We’ve been working through a series of videos by N T Wright in young adults group recently and there are certain ideas and questions that keep coming back around.
Here’s a simple version for those of you who might be unfamiliar.
The bible teaches us…
- God is so all-powerful and utterly good that the goodness of anything is measured by how well it aligns with Him.
- Evil is not a thing unto itself, but what is evil is only so because it has been twisted out of its God-alignment.
- God created a world where spiritual and physical were interconnected and called good.
- People have the option to align with God their rightful king, or be their own master.
- The world (people and environment) suffers under the wrong decision humans make.
- God had a plan already for Christ to come and restore alignment with God.
- The whole world awaits Christ’s return to bring restored Heaven and Earth together.
- Greek gnostic philosophy taught everyone that physical matter was evil and spiritual things were good and the two could not coexist happily.
- Eastern Spirituality taught that good and evil were equal and opposite forces and must be held in perpetual tension.
- These ideas weaseled their way into Christian thinking, creating an idea that this physical world is evil and ruled by the devil, and that God was going to surrender the physical world, throwing it away like garbage, and rescue the Christians into a purely spiritual Heaven.
|What lots of people have believed||What the bible teaches|
|Heaven is a spiritual place. Heaven and earth are not connected. God and his angels live there and visit Earth sometimes.||Heaven is the Kingdom of God (not just a place, but literally every place in which God is treated as rightful king.)|
|Hell is unstoppably advancing and spoiling everything. God is letting it happen.||Hell is not significant enough to feature in the advancement of the Kingdom of God.|
|Christ infiltrated Earth and the cross is where you get a ticket to escape the slowly dying physical world.||Christ is the first among many, he began the movement to bring the rule of God and put everything right, “The Kingdom of God is among you”|
|God will bring all his followers onto the heaven lifeboat and Christ will put everything right by letting the Earth burn.||Heaven and Earth will be renewed and will be united as one under the rule of God, who will now live with his people.|
What this means is that we don’t love and serve people because we are trying to convince them to join our God-club and escape this awful place with us. We love and serve because we belong to God’s Kingdom, and that’s what we, his people, do. It’s who we are. It’s the way the world will be when God is finally the king here.
God has prepared good works for each of us to do (a good work being literally anything we do that is aligned with what God made us to be.) We don’t always know the purpose of what God puts before us to do, but it is our job to be faithful in the little things and do what we can to the best of our ability, knowing that our ability is not the deciding factor in the outcome. Sure, we want people to know God, but we also know and trust that it’s God who will bring them – in his own time. The bible teaches us that one plants and another waters, but it is God who makes it grow.
So, rather than thinking of this Christian life as an inconvenient waiting period in an unpleasant place, handing out emergency evacuation instructions before a wonderful non-physical eternity begins, we should be thinking of it as the beginning of the eternal life in which we love and serve our God-king and bring the goodness, life and freedom he has given us to all those around.