John Stumbo Video Blog No. 52

November 12, 2017

12:32

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John shares the keynote address he recently presented at a conference in Colorado Springs about the Alliance perspective on law and culture. From his PowerPoint titled “Our Fascinating Challenge: A Primer for Understanding Christian Engagement in a Post-Christian World,” John unpacks five points that lead to three applications for the U.S. Alliance family. “Let’s do this well,” he concludes, “living under His authority with all of His love living through us.”

Transcript

Hey, Alliance family. Recently, here in Colorado Springs we hosted a conference, and I want to bring to you my keynote message that I shared with the assembly. The conference was on Alliance perspective on law and culture, led by our own Gary Friesen. I presented five points, which I kind of called a primer of understanding for the Christian faith that then leads to three applications for the Alliance family. So, you hear me. I got eight points to give in 12 minutes, so let’s dive in and go.

I believe that we’ll all agree on the first point. We are not merely physical beings, but we’re spiritual beings as well. Our understanding of human existence is that our physical bodies, as vital as they are, house something greater: our essence of being spiritual beings housed in a physical structure that Peter would call, “a tent.” The physical encasement dies, but the spirit does not. Now to the secularist, everything is chemical, but we contend, [in] fact we stubbornly insist, that we’re not merely limited to the physical. We don’t deny the physical dimension of this world, but we insist that there is a spiritual dimension that surpasses it.

Point two: This spiritual dimension is something beyond ourselves. Our understanding of a trans-physical existence causes us to look past microscopes and telescopes, medical reports and measurements, as valid as they are. But not everything of meaning, not everything that is real, can be approached with our five senses, or studied in a lab, or confined to observable science.

Science is good, interesting, world-changing, but not king. Science is a resource, not an ultimate authority. It’s a tool, not the hand. As Christians, we claim that the spiritual dimension—whatever you would like to call that which transcends the physical—is greater than the physical. It supersedes; it outlasts.

In both Old Testaments and New, we read, “All people are like grass, and all their glory is like the flowers of the field. The grass withers, the flowers fall, but the word of the Lord stands forever.” In Jesus’ words, “Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away.” The physical dimension is limited by space and time. It’s finite. So, I repeat, as Christians we claim that this spiritual dimension is greater than the physical. Yet, our claims are even greater than that.

Point three: The “something” is actually a “Someone.” This claim isn’t exclusive to Christianity, but we are among those who believe that there is a creating God. The physical world we see, including the physical bodies we live in, [is] not merely the result of random chemical processes. The whole creation shouts of a Creator. The whole world screams of a Designer.

During the recent eclipse, I had an e-mail exchange with a friend of mine who lives in an area where there was a full eclipse, and I expressed my jealously. He’s an agnostic. And I said to him in this conversation, “Doesn’t the problem of precision drive you nuts?” What do I mean about the problem of precision? Well, simply this: The moon was perfectly shaped, sized, and placed

to give a total eclipse. If it was a bit larger, or smaller, or closer, or farther, it would have completely changed the view from earth.

Why would we have a view of a perfectly covered sun, yet not so much so that those beautiful radiating rays disappear, but God just . . . Well, I believe God said, “Hey, wouldn’t that be cool? Look what we can do.” But I believe for the agnostic there’s a problem of precision—that the whole creation evidences design, artistry, intentionality, mastery, crazy levels of creativity.

Point four: This Someone has communicated to us in clear and powerful ways through creation, certainly Psalm 19; through Scripture, marvelously provided and wonderfully preserved—2 Timothy 3:16, “All Scripture is God-breathed . . .”; and then, ultimately through Jesus—the perfect representation of the invisible God—God has spoken to us through the Christ.

Hebrews [1:1–3]: “In the past God spoke to our ancestors through the prophets at many times and in various ways, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son . . . through whom also he made the universe. The Son . . . is the exact representation of his being . . .” God has communicated with us. He’s a communicating God.

Point five: His communication with us consistently reveals who He is and what He expects of His creation. That would be us. He is both author and authority. He who made us knows how we function best and in His mercy has not just left us to figure it out on our own. He’s a communicating God. His communication reveals His character and His purposes, who He is and who we should be.

Point one: There’s a spiritual dimension to our lives and world. Point two: This spiritual realm points to something beyond ourselves. Point three: The “something” is actually a “Someone.”

Four: This Someone has communicated to us in a clear and powerful way. And point five: His communication with us consistently reveals who He is and what He expects of His creation.

