I have had several inquiries about the videos used on the weekend in Part 3 of our series, Renew my Life Lord! This week we are exploring how to battle our spiritual amnesia by “remembering who you are and who’s you are.” You can watch the videos below.
Author Jonathon Wilson-Hartgrove challenges people to enjoy the abundant life promised by Jesus Christ. Jonathon’s book , God’s Economy: Redefining the Health and Wealth Gospel, is not your typical Health and Wealth Gospel being flogged by many in the Church today. Rather, it is an attempt to express what Jonathon and others who are living in new monastic communities are experiencing as they take Jesus at His Word. Jonathon understands Jesus’ call into relationship with Him as a salvation that secures not only forgiveness of sin and eternal life but also a salvation that secures participation in an alternative economy so that the abundant life is lived now.
Each of the “tactics” of the alternative economy presented by Jonathon enliven me and make me nervous. Fortunately they are not Jonathon’s tactics, but Jesus’ commands to those who follow him. The alternative economy moves according to these commands:
Tactic 1: Subversive Service: How God’s Economy Slips In. “If anyone wants to be first, he must be the very last, and the servant of all.” Mark 9:35
Tactic 2: Eternal Investments: How God’s Children Plan Ahead. “Store up for yourselves treasure in heaven.” Matthew 6:20
Tactic 3: Economic Friendships: How Real Security Happens. “I tell you, use worldly wealth to gain friends for yourselves.” Luke 16:9
Tactic 4: Relational Generosity: How We Share Good News. “Give to the one who asks you.” Mathew 5:42
Tactic 5: Gracious Politics: How to Live Under Occupation. “Give to Caesar what is Caesar’s and to God what is God’s.” Mark 12:17
I only completed my first reading of Jonathon’s book today. But, I heartedly recommend God’s Economy to anyone who has handled money, to anyone who has been troubled by their own selfishness and greed, to anyone who wonders if Jesus really means for us to live better on less, and to anyone who is committed to being a Acts 2 community with a group of Christians. God’s Economy is not really a how-to manual. It is a confessional work, full of stories and testimonies of others who have entered into a generous and abundant life with Jesus and sought out, sometimes painfully–, how to live by faith in the One who owns the cattle on a thousand hills.
Here are the notes from the New Testament Challenge Message at Cityview this weekend on Radical Love.
The Big Idea: Radical love flows from a gracious and just God.
“Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.
radical: 1) arising from or going to a root source
2) departing markedly from the norm or the culture
3) favouring or effecting fundamental or revolutionary changes
4) slang: wonderful
1. Jesus describes radical love as a product of knowing Him.
“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciple, if you love one another.” John 13:34-35
“My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends. You are my friends if you do what I command.” John 15:12-13
2. The Sermon on the Mount, Matthew 5-7 is not another “law” from which we try to gain acceptance from God if we perfect it. Rather the Sermon on the Mount is descriptive of the lifestyle that flows from a person being transformed (blessed) by Jesus Christ. As Jesus concludes the message the nature of this life becomes more clear:
Ask the Father for good gifts… Matthew 7:7-12
Enter the narrow gate for life… Matthew 7:13-14
Good tree bears good fruit/entry into
the Kingdom of heaven via knowing Jesus Matthew 7:15-23
Wise builder puts Jesus words into practice Matthew 7:43-48
3. The Sermon on the Mount does give us insight on what hinders us from loving people radically.
A. Contempt for people, the bearers of God’s image. Matt 5:21-26
B. Lust, a desire to use people for selfish ends. Matt 5:27-30
C. Building throwaway relationships. Matt 5:31-32
D. Making throwaway promises, words. Matt 5:33-37
E. Vengeful justice-seeking. Matthew 5:38-42
F. Smallness, limiting love to those who love us. Matt 5 43-48
G. Desiring the applause of people over the applause of God. 6:1-18
H. Valuing financial security over the works of God. 6:19-24
I. Worrying over the stuff of earth over the kingdom of God. 6:25-
J. Using other people’s failure as reason to elevate ourselves. 7:1-6
4. Jesus creates a window for us to see examples of Radical love:
A. Seeks out a person who we have heart when we realize it.
B. Interacts with people with out using them for selfish pleasures.
C. Values people and seeks to maintain covenants even when tough.
D. Speaks clearly and sincerely about one’s intentions.
E. Gives people more good than they deserve.
F. Pursues the highest good possible even for enemies.
G. Doesn’t mind doing good without earthly recognition.
H. Treasures what is close to the heart of God and invests in that.
I. Trusts God with the details of life in order to realize God’s
Kingdom and righteousness.
