Vladimir Pustan – Amurg si vine noaptea

PAGINA Vladimir Pustan PREDICI aici

Photo via http://www.wallpowper.com/sunset-church
Sunset Church Graveyard with 1680x1050px Resolution Wallpaper - Wallpowper.Com

Stiti de ce nu avem noi ca prioritate raspandirea Evangheliei? Pentru ca noi nu suntem inca obisnuiti cu ideia ca noi suntem mantuiti. Deci, daca tu ai problema cu mantuirea ta, ce mai poti spune altora? Dar, apoi m-am gandit: Nu stiu, dar daca L-am avea pe Isus in inima, L-am avea si in gura.

30 Decembrie 2012 Text – Ioan 9:1-7

esp. v. Cît este ziuă, trebuie să lucrez lucrările Celuice M’a trimes; vine noaptea, cînd nimeni nu mai poate să lucreze.

Momente de bilant- Unul dintre lucrurile importante pe care le putem vedea in jurul nostru, este ca lumea aceasta se indreapta cu pasi repezi spre un deznodamant. Toata istoria, vedem relatiile umane, vedem ceea ce spune natura in fiecare zi, ne dam seama ca deja istoria obosita se indreapta spre finalitate. Adica, Domnul Isus vine si spune: Cît este ziuă, trebuie să lucrezi, pentru ca vine noaptea, cînd nimeni nu mai poate să lucreze. In urma cu 2000 de ani, ucenici au spus, mergand spre Emaus au spus: Este spre seara, adica in amurg.

Amurg si vine noaptea 

Vladimir Pustan 3Nu mai este mijloc de zi. Ne apropiem de noapte. Si uitati-va sa vedeti la cat de mare e pacatul astazi in lume si veti vedea ca ne aropiem de noaptea totala. Biblia zice ca toate isi au rolul lor, timpul si locul lor. Noi suntem chemati sa slujim si sa lucram pentru Dumnezeu. Mantuirea este prin har. Indiferent cat vom face noi si cat vom munci, noi nu ne vom putea dobandi mantuirea. Dar un om mantuit va lucra obligatoriu pentru Dumnezeu. Si Hristos zice: Cît este ziuă, trebuie să lucrezi, ca vine noaptea, cînd nimeni nu mai poate- chiar daca ar vrea. Acum esti in amurg. Trebuie sa intelegem ca este un timp al lucrarii.

  1. Dumnezeu ne-a dat libertate in Romania
  2. Ne-a dat sanatate
  3. Ne-a dat timp
  4. Ne-a dat mantuire
  5. Ne-a facut constienti in anii acestia ca trebuie sa lucram pentru Dumnezeu

A-ti ascultat sute de predici si sute de cantari care v-au indemnat la acelasi lucru: Munciti pentru Imparatia lui Dumnezeu, pentru ca daca mantuirea-i prin har, rasplata-i prin fapta. Cand vom ajunge in cer, vom fi plecat cu aceeasi mantuire- mantuiti prin sangele lui Isus Hristos. Dar cand vom ajunge in cer, va fi cea mai puetrnica segregare care exista in universul acesta. Pentru ca Dumnezeu ne va rasplati pe fiecare dintre noi in felul in care am muncit si-am transpirat pentru Imparatia lui Dumnezeu.

1. Prioritate

„Sa lucrez lucrarile celui ce m-a trimis.’ Adica, lucrarile lui Dumnezeu. Exista doua feluri de lucrari:

  1. Exista lucrarile noastre- sa mergem la serviciu, sa agonisim si sa imprastiem, sa mergem pe la prieteni, o gramada de lucruri pe care le facem zilnic.
  2. si exista lucrarile Lui, a lui Dumnezeu- Biblia zice ca lucrarile Lui au prioritate asupra lucrarilor noastre. Exista o prioritate a celui ce cheama in lucrare. Lucrarile lui sunt mai importante de cat lucrarile stomacului nostru si a veitii noastre. Biblia zice ca nu sotul, nu sotia, nu seful, nu profesorul are prioritate asupra vietii noastre, ci Isus Hristos.El ne trimite pe noi in slujire si noi trebuie sa spunem: Mai important este slujirea Imparatiei lui Dumnezeu, decat orice alta lucrare- indiferent cat de banoasa si grozava ti se pare.

Exista lucrari care ne place sa le facem 100%. Dar, exista si lucrari pe care trebuie sa le facem. Eu nu spun ca o sa-ti placa intotdeauna sa faci o (anumita) lucrare pentru Dumnezeu. Dar sunt obligatorii. Daca mai ai timp pentru tine sau nu, e la fel de bine. Dar, nu taiati de fel din lucrarea lui Dumnezeu pentru ca El are prioritatea vieti noastre. (11:40)

Prioritatea prioritatilor. Vreau sa intelegti o alta prioritate a Lui. Noi stim ca lucrarea Lui este totul. Toti incercam sa facem lucrarea lui Dumnezeu ca madulare in trupul lui Hristos si Biblia spune: Imi place tot ce faceti pentru Mine, dar exista lucrari mai importante. Va aduceti aminte de episodul cu Maria si cu Marta? Amandoua lucrau; una avea o lucrare de inchinare si cealalta de slujire. Si le spune Domnul Isus Hristos: Vedeti ca exista ceva mai important. La 12 ani le spune parintilor Lui: Nu stiti ca Eu trebuia sa fiu in casa Tatalui Meu? In biserica, vorbea despre Dumnezeu cu preotii. De ce vorbea cu ei? Simplu, pentru ca erau nemantuiti.

