Missing The Point About Missing The Mark!

Yes, the church in particular and the Christian world in general have missed the point about missing the mark! There is no question about it. The tragic irony is that we do not even know that we have missed the point about missing the mark, while all the time we talk about ‘missing the mark’!

Anyone who is familiar with the teaching of the Bible knows, that the word for SIN both in the Old and the New Testaments is translated as failing to ‘hit a target’ or ‘reach a standard’, or ‘missing the mark’.

But the question is, what is the mark we have missed? And what is the point we are missing about ‘missing the mark’?

We have missed the mark of the objective or the purpose of God in creating us as humans in his own image. The purpose of God for us is made clear in the summary of the ten commandments as the greatest of the commandments – to love God with all the powers of our being. To love God, to seek him and to live for him and no one else and nothing else. This is the only thing lawful. Everything else is unlawful. This is the only thing moral. Every other pursuit which does not spring from the pursuit of God and from a life of fellowship with him is illegal, immoral and totally evil. And neither such people nor such lives have any place in the Kingdom of God.

J. I. Packer explains, “Sin is going contrary to God, retreating from God, turning one’s back on God, ignoring God… What, in positive terms, is the essence of sin?… Living not for Him, but for yourself; loving and serving and pleasing yourself without reference to the Creator; trying to be as far as possible independent of him, taking yourself out of his hands, holding him at arms length, keeping the reins of your life in your own hands; acting as if you and your pleasure, were the end to which all things else, God included, must be made to function as a means – that is the attitude in which sin essentially consists.”

He further writes, “Paul tells us that sin began when men who ‘knew God… did not honour him as God, or give thanks to him’(Rom 1:21), and he gives us the most exact analysis of the spirit of sin that the Bible contains when he declares that ‘the mind of the flesh (the mind and heart of unregenerate sinner) is enmity against God’ (Rom 8: 7), disaffection to his rule, resentment of his claims, and hostility to his word, all expressed in a fixed and unalterable determination to pursue one’s own independence in defiance of the Creator.” (God’s Word’s, J. I. Packer, 1981)

Everything man has done since his fall into sin is with this disaffection with God and his word, thus disassociating with him and the life through him. We know that right there in the book of Genesis, apart from a few who lived by faith and in fellowship with God, humans went on a totally different course outside of a relationship with God. And in his attempt to make a living for himself, man had embarked upon a course of total independence of God. Man’s God-defying, his identity and security-seeking attitude outside of a relationship with God is epitomised in the words of the Babelites, “Come, let us build ourselves a city, and a tower whose top is in the heavens; let us make a name for ourselves, lest we be scattered abroad over the face of the whole earth.”

Of course in carving out a life independent of God, man has gone on to create and develop several systems and structures in every area of life. He has developed ‘quite fine and sophisticated’ religious, philosophical, political, economic, judicial, military, and socio-cultural systems and structures. He has built so-called centres of ‘higher learning’ of schools and universities for the sake of imbibing this knowledge which is independent of the Creator.

As the Preacher in OT cryptically states, “…God hath made man upright; but they have sought out many inventions.” Therefore he says, “Vanity of vanities, says the Preacher, vanity of vanities! All is vanity.” (Eccl 7:29; 1;2) Everything is vain because they not only lack anything of eternal or spiritual value but they are all under God’s judgement. Neither baptising nor christening them nor any amount of prayer is going to make them acceptable to God. The Bible simply and categorically declares that the world and everything in it is passing away. For everything man has made independent of the Creator is under God’s condemnation.

The words of our Lord Jesus in John 10:10 are very eloquent too, “The thief cometh not, but for to steal, and to kill, and to destroy: I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly.” Jesus was not only implying that there was no life in the world unless he gave it but there is a radical indictment of all other options and solutions offered by the world that they not only rob but kill and destroy! Jesus also pits himself against all other options and solutions on offer.

The very fact that Jesus chose to be born in a cattle shed in a small shanty town outside of Jerusalem, and the kind of life he chose to live tells us about the value he placed on what man has made of the world and its systems and structures. He was born and lived totally out of the world’s systems and the models it offers. If this is not understood then we do not understand anything about Christ and the gospel of the kingdom he preached.

The point missed

The point that is being missed both by the church and the Christian world is that everything that man has made for himself in his brief history on earth is apart from God and in defiance of God and out side of fellowship with God. Therefore everything he has done during his existence on earth howsoever grand, howsoever sophisticated, howsoever beneficial from human perspective, is under the condemnation of God. It is, as Paul writes, under God’s wrath (Rom 1:18) and therefore ‘evil’(Eph 5:16). This is the reason why Bible neither recognises nor acknowledges the wisdom nor the achievements of man in the world, howsoever grand or beneficial to life on earth. These have no eternal nor spiritual value.

Apostle John and Paul are very categorical, “And the world is passing away along with its desires…” and “For the present form of this world is passing away.” (1 Jn 2:17, 1 Cor 7:30).

In the last 2000 years, the church in general and Christians in particular, have lost this understanding regarding the world and its systems and structures. Therefore they have not only cozied up to its ways of life but cavorted and have begun to cohabit with the world. Practically every aspect of our lives both as Christians and the church today is imbued with the world and its ways.

We have tacitly adopted world’s thinking and world’s systems and models – from the way we think about and do worship to our missions and evangelism including the way we teach the Bible both in our churches and seminaries. Our very understanding of church is discoloured with world’s thinking. The organisational models and the lifestyles we have adopted as individuals are all of the world. They are neither of Christ nor of his Apostles in the New Testament.

We have not only pursued but promoted and prospered and have taken pleasure and pride in what the people of the world have carved out for themselves in defiance and independence of God; that which is under God’s judgement and therefore under his wrath. In general many Christians have been in thrall of the knowledge, power and positions that the world offers. We seem to be enchanted by the things that Christ resisted and rejected when tempted. Why is it we are so much enthralled by one’s progress and growth in the world and are least focused on one’s spiritual development and growth? Even our understanding of spiritual growth is understood more in terms of acquiring of social and communication skills and participation in ministry related activities. We seem to have forgotten that spiritual growth is about a life of spiritual intimacy with God such that he or she lives in and by the spirit while living in the body and the world (Rom 8:4-9)

Our very understanding of the ‘will of God’ is so self-centred and world-focused that we do not even think of the will of God as his purpose in creating humankind! And that it is to this purpose Jesus was referring to in Matthew 12:50 and John in 1 John 2:17.