J. Recognizes one’s own desperate need from God’s mercy and
grace and humbly participates in His healing and restorative work
in another person’s life.
5. Jesus is The Source for Radical Love:
10 This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. 11 Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. 12 No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us.
13 We know that we live in him and he in us, because he has given us of his Spirit. 14 And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent his Son to be the Savior of the world. 15 If anyone acknowledges that Jesus is the Son of God, God lives in him and he in God. 16 And so we know and rely on the love God has for us. God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in him. 17 In this way, love is made complete among us so that we will have confidence on the day of judgment, because in this world we are like him. 1 John 4:10-17
In a few days Vancouver will be inundated with people who have demonstrated with their life a commitment to improving the lives of others and building a life of peace. The Peace Summit, Vancouver 2009, sponsored by the Dalai Lama Center in Vancouver has drawn together an extraordinary group of people for dialogue in both public and private conversations. The Epoch times has an informative article listing and describing the participants which include the Dalai Lama, and Noble Peace Prize Laureates, Desmond Tutu, Jody Williams, and Mairead Maguire.
I was recently asked what I thought about the event. Here are a few personal observations and the perspectives that shape them–just looking in before it gets started:
1. The Summit is a remarkable celebration of LIBERTY. As a philosophical construct informed from a Christian worldview, liberty demands that people be free to hold exclusive and divergent positions or truth claims while maintaining the dignity and high value of all humanity in respectful interactions. Where liberty is most graciously practiced tension abounds–especially for those who observe people with divergent truth-claims getting along and planning to do good together.
2. The Summit promotes the difficult task of PEACEMAKING. The values and competencies required to make peace in a world of hostility will be discussed and made available through the event. Relational reconciliation begins in our own neighbourhoods and cities. To break dividing walls of hostility is not an easy task and requires “wisdom from heaven.” Jesus calls his followers to respond to His grace with lives that promote peace; he said, “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called sons of God.” And James writes,
13 Who is wise and understanding among you? Let him show it by his good life, by deeds done in the humility that comes from wisdom. 14 But if you harbor bitter envy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast about it or deny the truth. 15 Such “wisdom” does not come down from heaven but is earthly, unspiritual, of the devil. 16 For where you have envy and selfish ambition, there you find disorder and every evil practice.
17 But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere. 18 Peacemakers who sow in peace raise a harvest of righteousness. NIV (James 3:13-18)
2:1 I urge, then, first of all, that requests, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for everyone- 2 for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. 3 This is good, and pleases God our Savior, 4 who wants all men to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth. 5 For there is one God and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, 6 who gave himself as a ransom for all men-the testimony given in its proper time. (NIV)
4. The Summit is a RELIGIOUS event. Participants, including the Dalai Lama come to the Summit from their own worldview and construct of faith either in themselves, or a set of principles greater themselves, or in a god. If we understand spirituality as the pursuit required to integrate what we see with what we don’t see then one could say this is a SPIRITUAL event as well. James, the half-brother of Jesus, writes to the churches that “Religion God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.” (James 1:27) Religion though is most often an exercise in self-justification, self-righteousness, and self-awareness. When either of these selves is threatened it turns quickly to the desires for power and control in order to maintain this idolatry or balance of a self-satisfied life. A spirituality flowing out of the Gospel of Jesus Christ will be categorically different in its realization that justification, righteousness and awareness are secured in Christ. As a resident of a City (Vancouver) that has many who long to be good, I can observe with the Apostle Paul that God has worked in the hearts of humanity a record of His Law or way: “Indeed, when Gentiles, who do not have the law, do by nature things required by the law, they are a law for themselves, even though they do not have the law, since they show that the requirements of the law are written on their hearts, their consciences also bearing witness, and their thoughts now accusing , now even defending them.” (Romans 2:14-15) One of the stated goals of the Dalai Lama Center for Peace and Education is the “education of the heart;” participants will be encouraged to explore and develop personal peace from which will hopefully flow compassion for others; that’s religion at its best. Not a GOSPEL event but a RELIGIOUS event.
