One of the realities of our time, and every era before this one, has been the temptation for the church to become entangled in the affairs of the world. This is the danger that exists for those of us who desire to reach into a world doomed by sin with the redemptive Gospel of Jesus Christ. We can look at the headlines, the local news, or even the casual conversations we have with our neighbors and friends to see that all is not well with the world. We can put on a smile and tell others we are “fine” but that only muffles the sound of the crumbling structures of our society.
Our Creative God
From eternity past God has been speaking. The vibrations of his voice called into existence the very matter from which everything was made. Everything we see and everything we experience has been set into motion and sustained by God’s power and will. The wonder this reality should elicit has been deflected to the minor marvels of technology and social sophistication. We have become enamored by our own inventions and we have failed to consider the source from which imagination springs.
God is the ultimate artist. His canvas, the universe. His brush, the words He speaks. His inspiration? Well, to not see that all He does is because of who He is within Himself is to not understand the nature of God in the slightest. God does not need something to inspire Him to act. He is inspiration itself. In creating He infuses the thing He creates with meaning.
This may be where many of us fail to give God what is rightly due to Him. God deserves all the credit, not because He made something amazing when He created the world. NO. God deserves all the credit because without Him nothing would have been created at all. The miracle of creation speaks to God’s necessity more than our own. Without God the conversation ends before it even could have been conceived. God is the reason any discussion of His glorious person is possible.
I linger on this underlying reality of God’s creative activity because we, as His children and representatives in the world, must take our cues from Him and no one else. God does not look outside of Himself to the thing he wishes to create and then contemplates what to do. God first considers who He is and then acts accordingly. In the same way, we, as the people of God, must consider who we have become in Christ and remember that we were not brought into the family of God to satisfy our own needs or accomplish our own agendas.
The presence of the Church in the world is further evidence that God has a greater plan and purpose in the works than we could possibly fathom. My earthly father continues to tell our church that it is an absolute miracle the church has survived when you consider the people who fill the pews from week to week. And he is correct. The church is a miracle because the church does not exist (and never has) to the coddle and isolate its members from the world. Jesus told His disciples that the world would hate them because of their association with Him. He told them that they would be persecuted and ridiculed. Jesus did not pretend that being His disciple would lead to some worldly fame. Jesus was preparing the church for what was to come. He said to those who risked following Him that they were going out into the world as sheep among wolves. Do you realize what wolves do to sheep?!
When the church is comfortable and cozied up to the whims and fads of the world there is not only trouble brewing it has steeped in full.
What is the Prophetic Voice?
There are many words and ideas that are used in the Church that we do not always fully understand or even embrace. The idea of the “Prophetic Voice” is one of them. When I speak of the prophetic voice I am not referring to any charismatic notions this phrase may conjure up. Nor am I referring to what happens in most pulpits on a weekly basis in regard the proclamation ministry. The prophetic voice is the ability to look at what is taking place in the world and seeing the interconnected realities between what God has said and the effects of our obedience or disobedience.
It is not difficult to look back and see how or even why things transpired. What is difficult is seeing in the present what will happen in the future if something does not change. I am not saying that God is speaking new revelation akin to what He did in the scriptures. The canon is closed. All we need to to know about that the God of all the earth who has procured the redemption of the lost in the Person and work of Jesus Christ has been revealed and is contained within the Scriptures we have.
What I am saying is that the same Spirit who inspired and moved upon the hearts and minds of the authors of scripture now moves within us as he enlightens us to what the prophets of old have said. The difference here is that God is not sharing something new. He is helping us see and understand something old. We have to understand that the prophetic voice does not disappear, it becomes muffled by the competing voices of the present age.
Those of us who believe that God still speaks must be careful to explain what we mean. I am convinced God still speaks for two reason. First, God’s words are not dead. They are living and active because he is! We are also told that God’s word will never return void. This can be true only if what God has already spoken is still at work in the universe through the Scriptures.
The second reason I believe God still speaks today is because the Holy Spirit who resides within every believer is taking the word of God, as we read it, and applying it to our hearts and minds. When we “discover” new insights it is the ministering of the Holy Spirit within us. King Solomon was correct, there is nothing new under the sun. That does not mean that something cannot be new to me today.
God is at work and he is speaking. Therefore, we must do a better of job of listening and discerning.
Have we become traitors to the Kingdom?
Of the many images the apostle Paul uses in his letters, there is one that rises to the top. The reason it rises (or should rise) is because it describes the comportment of the Christian as s/he acts and interacts with the kingdoms of this world. The image of the Ambassador is both powerful and purposeful.
The power of this image is found in how it defines the conduct of the Christian as s/he navigates the waters on the sea of life. Ambassadors are to carry themselves with a level of decorum befitting their status as emissaries of the ruling authority they embody. There are protocols in place, not so much for the sake of others, but for our own sake. We must never forget where we come from or who we represent as we move around in a foreign land. We stand in for our government, but we do not, of our own accord, speak for our government. We are simply the voice of our king.
The image is also purposeful. The reason the Ambassador must conduct themselves in a particular way is because their obligation is carry the news of their sovereign without alteration or capitulation. As a follower of Jesus, I am not at liberty nor do I have the authority to modify the policies of the Kingdom of God. To do this would be a dereliction of my duties. To take this step would be to step outside my prerogative.
Let me say this as clearly and emphatically as I can. An ambassador of the kingdom of God must never make or declare a change in the message s/he carries from their sovereign authority based on the policies and strategies of the kingdom they have been sent to. When the Ambassador does this, they have become a traitor to the kingdom. To alter or modify the policies because of a personal distaste or discomfort with it is a disqualifying action.
It is a wearisome task to listen to those who claim citizenship in the kingdom who also declare that the church must “catch-up” with the times. If this is the standard we are using, then we may have lost more ground than we have yet to realize. The conflict between the world and the kingdom of God is only resolved through surrender. When all is said and done, every knee will bow before God and acknowledge his sovereign and total rule by the confession of their tongue. If we desire to have peace with God it will only occur on His terms. God makes no concessions on sin nor does he surrender any exercise of His holiness.
The Church is not beholden to nor does it accept any marching orders from anyone other than Jesus. Our deafness to the movement of God’s Spirit among his people is no excuse for conduct inconsistent with God’s character. To walk with Jesus challenges our sensibilities because our senses are tarnished by sin. If our faith feels comfortable we may be walking the path of idolatry and may not even know how we got so off track.
If the truth were told, the reality of our times is that the kingdom of God is not changing its policies and message. What is happening is that ambassadors are seeking asylum in a foreign land. They try and maintain the vestiges of their old kingdom (the kingdom of God) while enjoying the benefits of the new (the world).
The world in which we live is changing, especially for those who desire to remain faithful to their assignment. The question we all must face and answer is this: Are we willing to face the consequences of our faithfulness or will we surrender to the winds of change?