Nu vi se pare ciudat ca Isus isi incepe lucrarea pe pamantul acesta cu preotii? Vorbind in templu cu preotii si cu Levitii? Va spun un lucru: Dumnezeu nu a venit sa ne vindece (mai intai). Scopul principal al lui Dumnezeu nici nu a fost sa ne umple de bani, a ne da paine. Scopul principal al venirii lui Isus Hristos in lumea asta a fost: Luca 19:10 El a venit sa caute si sa mantuiasca ce era pierdut.  Cea mai mare lucrare a lui Dumnezeu, care ne obliga in dimineata aceasta si o facem si in anul 2013, este ca trebuie sa ducem Evanghelia Lui la altii, ca oamenii sa se mantuiasca. Toate-s frumoase, si predicarea, si cantarea, si slujirea, si daruirea, si ordinea si tot ce trebuie sa facem aici. Toate sunt importante si fara ele nu se poate. Dar cea mai importanta lucrare pe care Dumnezeu ne-o ordona sa o facem este ca trebuie sa vestim si altora Evanghelia.

1 Timotei 1:15 O, adevărat şi cu totul vrednic de primit este cuvîntul, care zice: ,,Hristos Isus a venit în lume ca să mîntuiască pe cei păcătoşi„, dintre cari cel dintîi sînt eu. Matei 28:19-20  19 Duceţi-vă şi faceţi ucenici din toate neamurile, botezîndu -i în Numele Tatălui şi al Fiului şi al Sfîntului Duh. 20 Şi învăţaţi -i să păzească tot ce v’am poruncit. Şi iată că Eu sînt cu voi în toate zilele, pînă la sfîrşitul veacului. Amin Asta este lucrarea testamentara a Domnului nostru Isus Hristos. A plecat din mijlocul nostru si ultimile cuvinte sunt toata esenta evangheliei si a predicarii Sale pe care o spune atunci. Scopul botezlui cu Duhul Sfant este acelasi lucru. Faptele Apostolilor 1:8 – Ci voi veţi primi o putere, cînd Se va pogorî Duhul Sfînt peste voi, şi-Mi veţi fi martori în Ierusalim, în toată Iudea, în Samaria, şi pînă la marginile pămîntului.

Nevoia mai mare nu e de oameni dispusi ca sa asculte Evanghelia. Nevoia mai mare este de oameni care sa fie obligati sa aduca Evanghelia mai departe. Matei 9:36-38  Cînd a văzut gloatele, I s’a făcut milă de ele, pentru că erau necăjite şi risipite, ca nişte oi cari n’au păstor. 37 Atunci a zis ucenicilor Săi: ,,Mare este secerişul, dar puţini sînt lucrătorii! 38 Rugaţi dar pe Domnul secerişului să scoată lucrători la secerişul Lui. (17:00) Ioan 4:35 Nu ziceţi voi că mai sînt patru luni pînă la seceriş? Iată, Eu vă spun: Ridicaţi-vă ochii, şi priviţi holdele, cari sînt albe acum, gata pentru seceriş.

Stiti de ce nu avem noi ca prioritate raspandirea Evangheliei? Pentru ca noi nu suntem inca obisnuiti cu ideia ca noi suntem mantuiti. Deci, daca tu ai problema cu mantuirea ta, ce mai poti spune altora? Dar, apoi m-am gandit: Nu stiu, dar daca L-am avea pe Isus in inima, L-am avea si in gura. Daca nu-L avem in inima… ca din prisosul inimii vorbeste gura. Daca eu vorbesc numai de meci, ce am in cap si in inima? Fotbal. Dar, parca mai e si altceva. Poate iti pierzi prieteniile cand le vorbesti de Isus Hristos. Nu e usoara viata, sa le vorbesti altora despre Isus Hristos pentru ca ideea de desteptare pe care o strigi- barbatilor, care a-ti facut armata, v-a placut sunteul desteptarii de la trompeta? (22:50)

2. Responsabilitate

Isus Hristos nu a venit sa fie director, sa spuna: Tu sa faci aia… Ci Isus Hristos a spus: Cît este ziuă, (EU) trebuie să lucrez. E foarte greu sa lucrezi, intr-o lume de crestini care:

  1. Asteapta sa fie slujiti. Doar sa fie slujiti. Asteapta sa li se cante, caldura, confort, scarpinati, laudati, pupati. O lume de crestini care stau in fotoliile vietii lor si asteapta sa fie slujiti. Trebuie sa ne slujim unii altora. Nu suntem aici o scena care dam o reprezentatie cativa din cor si eu, ca sa transpiram ca biserica sa fie slujita. Noi suntem o imparatie a lui Dumnezeu care trebuie sa ne slujim unii altora.Nu mai asteptati sa vi se slujeasca. Stiti de ce merg casatoriile prost? Pentru ca fiecare isi tipa drepturile. Si toata ziua ne framantam ca nu gasim persoana potrivita. Inainte de a cauta persoana potrivita, fi tu persoana potrivita. Dar noi, toata ziua ne cerem drepturile, atat la serviciu, cat si la biserica si acasa. In loc sa daruim, asteptam ca sa primim. Si spune insusi Isus Hristos „EU’ trebuie sa lucrez.
  2. Traim intr-o lume crestina care paseaza mereu pe umerii altora lucrarea. Hristos zice ca „EU”. Eu trebuie s ama rog, eu trebuie sa postesc, eu trebuie sa ajut pe fratii mei, eu trebuie sa ma lupt, ca cineva trebuie sa faca lucrarea asta. Ca daca nu o faci tu, nu o mai face nimeni. S-ar putea intr-o zi sa zica Dumnezeu: Tu, nu! Ca se poate si in cer fara tine. Ca daca se poate pe pamant fara tine, linistit se poate si in cer fara tine. Pentru ca, daca astazi tu inchizi usa in nasul sljitorilor, dorind sa fi slujit si Dumnezeu poate sa-ti inchida usa cerului. (27:00)