5. The Peace Summit reminds me of the SUPREMACY OF CHRIST. The followers of Jesus even from the first century have entered into the real and sometimes figurative Areopagus (See Acts 17:16-34) in order to proclaim the reality and the meaning of the resurrection of Jesus Christ. The exchange of ideas in the marketplace is exciting and sometimes costly. Love and Truth do mix. Our Vancouver- Canadian apprehension of conflict will be challenged by the public exchange of ideas that the Peace Summit elicits. From the Christian worldview, Christians live their lives in response to Jesus Christ because of His “work” on the cross and His resurrection that confirmed and completed His work. Jesus is our Prince of Peace. He brings a peace that the world cannot give. He brings a peace with God that transcends all other realities. I don’t want to pretend about the realities of conflict like those who say, “Peace, Peace, where there is no peace.” (See Jeremiah 6:14) The claims of Christ are in direct conflict with the dominant messages of spiritual self-sufficiency. The Apostles who functioned in a world of diverse ideas and claims to truth show us how to live as followers of Jesus Christ: test the spirits, discern the truth, act in love. See 1 John 4:1-21 below.
4:1 Dear friends, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world. 2 This is how you can recognize the Spirit of God: Every spirit that acknowledges that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, 3 but every spirit that does not acknowledge Jesus is not from God. This is the spirit of the antichrist, which you have heard is coming and even now is already in the world.
4 You, dear children, are from God and have overcome them, because the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world. 5 They are from the world and therefore speak from the viewpoint of the world, and the world listens to them. 6 We are from God, and whoever knows God listens to us; but whoever is not from God does not listen to us. This is how we recognize the Spirit of truth and the spirit of falsehood.
7 Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. 8 Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. 9 This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. 10 This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. 11 Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. 12 No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us.
13 We know that we live in him and he in us, because he has given us of his Spirit. 14 And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent his Son to be the Savior of the world. 15 If anyone acknowledges that Jesus is the Son of God, God lives in him and he in God. 16 And so we know and rely on the love God has for us.
God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in him. 17 In this way, love is made complete among us so that we will have confidence on the day of judgment, because in this world we are like him. 18 There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.
19 We love because he first loved us. 20 If anyone says, “I love God,” yet hates his brother, he is a liar. For anyone who does not love his brother, whom he has seen, cannot love God, whom he has not seen. 21 And he has given us this command: Whoever loves God must also love his brother. NIV
Vancouver Sun writer Douglas Todd explores the three goals of the Peace Summit.
Here’s the reality: there are forces subtly and not so subtly arraigned to divide the friends of Jesus from Him and from each other. The disciples experienced this pressure early on when Jesus called Levi, the tax collector to follow Him.
Jesus went out and saw a tax collector by the name of Levi sitting at his tax booth. “Follow me,” Jesus said to him, and Levi got up, left everything and followed him. Then Levi held a great banquet for Jesus at his house, and a large crowd of tax collectors and others were eating with them. But the Pharisees and the teachers of the law who belonged to their sect complained to his disciples, “Why do you eat and drink with tax collectors and ‘sinners.’?” Jesus answered them, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.” Luke 5:27-32
The party has been crashed. The Pharisees are making a scene. And Matthew (Levi) stands to be embarrassed. Perhaps the music stopped and everyone gets quiet to see what would happen next. Its Matthew’s party…but its Jesus who gets in the face of the Pharisees and challenges their self-righteousness with a statement of defence crafted not on the merits of the tax collectors and sinners, but rather on the merits of His own mission. Jesus will not be divided from the people He has called out even when others call them down.
In our setting, self-righteousness comes in many forms and has many preachers. The “new” self-righteousness may not be religious, but may actually pride itself in not being religious. This self-righteous non-religiosity creates a pressure that can divide many followers of Jesus from living an integrated life. It happens on Monday morning. “Hey, how was your weekend.” Great. “What did you do?” uhm…watched the game, went hiking with the family…
What’s missing? A vibrant confession: “I got to hang out with some friends who have been accepted by Jesus Christ and consider how God is making a difference in… I’m amazed that this group of imperfect, diverse, people are drawn to Jesus and have been given life. I’m really happy to be a part of this group.”
Or whatever…but that’s the integrity test. Its in the subtle ways we avoid pressure, question, conflict, and therefore never create the space to address one of the hot deafeaters of faith in Jesus: the weaknesses and failings of Jesus’ own people. Unless we confess with absolute joy and awe at what Jesus has done in accepting us–all of us who call Him Lord, then we will rarely have the opportunity to proclaim the gospel as a way of living that is neighter religious or irreligious, moral or immoral. Unless we celebrate the mission of Jesus to us–to meet the sick and to heal them–and to call the sinners to repentance–then we will struggle on Mondays and Tuesdays and Fridays–and even Sundays to stand with the church.