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Category Archives: Biblical Theology

The Gospel for the City in Genesis 4

Genesis 4 gives evidence of humankind’s downfall. The brokenness of human relationships brought about by sin is seen in fratricide. The seeds of false religion begin to sprout in Cain’s tokenism through which he seeks God’s favor in the deficient works of his own hands.  The jealous hatred of the true way is seen in the murder of Abel.  Yet, the mercy of God is evident as He allows Cain to live and the common grace of God is seen in that fallen, rebellious humans advance culture and civilization in God’s world. The image of God is effaced but not erased; however, their creative endeavors serve rather as an idolatrous refuge instead of acts of faithful worship to their Creator God. In rebellion they seek to build a city in which they find refuge, while the godly, like Seth, begin to look for a ‘heavenly city, whose builder and maker is God.” Through Seth, God’s promise to give a ‘seed’ that will destroy the Serpent begins to take shape.

Those in rebellion against God at times seek to develop culture and civilization as an idolatrous refuge from the ravages of sin. The highest expressions of human culture are found in urban centers with their magnificent art museums, orchestras, theaters, and institutions of learning. Cities are the temples where economics and commerce are worshipped. Yet, these man-made temples become empty substitutes as one seeks vainly to find meaning and significance in life. Instead of advancing culture and commerce as an expression of worship and service to God, we seek in cultural advancement the fulfillment in life that only a relationship with God can bring.

On the other hand, cities often give evidence of the kind of jealous and violent rejection of true worship that Cain had for Abel  Christianity has not often done well in the cities, overwhelmed by the appealing lure of high culture and overly challenged by the problems of crime, poverty, poor education, and racism. Consequently, Christianity is marginalized, considered irrelevant, deemed powerless to compete with the appeal of high culture, and fearful to coexist with the challenges of a broken society. The Christian answer has been to flee the city and to seek refuge in a monocultural, more pristine, suburban world, instead of seeking refuge in the living God. “White flight,” as it has been called, is the sad public confession of an anemic Christianity that has lost faith in the power of the gospel to transform lives and societies.

Nevertheless, there are some who believe that the seed, promised through the line of Seth, who would ultimately destroy the works of the devil, has come. They are neither enamored by the appeal of high culture nor dismayed by the brokenness of urban communities. They see the beauty of the gospel and the deep –soul-satisfaction of the gospel as the answer for the empty worship of cultural advancement. They see the power and forgiveness of the gospel as the answer for the broken relationships with God, with family, with the world, and within themselves that are the root of most of the social ills of the city.

Those who know the true and living God through the promised Redeemer King seek through the gospel the transformation of people, culture and civilization as sub-regents under His rule and as priests who seek to worship Him in all they do. Nevertheless, as they do so in their temporal cities, they continue to look for the eternal city that God builds.  “Even so, come, Lord Jesus.”

 

The Gospel for the City in Genesis 3

As we saw in Genesis 2, God established a relationship with Adam — the King to his sub-regent and the Sovereign Lord to a priest. In Adam’s relationship as sub-regent and priest he was to rule under God’s command and worship God through his obedient priestly service in the Garden-Temple. Instead, Adam revolted and chose to act independently of God, believing the seductions of the anti-god, the Serpent. Adam relinquishes faith in God’s plan for his life and instead seeks to achieve life his own way. In so doing, he experiences death, initially seen in his alienation from God. He no longer worships and anticipates the presence of God but rather shrinks back in fear, for he knows that his sin calls for judgment.

Romans 5 reminds us that all of us were in Adam. His revolt it our revolt. His sin is our sin. His alienation from God and banishment from the garden is our plight.

Genesis 3 explains to us the feeling of banishment with which we live. We sense that something is lost. We cannot always define that lost-ness but nevertheless it is common to all humans. We search futilely to fill the void and regain what is lost.