3. Activitate

Un cuvant care nu ne place nici noua, nici copiilor nostri: Sa lucrezi. Ai iesit din apa botezului. Ce urmeaza acuma? Sa lucrezi pentru Isus Hristos. Sunt 3 feluri de lucrare:

  1. Lucrarea lui Dumnezeu pentru noi: MANTUIREA. Romani 5:8 – Dar Dumnezeu Îşi arată dragostea faţă de noi prin faptul că, pe cînd eram noi încă păcătoşi, Hristos a murit pentru noi.
  2. Lucrarea lui Dumnezeu in noi: INTRA IN NOI. Coloseni 1:27 – cărora Dumnezeu a voit să le facă cunoscut care este bogăţia slavei tainei acesteia între Neamuri, şi anume: Hristos în voi, nădejdea slavei. INTRA IN NOI Galateni 5:22  Roada Duhului, dimpotrivă, este: dragostea, bucuria, pacea, îndelunga răbdare, bunătatea, facerea de bine, credincioşia,
  3. Lucrarea lui Dumnezeu prin noi: SLUJIREA. Ioan 14:12 – Adevărat, adevărat, vă spun, că cine crede în Mine, va face şi el lucrările pe cari le fac Eu; ba încă va face altele şi mai mari decît acestea; pentrucă Eu mă duc la Tatăl (40:00)

4. Urgenta

Vine noaptea cand nimeni nu mai poate sa lucreze. Munciti repede, responsabili, eficienti pentru ca vine noaptea in curand. E amurg si nu se mai poate lucra. 1 Corinteni 7:29 – Iată ce vreau să spun, fraţilor: de acum vremea s’a scurtat. Spun lucrul acesta, pentruca ceice au neveste, să fie ca şi cum n’ar avea. Cred ca ce zice Pavel este ca: Veti vedea fratilor ca intr-o zi nu va va mai ajunge zilele. Vi se pare si ni se pare ca timpul, e ceva in neregula cu el, ca in urma cu cativa ani aveam timp mai mult. Nu ne mai ajunge ziua. 24 de ore nu ne mai ajunge. Traim cu aprox. 20 de ani mai mult decat traiau oamenii din vremea lui Pavel. Dar, totusi ramane valabil vers. din Psalmul 103:15 Omul! zilele lui sînt ca iarba, şi înfloreşte ca floarea de pe cîmp. Sau Psalmul 90:12 – Învaţă-ne să ne numărăm bine zilele, ca să căpătăm o inimă înţeleaptă!

Cum e, adica, sa fie scurta viata noastra? Simplu. Vine noaptea. Stiti cum o vad ca e in amurg? Ma uit la ceas si nu mai vad fara ochelari. Vine amurgul peste noi. Am citit de unul din cei mai mari predicatori Scotieni- Robert Murray M’Cheyenne. Stiti cum isi incheia fiecare scrisoare care o scria cu stiloul, prietenilor lui? Cu aceste cuvinte: Vine noaptea. La 29 de ani, pentru cel mai mare predicator al lumii acesteia a venit noaptea. La 29 de ani a plecat in vesnicie. Va rog sa cititi cartile lui. Sunt printre cele mai frumoase predici din lume. Zicea un prieten despre el- avea in ochi o sclipire de nebun. Predica cate 6 predici pe zi, in sase locuri diferite. Apoi cate 10. Stia ca vine noaptea in curand. La 29 de ani, Domnul L-a chemat acasa.

Samuel Johnson, unul dintre cei mai mari scriitori crestini si-a scris pe ceas: Vine noaptea. Cand vreti sa slujiti? In anul 2012, nu vi se pare ciudat ca Dumnezeu v-a dat anul acesta, desi nu-l meritam multi dintre noi? Ce a-ti facut pentru Isus Hristos, ca pentru voi am vazut ce a-ti facut. Sa nu uite Biserica Sfanta Treime din Beius ca va paste cel mai mare pericol care poate sa existe pe fata pamantului: Sa nu mai veti pentru ce va bate. Cladire avem, oameni sunt. Din punct de vedere financiar nu ducem rau. Uitati-va in stanga si in dreapta.  Puneti-va familiile in oranduiala pentru ca vine noaptea. Vine noaptea pacatului. Sa umple Dumnezeu toate scaunele goale si sa va simtiti neimpliniti din cauza tuturor scaunelor libere pentru ca astazi trebuie sa facem lucrarea aceasta.

Hilel: Daca nu noi, atunci cine? Daca nu acum, atunci cand?

