Copernicus Challenge to Selfie Christianity

The first thing Jesus taught about His Kingdom while on the earth was that the foundation for Kingdom advancement in our lives is poverty of spirit.  Mt 5:2-3 He opened His mouth and began to teach the crowd,   ‘Blessed are the poor in spirit, for they are the ones who receive the Kingdom.” In any area of our lives poverty of spirit is the first step in receiving the Kingdom (active rule of God). That is one of the reasons Jesus laid it out as the foundation of Kingdom advancement.(See Part 1 Part 2)

Poverty of spirit is the sweet root from which all other of God virtues in our life will shoot.  

As I survey the Christian landscape during the 39 years I have served Jesus it seems many Christians have come to prize opposite traits than poverty of spirit.  That is why we often see so little Kingdom fruit.  We need a renewal of something I call a “Copernicus challenge.”  I chose this name after the famed Polish astronomer Nicholas Copernicus (1473-1543).  He was both a scientist and a deeply religious man.  He even held a cathedral position with the church his whole life. Even though he loved the church and was in the church, he came into great conflict with the church.  What was his conflict?  Up until that time science believed that the earth was the center of the universe.  Through his research he determined that the sun, not the earth, was the center.  What a shock! How dare he say that “our planet” was not the center of all God’s creation.  This caused so much conflict with the church that at one point he was placed under arrest for heresy and his books banned.  His work proving his theory was not able to be published until after his death.

We are facing a similar conflict today, not just with culture, but like Copernicus, with the church.   The rise of the consumer driven therapeutic gospel of self esteem over the past 50 years has caused God’s people to buy into a selfie Christianity.  It is a similar challenge to what Copernicus faced in the Scientific realm.  In the gospel of self esteem we become the center of God’s universe.  God and every other created thing (including the church) exists to revolve around our lives and make us better.  Instead of our lives revolving around the Son, everything about Him and others revolves around us. We, not He becomes the center of God’s story.  A Copernicus challenge bumps up against this.

The consumer driven therapeutic gospel of self esteem goes something like this.  God was kind of lonely and needed people to fill His emotional needs so He created these wonderful beings called humans. We are so great and full of potential it was only reasonable that God would need us.  He is crazy about us.  Like a doting parent He exists to make us happy and fulfill every spontaneous whim we have.  We are the center of His story.

From that posture we force the Bible and God to revolve around our lives.  Everything we pray about and read from His word is twisted to put us, and our desires at the center.  God and all His creation revolves around us.  They exist to make “our story” fulfilled.  Every teaching, command, and everything God asks of us is simply suggestions for our personal betterment.  If we don’t like it, no worry, it’s all about our happiness.

Sola Scriptura or Selfie Sciptura

The Protestant Reformation had a fresh rediscovery that the Bible is the sole basis of our faith and practice.  The Latin phrase “Sola Scriptura” (God’s word is the objective guide for our faith) became a battle cry.  Today instead of the Bible being the basis of our faith and practice self is. Instead of Sola Scriptura it becomes Selfie Scriptura. Everything in the Bible is interpreted with us at the center.  Scripture is interpreted through the interpreter’s ideas, opinions, attitudes, feelings, experiences, beliefs, and impressions.  Instead of what God intends His word to say, whatever makes us feel better, happier, and more fulfilled according to our definition is perceived as truth.

The revelation that He loves us deeply does not point to our intrinsic greatness, but His. 

What about all the Scriptures in which God indicated He is crazy about us and we are full of potential? Before we start cherry picking passages and stringing them together in a selfie package let’s set God’s framework.  The revelation that He loves us deeply does not point to our intrinsic greatness, but His.  His love, grace, mercy, forgiveness, and long suffering points to His glory not ours.  Salvation is about His greatness.  If we don’t see this we will always look at God’s word with our smiling selfie in the center of it.

