God’s People, part 164: 2nd Advent

Read Matthew 24:1-31

“They said, “If you are the Messiah, tell us.” He replied, “If I tell you, you will not believe; and if I question you, you will not answer. But from now on the Son of Man will be seated at the right hand of the power of God.””  (Luke 22:67-69, NRSV)

When we think of God’s people, we tend to think one of two things. We might think of the Israelites who were God’s “chosen people”, or we might think of specific characters in the Bible. Either way, we tend to idealize the people we are thinking about. For instance, we may think that God’s people are super faithful, holy, perform miracles and live wholly devout and righteous lives. Unfortunately, this idealism enables us to distance ourselves from being God’s people, because we feel that we fall short of those ideals. As such, I have decided to write a devotion series on specific characters in the Bible in order to show you how much these Biblical people are truly like us, and how much we are truly called to be God’s people.

second-coming-814x610@2xPart 164: 2nd Advent. In 2011, megachurch pastor and author wrote a book that would spark a controversy before it was actually published and on the shelves. Rob Bell, the pastor in question, put out a promotional video for his book, which can be viewed by clicking here. In this promo, Rob Bell discusses how at an art gallery his church hosted there was an exhibit that was of Gandhi. During the course of the show someone saw to it to attach a note to the exhibit that read, “NEWS FLASH, he’s in hell.”

The promo then turns to Rob Bell raising a series of questions starting with, “Really? Gandhi is in hell? And someone is so sure of this that he or she felt compelled to tell us this?” From their the promo continues to ask questions around hell and around the character of God. He ends with saying that that what we believe about heaven and hell is incredibly important, and that what the Bible has to say is beautiful, profound and truly Good News.

That promo sent people into a whirlwind of speculation before anyone could even read the book. Accusations flew, some (such as Franklin Graham) calling Rob Bell a heretic, and others accusing him of being a universalist. Of course, once people read the book, the charges of heresy diminished to charges of “heterodoxy”. Heterodoxical teachings are a set of teachings that “deviate from orthodox beliefs” but don’t necessarily cross into the territory of full-on heresy. It is questionable as to whether or not what Bell actually wrote was heterodoxy at all; however, with people already being committed to not liking the book, those charges stood in the minds of more conservative Christians.

The book itself, in good Rob Bell fashion, doesn’t take a position at all (other than that love wins, but rather it poses questions, as sell as defines and contextualizes words and concepts. In fairness to its critics, such open-ended questions could lead people to fall into universalism or other unorthodox views; however, I do not believe that was Bell’s intent. He was merely asking questions that many non and nominal Christians have with regard to heaven and hell, with the hope of drawing more people into a relationship with Christ. He was approaching the questions with the bleeding heart of a pastor, concerned for those who want nothing to do with the Church because they are hung up on such doctrines.

I will not spend the space I have in this devotion to discuss the merits or shortcomings of Bell’s Love Wins; however, it does point us to an important doctrine in the Christian faith. Christians traditionally believe that Christ not only came once, died, was buried and rose again. We also believe that Christ now sits at the right-hand side of God the Father, from where we he will come again to judge the living and the dead.

This may seem draconian and off-putting to people in a culture that is so loosey-goosey, and hellbent on “being good” on its own apart from God; however, the Christian witness is different than that. As Christians we hold to the doctrine of Original Sin, that while humanity was created “good”, it eventually chose knowledge and independence over maintaininga dependency on God. That choice led to separation from God, which consequently led to chosing to glorify ourselves rather than God. We are costantly putting ourselves (e.g. desires, family, friends, wealth, etc.) before God. This sinful state is unescapable without God’s preventing, justifying, and sanctifying grace.

As for Jesus’ 2nd Advent, we are all awaiting for that day when Jesus will come again and we will stand before him in TRUTH. None of us will have an excuse, nor will we be able to say, “Oh, sorry God. I didn’t know that I wasn’t meant to live that way.” Why is that? Because God’s grace has been working within us and convicting us to acknowledge and follow God. At our most basic level, we have an innate understanding of what is “right” and what is “wrong”, and we also know that we have an impossible time getting everything “right” and avoiding every sort of “wrong.”

The challenge for us is for us to acknowledge that reality, and to praise God for the grace TO ACKNOWLEDGE it. It takes humility to acknowledge that we are not AS GOOD as we’d like to think and to submit our lives to Christ through repentance and obedience. Let us turn to God and restore our relationship with the One who IS LOVE, the One died for us so that we might be purged of our sin and raised in to life! Amen.

“Those who are ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of them the Son of Man will also be ashamed when he comes in the glory of his Father with the holy angels.”  (Mark 8:38, NRSV)

Jesus, I repent of my ways and submit to you as Lord. Fill me with your grace, your love and use me for your glory and for the kingdom that is to come on earth as it is in heaven. Amen.

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