John Piper recites his poem: Pilgrim’s Conflict with Sloth (with subtitles)

John-Piper

A beautiful poem from one of the tireless workers of our times, on behalf of the kingdom of God, John Piper:

just a small bit of the poem, read the rest here- http://www.desiringgod.org

You cannot understand my aims.
I do not live for wealth or games.”

Sloth felt the sting and said, “I know
Your kind, a workaholic. O,
Sleep not, play not, throw to the wind
God’s gift of leisure days. Rescind
The work of Christ who bought your rest.
O, yes, I know your kind: invest,
Invest, invest. And never take
Your dividends on earth. You make
Your way to heaven by your work,
Your precious work. O, do not shirk
A moment from your service of
This holy god, your life, your love.”

…or watch John Piper recite it below. For those who do not know, John Piper has ‘retired’ from being Senior Pastor of Bethlehem Church in Minneapolis, but has in now way retired from doing the work in God’s kingdom of preaching, writing, mentoring and doing missions all over the globe.

Pilgrim’s Conflict with Sloth (with subtitles) from Desiring God on Vimeo.

John Piper website –

Os Guiness – Engaging an increasingly post-Christian culture in the west (Gospel & Culture Lectures)

in_the_world

~~You can always look at what conversion means at any moment by whether the church is likely to be worldly or not.

~~The key test is conversion. Conversion should be the radical break that is the bridge between an old way of life and old culture, and a new way of life and a new culture. And when conversion is as radical as it’s supposed to be, that radical about turn of heart-mind-spirit lifestyle- everything, then the church leads on to a new way of life that’s shaped by the Word and not by the world.

~~Now, let’s be blunt. The church in America is numerically large, compared with Europe and many other parts of the modern world. But, it is culturally desperately weak, because it’s weak and worldly. At point after point, after point, the church in America is shaped by the modern world. The world and not the church.

via www.churchleaders.com and photo via www.amginternational.org Video (47 min) from RedeemerCFW (Tim Keller’s Church).

One of the great turning points of World War II was the battle of Britain. And, both before and after that battle in June 1940, Winston Churchill made two of his greatest speeches. The speech before it is the more famous, and is recalled by the words of the last line: ‘their finest hour’. But, after the war was over, certainly after the battle was won, there was a burst of intellectual activity among some of the leading Christian intellectuals in Europe about another line that Churchill had said, in a speech not so famous. Churchill simply said, „The battle of Britain is about to begin. Upon the outcome of this battle depends the future of Christian civilization.”

And after the war, T.S. Elliott, Jack M., Christopher Dawson, Emil Brunner and a whole host of the Christian intellectuals had a strong debate: What was particularly Christian about the victor? What did it mean that any civilization was Christian? How was it that the Christian faith was linked to civilization?And what were the prospects of restoring a genuine Christian influence in civilization today?

What’s interesting is that the same debate broke out after World War I, although a much more secular discussion. Historians who picked up H.G. Wells and many others, asked the question about civilization again. As we look book after 60 years of the second of these debates, you can see on the one hand where they were exactly right. They were at a moment when a fragility of the civilization showed through. And the underlying barbarianism was obvious. But, on the other hand, any hope they had of restoring civilization has not worked out.

Can we, should we really seek to change the world?

We are today, a long way from a christian civilization in the West. Many, for 30 years have blithely talked about turning America around, making a difference in culture, changing the world. But, can we, should we really seek to change the world? What I am not speaking to is  the crisis. You can easily argue at many levels of a divided West, of an American republic on the verge of potential decline, about the weakness and worldliness of the church in America. We could look at the various aspects of the cultural crisis, particularly in the West. But, I want to assume much of that, And, if that is so, what should our attitude be?

Is it that we resort to nostalgia or defeatism? No, obviously not as people of faith. But, what does it mean, to move potentially into something of a new darker age, if not a new dark age itself?

Let me lay out some thoughts arguing for a Christian renaissance:

1. Bear in mind the first, global task of the church in the global era.

As we look around the world today, the Christian faith is the world’s first, truly global faith. We are the most numerous faith on earth, the church is the most diverse community on earth. In many, perhaps most parts of the world the fastest growing faith on the face of the earth, not Islam. And our faith is through conversion, not demographics. And the Bible is quite simply the world’s most translated  book in all Christian history. But, the church is doing magnificently well in the so called global south and far from well, in the advanced modern world- the so called global north, Europe and the United States in particular. That leaves us with 3 grand global tasks:

