming Bible-study space.

Serious Bible-study space. Theology-style, Bible-study space.

Not apply-the-scripture-to-your-life space.

Not use-the-Bible-to-make-a-post-modern-point space.

Not what-does-the-Word-say-about-my-passion space.

Bible space.

Why? Because the Church is the West is becoming anemic.

Which is not to say there aren’t some important and very interesting conversations going on. I love the modern Christian conversations that are going on.

  1. Anytime you want to get coffee and talk about a digital revolution and it’s impact on the Church, I am so there. The Internet – especially the two point oh kind – is changing our world like the printing press and the television changed our world, and the Church has to keep up. I will brainstorm and plan and design and postulate into the wee hours of the morning with you.
  2. Social justice is my middle name(s). (Not really. Katherine is my middle name.) There is a sense in which the Church has been all talk and condemnation for too long. I dislike that we’re known for what we’re against, and that we have not loved people like Jesus loves people. I long for the day when the government doesn’t need to provide social services because the Church is being the hands and feet of Christ. Let’s set up soup kitchens and shelters and clean out the foster care system.

But, as I suggested yesterday, all of it lives or dies on the Word.

If we don’t have answers for the homeless men we’re feeding, we’re just nice people. If we write books about our faith in the next century with no mention of Christ’s return, we’re blind guides.

It’s true that without love, we’re merely clanging cymbals; but without the Word, we’re dead air time. Both are worthless.

I’m certainly not saying that we need to be theologians before we start designing interactive worship services, or buying diapers for crisis pregnancy centers; that’s ridiculous.

But I am saying that at least a decent understanding of the Word needs to be a priority. A huge priority. And we’re failing at it.

Because what do you say when a co-worker asks if God gave her son cancer to teach their family something? How do you respond when your non-Christian family member laughs about your Bible being rife with contradictions?

When the television tells your children that all gods are the same, people just call her different names?

When your spouse needs healing but it doesn’t seem to be happening?

When a friend doesn’t believe God would disapprove of her getting an abortion?

When a homosexual neighbor asks if you think God really does “hate fags”?

Do you worship a Jesus found at the cross-section of “Coexist” stickers and Eat, Pray, Love and religious tradition? Or do you worship the Jesus who is the Word made flesh? How do you know?

Do you sing the words on the screen no matter what, or do you know when they’re unbiblical? Do you accept whatever a Christian author writes because it’s published, or do you scribble scripture references in the margins to warn future readers? To you accept whatever life throws at you because you don’t know the power available to you?

Theology is not always obviously applicable. It rarely results in clear-cut To Do lists, or five-step programs. Often, the only thing it could even hope to compel us to do immediately is pray and submit, but most of us could do with a lot more of both of those things in our lives and a lot less of the former anyway.

Theology – even at it’s dullest –does, however, reveal the nature of God. It opens our eyes to His beauty, His attention to detail, His perfection, and from there we can believe for the practical and the applicable; from there we learn to love.

All the rest lives and dies on the Word because the One who died and yet lives, who taught us how to die so we may have life more abundantly, is the Word made flesh.

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8 Comments leave one →
  1. January 7, 2011 9:51 am

    I just started listening to an audio eschool course from IHOPU (eschool.ihop.org) called Christology II by Stephen Venable and he says something that I think is very true (since it is based on the Word). :) A couple verses first…

    “No one has seen God at any time; the only begotten God who is in the bosom of the Father, He has explained Him.” John 1:18

    “…true knowledge of God’s mystery, that is, Christ Himself, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.” Colossians 2:2-3

    And a quote from A.W. Pink…

    “If the believer would enter into a better, deeper, fuller knowledge of God he must prayerfully study the person and work of the Lord Jesus Christ as revealed in the scriptures! Let this be made our chief business, our great delight, to reverently scrutinize and meditate upon the excellencies of our Divine Savior as they are displayed upon the pages of Holy writ. Then, and only then, shall we ‘increase in the knowledge of God’. The ‘light of the knowledge of the glory of God’ is seen only ‘in the face of Jesus Christ.’”

    All this to say, that in order for us to have a correct theology or view of God, we must first have true knowledge of Jesus (Christology), since He is the one who reveals God to us. It would seem that not only do we need knowledge of the Word, but more importantly we need revelation of the Living Word – the One who is the Word that became flesh! Obviously, we get to know Jesus through the written Word, so they are inseparable, but I think the ultimate goal is to discover who Jesus is, because without understanding that, we will never know who the Father is or what is in their hearts for how we need to live and operate as Christians and as the Church, the body of which Jesus is the head. Agree/Disagree?