“My Shepherd” or His sheep

A great example of this is seen one of the most quoted chapters in the Bible, Psalms 23.  If quoted and applied with Selfie Sciptura it has a different trajectory.  “The Lord is My Shepherd” (almost like He owes us and we own Him).   “I shall not be in need” (My Shepherd exist to fulfill all my needs and desires).  “He lets me lie down in green pastures and leads me beside still waters” (He always gives me things).    “He restores my soul and leads me in the best paths of righteousness” (I deserve the best and that is how He leads me).  If we stop there with a Narcigeses (Narcissistic self interprets scripture) instead of an Exegeses (sound interpretation of Scripture) we will forget the most important part of God’s motive in this passage.  He “lead’s me in paths of righteousness for His name’s sake” (Psalms 23:3).

Poverty of spirit will cause someone, like the Apostle Paul, to realize that the only thing they can boast about is that they have nothing to boast about except Jesus (2 Corinthians 12:5-9).

All the good things of God reveal His greatness not ours.  If we don’t keep this perspective we end up making self an idol in which God’s universe revolves around.  If we understand that it is about His glory then we keep self in its proper place.  In 20 of the 25 times Jesus calls people to “follow Him” in the gospels the first step is to deny self.  I remember the shock of Selfie Scriptura when we were trying to help someone avoid abandoning his wife and family (which he unfortunately did).  A friend tried to get Him to consider what the Bible says about faithfulness and marriage.  His crazy selfie scriptura reply, “I know the Bible says I shouldn’t do this but it also says He wants me to be happy so He is okay with it!

 

Consider just a few of the many Bible truths that show us the important foundation of His glory.

  • God chose His people and created us for his glory Eph 4:1-6, Is 43:6-7, Isa 49:3, Jer 13:11.
  • God rescued Israel from Egypt for His glory Ps 106:7-8.
  • God defeated Pharaoh at the Red Sea to show His glory Ex 14:4, 18.
  • God spared Israel in the wilderness for the glory of His name Ezek 20:14
  • God gave Israel victory in Canaan for the glory of His name 2 Sam 7:23
  • Jesus and Peter told us to do good works so that God gets glory Mt 5:16, 1 Pet 2:12
  • Jesus warned that not seeking God’s glory makes faith impossible Jn 5:44
  • God answers prayer that He would be glorified Jn 14:13
  • God forgives our sins for his own sake Isa 43:25, Ps 25:11
  • Jesus receives us into his fellowship for the glory of God Rom 15:7.
  • The ministry of the Holy Spirit is to glorify Jesus Jn 16:14
  • God instructs us to do everything for His glory 1 Cor 10:31
  • God tells us to serve in a way that will glorify Him 1 Pet 4:11.
  • Jesus will fill us with fruits of righteousness for God’s glory Phil 1:9, 11.
  • All sin causes us to fall short of the glory of God Rom 3:23.
  • He will return of the Lord will cause Him to be glorified in His people 2 Thes 1:9-10.
  • God’s plan is to fill the earth with the knowledge of his glory Hab 2:14, Eph 3:10-11
  • Everything good that happens comes from Him, though Him, and to Him for His glory Rom 11:36, Col 1:13-18.

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The Continual First Step of Receiving God’s Kingdom Part 1

One of the great spiritual fathers that helped a group of churches I was joined to back in
the 90s was Dow Robinson.  He was an amazing man with a father’s heart who had a PH.D. in Linguistics and began his ministry as a Wycliffe Bible Translators.  He had fascinating stories that occurred among the Aztec people of eastern Mexico as he was working to translate the New Testament into their language in the 1950’s, ’60’s, and ’70’s.   God moved and did miraculous things during his time there.  He was totally unprepared for it as he had come from a Presbyterian background and had little experience moving in the supernatural power of God.  All of that changed as he participated in a move of God causing him to become Charismatic.

He told a very impactive story about attempting to translate the word and phrase “Kingdom of God.”  Translators look for words and phrases in the native language that best expresses the word or phrase in the Bible.  The word “Kingdom” or “Kingdom of God”  means God’s active ruler-ship.  His Kingdom isn’t just a thing, it is an active thing, His current active ruler-ship.

