Inherit the Earth

“Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth” (Matthew 5:5, ESV).

I find this beattitude to be a wonderful promise held out for the redeemed of the Lord.  One day the whole earth will be ours.  Jesus does not promise a few acres of land with boundary markers.  He promises to give his people the whole earth.  In many ways, this promise and beattitude overturns the fall of Adam and Eve, who rebelled against God in the Garden of Eden thereby forsaking their mandate to exercise dominion over the planet.  What the first man and woman lost due to sin along with all of their descendants, Jesus promises to give back to those in union with him.

From my perspective, this blows my mind to the nth degree.  If I recall my Sunday school lessons and bible reading, the serpent used deception to steal Adam and Eve’s authority over creation.  This resulted in sin and death infecting all of it; however, Jesus won back mankind’s authority over the earth and creation by his death, resurrection, and ascension to the right hand of the Father.  The Son succeeded where Adam failed: Jesus overcame the enemy.  If this was not an objective fact, he could not have said that all authority had been given to him in heaven and on earth (Matt. 28:18, ESV).  This statement would be an outright lie.

Because Jesus won the victory over the adversary, he has the right to grant his inheritance to all those who call upon his name.  What this statement means is that Jesus occupies the role of the firstborn son.  In ancient, Hebrew culture, the eldest son stood first in line to inherit all of his father’s possessions.  This exchange did not have to occur at the father’s death.  It could take place beforehand, especially if old age prevented the father from functioning as the head of his household.  At some point, the father handed over to his firstborn son all of his possessions and his authority to oversee them.  Now, the oldest son’s entire family, friends and strangers interacted with him in the same way that they used to with the father.  This entire portrait applies to our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

The Son of God is the firstborn of all of the redeemed throughout redemptive history.  He stands first in line to receive everything from the Father.  According to the second chapter of Hebrews, the Father has promised to subject all of creation to the Son in the world to come; however, in the present age, the Son’s work of salvation inaugurates this rule (Hebrews 2:5-13, ESV).  This is the famous already-not yet tension within the New Testament.  This tension gets to the heart of the word meek.  In the Greek, the word means exercising God’s strength under his control or demonstrating power without undue harshness.  Jesus is all that and more.  In fact, his picture needs to be next to the Greek word praeis (translated meek in English) since he lived it out to the full during his suffering and death on the cross.

If redemption’s goal is to conform the redeemed to the image of his son, then meekness characterizes them as it did their savior (Romans 8:29, ESV).  When persecutions come my way, do I retaliate or compromise my witness because of them?  Jesus did not retaliate against his persecutors, and he remained true to his testimony.  At no point in his life and ministry do we see Jesus caving in to culture and society.  He remained steadfast to the end, and he commands his people to do the same (Matt. 24:13; Mark 13:13; Revelation 2:10, 17, 26, ESV).  Jesus is the example for the redeemed.  His meekness is to be ours via the person and work of the Holy Spirit.  In turn, our Lord will reward us with inheriting the earth alongside him.  It is a promise that stretches back to the Old Testament: “But the meek shall inherit the land and delight themselves in abundant peace” (Psalm 37:11, ESV).

 

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Final Reflections on Surfing Secularism

In the previous two posts, I analyzed two out of the three presuppositions put forth by Dave Schmelzer, which characterize churches and their ministers who surf secularism well.  The link to his article is here: http://www.faithstreet.com/onfaith/2014/03/19/surfing-secularism-why-fighting-the-rest-of-the-world-is-a-losing-strategy-for-churches/31356.  It is a quick read with quite a few things going for it and against it.  Today, I will touch upon Schmelzer’s third presupposition, and then interject some final thoughts and observations.

Schmelzer’s third presupposition that defines churches and their ministers who surf secularism well is the following:  “Our culture doesn’t equal God’s culture.”  To be blunt, I found nearly zero to pick at with this one.  The underlying subtext of this presupposition is humility or maybe at a deeper level, meekness.  My heart posture drives how I speak, act, and think toward those inside and outside of the church.  I exist within a setting that is familiar to my tastes and sensibilities; however, the body of Christ is immensely diverse in taste and sensibility as is the surrounding culture.  Am I willing to venture outside of my familiar walls into expressions that differ from my current contexts and preferences?

From my perspective, Schmelzer seems to be raising that question along with the other minsters in his piece.  Along that same line of thinking, I would add that how I see people is a crucial point.  This seems to be bubbling underneath the surface of Schmelzer’s entire piece.  At the risk of upsetting the apple cart, I must point out that this third presupposition does not stand by itself.  It follows on the heels of the previous two, which weakens the force of it.  If I took a stab at summarizing my foundational criticism of Schmelzer’s piece, then it would be his lack of definition about the approach to take.

For Schmelzer, there’s a sizable portion of Evangelical churches and leaders who see the culture in the wrong way.  He is very clear on that point even down to speaking in clear terms.  When it comes to spelling out the better approach, he offers three presuppositions that lack clarity of basis and intent.  It could be argued that Schmelzer wants his readers to think for themselves about the better ways to surf secularism.  In fact, let us work together to determine the guidelines or boundaries necessary for living out the message of Jesus.  I am all for discipleship, and I see this as one of the greatest areas of need and weakness in the church today.