  1. To prepare the global south. What is done in the church in the west is capitulation to the modern world the church helped to create. Much of the global south is premodern. So their challenge is coming. And anyone who sees the remarkable growth of the church through the Gospel in China, for example, where I was born is the epicenter of an explosion of the house church movement. Or in SubSahara Africa. Anyone who knows that story, which is real, encouraging and inspiring, knows that much of the growth is a mile wide and an inch deep, as the arch bishop of Uganda put it recently. You can see, the crying need in the global south is for discipleship to match the evangelism. And a discipleship that is aware of what’s coming, with all the challenges, subtle and overt of modernity.
  2. To win back the West. Many people look at the discouragement of the church in the west, and are discouraged and defeatist. But, if you think we are the product of 2 earlier missions of the West. The first of course was the conversion of Rome. Three hundred years- an incredible achievement under the Holy Spirit. But the faith that the Romans had conceived of was provincial misfits. We have replaced the ideology of mighty Rome itself. When the western empire fell, so did most of the western church. And less well known to Christians in the west today is the second mission to the west. The so called conversion of the barbarian kingdoms. What we Europeans need to acknowledge is that while the Chinese were civilized for thousands of years, we were the barbarians. Violent, war thirsty, warring, tribal, and it was the Gospel that gentled us. But the winning of the barbarian people to Christ is an extraordinary story. Patrick in Ireland. Columbo in Scotland. Columban, down through Gaul, and so on. But, of course we are now living in the twilight of that second mission to the west. And the challenge before us today: Do you commit yourself to  a third mission to the west? Do you believe that we could win the West back for our Lord again?
  3. Contribute constructively to the human future. We’re moving into what’s called the crunch generation. For those of you in your 20’s, in your adulthood, many of the world’s questions, global issues, demography, economic and environmental questions, nuclear… many, many issues are coming together. They will have to be answered wisely and well by your generation. Now, at such a moment, we followers of Christ are usually good at fighting evil. We have a long record, unprecedented in human civilization of reforms, of standing against injustice and oppression. But, today we are less good at getting into the thick of any of the great issues of human kind, not just the great evils. Conceiving and articulating, and struggling for constant solutions to guide human kind forward to the future.

2. Explore relationship between Christian faith and civilization

Explore the somewhat surprising relationship between the Christian faith  and culture in civilization. You can define culture very complexly. And the same for civilization. You can equally put them very simply: A culture  is simply a way of life, lived in common.  So you can talk about the youth culture, hippie culture, etc..- a way of life lived in common. A civilization, put simply  is a culture with sufficient extension (it spreads widely enough), sufficient duration (it lasts long enough), and sufficient elevation- it produces sufficient excellence.

If you think about it that way, the Christian faith is actually the decisive factor in what’s now described as the world’s most powerful civilization. If only because our civilization is globalizing the entire world and is not limited to any region or time. But, that’s surprising. We’ve first got to admit that the Christian faith is unnecessary to culture. Can you be good without God? Can you create a civilization without Christ? Some Christians have argued ‘No’. But, I think many have understood that all human beings, whether they recognize God or not are made in His image, living in His world, there is such a thing as common grace, and so you can have ‘good pagans’  who may be better artists than another Christian artist, or better husbands than another Christian husband. And equally, you can have great civilizations that have never had any regard for God, like the Chinese, or the Mayan or Greek, or Roman. Photo below http://www.mbconf.ca

Culture Gospel and ChurchYou can go further though, and say that the Christian faith is unlikely, as a faith to produce civilization. Jesus says, „My kingdom is not of this world.” And He is relatively indifferent to most of the issues we talk about today in political and global affairs. He repudiates and renounces force, which you need to establish any culture. And you can see that neither He, nor His first followers had any discussion or effort to build a culture or create a civilization.

And yet, it is undeniable that the Christian faith is the decisive force in the world. Of course, if we look at our western civilization, we owe a great amount to the Greeks: Philosophy, Science, Democracy, Drama, Tragedy, Literature. And the Greeks were the fist Europeans to have the self awareness that they were not in this case Asians. We owe a great deal to the Romans, particularly in America who prizes the Romans above the Greeks. Whereas in Britain, we prize the Greeks above the Romans. But, law, stability, order, empire lie much behind the American founders understanding of the American republic. And of course, we owe everything to the Hebrews: Supremely to their understanding of God, and all the difference that a radical, ethical monotheism makes. And his view of history and human agency  and a dozen other things.

We owe a lot to all of these. But, if you think we talk of western civilization- all of those were Mediterranean. What was it that made it European, and then Western? It was the church and the Gospel. And particularly, the winning of the blood thirsty barbarian European tribes.And there’s no question. If you look at the rise of western civilization, the church and the Gospel were the decisive factors in creating what we see today as the West.

You look at western civilization and say: What’s distinctive? Our reforms, our philanthropy, the rise of the modern universities, the rise of modern science, human rights, an indirect link to capitalism, an indirect link to democracy, and so on.. all going back to the Gospel and the Scriptures. (18:00)

3. Let’s acknowledge a paradox of our reformation heritage

Don’t misunderstand, I am an anglican out of the reformed heritage and a proud  and grateful heir of the Reformation, as an evangelical. It is the 400th anniversary of the King James Bible. We owe to the Reformation the rediscovery of the Gospel, the restoration of the Scriptures, and the reemphasis on lay people. And through that many historians have said- creation of the modern world. But, we have got to acknowledge with realism and humility that the story is a little deeper than that. And I add some factors, not to debunk the reformation, but to remember that God’s sovereignty in grace and sin, and the fact that as we work today in culture, we too must be realistic about what we are doing, and deeply humbled, because nothing we work at comes out as humbly as we had hoped. (continued below video….)

1. The Reformation’s complexity – There were 4 reformations. Most of us are from the 2nd Reformation of Jean Calvin. But, there was Luther, there was Zwingli, and there were the Anabaptists. Of course, now we recognize that the so called counter reformation was itself a reformation of sorts. So, you take even the 2nd Reformation, it has extraordinary sins of commission. Take the iconoclastic movement, which at the time destroyed the arts in various cultures.