We spend enormous amounts of our time and resources to gaining that which is under God’s wrath – its knowledge systems, its life models and its economic and governing systems. We even encourage our children to pursue the same with panache.

This is totally unacceptable and alien to God and his kingdom. It is not just detestable but abhorring to him. Churches and Christians cannot have anything to do with the world and its ways. It is oxymoronic to call oneself a Christian and to pursue and cherish what the God-defying world has to offer, howsoever grand and useful it might appear to be.

Flee from the wrath to come!

In the Old Testament, the Lord said to his people, Israel not to follow any of the systems and methods of the people around them. They were to be different from the nations among whom they lived. They were to be different as he was different. Right from the building of the ark by Noah to the building of the temple and in all aspects of the people of Israel as a nation they were to follow his statutes and instructions as commanded in his law. They were not to follow the ways of the peoples around them. The church was called out and constituted precisely in the same way. They were called out of the world to be ‘imitators of God’ and not to follow the world and its ways.

Since when have the knowledge and wisdom of the world become acceptable and necessary for the building of the Kingdom of God? When has God said that it was alright to use the power structures and systems of the world to promote his kingdom? Since when has gaining philosophical acumen, political and economic clout become necessary for spreading of the gospel? Who said that gaining positions of power and knowledge in the world were essential to be his witnesses and that these were blessings to be sought after and cherished?

The grotesque irony is that we not only pray for and seek but even conduct thanksgiving services for ‘gaining the world’ which is under God’s wrath, not realising that we might perish with it!! We pray for, seek and gloat over that which Apostle Paul called as ‘dung’. How can any one pursue and gain that which is under God’s judgement and claim that it was a blessing received from God! How can any one claim that they prayed and sought God’s will in seeking the world and what it has to offer! Isn’t it like King Saul claiming that it was God’s will for him to spare the goats and the sheep in order to worship God?! Isn’t it like Achan having a thanksgiving meeting for the things he stole from Jericho?! Oh, the horror of it!

Is it any wonder then that when Christ called people into his kingdom, the conditions he laid were so stringent – deny yourself, leave everything of self, world, and sin in order to be his disciples? And the first requirement was REPENTANCE – to ‘turn one’s back’ upon every thing of sin, self and the world in order to be born of life from above and thus be part of his kingdom. And is it any wonder that when he returns he will say to many even to those who claim that they have done a lot in his name, “I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.” (Matt 7: 23)? This is because all that they did was not with the life that comes from God but with the knowledge and power that springs from self and the world. If you claim to be a child of God and yet if your life and work is by and for the flesh and the world, then your claim to new birth is suspect, my friend!

Everything that man does whether as ministry or in any other area of life if not done with the knowledge and power that springs from a fellowship with God has no eternal value and does not pass muster before God at the final reckoning. How tragic would it be for anyone who relied upon the knowledge, money and strength gained in the world in order to live the life of a Christian or to ‘do ministry’ and have presumed that he or she was serving God!

Our engagement with the world ought to be as little as possible, to the extent necessary as Paul says, “What I mean, brothers and sisters, is that the time is short. From now on those who have wives should live as if they do not; those who mourn, as if they did not; those who are happy, as if they were not; those who buy something, as if it were not theirs to keep; those who use the things of the world, as if not engrossed in them. For this world in its present form is passing away.” (1 Cor 7: 29 – 31)

Our calling to be God’s own people is to ‘go to him outside the camp and bear the reproach he endured. For here we have no lasting city, but we seek the city that is to come’(Heb 13: 13, 14). We are to live as strangers and pilgrims in this world and not to pursue, participate, promote nor take pride in its wealth nor in its glory.

The writer to the Hebrews comments about the life of those who live by faith, “These all died in faith, not having received the things promised, but having seen them and greeted them from afar, and having acknowledged that they were strangers and exiles on the earth. For people who speak thus make it clear that they are seeking a homeland. If they had been thinking of that land from which they had gone out, they would have had opportunity to return. But as it is, they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared for them a city.”(Heb 11: 13-16). It is extremely alarming that for the last century or so, Christians both individually and corporately have all but forgotten this teaching. They are recklessly heading like Achan of old, into the abyss of worldly gain and glory not knowing that Achan’s fate could be their lot too!

Or as the Preacher says, “Now all has been heard; here is the conclusion of the matter: Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the duty of all mankind. For God will bring every deed in to judgement, including every hidden thing, whether it is good or evil. (Eccl 12: 13,14)

The teaching is simple and straightforward. As God said to Joshua in the context of Achan, “…they have taken some of the devoted things (things on which there was God’s judgement and which were devoted to be destroyed); … Therefore the people of Israel cannot stand before their enemies. They turn their backs before their enemies, because they have become devoted for destruction. I will be with you no more, unless you destroy the devoted things from among you…”(Josh 7: 11,12. Italics are mine)

The world and everything in it – with all its systems of religions, philosophies, education, economics, politics, along with all the knowledge, power and positions it can offer with all its development and life models including its philanthropic and humanitarian efforts are under God’s judgement and God’s wrath. Anyone who pursues, promotes, takes pleasure and pride in it will merit the same judgement and wrath of God which is upon the world. And until Christians repudiate and reject all that is of the world they will not only be enslaved to it but would falter and fumble from one defeat to another and will be disowned by God and face the same fate that awaits the world and its systems.

Woe, unto anyone who teaches and preaches anything other than this! Woe unto anyone who has promoted such self-affirming and world-pursuing lifestyles and passed it off as the teaching of our Lord and Savour Jesus Christ! How dare they call themselves as preachers of the gospel! How so ever great, well known and successful a preacher, teacher or leader may have been, if he or she has not taught self-denying, world-forsaking and sin-rejecting life – they have not only miserably failed but have been ‘blind guides of the blind’! By whose measure are they considered great and successful? If their greatness and success is measured by the size of the structures, budgets and numbers they have garnered, they are probably closer to Babel than to Bethlehem! Since when has the truthfulness of the gospel of Christ come to depend upon the greatness or the successfulness of the preacher! I care not if this is an indictment of some of the so-called great leaders…they shall perish with their greatness if they have not taught and fostered lifestyles based on agape and in the footsteps of our Lord and Master!

The call then is for a clear and total separation from the world and all that it has to offer.

“Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him.” (1 John 2:16)

“Come out of her, my people, lest you take part in her sins, lest you share in her plagues; for her sins are heaped high as heaven, and God has remembered her iniquities.” (Rev 18: 4,5)

“Therefore go out from their midst, and be separate from them, says the Lord, and touch no unclean thing; then I will welcome you, and I will be a father to you, and you shall be sons and daughters to me, says the Lord Almighty.” (2 Cor 6: 17, 18)

“The voice of one crying in the wilderness: ‘Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight… “You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? Bear fruits in keeping with repentance. And do not begin to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father.’… Even now the axe is laid to the root of the trees. Every tree therefore that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.” (Luke 3:4, 7-9)

The good fruit is the fruit of a life lived in and by the Spirit and not in and for and by the world or the flesh. May the Lord give unto us a spirit of wisdom and revelation in understanding this. May the Lord help us to flee from the wrath which is already upon this world and to flee from the wrath to come. Amen.

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Knowing God As Incarnate

To know God in His incarnation is to talk about knowing Him as God who came down as man and lived among us. John writes about the Word becoming flesh and adds, “…we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.”

The question that needs to be asked is what is the glory they saw? A careful study of the New testament leads us to understand that ‘they saw His glory’ at three levels.

1. They saw the glory of God as Man. We all understand this truth and celebrate it every year during the month of December. But we have sentimentalised His birth and death so much that the essential lesson of incarnation is lost. In fact the redemptive purpose of incarnation and the subsequent evangelism and missions have taken away our focus from the broader purpose of incarnation. And of course the commercialising of it as a festival is another aspect of it that saps it of its true significance. This is to our own loss.

J.I. Packer writes, “God became a man; the divine Son became a Jew; the Almighty appeared on earth as a helpless baby, unable to do more than lie and stare and wriggle and make noises, needing to be fed, and changed and taught to talk like any other child. And there was no illusion or deception in this: the babyhood of the Son of God was a reality. The more you think of it the more staggering it gets. Nothing in fiction is as fantastic as is this truth of the Incarnation”

But what is the truth of the incarnation? And what are its implications for us apart from redemption through the atoning death of Christ upon the cross? What is the glory of God as revealed in His incarnation?

They saw the glory of God as man, The divine as human. The Infinite God as finite man. The Great one as simple. God who is Spirit has now come in a body. The One who is immortal has now come into that which is mortal. The rich One has come as poor. The invincible One made himself vulnerable. The One who is Almighty has made himself weak.

Does it not sound incredulous? Can we wrap our minds around those staggering thoughts? Truly ‘nothing in fiction is as fantastic’. Even the angels long to look into what God is up to with becoming man.

Oh, I wish I could marshal the hosts of heaven to sing,“O Lord, our Lord, How excellent is Your name in all the earth, You have set Your glory above the heavens!” Or let Apostle Paul use his pen to describe in his own cryptic way, “And without controversy great is the mystery of godliness: God was manifested in the flesh…”

The truth is that this is the essential message of incarnation. In a world where everyone one wants to go higher, grow bigger, get richer, become larger, incarnation teaches us that small is beautiful, to be weak is to be strong, and to be poor is to be rich. While the world chooses the upward trajectory of living, Christ in His incarnation preferred the downward trajectory. Frankly, the Bible does not promote smallness or weakness or poverty as virtues in themselves. But that the small, the weak and the poor find it easier to trust in God. And therefore they are greater, bigger, stronger and richer in the Kingdom of God.

Is it any wonder that God chooses the weak and the foolish and the last shall be first and the first last in His Kingdom?

Friends, the desire and the drive to get richer, bigger and greater is from Babel and Babylon, not from Bethlehem! This is the meaning of knowing God in his incarnation. And this is the only way we can counter modernity and the lifestyles it fosters.

You cannot adopt lifestyles whose roots are in capitalism and claim to be the child of God! The call, therefore is to be imitators of God as His children.

2. They saw the glory of man as Man, in Christ.

I do not tire to say that according to the Bible, no man ever lived as man was meant to live. Christ is the only one to ever live as man was meant to live. ‘All have sinned and have fallen short of God’s glory’, says the Bible. Therefore the true glory of man can be seen in Christ alone. He was the only one who pleased God totally.

Jesus teaches us what it means to love God alone and to live by trusting and obeying Him always. He said that he can do nothing of himself, except what he sees the Father do. He affirmed that his food was to do the will of the Father. He claimed that he always pleased his Father and that the Father never left him alone. No man who ever graced this earth said such words. The Father was so pleased with Jesus that He opened the heavens and affirmed him. And Jesus lived in quietness and confidence in the shadow of the Father’s assurance and approval. He did not need any man or angel to affirm him. Nor did he seek anybody’s testimony of him. He did not seek the identities of the world nor did he do or work to find his security in anything of this world.

The scribes, Pharisees and the teachers of the law were left dumbfounded on several occasions by not only the depth of his understanding of the law, of life and righteousness but the ease with which he talked and lived suggested that it was his natural habitat. Many times both the people and the leaders marvelled at his sense of authority and confidence when he spoke and taught about God and the law. You do not find in Jesus any sense of insecurity either with regard to his physical needs or about life even when he stood before Pilate. He suffered no crisis of identity when he moved with the socially unacceptable nor when he bent down to wash the feet of his disciples. He had no throne, no crown no armies yet he ruled in life as a true king.

In the demonstration of His love, compassion and service there are few peers in the history of man. He was as involved with life as he was detached from its cares and pleasures. He was as engaged with the needs, the pains and sorrows of others as he was disengaged from their opinions and pursuits. Jesus was hardly concerned about His image or His looks. Isaiah in His prophecy probably gives us a glimpse into His physical appearance, “He has no form or comeliness; and when we see Him, there is no beauty that we should desire Him.”(Isaiah 53:2).

He accepted and affirmed the human, but he was not humanistic. He accepted and affirmed the material but he was not materialistic. He accepted and affirmed the physical and the temporal yet he was not secular. He overcame the physical often with the spiritual. He did not let the physical constrain or control him.

He did not treat the people around him with condescending disdain. He did not use power language nor power demeanour to show his superiority. He did not try to dominate or control people by word or by actions. If ever there was a human who could do it, it was him. Yet he did not. We miss all this when we read the gospels because we romanticised his life and look only at the sentimental aspects of it.

At the end he gave himself to the Father for us, willingly, totally and unhesitatingly.

Friends this is how man was meant to live. This is how you and I are meant to live. This is the glory of man! Oh, I wish I had a thousand tongues to sing my great Redeemer’s praise! You know, actually I will, when I see Him in His glory.

In fact we do not need a thousand tongues to sing his praise nor a thousand lives but just one life to live as he lived.

If you wish to know what it means to live agape lifestyle, look at Jesus. He is the prototype of it. We can only be his imitators. Come let us follow him and live as he lived. This is the best way we honour or worship him. The call, therefore is to be imitators of God, as His dear children.

