Réveille… (Part 14)
THE NEXT GENERATION OF PIONEERS… FORWARD THINKING
Recently…my thoughts returned to my sophomore year at Dartmouth, when I went back to my childhood dentist during a school break.
In the chit-chat of the checkup, as I lay back in the chair with the suction tube in my mouth, he asked: “What are you majoring in at college?” When I replied that I was majoring in philosophy, he said: “What are you going to do with that?”
“Think,” I replied. Dr. David Silbersweig
Thinking is allowed…
GOD - crystal clear, glorious, attractive, compelling, unfathomable, holy, perfect, loving, accessible,… and sovereign, immutable, intransigent. He designed us to think. We should give ourselves permission to think.
“How great are your works, O LORD! Your thoughts are very deep!” (Psalms 92:5, ESV)
“Great are the works of the LORD, studied by all who delight in them.” (Psalms 111:2, ESV)
Like for the Apostle Paul, being converted to Christ means having the scales fall from our eyes. Is that an oppressing experience or a liberating one? Would we intimidate God by questioning and thinking hard?
Some of us may fear thinking for ourselves. We come from a background where we were told what to think… to not question the authority of those telling us what to think: To doubt is to sin, they said. Too many seem fenced in by artificial hierarchies devoid of Biblical precedent for their existence. We have ceded authority over our lives and church families to groups of somebodies other than God and ourselves. What happened to the “priesthood of believers”?
We will be called to give account of ourselves when we die. We can’t afford to just swallow what other people tell us. No one else gets to do our thinking and deciding for us. God even warns us about people who will try to manipulate our thinking. Peer pressure must take a back seat to Biblical truth. Self-reinforcing cronyism is a shallow, lazy substitute.
It’s incumbent on us to think… to stretch our minds. Maybe it’s time to read a book above our pay grade… learn a language… practice quietness and reflection.
I have discovered that all human evil comes from this, man’s being unable to sit still in a room. —Blaise Pascal (1623-1662)
Forward thinking is required…
As we age, it’s natural to feel like life passes us by and leaves us eating its dust. Just about the time I got a handle on Word Perfect 5.1 for DOS (released 1989 on 5.25” floppy disks), the rest of the world blew by me. I’m further behind now than I was then. But what if I had simply doubled down on sticking with what I knew? DOS commands and floppy disks don’t sound all that much fun to me anymore. I sorta like my MacBook Air now.
Being a passive time-server might appear to be the easiest way to do life. We could choose to double down on what we think we know and pray for a return to the good old days. However, if we are just marking time and not thinking ahead—dreaming and “what-if-ing” about the future—our status quo will quickly look like stagnation. We will fade to further out of touch with our world.
Nonetheless, forward thinking is not freelance, arbitrary, or narcissistic. Otherwise, it turns wondering into wandering.
If there is no accommodation [to culture] Christianity is unintelligible and cannot spread; if there is too much accommodation it will spread, but will no longer be Christianity. The way of Orthodoxy is often the way of recovering equilibrium.
The Reformers and Their Stepchildren by Leonard Verduin, Baker Book House, Grand Rapids, MI, 1964, Postscript, p. 276.
For starters, we have to recognize the dominion of a sovereign God. His design and purposes for the created universe include us, too. We need to discover his parameters for our brief stay on the planet: What is the kingdom of God? Where is our niche in his kingdom?
Forward thinking will be most profitable if we begin with some serious backward thinking. We’ll need to look all the way back to Gospel and Church in New Testament times… before religious traditions and pagan superstitions attached themselves like barnacles to the hull of a ship.
Plus, like barnacles, they don’t just slip off and leave us alone. It takes a lot of hard work to scrape them off—especially without doing more damage. Today, it’s hard to find an un-barnacled Christian witness. It’s one more reason to continually encourage fresh, church-pioneering endeavors. It’s the perfect opportunity to see how much church we can do before the barnacles begin to grow!
A proper view of “kingdom” unleashes us from false, enslaving paradigms about what we should do… and how we should do it. When it comes to Gospel activity, the difference between what we think is best and what God thinks is best is more than a minor rift… it’s a yawning chasm. For starters:
Ministry or mayhem…?
Some choose mayhem.
“Why do the nations rage and the peoples plot in vain?” (Psalms 2:1, ESV)
I get why the nations rage. Not knowing God, seeking justice from unjust leaders, watching the rich feed their own opulence while children starve, being stuck with extra disadvantages because of the color of skin or tribal roots, letting our own greed be our guiding light… the list grows longer every day.
I get why the nations rage… no clue about the good news of eternal salvation, no real hope—for now or hereafter… yet incurably religious, with a default mindset of “deserving” better… anger against God because it doesn’t get better, rage against politicians and the delusional “if our people took over, things would be better.”
I don’t get why “Christians?” rage. Placards and protests and pigeonholing and shouting down the other side… when has that ever been a proper Christian response to anything? Whose kingdom do we represent… whose has our undivided loyalty?
Rage and polarization vs. our God-ordained ministry of reconciliation: We can’t have both! We’d better make an informed choice about which is more important.
Conviction or coercion…?
Repeating from my book: “There’s no such thing as a Christian nation”—never will be—on this side of the Second Coming of Christ. You don’t Christianize a nation by overrunning a territory, making a declaration, or by passing a law.
The people of Christ on this side of the cross, unlike Israel in the Old Testament, are not a geopolitical entity. The church is not a nation-state.
The entire history of Christendom-by-force, from Constantine to the Puritans, was misguided. —John Piper
When considering the nature of God’s kingdom work for today or for generations to come, there are two overriding principles to continually guide our passion - Christ’s preeminence always in all things and his work of reconciling all things to himself. (Colossians 1:18-20, ESV)
Such exciting times we live in! Maybe the return of the Lord is soon. But, we can’t know if “soon” means before we die of old age. It’s a safer bet to assume we’ll be here for the long haul… and that these are the days God brought us here for. Today—and every day we live—is our “such a time as this.”
Prayer: Lord, help us to build absolutely everything on a clear sense of the nature of your kingdom and an undying passion for ushering others into it. Amen.
Next: More forward thinking - from principles to particulars.