Or you take the sins of omission: It is almost unbelievable today that the Reformation rediscovered the Gospel, but never rediscovered mission. The counter Reformation rediscovered mission.  And Matteo Ricci reached China in the name of the Jesuits. And the Reformation had no missionary movement to speak of. Or you look at one of the great blind spots of the Reformation. The whole notion of the cessation of the work of the Holy Spirit.  The Reformation reacted rightly and understandably against the superstition before it, the way that healing and deliverance had become specialized- you went to a saint, or a shrine that was specialized and commercialized and exploited. The Reformation threw out the bath water, and sadly the baby and said that the work of the Holy Spirit had stopped with the Apostles. Clearly it didn’t stop with the Apostles in the New Testament and it didn’t stop with the apostles in the early church and is one of the great mistakes of protestantism to keep that belief alive today. If ever we need both the word and the Spirit,  it’s today. The Reformation in many circles has lost that. Photo from http://theresurgence.com

2. Or, take, let’s be honest- the Reformation’s entanglements. The greatest 2 corruptions of the Christian Church in 2000 years are with political power  and financial (economic) power. The Renaissance papacy showed both and the Reformation attacked both, rightly. But, we had our own political entanglements. Thank God for Frederick the Wise,  who helped Martin Luther. But, Martin Luther got into bed with Phillip of Hesse’s bigamy and even bypassed his bigamy and moral flagrant sins because he was supporting Luther. And you can see, flowing right down to the 19th century, many of the great protestant nations created great nationalistic religions and clearly, the political power was the ruler and the church was the tool. So, Christian American exploitations are not new.But, the Reformation has led to its own political entanglements, from which we’ve got to break free.

3. The Reformation’s ironies, unforseen consequences- We say rightly that ideas have consequences and they do, but, never simply and straightforwardly .   There are always good ideas, bad ideas, mixed ideas and ironies. The Reformation talked about restoring unity to Europe. And some reformed people are fighting and splitting ever since. The Reformation talked about restoring a ??supernaturality??. In some places they did, but they’ve also produced in certain places the most secular societies  the world has ever seen. They’re enormous ironies and we’ve got to face the heritage of the Reformation as paradoxical, so that we go in today with all that we try to do with a realism and humility. Nothing ever works out quite as we intend in a fallen world. (24:00)

4. Explore these secrets of the cultural dynamism of the Gospel. Getting more constructive and positive here. Why is the Gospel in the church, so powerful in culture? Well, of course you say, „It’s the Lord! The power of His Word, the power of His Spirit.” That’s true. But, what is it when the Gospel and the culture, the Word and the Spirit work in us? That makes even frail sinners like us, together powerful in culture?

There is a key principle that people have noticed. When the church is true to this, the church is truly culture shaping. The key principle goes back to our Lord’s call that we are to be ‘in the world, but not of the world’. In, but not of. Or, as Paul picks it up, „Be not conformed, but transformed, by the renewing of your minds.  And when that’s lived, it is called social dualism- a tension with culture that makes the church powerful in culture.

C.S. Lewis put it one way: He said there are many religions in the world which are world affirming. Say- Confucianism, or humanism. They are world affirming, they only have this world and their whole emphasis is on this world. Then you have other religions in the world that are world denying. Take Buddhism, described as a world gigantic NO human aspirations in all of history. But, Lewis pointed out, the Christian faith is unique. It’s both world affirming, and world denying. The world was created good, very good. And the church has gloried in all sorts of positive things, humanity above all. But, there’s also fasts as well as feasts, sacrifice as well as fulfillment, and denial and so on. And the Christian faith is uniquely both.

The secret of the cultural dynamism of the Gospel:

The social tension of being in, but not of the world

marks the church when it is most powerful.

city of God augustineBut, the deepest formulation of the social tension was St. Augustine’s, in his great book „The City of God’. And that is so important to us because he lived in a time rather like ours. You remember that the conversion of Rome was not actually in 312 A.D. The Christians were allowed and favored after 312 A.D. But, the real declaring of the Roman Empire Christian was 388 A.D., under Roman Emperor Theodosius. And from 388 A.D. onwards were called the Christian times. And believe it or not, they thought the emperor was the second King David. And that Rome would conquer the world and the church through Rome would conquer the world. That was the new understanding under that commission. So these were the Christian times, with the church now identified with Rome.

And St. Augustine said: No- in, but not of. He said, „There are two loves: Love of God and love of the self. And because of that, two humanities: To love God supremely and those who love themselves supremely. And because of that, two cities: The city of God, typified by Jerusalem and the city of man, typified by Rome, Babylon earlier. And Augustine’s point was that the city of God and the city of man are inexplicably entangled, intertwined. But ultimately, they are mutually exclusive. And when Christians live in the kingdom to the city of God- in, but not of- the are powerful. It was his breaking with those Christian times and putting the kingdom of God first, ‘in, but not of’, which lay the siege of the church that took us through the dark ages that were to come. (29:20)

That’s the key principle. But, there’s a key question. We can easily say ‘in, but not of’. ‘Not conformed, transformed’.  Against the world, for the world.  All sorts of nice, fancy formulations to roll off the tongue. Nice balance for the mind. But they don’t make any difference if we’re not living them. So, the key question to ask of the key principle: Is it any one moment in the church which is dominant? Is it the Word or is it the world? Is it the Spirit of God, or is it the spirit of the age? (30:00)

photo from pray-america-pray.org

Now, let’s be blunt. The church is America is numerically large, compared with Europe and many other parts of the modern world. But, it is culturally desperately weak. Because it’s weak and worldly. At point after point, after point, the church in America is shaped by the modern world. The world and not the church. That’s not my central point today (though).