3. John was also talking about seeing the continuing glory of God in the Church, His Body.

What is the Church? If our answer is, it is the body of Christ. Then the next question we must answer is, how should the church be? The simplest answer is, the church must be as Christ was when he was in the body. Period.

But down through centuries the answer to that question has taken so many forms and shapes that today church is a grotesque deformity. When I think of it my heart is filled with extreme grief and at the same time utmost anger at what we have done to and with the church. How sad, how blind, how deaf and how foolish we are?

We are the body of Christ when we live the way Christ lived, in the human body while on earth. Instead we tend to think that church is a system or a service or a programme or a meeting or a gathering. And then we began to call ourselves with different tags, often hilarious – Anglican, Presbyterian, Episcopal, Lutheran, Methodist, Baptist, Pentecostal, Charismatic or Brethren. Or names taken from Old testament as Hebron, Zion, Carmel or from the New Testament as Grace Church, Hope Church, Agape church and some very ingenious ones from the Bible as Burning bush church or Pillar of Fire church, so on and so forth.

When places, or programmes or people who founded it take precedence over the Person of Christ then you can be sure my friend, that the Holy Spirit of God is no where near such groups. God has not given us a programme to conduct nor an order of service to follow. Neither Christ nor Paul taught any of it. If anyone thinks that their pattern is the right one then they know nothing about the body of Christ nor the New Testament. It doesn’t matter how great a man of God the founder was or how big or large the building or the gathering went on to become, if they have not taught or teach people how to live as Christ lived then I am afraid, they have failed.

But since we began to focus on gathering therefore, we began to focus on the programme or the service that is conducted when we gather. And since we need a place to gather we began to spend millions on buildings. Then we spend millions on maintaining them. We then spend millions more on court cases to guard them. Instead, if the same drive and effort were put into living and teaching people to live as Christ lived, today we would be a ‘city set upon a hill’.

If you do not wish to accept what I say and wish to wait until you hear ‘I do not know you. Depart from me’, I cannot help it, my friend! I will only cry unto God that He will open our eyes to see.

In fact, church does meet and gathers but let it be firmly fixed in our brains that we do not represent Christ as his body by gathering or meeting. We represent him as his body by living as he lived. In this, Christ is our pattern for living. There is no other. Only then we are his body and only then we shall have the glory and the fullness of God dwell among us. Only then does the gospel become the gospel to the world. Only then we shall be his true witnesses. And only then, ‘the manifold wisdom of God will be made known by the church to the principalities and powers in the heavenly places, according to the eternal purpose which He accomplished in Christ Jesus our Lord’

But the irony is, none of us is worthy or able to live as Christ lived. It is he who wishes to live in us and reproduce himself in and through us by his Spirit who dwells in us. As we yield to his working in our lives to subdue all things in us to himself then we shall see God ‘able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us’ in transforming us to live as Christ lived.

“And without controversy great is the mystery of godliness: God was manifested in the flesh…” God wills to manifest himself in the flesh again through us. Hence Christ says, “…a body have you prepared for me”… a body in which he reveals his glory by living in and through them! When the church, which is the body of Christ lets him live through them, then the ‘earth shall be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord as the waters cover the sea.’

Friends, they saw his glory, the continuing glory of God in the body of Christ, the church. Have you?

The call therefore, is to be imitators of God. Come, let us follow him. Let us let him work in us with his power to subdue us, to fill us and to reproduce himself in us. And then, “… to Him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen.”

The One, The Three and The Many

Reclaiming Christian Witness and Authority

5. “But a body have you prepared for me”

The One God, who is revealed as Three now manifests himself in the many – the many spread across time, space, history and into eternity!

In incarnation He came down to dwell among men, as Man. But after His resurrection, ascension and exaltation He manifests Himself in the Church, which is His Body. Apostle Paul writes, “And he put all things under his feet and gave him as head over all things to the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills all in all.” Eph 1: 22, 23. “For in him the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily, and you have been filled in him, who is the head of all rule and authority.” Col 2: 9, 10.

Thus He now lives among men, in His body the Church. Hence the Messianic prayer, “Sacrifices and offerings you have not desired, but a body have you prepared for me; in burnt offerings and sin offerings you have taken no pleasure. Then I said, ‘Behold, I have come to do your will, O God, as it is written of me in the scroll of the book.’” This Body is not only the body that Christ had in His incarnation but I believe, it also constitutes people ‘called out of the world’ to be His own. Who also are willing to fulfill the Father’s will as Christ, their Master did even if it meant death on a cross.

They have learned to live in communion with God and with one another patterned according to the Triune God – distinct yet one, one yet many. United in communion yet distinct in being. They have learned to give of themselves to God and to one another just as the Father gave away the Son and the Son offers himself to the Father through the Spirit and gives himself to us.

We have thus come to answer the question, how does the invisible God make himself known? What representation God allows of Himself, if He does at all.

Before the coming of Christ. God is represented in his Word. As Moses explained to the people of Israel, “You came near and stood at the bottom of the mountain. The mountain burned with fire that reached up to the sky. There were thick black clouds and darkness. Then the Lord spoke to you from the fire. You heard the sound of someone speaking, but you did not see any form. There was only a voice.” He is known in His voice and in the recording of that voice in written form. This is why He is also known as the Word. And the same Word became flesh and lived among us.

We can say therefore, that God makes himself known both by speaking and in His incarnation as man, not any man but the Man, Christ Jesus. More importantly He now makes Himself known in His people, the Church, people called out of every tribe, every nation, every tongue and every colour by indwelling them. Although this manifestation of Him through the Church now is in weakness, frailty and imperfection, it continues into eternity and all ages in fullness, glory and perfection.

The question about the purpose of incarnation is a crucial one. How we answer it determines how we think about our life on earth and the place of the Church in the eternal plans of God and how she should conduct herself now in the world.

Apart from revealing the Father, the redemption of the human race, the purpose of His incarnation was also to reveal man or to show how man should live. For no man ever lived the way men should live for they all had sinned and had fallen short of God’s glory. Christ in his humanity was the only one who lived as men should live. Only then could He be our representative in order to make propitiation for our sins. The full significance of this can be understood when we look at the fact that the only being closest to God in appearance in the whole of creation is the human, because he has been made in God’s own image.

