Airplanes and birds need two wings to fly, and so does the Kingdom. The greatest tragedy of the modern church is that we have clipped one wing or the other from the Gospel and sabotaged the flight of it’s message. The twin wings of the true Gospel are Personal Salvation and a Changed World.
Today’s evangelicals champion the wing of personal conversion. “Come to Jesus and receive forgiveness and eternal life.” This glad and glorious message is as true today as the day Jesus told Nicodemus, “Unless a man is born again he cannot see the Kingdom of God.” The wing of personal salvation will lift us into the heavens and circle us about in thermals of joy. Though it is a strong medicine for the soul, evangelicalism often goes silent in the face of poverty, injustice, hope for a better world or strategies for transforming cities. The born-again crowd mostly expects darkness to grow until Jesus intervenes, nukes the world, and spirits us off to heaven.
Hope for the future rests mostly on the shoulders of mainline liberals who focus like lasers on injustice, environment, and reforming society. Never mind that a conversion-less gospel is no gospel at all, and doomed from the start. It too is a one-winged plane so cumbersome it cannot even lift off the ground.
The gospel of the Kingdom is a bird that soars on both wings. Born anew in the life of the Spirit, it engages the world with power, hope, and transformation. It’s time the church returned to the full gospel that pulls evangelicalism and liberalism together again. The good news of the Kingdom begins in the heart and spills out into every crevice of a needy world.
New Year’s Day 2012 seems an appropriate time to bust-down another of the enemy’s well-planned strategies. One of the big stories of 2011 was Harold Camping’s doomsday bus tour announcing the rapture on May 21. Even though most of us didn’t buy into the circus, it provided the media with tons of fodder about clueless Christians shooting themselves in the foot. This year, of course, the Mayan calendar has reserved “doomsday” for December 21st. The enemy loves to send us off on apocalyptic rabbit trails that distract us from the true hope of the Kingdom. It’s the Chicken Little syndrome, and we ought to know better.
The Rapture tells us that working for a better world is like rearranging the deck chairs of the Titanic as it slides under the water. And that’s exactly the Enemy’s intention: to infect us with passivity like a tropical disease. Of course we believe Jesus is returning! Nothing could be more clearly stated in the scriptures. But many have gotten it backwards: His return is not about Him taking us up to Heaven, but about Him bringing Heaven to earth. “Then I saw the holy city, the New Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven”. (Revelation 21:2) “Thy Kingdom come, Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.”
Maybe we should take our cues from Jesus, who never once used the word “Rapture”, but spoke instead about the Kingdom and of making “all things new”. (Revelation 21:5) Let’s engage our neighbors in conversations about hope and possibilities, about God’s answers to aimlessness, despair, poverty, and injustice. The Kingdom calls us to action: “live quietly, work hard, bless others, create beauty, plant gardens, raise families, preach the gospel, heal the sick, entertain strangers, and pray for my Kingdom. Oh, and by the way, I’ll be back”. This is the promise before us in 2012. Earthquakes, tsunamis, and volcanoes will come as the “Prince of this world” realizes his time is short. I’m excited about this year. It could be a difficult one, but my hope is grounded in a Kingdom that is growing nearer every day.