The key test is conversion. Conversion should be the radical break that is the bridge between an old way of life and old culture, and a new way of life and a new culture. And when conversion is as radical as it’s supposed to be, that radical about turn of heart-mind-spirit lifestyle- everything, then the church leads on to a new way of life that’s shaped by the Word and not by the world. And so, you can always look at what conversion means at any moment by whether the church is likely to be worldly or not. That’s why I think the Insider Movement mission in Islam is so dangerous. Encouraging people to come to Christ and stay in the mosque. 31:50 It’s those who have broken with the mosque courageously, sometimes at the cost of their life. The faithfulness and the fruit afterwards are 100 fold different.

But, the same challenge comes to church in America. Look and say on the gay movement. Many of you are on the tail end of that. It started very early with Jimmy Carter’s election to the presidency. Chuck Colson’s conversion, his book ‘Born Again’.  But much of the ‘born again’ movement, looking back, you can see this whether you examine it sociologically or spiritually- has been a form of religious conformism to the American culture, and not a radical breakthrough into a new way of living that marks the kingdom of God. So, explore that with great depth. The secret of the cultural dynamism of the Gospel. It’s the social tension of being in, but not of the world which marks the church when it is most powerful. (33:00)

5. Count on the unique dynamics of the kingdom. I say this because the huge discussion that took place last year was half correct. It put in place a good understanding of the secular dynamics of how cultures are changed. You can read a book, for instance, like Randall Collins’ ‘The Sociology of Philosophies’ (800 pages). If you boil it down to the core of the points made, and they’re all good points, you can see how ideas shape culture and they’re easy to say. There are three principles:

  1. Through leaders, rather than followers
  2. Through the center of a culture, rather than periphery
  3. Through networks, rather than just through individuals or institutions

We as Christians and evangelicals have a lot to learn form that. Our Roman Catholic brothers and sisters are much better at the first- they always go for leaders. Now, their danger always is falling over into elitism. And we, evangelicals, since the second awakening first was led by real leaders and intellectuals like Jonathan Edwards, John Wesley and so on. The second awakening- the Cambridge Revival in Kentucky, you can see the populism, the suspicion of leaders, the resentment of discipline, the throwing off of hierarchy. Everybody wanted it all to be easy, instant and available to ordinary people. Since then we’ve relied on mass movements and we’ve been unable to change culture, one of the central weaknesses of the Christian right.

On the second point, too, we’ve got a lot to learn, although not you people here in New York. In other words, you change culture through the key cultural centers. Again, evangelicals have missed the boat here. It is often said, „Where are the Jewish people strong? New York, L.A., Chicago, which are the leading cultural centers of America. Where are Christians strong? Colorado Springs, Orlando, Wheaton. Thank God for what’s happened here in the last 20 years (New York), but this is rather different.

The third point we’re much better at. The networks, the disciples, the benedicting, the Moravians, the Wesley cell groups, the Clapper circle of Wilberforce, we’re better at that one. But, all those 3 together are only the secular ways of how ideas change culture.

The apostle Paul is aware of that. In his own way, he is always aiming (for example) for Rome. And he finally gets there. But, you can also see in the Scriptures, the unique dynamics of the kingdom which are different. And it’s not one or the other, it’s both and.

  1. The first dynamic of the kingdom is the leader: Is the Spirit. Take the book of Acts. How does the Gospel get to Africa? The Spirit tells Phillip to go to a certain crossroads and he meets the eunuch and it gets to Ethiopia. How does the Gospel get to Europe? Paul is sure the next place should be Bythinia in Asia minor and he cannot get in. Frustrated, the Spirit speaks to him and he goes from Troas to Philippi. One historian says that when that little rabbi (Paul)  crossed unknowing from Troas to Philippi, that was more history changing in one moment than the great battle of Actium which took place just 20 miles away. How did the Gospel get to the Gentiles? The Spirit speaks to Peter. In other words: Not vision, mission, all these grand things we have today. our strategic understandings of timelines and next steps, and all that. FOLLOW THE SPIRIT, AND THEN WE’LL REALLY MOVE.
  2. Another unique dynamic of the kingdom are surprising reversals. I love Luke 3;1 The day when the Emperor was Tiberius, and the Governor of Judea was Pontius Pilate, and the tetrarch of Galilee was Philip… rolls on like that into the high priests. And then it says, „The Word of the Lord came to John in the desert.” It bypassed all of them and went to a nobody. And of course, the whole teaching of our Lord: The first- last. The humble exalted. The high and mighty brought down. We’re in the upside down kingdom and we know that God always works through extraordinary reversals and surprising moves, if we’re open to him.
  3. The third principle you can see in the unique dynamics of the kingdom is that culture is usually almost always a by product. It’s not a goal, it’s not a name, it’s a byproduct. We do have some near exceptions, like William Wilberforce, who at 28 sets out his 2 great objects and for 47 years pursues them. But, as one historian says, „How extraordinary.” And remember that he died just 3 days after slavery was abolished. So, here’s his whole life work and at the end, just 3 days apart. And as one historian says, „How rare that anyone’s termination of their life  and determination of their labors exactly coincide? But, actually, many of the greatest influences in history have been unknown to the people that did it. They’ve been a byproduct. Culture most often is and our Lord’s view of the kingdom is organic, not organizational. It’s like a seed that grows surprisingly in the night. That notion of the organic invisible secret, unstoppable growth is at the heart of so many of them. And you can see today that we tend to ignore that in our organizational frenzied type world. T.S. Elliot said in the previous discussion- You don’t build a tree, you grow it. And the same is true of a great Christian culture. „Seek first the kingdom of God- living the way of Christ in the world today- and all these things are added to us. We don’t necessarily aim for those as the goal. We seek, we’re faithful in our lives, in our callings in whatever sphere of our society we are called to be in and we leave to God the results.