Therefore the purpose of incarnation is to not only to redeem man but to dwell among them and that the incarnation of God continues in the Church, His body. Apostle Paul’s point in his letter to the Ephesians, is that God has now included even the ‘gentiles’ along with the Jews in His eternal plan of ‘calling many sons unto glory’ and making them part of Christ’s body, the Church, of which Christ is the Head. This is the mystery hidden from ages in God but he, Paul, has been chosen to bring this to light.

This Apostle Paul writes is”…the unsearchable riches of Christ, and to bring to light for everyone what is the plan of the mystery hidden for ages in God, who created all things, so that through the church the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places. This was according to the eternal purpose that he has realized in Christ Jesus our Lord,” (Eph 3: 8-11)

“The zeal of the Lord of hosts will do this.” (Isaiah 9:7)

Listen to the prophecy of Isaiah which I think basically, refers to the redeemed people of God, But now thus says the Lord, he who created you, O Jacob, he who formed you, O Israel: “Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine…Because you are precious in my eyes, and honored, and I love you, I give men in return for you, peoples in exchange for your life. Fear not, for I am with you; I will bring your offspring from the east, and from the west I will gather you. I will say to the north, Give up, and to the south, Do not withhold; bring my sons from afar and my daughters from the end of the earth, everyone who is called by my name, whom I created for my glory, whom I formed and made.” Bring out the people who are blind, yet have eyes, who are deaf, yet have ears!…“You are my witnesses,” declares the Lord, “and my servant whom I have chosen, that you may know and believe me and understand that I am he. Before me no god was formed, nor shall there be any after me. I, I am the Lord, and besides me there is no savior. I declared and saved and proclaimed, when there was no strange god among you; and you are my witnesses,” declares the Lord, “and I am God. Also henceforth I am he; there is none who can deliver from my hand; I work, and who can turn it back?” (emphasis mine, Isa 43: 1 – 14.)

But all this is a finished act for God. Hence He rests. He rests because, “…his works were finished from the foundation of the world.” Oh, the joy, the beauty and the glory of the unsearchable riches of God in Christ! This calls for falling down before Him in awe, adoration and praise!

Such a divine and corporate dynamic cannot be captured in an institution. What system or ritual or tradition or programme can capture this? Hence it is utterly preposterous and nonsensical to think that we can give representation to God in our systems, structures, patterns and programmes. Nor can a single group or an individual ever think that they can fully capture the divine essence in them. He is known first in His Son. But now, He is known in the body He made for His Son, namely the Church.

But the question is, how does God make Himself known in and through the Church? If God incarnates in His Son, Jesus Christ and if the incarnation continues in His body the Church, then the Church can make God known only when she models her life according to the life of Christ, as revealed in the gospels and expounded by the apostles in their letters to the churches. In this is the WORD among us. A church that is born of the WORD and lives by that WORD and demonstrates the WORD in her life. The WORD embodied in the church!

Therefore Paul writes, “Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus”. And again, “Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children. And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.”

To be imitators of God we must ‘mimic’ (in greek the root word is the same for imitate and mimic) Him and love as He loves. We are asked to do this as Christ loved us. This is the kind of representation the Son makes of the Father. And this is the only representation the church can make of the Father. Only thus we shall have a witness that cannot be duplicated by the world. When God’s people begin to live as Christ lived, their witness shines brighter than the noon-day sun. This is the visibility that God allows of Himself. The visibility of lives lived as ‘imitators of God’. The point is, we were already created in the image of God and this image has been restored to us in Christ through redemption.

Only when we live as ‘imitators of God’ then do we not ony fulfill the purpose of our Creation and find meaning and fulfillment in life. But only thus we would be able to give representation to God in our lives and make Him visible in our lives. This is God’s chosen way. As Paul says, it is the “mystery hidden from ages” and “the mystery of godliness” that “through the church the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places.” Mark the word ‘now’. This is not something that would happen later. This is something that happens now. The manifold wisdom of God is made known NOW to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places! That is when God’s people become ‘imitators of God’ and ‘walk in love as Christ loved us’.

Any other way of representing God would be deficient, spurious and unworthy of Him. If we think we can make God visible in our religious forms, rituals, customs and traditions or in our programmes and projects or even in our material and worldly affluence then we are not only blind and deluded but become stooges of the enemies of God. Rather than being God’s co-workers to build His Kingdom we become collaborators of God’s enemy and become a hindrance to the work of God.

The only authentic way is the way Christ lived. For He is authentic God and authentic Man in His incarnation! In all this God’s ultimate purpose is THAT CHRIST MAY BE ALL IN ALL!

Listen to the words of the apostle in Colossians 1: 15-23, “He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him. And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together. And he is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent.” (Emphasis mine)

CHRIST is God’s pattern for man. When God commanded Moses to build the temple He commanded him to make it ‘according to the pattern shown to him on the mountain’. Accordingly the pattern in which we build the church in the New Testament era is CHRIST. Hence Paul’s words to the Ephesians, “…he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ,” The goal of every apostle, prophet, evangelist, pastor and teacher is to bring God’s people to ‘the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ’.

Any other objective in ministry is unworthy of and falls far short of the purpose and the glory of God! If through our work we are not bringing about the ‘unity of faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God’ among God’s people, then I wonder if we are doing God’s work at all! Rather than building ‘church buildings’ and huge sanctuaries at great costs, how commendable and glorious to spend on building people ‘to the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ’. The former is comparatively easy. But the later, while it is demanding does not give itself to statistics and reports.

Where are the people who are like Timothy of whom the Apostle writes, “For I have no one like him, who will be genuinely concerned for your welfare. For they all seek their own interests, not those of Jesus Christ.” Much of the ministry today seems to be to work for ones own interests in the name of safe-guarding the interests of the organisation – its security and its identity. For in many instances our own security and identity are bound up with that of the ministries we do rather than our God. Therefore in many instances our ministires have become our careers. Rather than losing ourselves in serving others for the sake of Christ our objectives are often discoloured with self-seeking – career-growth, and self-preservation.

The Son shows the Father to us in the life he lived – in the words he spoke, the works he did and the way he lived. His disciples were to just go and make disciples of all nations by teaching them and constituting them into congregations of God’s called out people or to be local expression of Christ as His body, the church.

In his incarnation Jesus reveals God, reveals man and in the process he demonstrates a way of living which is alien to human nature and thinking. Our nature and thinking is of fallenness which betrays our insecurity and identity-crisis. Therefore all our systems and structures betray the same malady – in our governance, our economics and our institutions. Our relationships, our friendships, and even our fellowships often are plagued by it. But Jesus, as God and as Man demonstrates wholeness and a life totally at rest with Himself and with others around him. Everything he said and did was from rest. He could not or would not be pushed around by others’ attitudes, fears or insecurity.