When he and the natives helping him found something in the language that expressed “Kingdom of God” it was a eureka moment.  Light bulbs began to go off. Things began to shift radically.  Like Jesus said to Peter, “flesh and blood didn’t reveal this to you…you are not far from My Kingdom.”

With the idea of the “Kingdom of God” in their language the parables and Jesus commands about the Kingdom began to change their lives and environments.   The meager huts where they lived began to change.  They began to keep them cleaner and take care of repairs.  The plots of ground where they raised crops began to fare better than those belonging to non-Christians.  They began to take seriously the Kingdom stewardship parables knowing they would give an account of what they were given to care for (Mt 13, 25).  There was also the supernatural element of God answering Kingdom prayers over their crops, lives, and families. Their relationships became better as God began to govern them with His Kingdom.

Jesus isn’t looking for people to casually believe in Him, join an organization, or attend a meeting. He is looking for people who receive Him as the loving Lord of their life. He wants imitators not admirers, followers not consumers, fellow family members not casual meeting attenders.  He seeks people who receive His rule in every area of their lives.

Little Emphasis of the Kingdom Today

Unfortunately there is little emphasis of the Kingdom of God among His people today.  Either they don’t understand it or don’t emphasize it.  In contrast to this Jesus, the early church, and the New Testament emphasized the Kingdom as a priority.  Consider the facts.

  • John the baptist’s first message was about the Kingdom. (Mt 3:2)
  • Jesus’ first message, and His continued messages were about the Kingdom. (Mark 1:15 15, Mat 4:17,23 9:35, Mat 24:14, Luk 16:16).
  • He talked about how to enter it.  (Jn 3, Mt 5:20; 7:21)
  • His parables illustrated truths of the Kingdom and how it worked. (Matthew 13, 25 etc.)
  • His mighty works proved the Kingdom was here. Matthew 12:28 28 But if I cast out demons by the Spirit of God, then the kingdom of God has come upon you.
  • Jesus wanted the Kingdom to be our first priority (Mt 6:33), and the first thing we pray about (Mt 6:10).
  • The book of Acts begins with Jesus spending 40 days after His resurrection “speaking of the things concerning the Kingdom of God.” (Acts 1:3)
  • The book of Acts ends with Paul in prison preaching the Kingdom for 2 years (Acts 28:30-31).
  • Our salvation is tied to the the Kingdom of God in spite of contemporary ideas that one can be saved but not under the loving rulership (Kingdom) of God. Colossians 1:13 For He… transferred us to the kingdom of His beloved Son.
God's Kingdom is His active rulership. Click To Tweet

When we understand that His Kingdom is His active rule in our lives “right now” it should radically alter our perspective on Christianity.  Instead of considering if someone is a “Christian” or “Saved,” how about considering whether or not there is any real evidence (fruit) that Jesus is actively ruling in their life.  In every area of our lives such as relationships, finances, our workplace, the marketplace, our marriages, and homes is Jesus ruling?  In our everyday living when facing challenges, our own desires, or responding to people around us, are we following Jesus’ rulership? Jesus is our Savior (a word used 37 times in the Bible), but He is also to be our Lord (a word used over 7000 times).  His rulership and Kingdom is the emphasis of the Bible.

“The truth is this: Pride must die in you or nothing of heaven can live in you.” Andrew Murray

When there is little fruit of His Kingdom in our lives sometimes it is because we miss the first most important step of His Kingdom coming.  It is like trying to wear a button down shirt but you missalign the first button.  You can go ahead and button the shirt, but it won’t fit right.

What is the first button? What is the first step of His Kingdom coming into any area of our lives? It was the first thing Jesus taught about His Kingdom when He said, “blessed are the poor in spirit because they will receive the Kingdom of God” Mt 5:3. Poverty of spirit is the first step, and the continual first step of His Kingdom coming into any area of our lives.  I will address more about poverty of spirit next time.

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