Call me old fashioned or on-the-nose, but I believe that the one doing the discipleship needs to present things in clear terms.  Those witnessing to the surrounding culture need to present the gospel of Jesus with simplicity and clarity.  This applies to the churches and ministers and seminaries.  It is essential to grasp the basics of the gospel in order to give a reason for the hope that is in us with gentleness and respect (1 Peter 3:15-16, ESV).  I agree with Schmelzer that drawing lines between folks over petty issues is petty.  There are also core doctrines of the faith, which must be agreed upon by believers in order to experience true unity.

If getting the gospel right is not a priority for churches and their ministers, then their witness to the culture is in peril.  She may find herself imbibing the culture’s beliefs and values about Jesus, the bible, and the church.  In no way does Schmelzer advocate such a stance as he uses the term doubling down with respect to our position in relation to secularism.  He embraces the metaphor of surfing in order to connect his readers with the reality of the tide turning against the believer’s favor.  Surfing requires skill and coordination, which I gather Schmelzer believes is necessary for today’s church and minister.

The surfing metaphor poses some problems though: 1. The twelve men that Jesus called to be his apostles were the most unskilled and uncouth people that he could have chosen; and 2. The apostle Paul says that God chose the foolish, weak, and despised things of this world to shame the wise (1 Corinthians 1:26-29, ESV).  All of this is to say that I get Schmelzer’s point about laying down our arms against culture.  It seems to me that surfing connotes remaining on the surface, which may lead to superficial witnessing by the church. Instead of using a metaphor that sends mixed signals, I think it is best to use these two that Jesus taught in the sermon on the mount: salt and light.  His bride is to be both salt and light, which penetrate the meat and darkness respectively for genuine gospel transformation.

Everyday Married Life

Some things change and some things never change.  I recall this line of dialogue from The Matrix Reloaded, which had some good elements in a mass of narrative confusion.  It rings true in this moment in time.  I am no longer single, so this impacts my standing before the federal, state, and local governments.  My social status is now in a different realm than as a single man.  When I go home, there is another person to engage life with each evening.  Decisions must take into account my spouse.  She is first line so to speak; although, on the other hand, this line does not exist in any real or imagined way.  My wife is definitely first on my mind and in my heart out of all people on this earth.  She is second to our Lord, but she adopts the same mindset.  Much has changed in my life due to marriage.

If I am honest with myself, and this is something that I aspire to embrace daily, then I must confess that there exist things unchanged as a result of marriage.  My relationship with the Lord forms the core of my life and being.  I am still a morning person, who loves drinking tea to start the day.  Hiking is a definite passion of mine, which has intensified because of marriage.  The same is true with respect to writing. In fact, my wife kept hounding me to start a blog in order to write as we dated last year.  She saw this immense passion in me to use words and ideas as a means to share with others what God has shown me.  Her goal had been to light a fire in me to create the outlet for the water to flow rather than grow stagnant.  Thanks to her, the geyser has not stopped flowing.

I could have used other words in place of everyday such as mundane or ordinary.  The former is too pessimistic and the latter is too neutral.  Everyday seems to capture the truth of ordinary without an undue sense of neutrality while eschewing the pessimism of mundane.  Life is to be lived day to day, one step at a time.  In the sermon on the mount, Jesus commands the gathered and his disciples “…[to] not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself.  Sufficient for the day is its own trouble” (Matthew 6:34, ESV).  Here is the same scripture text from a different translation:

“So do not worry about tomorrow; for tomorrow will care for itself.  Each day has enough trouble of its own” (Matt. 6:34, NASB).

First off, volumes of books and journal articles have been published on the sermon on the mount.  Am I about to say anything new or fresh as this particular verse relates to the everyday happenings of a married man?  I am not so arrogant as to think or believe that about myself.  All I do know is that Matt. 6:34 popped into my mind as I considered what to write about for today’s post.  In many ways, this verse makes very little sense apart from the previous one.  Jesus exhorts the crowd and the disciples in the thirty-third verse about seeking God’s Kingdom and his righteousness.  Those two things are to be my top two priorities in all that I do and say; therefore, I am able to engage in life anxiety-free, worry-free.  It is a principle of following Christ, which is wholly counterintuitive to our human experience.

Is it possible for me live anxiety-free or worry-free in my everyday married life?  Given our Lord’s words in Matthew chapter six, I believe the answer is a resounding yes.  The issue comes down to knowing and trusting the character of my Lord.  It is clear throughout the entire sermon on the mount that Jesus knows the human experience and more importantly, the human condition.  The ongoing battle for the crowd and his disciples had been to place themselves in the second position while reinstating God in the first.  The only way anyone is ever capable of doing this with any degree of success is by virtue of being in Christ.  He is the way, the truth, and the life. This means that my wife is second to our Lord.  The minute I place her ahead of Christ, this begins the slow and steady rise of turmoil, anxiety, and worry.  Lord, help me to put you first above all people, places, and things.  Grant me an undivided heart and mind.