Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Good News, Kingdom of God, Salvation, Hell

This is from a friend of mine, Alan Gray, who responded to a question I posted on Facebook. What is the gospel of the kingdom of God? WOW!

"What is good news?
"Your biopsy turned up negative". "You inherited $55,000". "The house next door with the drug dealers living for the past 3 years has been cleared out and a respectable family has purchased it and is going to do a complete renovation of it."
"Your wife and new baby are going to be fine". "The war has ended." Good news is universal. Everyone knows what good news is. The gospel is good news.

What is the kingdom of God?
We vote in elections because this is how we participate in our government. We obey the laws because this is how we honor our country. We pay taxes because that is how we fund the work of the social support of our society. While there are some kingdoms left in the world, most are now considered countries. Perhaps Kingdom is better understood as the Country of God. But while countries have geographical boundaries, this kingdom of God is made up of a growing citizenship of human beings who willingly commit to ally with it. Those who chose to assign their allegiance to Jesus as their present and coming king, join this expanding citizenship that crosses all geographical boundaries.

Much like a citizen of France living in Canada, he may participate as much as a non-citizen can participate, honoring and supporting the government and people of Canada but their heart is truly in France. They may watch French news or read French magazines, they are a valuable member of the country of Canada by honoring it and following it's rules, even though they may seem foreign and unnecessary. They may engage in changing Canadian culture or even government to reflect more of the French culture they believe in. But regardless of their activities, they are not Canadian, they are French.

What is Salvation?
Salvation is the life long process of rescue from immanent destruction.

The theologians of the first several centuries, in an effort to position themselves in places of power and authority, mutated the meaning and purpose of Hell, the sternest of warnings Jesus gave to those Jewish leaders who thought that by virtue of their genealogy, they were exempt from immanent destruction. These early theologians, with the help of thousands of subsequent bible dreamers have pushed the very present threat and danger of a godless, wasted existence out, far into the infinite future in some mythical fantasy of raining swirling fire, so they could become the imaginary gatekeepers and final arbiters of who escaped it's dreadful fires and torment and who didn't.

Shifting our focus from the everyday, ongoing process of salvation to a one time infinite future event, these imaginative thinkers, stole it's power for themselves and, in the minds of their followers, reduced it's valuable ever present reference to an irrelevant and powerless doctrine that has nothing whatsoever to do with our present lives.

But hell is all around us. Anguish, depression, weeping, gnashing of teeth, tormented souls who have given themselves over or have been tricked into leaving their will and purpose in the hands of personal lust, greed, judgment and condemnation of others, critics of everyone around them, impatient with neighbors or fellow workers, envious of the resources of those around them, protective of their own image, hungry to dominate others, insecure of what they have no control over, hatred and anger at everyone around them for wrongs they themselves have suffered, waging war with spouses, children, parents, other races of people, others of higher or lower income status. It is a nearly endless, day to day, moment by moment enticing that this world beckons us to join in and for our current consideration, it is nothing short of hell. It can be a life time of pain and suffering, it can so define us throughout the length of our lives that even though we claim Jesus to be our savior, we refuse to or even call ourselves powerless to change. We may search for a human salvation through a friend, a spouse, a child, a medical procedure, a drug, a hobby, a career, an identity, an affiliation with a particular group but nothing will free us from this self centered life except to let go of one tie and connection at a time, over as short a period of time as we can endure, to where we hold on to none of these things and denounce all of them in our own lives.

Like a home owner who has been the victim of a hurricane or perhaps the surviving relative of such a one, we sift through these lives with great hope, discarding that which is ruined and collecting up that which is good. With the endless and ever present guidance of the Spirit of God, we take up each thing which was once so dear to us and lay down that which is not.

We are not saved from an eternal infinite existence of pain and suffering, we are being saved from a very present one. What God does with the infinite future is in his hands, what we do in this very short and finite present one is very much in our own. We are being saved but we are very much a part of that process, it is not left in the hands of one savior who died once so we could simply claim him as our birthright and king and then neglect everything he has commanded us to do. There is no salvation in that. In the end, we may have a lifetime of devotion to present to Him and nothing of a changed life to accompany it. Our lives are not our own, they were bought with an invaluable price. "

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