6. Think through some of the enduring lessons of Christian engagement with culture. It is clear that there is no one Christian culture. There is no golden age behind us. It’s ahead of us, when Christ comes. Every period in the past, however great had it’s flaws. But, there are certain lessons of the enduring relationships of the church with the culture.

  1. Success often carries the seeds of failure. I talked about the church at the time of Rome. If you think, ‘How extraordinary that the church would become identified critically with Rome, when Rome was alien”, what is less surprising, but in even greater capitulation, was when the church capitulated to its own culture: Christendom. And one writer at the time of Christendom says, „I started the story of two cities and now I am only writing about one city- the Christian city of Christendom. But that’s precisely why they lost this social tension and it’s not surprising that out of CHristendom came the greatest evils the church has ever produced in the world. Take the Inquisition. Take the wild slaughter of the Albigenians. Take the excesses of the crusades, in the name of Jesus. Many of the evils of Christendom we are still living down today. But, at the time of Christendom they lost the cultural tension, the social tension, „the in, not of”,  and so, they never criticized their own culture and the truth is that the moments of success are often carrying the seeds of our failure, cause we who succeed are sinners. And the one thing that very few of us can argue against, ever, is our own success. That convinces us. 
  2. The second of the enduring lessons sounds like a cliche but it does prove that the darkest hour is always before dawn. That is true of every revival. Five minutes before the SPirit speaks, things look terrible. Five minutes after the Word speaks, everything changes. Take Jefferson’s prediction that evangelicals will disappear and enlightenment would sweep America. Then came, within one year, the second awakening and Jefferson died a disappointed man. The same is true of the so called dark ages. We’re often blamed for the dark ages. „The church created the dark ages.” Nonsense. The Dark Ages were very dark. But, what carried through the light of civilizations of the Dark Ages was the Gospel and the Church. And even historians like H. G. Wells that Christianity „saved learning and saved civilization.” Christopher Dawson says, „Church was the ark of which it was saved through.”
  3. The third principle, also counterintuitive, is the church goes forward best, by going back first. That sounds crazy in a day of innovation. everything’s gotta be new. The newer, the truer, the greatest. No one wants to be left behind technologically. That’s all wrong for the church. Revival and reformation  are actually going back. The two greatest movements in the west, of ideas were the renaissance- largely pagan, and the Reformation. Both of them were movements that were going back. And the simple fact is, as you see in the Scriptures and as you see in history- the church of Jesus goes forward best, by going back first.

Karl Barth  described Martin Luther with this wonderful little picture. He said: Martin Luther was this man, groping his way up dark, steep steps of a medieval Cathedral to the top. Pitch black. Afraid of stumbling, he reached out, he found the stair rope in the circular stairs. He found the rope and pulled it to steady himself, and to his amazement heard a bell ringing above him, which woke up the whole countryside. It wasn’t the stair rope, it was the bell rope. In other words, Luther didn’t say, „REFORMATION. Mission, timeline”, and all that sort of stuff. Luther wrestled with God, wrestled with his conscience, wrestled with his times, wrestled with his church in his times and out of that great man’s grappling came what we call THE REFORMATION. I believe we go forward, each of you  with your faith in God, with your calling in the world- in the arts, in politics, in finance, whatever you’re in. Each of you, so wrestling with the Lord honestly, totally, and together, that the Lord knows what may fall out. Christopher Dawson says, „Is it possible to think that for a third time, the church might be revived in the West, having come to the end of the second time? Then he says, „Of course.” Every Christian would answer in the affirmative. But he says, „We mustn’t answer it too quickly and too easily because what’s at stake today is potentially the whole future, not just of the West, but of humanity.

Description for Redeemer church Youtube video:

As we discuss how the church can engage an increasingly post-Christian culture in the west, it is helpful to take a step back from our own times and historically examine how Christianity has dealt with cultures that seemed implacably opposed to it. Christianity was never expected to convert the Roman empire; nor was it expected to convert the barbarian tribes after Rome fell. Yet, it both cases it succeeded despite the odds. Similarly today, Christians must hold onto hope for a revival in the modern west.

This lecture was given as part of the Gospel & Culture Lecture series featuring Os Guinness. Os Guinness is an author and social critic. Great-great grandson of Arthur Guinness, the Dublin brewer, he was born in China in World War Two where his parents were medical missionaries. A witness to the climax of the Chinese revolution in 1949, he was expelled with many other foreigners in 1951 and returned to Europe where he was educated in England.

To view more resources, please visit http://www.faithandwork.org/resources.

Published on May 23, 2012 by – http://www.faithandwork.org/gospelculture

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