In his incarnation he teaches us a totally different trajectory of living – of self-denial, condescension, service and sacrifice. It is not the upward trajectory (if I may use the word) of life, like the rest of the world but a downward trajectory of life. It is of God coming into the world as man. The infinite now coming as finite. The great one as simple and the mighty one as helpless. I have tried to capture the thought in the following poem:

We have seen his glory
The glory of God as Man

Great One as simple
Invisible as visible
Immortal as mortal
Almighty as helpless
Rich One as poor
Invincible as vulnerable
Infinite as finite
Sovereign as servant!

We have seen his glory
The glory of the Real Man
Real God as Real Man
Authentic God as authentic man
No more distant, no more far
Neither illusive nor obscure
No more invisible but now
Real, visible and vulnerable.

Visible and seeable
Physical and touchable
Vulnerable yet invincible
Humble yet strong
Beatable yet unbeaten
Killable yet never-dying
Abusable yet not abused!
Small yet encompassing the universe!

He is God but now he is also man
They saw His glory. Have you?

His representation of God is of a loving and caring Father and not of an autocratic despot. Nor of a controlling and dominating ruler.

The life that Christ lived while on earth was not the private, individualistic, self-seeking and self-centered life that most of us have learnt from the world. He was led by the will of God and by the Spirit of God. You do not find Him guarding his identity nor working for his security. It was a life of constant pouring of himself into others. He sought His Father’s pleasure in seeking our welfare so, “…who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men.”

The only authentic way is to live as Christ lived. As mentioned earlier only when the church demonstrates the same mind as Christ’s or when we begin to imitate God and walk in love as Christ, we would be His true witnesses. Only such people can claim to have the authority to speak for God to the world!

Finally it must be noted that none of us individually can ever represent God fully as Christ did. Only corporately we can ever think of attaining to His perfection as Paul writes to Ephesians. “…until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ,…” It is all of us together – the redeemed humanity, in Christ and as Christ.

As we yield to one another in Him and yield to His working in us, we are transformed to be the people He has called us to be. “Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen.”

Whatever Happened To Worship?

Whatever Happened To Worship?

OR

The Subversion of Christianity

The subversion of Christianity began with the subversion of worship. The subversion of worship began with pushing it to the periphery of the life of a Christian and thus reducing the calling to follow Christ, first to a mere religion. Later the vacuum which it created at the center of one’s life was overtaken by the pursuit of a middle-class lifestyle.

When worship becomes peripheral to the life of a Christian his witness is compromised and his life and message lose their authority. In the New Testament, worship was meant to be individual and a moment by moment offering of life unto God in trust and obedience unto Him. But within 100 – 150 years after the Church was born, worship began to be pushed to the periphery of the life of the individual follower of Christ. When worship is removed from being moment by moment offering of one’s life unto God in trust and obedience, to a service or programme conducted and attended once a week; and when worship is removed from being offered in one’s life to being offered at a place of worship, a chapel, or a cathedral; and when it is removed from the individual personally offering his life unto God to someone else conducting or performing the service, the subversion of worship is complete. Thus Christianity was reduced to a religion like any other religion in the world.

The more peripheral the worship from daily living, the more verbal, vocal, loud and ostentatious both worship and witness become. This kind of subverted worship needs external and superficial embellishing – so we have huge and ornate structures, garish vestments, the trappings of and claims to clerical authority and the state-of-the-art technology to compensate for the missing witness. The demise of true worship was complete!

The corollary to it, is the birth of strange gods…church buildings, sacred places, relics of saints, religious and spiritual personalities and many more are held in high esteem as divine. And in modern times we started worshipping our educational degrees, jobs, salaries and worldly achievements and attainments (This applies even to people in so called full-time ministry). Of course we even conduct thanksgiving services for these. In another article I had written, if man is made in the image of God, then man enjoys a supreme position in the whole created order. He is practically next to God and above everything else. How can he think of finding his worth or value in anything other than God and in anything less than him? Worshipping anything or anyone else other than the true and living God actually lowers our status as humans created in God’s own image.

The history of missions shows that the Christian witness has now become a matter of numbers, reports, programmes and projects. This can be verified from history, especially of the last 100 years. While ostentatious religion, elaborate rituals have been part of the larger Christian denominations for quite a long time, since the beginning of the missionary movement in the 18th Century and later the evangelicals have demonstrated a predilection for statistics, budgets, projects and reports. Their preaching became more strident and shrill. There is practically no true worship – the kind of trust and obedient living that I am talking about – today, except for a few stragglers here and there. We have plenty of the loud and shrill kind, not the lifestyle kind. Both Christianity as a religion and lifestyles of middle-class pursuits have edged out lifestyle discipleship, of faith and obedience unto Christ.

As a religion Christianity continues to this day practically in different forms all over the world even among evangelicals. But to this was added another dimension. Since worship could now be offered once a week at a special place and by a specially appointed person, the individual Christian was now free at least for six days in a week. With the rise of industrialisation and later modernisation and the possibilities this has brought, the world with all its glitter was now within everybody’s reach to be pursued and gained. The Christian could now worship God on Sundays and pursue the world the rest of the week. He could even pray and seek God’s blessings with helpful quotations from the Old Testament to support. He could also bring his tithes and offerings as a token of his gratefulness to God. He could contribute liberally for ministry. What a cosy arrangement to assuage a nagging conscience! God and the world could now live peacefully together! There is no need for self-denial, repudiation or rejection of anything.

Now even our interpretation of scripture is subverted. Religion and the middle-class lifestyle have become the grid for interpreting scripture. Practically everyone seeks to understand the word of God through these two grids now. Following Christ is understood as church attendance, faithfulness in tithing and offerings and doing some ministry. Worship is understood as sincere participation in soul full singing and/or verbalised extempore prayer of adoration, to be done once a week. Faith and prayer have become utilitarian – both are used as tools to gain the world and all that it has to offer. Christian fruitfulness is seen as material and temporal success. Fruit of the Spirit as social and communication skills.