The urban centers of the world increase our sense of lost-ness and loneliness. Yes, you may feel lost and alone in the wilderness or on a secluded mountain top, but you can hear the noises of the city, be pressed upon by the crowds, be surrounded by tall lighted occupied high-rises, and yet be alone. This deep loneliness and lost-ness when suffered in the midst of all the sights and sounds of life is painful. The often fragile and trivial communities of work, neighborhood, and play cannot assuage the loneliness of the soul that is estranged from God. Cities then become a harvest field for the gospel because they prove that neither the best or worst of human culture and society can fill that deep emptiness of the soul.

The cry of Jesus from the cross “my God, my God, why have you abandoned me” is our cry. He suffers banishment from His Father so that we may be restored to the Father. The Paradise that is lost because of human rebellion is regained through the obedient sacrifice of Jesus Christ.

 

Christmas — the Birth of Our Divine Warrior

I love the celebration of Christmas especially when it turns my focus to the incarnation of the Divine Warrior who would come and rescue us from the kingdom of darkness. Though we may sing, “Silent Night, Holy Night, All is Calm, All is Bright,” our theology suggests that more than that was going on that night. Hell was raging. Satan was fuming. The demons were preparing for the greatest confrontation between the powers of evil and the power of God.

Way back in the Garden, God had ordained that hostility would exist between Satan and those whom God had created in His image to worship and serve Him. The Old Testament narrative portrays that hostility in the frequent attempts of various enemies to destroy the people of God. Time and again, Yahweh fights for His people and delivers them. He chooses warriors like Gideon and David who fight the enemies of God and His people.

As we read these narratives through the lens of the New Testament, we realize that a great spiritual hostility lay behind these physical battles between nations. The attempts to eliminate the people of God were designed by Satan to thwart the coming of that One whom God promised would come and ‘crush the head” of Satan.  The Lord’s sovereign and powerful interventions in behalf of His people renewed hope that the ultimate Divine Warrior would come and defeat the great foe of mankind.

Christmas is the birth of a King, a Warrior King, a Divine King. Though He is the Prince of Peace he comes, not to appease or accommodate evil, but to destroy evil and to crush the evil one.  He is born to defeat sin, Satan, and death.  The life and ministry of Jesus vividly portray the confrontations He had with Satan and the demonic world. Unlike the first Adam, Jesus comes through every time as one who triumphs over evil.

Satan was relentless in His attacks against this One who is called “the Son of God” and within the eternal plan of God is allowed to incite the mobs to kill Jesus. Death would be Satan’s final vanquishing of the Divine Warrior.  Death was Satan’s last and most powerful weapon to bring against Jesus. However, little did Satan know that God would use this powerful weapon of death to be the very means by which Satan himself would be defeated. Satan unleashed his great fury in the death of Jesus only to have it recoil and crush the great enemy of mankind.

14 Since therefore the children share in flesh and blood, he himself likewise partook of the same things, that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil, 15 and deliver all those who through fear of death were subject to lifelong slavery. (Heb 2:14-15 ESV)

“Up from the grave He arose with a might conquest of His foes. He arose a victor from the dark domain and He lives forever with His saints to reign. He arose. He arose. Hallelujah Christ arose!”


 

Loving the City?

Loving the City?

Urban Ministry and Urban Living often attract those who are infatuated or flirtatious with the mystique of the city and even some who profess to love the city. Some of us simply love the gospel and the density (crowded neighborhoods) and diversity (economic, ethic, educational, cultural, and age differences) of people who are found in the city – offering an opportunity for a strategic advance of the gospel.

We should be cautious about the phrase ‘Loving the city’ because it can be no more than a cliché of those who either do not know the city or those who have come to believe that it is mark of spiritual achievement when you can say, “I love the city.” Read the rest of this entry »

 

Reflections on Suffering (Job 29-30)

 

Reflections on Suffering (Job 29-30)

Job’s life had radically changed from prosperity to suffering. Job felt like God’s watchcare over him had also changed. He now feels like God is not lighting his path nor being a friend to him. There was a former time when Job remembered that ‘life was good’. He recalled the favor and respect that he had from others because of the apparent ‘blessing of God’ as seen in his prosperous life. Job remembered when his trouble free life allowed him to focus on pursuing the needs of others. He was able to face the despair of others with confidence and a smile. Read the rest of this entry »