Realize, I work a day job and therefore am hard pressed to properly answer Gideon Strauss's posts on Church Renewal. I am blessed to have kicked up a little dust over there.
I will today post on two items:
1. A Short Expositions of Rev. 21:9ff (sermon intro)
2. A Short Exposition on Matt 5:14-16
Again, for further study on Community emphasis in the church see my sermons posted in the side bar on the DNA of the Church: fellowship (part 1), opening up our homes (part 2) and joy-filled community (part 3). Also, see, at the Trinity web page, my texts "God's Ultimate Purpose" and "The Case for Accountability".
My overall view historically is that Western and Greek thinking, as opposed to Hebrew thinking, has led the church to two problems. First, an emphasis on the souls journey to heaven as opposed to the ultimate goal of the renewal of society through the incarnation of God in Christ and His body. Here, I am affirming a solid neo-Calvinist emphasis on Creation, Fall and Redemption. I believe that the 21st Century Reformation needs to lean toward recovering Hebraic vision for redeemed community. Secondly, I am contending for an observation based discipleship methodology as opposed to the greek academic model. I see the discipleship model of Jesus as being one of observation, imitation and codification much like the scientific method. In this model, the subject is primarily the life of the teacher as opposed to abstract ideas.
Morally Beautiful Community
In these posts on ecclesiology, I am looking at the fist problem of the content of our vision for corporate sanctification as opposed to simply individual sanctification. Again, I see individual sanctification as a means to the ultimate end of God's Glory in corporate sanctification.
Before I move on to Revelation 21, I would like to touch on Abraham's journey. The Redemptive story begins essentially with Abraham. Abraham's vision was for "a city whose architect and builder was God". The Hebrew vision was for a promised land, a city in which righteousness dwells. When I was younger, I read Jonathan Edwards "On religious Affections" and was compelled by His emphasis on the moral attributed of God being revealed to the believer and this revelation through the Gospel fanning the flames of affection in the believer. I have taken this one step further and come to believe that it is the moral attributes of God incarnated in the church through our spiritual union with Christ that will fan the flames of affection for God in the world. To God be the Glory. AMEN.
At the same time, I am not equating "the Kingdom" with t"he church", but I would loosely define the kingdom as the display of God's moral attributes in the poeple of God through the Lordship of Jesus Christ.
So if you have your bible, please open to Rev. 21:9ff.......
It reads as follows:
Rev. 21:9 "Then one of the seven angels who had the seven bowls full of the seven last plagues came and spoke with me, saying, Come here, I will show you the bride, the wife of the Lamb."
So what is the angel in this vision going to show John. The Bride. Remember the angel is going to show John a picture of the Bride. And who is the Bride. The Bride is us. We are the Bride. So John is going to have a revelation of the church. The following verses are going to be a vision, a picture of us, a picture of God's vision for his church. Continuing in verse 10:
10 And he carried me away in the Spirit to a great and high mountain, and showed me the holy city, Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, 11 having the glory of God. Her brilliance was like a very costly stone, as a stone of crystal-clear jasper. 12 It had a great and high wall, with twelve gates, .......
The city. I thought the angel was going to show John a picture of the Bride. Shouldn't it say " and I saw a bride clothed in fine linen.." No it says something more revelatory. The Scripture states God's vision for the Church is that she be a city, a holy city. A city in which righteousness dwells whose architect and builder is God. That was Abraham's vision, and the New Testament church is called and empowered to be that city, that community. Coming into relationship with the church, entering into a kinship or a home group is to be like walking through gates of pearl into a city whose streets are paved with gold. Only here the beauty is not a physical beauty but the moral beauty of God displayed in the midst of his people. The kingdom of God is the City of God.
The picture is of a city that is beautiful: The beauty of the city, the moral beauty of God in his people, is the virtue, the love, the preferring, forgiving, kind and meek temperament of God's people. The city picture emphasizes the moral beauty seen in the relationships between individuals and not the beauty of the individual apart from the group but only as displayed in relationship. The "one another" wisdom of the teachings and life of Jesus internalized and manifest in Christ's disciples is the witness to God's moral excellence. It is our kindness, our sacrificial love, which is so winsome and a pure reflection of God's glory. It is the quality of life that we have learned in the life of our Lord which empowers us to live well together, "He has made Christ our wisdom" (1 Cor. 1:30)
Jesus is our great teacher: As we take his yoke upon us and learn of him, he teaches us the skill in life, the wisdom, that empowers us to live His quality of life in the context of our life. The power of the Spirit works in us purposefully to build the city in which righteousness dwells. We are that city and a city set on a hill cannot be hidden.
"14 You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden; nor does anyone light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven."
Here, Jesus clearly states that our purpose is to be a city. I often think of the witness of the church as myself and other individuals at our places of work or my personal testimony of victory over sin. Such victory is an essential part of our witness, but it is only a means to a greater corporate witness. The witness of the church is not ultimately our victory over sin as individuals but this deliverance taken into the body as a heart of affection for God and man which works itself out in being the city. There is a witness of Christ through me, but the ultimate witness is the witness of Christ in us. This witness is the witness of the city in which there is no night because the Lord is their light.
The city is God's great task, the chief end of history. The Father's ultimate intention is to build a corporate body, a city in which His great perfections and virtues, the quality of life of Jesus in the people as a people, which displays His glory. This God Glorifying City is the ultimate end for which God saved us that we, as a people, would proclaim His beauty.
Putting this all together. I am atempting to reform our notion of church and I believe that the emergent leaders do indeed have a compelling vision to express in the church the answer to man's alienation from one another through Community. The coalescing value becomes community to which I say AMEN.