The questions is, how can one claim that middle-class living is antithetical to Christian walk? It is true that industrialisation and later modernisation of life has brought in several improvements to the way humans began to live their lives. It has made education available to the masses. It brought secure employment and stable salaries into the realm of the possible for millions across the globe. People could now buy what they wanted, when they wanted and can give themselves comforts which were mere fantasies in the past. But precisely it is these benefits of modernity that undermine Christian calling and living. Certainty, confidence, and comforts gained from the world, subvert faith in God and make lifestyles of faith practically impossible. Modernity and middle-class living are the backdoor used by the enemy of our souls to enter into our lives and undermine our discipleship unto Christ. No doubt many Christians across the centuries endeavoured gallantly and many continue to forge their lives in faithful service unto Christ. I would still say that we make too many compromises unbecoming of our faith and calling. In fact we have made following Christ and gaining the world, a desirable and manageable enterprise with deft sermonising from our pulpits and soulful praying to undergird our efforts. But if we understand our calling correctly and treat our discipleship unto Chrsit seriously then we have to admit that the lives we are living today are a far cry from what is required of us. John the beloved, probably saw us when he wrote many centuries ago, “‘I know your works: you are neither cold nor hot. Would that you were either cold or hot!… For you say, I am rich, I have prospered, and I need nothing, not realizing that you are wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked.”

People whose lives are similar to the rest of the world – in their dreams, desires, disappointments, prayers, and efforts cannot be witnesses and have no authority to challenge anyone or anything. Therefore our witnessing is seen as a power game to boost our numbers and as mere religious conversion with no real difference nor any inherent authority.

Friends, there has been a progressive deterioration of true and biblical Christianity over the centuries that it is almost proper to say that there is hardly any room for the Holy Spirit of God today in our ‘churches’. I believe he has been grieved and has been silent or has withdrawn totally from us just as the Shekinah of Glory left the temple in the OLd Testament. But even when the ark of God was taken away from the temple and the Shekinah of Glory left, the priests were as busy as ever keeping the motions of religion alive. Is this not true of much of what is going on in the church today?

What should we do? Teach people lifestyles of worship. Period.

There is no need to start another ministry to do this. This must happen by personal discipleship and mentoring not by conducting more seminars.

But the question still remains, what is worship?

What is worship?

Worship at its core is about ‘trust and obedience’. This is evident from the life of Abraham and in the words of prophet Samuel to King Saul, “Obedience is better than sacrifice and to heed better than the fat of rams.” All through the history of Israel, God’s frequent lament against his people was that they would not trust him nor obey him. It was not so much the ritual of the temple worship even where there was insistence on temple worship, it was about obeying God’s commands given through Moses.

The strident call of Christ in the gospels to follow him is a call to a life of obedience and trust in him. This the early apostles elaborated in their letters. Nowhere in the New Testament does one read about a ritual or a ceremony or a programme or a service of worship to be done or kept as worship unto God. All the New Testament letters are replete with practical aspects of following Christ and not about where or when or how a church service needs to be conducted. Worship was not and is not a matter of a ceremony nor a religious tradition. Neither is it an attendance at a service on a particular day at a particular place.

We are taught in the scripture that our bodies are the temple of God. How come we build physical structures and call them sacred? There are no places sacred enough for God to dwell but the life and being of a redeemed child of God. Even the ‘holy land’ is not holy as far as the Bible is concerned. The recent trend of people going on conducted tours to the ‘holy land’ is nothing but another form of commercialism and worldliness. There is nothing holy there any longer. In fact those who go there are demeaning themselves by committing idolatry! What can one say about the leaders who lead them…nothing but blind leaders of the blind!

Worship was and is still a matter of obedience unto God in faith and total confidence in Him. This is what it means to ‘love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.” We love Him with all our hearts, minds and strength by trusting in Him for everything pertaining to life and obeying Him to the point of dying for Him.

Lets take a look again at Abraham, the father of nations and a friend of God. He set out from his native country in obedience to God’s call, trusting in Him to provide and to take care of him all through his journey. The culmination of this journey of faith is seen on mount Moriah when he took steps to sacrifice his son Isaac as a burnt offering unto God. He had trusted and had obeyed God the last 40-50 years of his life. Would he trust Him and obey Him now in this final test of giving up all the promises and the future bound up in his son Isaac and offer him unto God?

Genesis 22, begins with the words that God tested Abraham, but Abraham himself treated this test as worship unto God (verse 5). And how did he worship God? By his obedience to God’s word to offer his son as a burnt offering. But even as he offered his son, according to Hebrews 11:19, he trusted that God would raise him up from the dead. So faith in God led him to believe that even if he offered his son, he would be raised again to life for the fulfilment of God’s promises – to be made into a great nation and to be a blessing to the nations of the world. He offered up his son as a sacrifice. What faith! What obedience! What worship!

It was because of this faith that when Isaac asked his father about the lamb for the sacrifice, he answered, “God will see to it” or that God will provide. Abraham knew that in the final analysis man has no suitable sacrifice worthy enough to worship God. Such a sacrifice must come from God. And God did not let him down then nor in the subsequent redemption history of man. He sent his own Son to be the sacrifice for the sins of the whole world, so that we could worship God in truth and spirit.

But Abraham’s worship merited God’s immediate response. Implicit obedience on the part of man brings an immediate response from God. God said to Abraham, “Because you have done this thing…in blessing I will bless you and in multiplying I will multiply you and in you all the nations of the earth shall be blessed.”

Apostle Paul picks up on the thought in Romans and asks, “He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? ” The God who provided the sacrifice for true worship, would he not provide for us to live a life of worship unto God? He would, certainly!

It is with this confidence we live our lives, knowing that the God who provided for our salvation will certainly provide for all our needs. Hence Christ’s words in the Sermon on the Mount, “Do not worry what you shall eat or what you shall wear…for it is the gentiles who run after these things…But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.”

For Abraham, his faith was in the future provision of God. For us our faith is in the past provision of God. Abraham believed that since God will provide, he could now sacrifice his son the one in whom all his future was bound. We believe that since God has already provided for all things that we need for life and godliness, we can now give up our all, knowing that our present and future will be provided for in Him. As Paul writes, we can now offer our bodies as living sacrifice unto God. This, he writes, is the right kind of worship.

Let us explicate this further. According to ‘The Complete Word Study New Testament’, in Greek the word ‘present’ or ‘offer’ is in the aorist infinitive active, suggesting that it is a punctiliar or specific action by the subject at a specific point in the past . The word ‘bodies’ means the whole of our being and not just the physical or material part of our being. The words ‘living sacrifice’ as against the dead animals sacrificed in the Old Testament. And the words ‘reasonable service’ is worship which is offered with intelligent reflection unlike the thoughtless cultic or ceremonial worship of the Old Testament.

Apostle Paul urges each believer to present or offer his or her body as a living sacrifice unto God as intelligent reflective action in gratitude for God’s mercies. Thus every believer is a priest who offers himself to God not in ceremonial worship but as an intelligent response.