    • Lex permalink
      January 10, 2011 6:22 pm

      Great A.W. Pink quote.

      Agreed. Except is it really a progression? We say things like “first” we have to know this thing, and “then” something else wil make sense. Usually that’s true, but I wonder if it’s true of God.

      We know/understand God through Jesus, but Jesus isn’t just a doorway to God – He IS God. The written Word isn’t just a map to Jesus – Jesus IS the Word made flesh. I think these discussions need more “as” phrases than, maybe, “first” and “then” phrases: AS we study the written Word, we come to know the One who is the Word made flesh, and AS we understand the person of Jesus we understand His Spirit that He’s given us, and AS we practice His presence we come to better understand the Father – of course – because He is Three in One.

      Thoughts?

      • January 11, 2011 10:45 pm

        Hmmm…I had not thought of it that way. I suppose what I was thinking was not that it is a progression of one thing coming first and then another, but more so, as A.W. Pink said it, that our study of Jesus ought to be “chief”, or of the utmost importance, or preeminent over all other topics.

        I absolutely agree that Jesus IS God and Jesus IS the Word made flesh – He is not just a doorway, nor is the Word only a map – so, it makes sense to focus our attention on seeking to know Jesus, since He is our clearest picture of who God is – He is God’s exact representation, the very image of God, the One who came to reveal God to us.

        I don’t think there is a rule book about any order of obtaining knowledge, so I agree that there is probably simultaneous understanding that comes as we study the Word on who each Person of the Trinity is and that they all reveal each other to us. :) Does that make sense?

      • Lex permalink
        January 12, 2011 3:25 pm

        Gotcha. Yes, perfect sense. And I totally agree. :)

  2. Jacob Z. permalink
    January 8, 2011 11:32 am

    Lex, this is a fabulous idea! To bring up the idea of explaining Jesus Messiah while we try to walk as he did is brilliant and a lot of what that Bible says. But the Church of today is so focused on ‘letting our walk do the talking’ which would be great…if they understood why we were walking that way. Doing good works and not letting people know of the Father and of Jesus is therefore not giving glory to them by your good deeds, is it? Last week a friend played me a song by a quite famous Christian worship artist, and in it he sings of helping the poor, going out to different countries, and a one other life action, yet he never mentioned why, Jesus, or the gospel! I was shocked when I heard this song even more that Churches that this friend knew were using it as a worship song.—which is a total different side issue— As you said, “But I am saying that at least a decent understanding of the Word needs to be a priority…If we don’t have answers for the homeless men we’re feeding, we’re just nice people.” You hit the nail on the head, we’re not just to be “good people” we are to be God’s witnesses to the world, whether that is in a soup kitchen, pulpit, overseas, to our neighbors, and co-workers. To be God’s witnesses you need to have a voice, it’s the Word of God that will set people free, let us not forget that!
    On a side note, I enjoyed your question of which Jesus do you worship. It reminds me of the difference from the ‘Jesus is my homeboy” t-shirts to a shirt that says, “Jesus is my King.” Keep things in focus we are a slave to Jesus not the other way around.

    • Lex permalink
      January 10, 2011 6:27 pm

      Great thoughts, Jake, and thanks for the encouragement.

      I’m similarly frustrated with the “social gospel” that omits Jesus. Anther pop-culture-Jesus thorn in my flesh is the, “Preach the gospel at all times, and if necessary use words” quote. I’m sure whomever said it originally – ’cause I’ve heard it attributed to a haf-dozen saints – meant right by it, but it’s been abused. The gospel is the amazing news that Jesus came, lived and died so you and I could be restored. You can’t “preach” that without words. Building houses and setting up soup kitchens are good, but they’re not the gospel.

  3. Jacob permalink
    January 13, 2011 8:00 pm

    A good author that wrote on this topic, is none other than A.W.Tozer. I would suggest the first chapter of knowledge of the holy to sum this all up. Aka God and the understanding is the utmost importance for Christians, everything else flows out from that.

    • Lex permalink
      January 14, 2011 11:11 am

      I have chunks of the first chapter of Knowledge of the Holy scheduled to post next week. :) That book wrecked me.

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