Quote

Jesus’ New World

As new rounds of lockdowns come amid increasing pandemic rates and hospitalizations, this long quote from Peter Leithart’s commentary on Matthew’s gospel gave me hope. Specifically it touches on the themes in the Sermon on the Mount of treasuring and trusting God.

“A new kingdom and a new king are being heralded in the midst of the corruptions of worldly kingdoms, a new city in the midst of the old cities. The Old City is a city of anxiety. For Jesus, anxiety is not just a feeling or emotion that we privately experience. It is that. But it is also the organizing principle of a world, a structure and a regime, a master and a power. Anxiety is the ether of the world outside the kingdom of God. Anxiety keeps the stores open 24/7. Anxiety keeps the highways busy until the wee hours of the morning. Anxiety keeps people working late at the office. Anxiety is what builds the skyscrapers. Anxiety is what drives consumer spending.

“Anxiety is driven by a very simple insight, the insight that we are limited creatures, and the particular fact that the future sets the boundary of our limitations. We cannot see past the next moment, much less the next day or next month. Yet we want to be able to manage things. We want to secure our future. We want to be able to manage things. We want to secure our future. We want to know something about what we will eat, drink, wear, do next year, five years, ten years. We want to know that our portfolio will still be expanding, our children will still be living nearby, we will still have a spouse. And we can’t. If you know that you can’t manage the future, and yet you try to manage the future, there can be only one result: anxiety. This is the way of the world, and it’s what drives the Gentiles to “eagerly seek” food, clothing, drink, success, and all the rest.

“Jesus invites us into a new world. Jesus announces the kingdom, which, in essence, means announcing God’s future, and the future of God. Jesus comes announcing that the future is arriving. God intends to rule over all things, and He is beginning to rule over all things now. He intends to set Jesus on the throne over the whole cosmos, and He’s beginning to do that now. He’s going to defeat evil and put His world back together, and He’s beginning to do that now. The future is arriving, and the future is secure in God’s hands. He is the God of the future, and He is establishing His future in the present. And the kingdom which is God’s future world arriving in the present is not driven by anxiety but by trust, because within this kingdom we know that the future is secure. We know that God has everything under control. We know that God is our heavenly Father who will care for us.”

-Peter Leithart, The Gospel of Matthew Through New Eyes, Jesus as Israel.

Grace

Prayer for the Church

As election day is upon us in the midst of a pandemic and turmoil among neighbors, I remain hopeful that Jesus is refining his church and calling us deeper into kingdom life with him. This is my prayer.

Lord we have come to a near end of the political drama of our age. A place so many of us have looked for meaning and purpose. As we move beyond it, bring us to repentance for the idolatry in each of our hearts. Give us a clearer vision of what it means to live loving our neighbors and our enemies for your glory and our good. Teach us to love as you have loved us.

Make the church passionate about life, from conception to natural death. That we would recognize your image in those we once thought less than us. That we would have a heart for the least and learn to sacrifice ourselves for them, that they might meet you.

Jesus grow your church, in depth of trust in you. In understanding of your preeminence and sovereignty over all things. Help us to trust that you really do hold all things together by the power of your word.

May this moment keep us spiritually poor in spirit. That we would never grow older than you, always knowing our need for you, your grace, and your power to live. Make us hungry for more of you and your righteousness. That we would ache for your glory to fill the globe as the waters do the sea.

Father bring renewal to the faithful remnant as we seek you, surrender ourselves, and determine to live only for you. Give us an awakened sense of living is Christ and dying is gain. You alone are our hope, security, and provision. May your name be glorified in us. Now, and forevermore, amen.

Discipleship

Satan is Pleased

Disunity is nothing new. It is an old trick, arguably around since the garden scheme to put husband and wife against each other in blame and the resulting separation from God.

But this year’s pandemic-drenched election is confounding with the layers of disunity.

The progressive left is agitated that the party they have tried to transform has as its candidate who some view as a centrist. Republicans are left wondering what it means to be conservative anymore as some shill for the cult of personality while others lament the loss of small government and kindness. Pro-life people are disunified on what the term means, do we only vote for a candidate perceived to be against abortion or do we actually work to value life of all people.

Sadly, the church, a people prone to be discipled more by confirmation bias than the Bible, has allowed the same level of disunity over politics or even response to a global pandemic. All of this leaves the accuser of the Saints, Satan, pleased.

Now I have no insight for the political left, or right, but I do have some encouragement for those claiming faith in Christ. Unity is what we are meant for. If it wasn’t important Jesus could have saved his breath in John 17. A oneness in Christ, with each other is the design for the church.

We are all culpable so where do we go from here? I suggest we become more rooted in the Word, more aggressive in repentance, and more familiar with love.

We must know what Jesus taught in order to be his disciples and we hear it in Scripture. Of course every believer is committed to Scripture, just ask them. But as individuals I wonder if we are ripe for evaluation of our lives and how much we take in that is in opposition to God’s best for his people and his invitation to live as Kingdom citizens.

Can we endeavor to consume more of Christ’s word? And do so not to confirm a bias we have but asking the Spirit to open our eyes and show us how to get to unity with others anchored in the good news of Jesus?

As we read then we should be quick to act upon what we hear. We tend to read Scripture looking for stories of great blessing that we can claim for ourselves but neglect the calls against rampant idolatry and half-hearted worship. Maybe in this season, to get to unity it will take aggressive repentance for the ways we have sinned against each other and the Lord by calling lesser things more important.

A whole-life repentance (given it’s Reformation Day we should reclaim this!) will move us beyond our prayer closet and into each others’ homes asking for forgiveness and seeking restoration with one another. It will also move us into the streets to care for the least among us, those without voice, without privilege.

And it might recenter us in love. Jesus does bold work by calling his followers to not only love our neighbor (hard enough for us) but to also love our enemies and pray for those that persecute us. Some of us find it hard in this season to love the people we sit six-feet away from at church. But following Jesus is death-to-self. A sacrificial life of care for others, even those we are sure are against us. Let’s recommit to that, to love.

Because Jesus first loved us we have nothing to lose in extending love to others. Maybe the Spirit will even give you a tangible way to do that before the election is even over.

In the Word, quick to repent, and active in unlimited love, we will find our unity. In Jesus, who forgives us and gives us new mercy to try again. We are free to throw off what weighs us and separates us and realize the answer to Christ’s prayer that we would be one and he and the Father are one.

Are we up for it?