It must be noted that Paul has already used the word ‘present’ or ‘offer’ earlier in Romans 6: 13, “Do not present your members to sin as instruments of unrighteousness but present yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life, and your members to God as instruments for righteousness.”

Putting it together, the right kind of worship is not ceremonial and it is not offered by another on one’s behalf and not just once a week or at a special place of worship. But the right kind of worship is an intelligent response of every believer to God’s mercies. She or he deliberately and decisively offers or submits to God every part of one’s being in obedient service unto Him.

In response to what God has done for us in giving us His Son, we give up our all, knowing that our present and future will be provided for in Him for our life is hidden with Christ in God. We offer ourselves as living sacrifice unto God. We give ourselves to Him for His will and His rule to come into our life. We begin to live by His will and by the values of His kingdom. We begin to live a life of trust and dependence upon Him. No more would we look to anyone or anything in the world to find our sustenance, security or identity. We adopt a lifestyle of faith in Him. Trusting in Him, we would be ready to go anywhere He leads and do whatever He commands us to do. We will not allow the world of secure jobs, stable incomes and permanent residences to bind us down, because our security and identity does not come from these any longer. We would learn to live lives of uncertainty, expendability and tentatively in order to do His will and pleasure – being certain of the one we have trusted in. Such a person finds it easy to ‘go into all the world’. Such a person sees transformation happening daily. This is true discipleship. This is the meaning of ‘living sacrifice’. This is the right kind of worship.

Everything else is mere religion, a sham, a psychological crutch, the opiate of the masses, a mechanical repetition of ceremony or ritual. Such ‘worship’ might give a false sense of peace, but it generates more fear and enslaves the person to a life-time of routine. In many cases, the weekly attendance and participation in a ‘worship service’ among evangelicals has become a religious repetition. A ‘feel-good time’ once a week and a release from the day to day tensions of life. But we do not want to see that, the day-to-day tensions of life in the first place are because of pursuing the world not because of pursuing God! We know (as Bill Hybels, founder pastor of Willowcreek church, admitted that even after 30 years of programmes and meetings they could not produce disciples. Unfortunately and sadly the Willowcreek people have graduated to global leadership summits in true capitalist model, rather than personally mentoring people to be true worshippers. Is this not Babelite thinking?) that such services do not produce disciples nor the needed transformation. For it is mere religion being dished out in the form of Christian worship.

I wonder if such forms, services and ministry that passes for worship today is nothing but presumptuous and strange fire not commanded by God if it is not undergirded by a life of trust and obedience. It is like Nadab and Abihu offering strange fire! (All the material used by them to offer the fire was regular, including the censers in which they offered. And there certainly was fire. Heat and light were there too. But alas it was not commanded by God and they were struck down dead at the altar!)

True worship brings in God’s kingdom into our lives. This is the meaning of ‘seeking his kingdom first’ and this is what it means for ‘Thy kingdom come’. First it must come into the life of each believer. Then it spreads to others around. Such is the kingdom of God. It spreads as yeast spreads in the dough – conquering everything in its wake and thus bringing in the transformation first in us. Then in others around us.

Do you now see, how the agenda of middle-class lifestyles has ruined our commitment to the Lord’s Kingdom in our lives? First as worship became a religious ceremony our focus on God was lost. Religion actually springs from fear and not from faith. Faith in God leads to worship. Rather than trust and obedience, we were overtaken by fear and introduced ceremonial worship to mitigate our fears. Thus pushing God and the worship of Him out of our lives. We set ourselves up as ripe targets for the agenda of middle class dreams and pursuits.

I would venture to say that much of the witness, evangelism and missions that’s going on today….has no divine power nor divine sanction and so lacks in divine authority. These have become mere projects and programmes which do not bring about God’s kingdom nor bring in the needed transformation! There is only a semblance of fire, heat and light but no power and no authority of God.

It is because we have lost the witness and authority, we have the sad spectacle of the church trying to make up for it by courting the power structures and systems of the world. Thinking that authority comes through numbers – we claim large membership in our churches, we court and try to gain economic clout and position ourselves in order to gain political leverage. (You have the saddest spectacle of the American evangelicals falling head over heels to court the presidential candidates in order to gain that leverage even in the White House!!)

Worship And Transformation

You see where worship is a moment by moment offering of ourselves unto God, such a life would be a careful and disciplined life. A disciplined life cannot but be transformed in the course of time. This is how God’s kingdom comes. It comes through transformation, by teaching people true worship and not by conducting seminars and conferences…nor by starting ministries to provide education and poverty alleviation and so on… and not in the least by controlling global economics through military power and political leveraging.

Biblical transformation starts with the individual and spreads to the community. It is a spiritual transformation of seeing and understanding things from Gods perspective and letting God’s will and heaven’s perspective take over one’s thinking and living. It is about lifestyle change of giving up of oneself unto God and letting God’s authority and will take over one’s life.

When Abraham worshipped God by demonstrating that he trusted Him and offered up his son – God knew he could now channel His blessing through him to the nations of the world. True worship brings down God’s blessings in the form of transformation. And the blessings of transformation overflow to others around us. Missions flows from worship.

Much of what is going on in the name of missions today is about bringing health, education and economic development – development often in the mould of the western capitalism. Our evangelism produces converts to either the Christian religion or converts to our institutions. Our missions no doubt produces educated and economically empowered individuals. But where is spiritual transformation? There may be converts to Christian religion and to the capitalist model of life but there is no real transformation. (Much of the persecution that we see today globally and the rise of religious militancy worldwide is actually a reaction to this kind of conversions and not to true spiritual transformation).

The church today has lost its vision of God and therefore has lost true worship. She is enamoured by the power and glory of the world and therefore its missions produces more people who are enamoured by the power and the glory of the world.

Until true worship is restored to the center of the life of the individual Christian and the local body of believers…there will be no divine provision, presence or power. There will be no real witness and no real transformation. Lacking the divine provision, presence and power, we shall stumble from one broken pot to another and from one mirage of glory to another…while the world continues to languish without God.

One last word about my authority in writing or saying what I write and say. All I can appeal to is the truthfulness of what is said. The rightness and the truthfulness of what I have written is enough to stand by itself. It needs no external authority although I can certainly claim God’s calling over me as my authority. If we ask ourselves and examine ourselves and history – objectively, carefully and honestly in the light of His Word, what other reasonable conclusions can one draw except to go down on our knees and cry for His mercy.

May the Lord help us!