I could add a few more points to that, so could you, but I want to dive into a few applications. Number one: We are currently leading a family that has a 130-year history of seeking to live under the authority of God—we must not lose our way now. Our cause is too great, our commission too clear—our Christ too worthy for us to lose heart, surrender, compromise, or fail in any way.

We tend to think we live in the only time of challenge to the gospel. We don’t. The gospel has always been counter-cultural. The way has always been narrow. We have never been citizens of this earth. We do have a citizenship; it’s just not on this planet. We’ve always been alien strangers, peculiar people. We’ve always had an enemy prowling around like a roaring lion, seeing who he can have for lunch next. We’ve always had a thief trying to sneak into the sheepfold to steal, kill, and destroy. There has never been an easy time to be a Jesus follower. This is not time to lose heart. I believe a cloud of witnesses cheer us on. “We did it. You can too. It’s worth it!” they cry.

If we fail to hold fast to the Word of God and the work of God, what a disservice we would do to our own martyrs and saints of the past, who sacrificed greatly to pass the lit and holy torch on to us. May we carry that same torch that brought the gospel to the Chinese, and Hmong, and Congolese, and many other people. May we carry that torch that lit their souls as a soldier’s hand grenade stole our missionary’s last breath. May we carry that torch that they tediously translated into never-before-written tongues in order that the Scripture may be owned and cherished by more peoples. It’s our duty. It’s our calling. It’s our privilege to carry the gospel forward.

Application number two: We are currently living in a society that neither accepts this authority nor desires to live under it. Again, this is nothing new, but we’ve all watched the themes change and the heat intensify in a very short period of time. The SCOTUS ruling on same-sex marriage is the obvious mega-example of that.

Friends, it’s not my role to call the world to live under the authority of the Word of God. It’s my role to call the church to do so. Paul said it this way, “I wrote to you in my letter not to associate with sexually immoral people—not at all meaning the people of this world who are immoral . . . In that case, you’d have to leave the world.” Paul is saying our focus is on the Church. Our goal is not to change secular society, or even to expect anything different from them—rather, to fully be the Church living under the authority of God.

So, application points . . . we have this long history; we must not lose our way now. We are currently living in a society that doesn’t accept the authority of God nor desires to live under it.

Application number three: Our beautiful challenge is to fully live under His authority while fully loving those who disagree—fully living under the authority of God while fully loving those who disagree with us. We have the privilege of living under a loving authority within a society that is doing everything it can to throw off that authority and redefine that love.

May we become master artists at weaving the grace and truth tapestry together. You know the verse I’m talking about. John 1:17, “. . . grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.” Both strands are needed to be strong and continuously interwoven. Whole sections of graceless truth will not serve us or anyone well. Whole sections of grace alone will unravel. As others have noted, we are called to not only preserve the content of the gospel but its tone as well—to not only speak the message of Jesus but to have His accent. The “harsh brutal vipers” comment was reserved for the religious God-blockers.

“And Jesus said unto her, ‘Neither do I condemn you. Go now and leave your life of sin’” was given to the woman caught in adultery. “Get behind me, Satan,” was spoken to His misguided disciple. “Come to me all who are weary and heavy laden, and I’ll give you rest,” was spoken to the shepherd-less masses. Living under His authority while loving as He did, we don’t write our own rules, we don’t create our own identity, we don’t determine our own destiny; we don’t just do as we please. We’re under authority, we’re under assignment, we’re under His kingly rule and we’re happy about that, especially because His Kingdom is a kingdom of love.

Church, let’s live out our calling. Let’s take this fascinating privilege and lovingly live under the authority of God.

One last word: Perhaps the single greatest surprise that’s present is that the worldwide Church still so . . . takes so many cues from us. They watch us closely. I’m not talking about just the secular environment in the United States, that world. I’m talking about the world, or the international community of evangelical churches. My peers from other nations have said, “Stay the course. It matters to us that the U.S. evangelical church stays faithful. Our strength is often arising from your strength. You give us courage and validity to stand strong and even have any credibility or voice in our culture.” They want to know if their heritage is still intact. They know the Bible. They want to stand on the same Word that we do, but they need to know that we’re still standing.

It matters that we get this right, not only to preserve our legacy, not only for our own churches, not only for the arising generations among us. As significant as all this is, our responsibility is also to our brothers and sisters in Colombia and Syria, Dominican Republic and the Democratic Republic of Congo, from North Vietnam to South.

The world is surprisingly aware of what the American church is doing. Let’s get this right. We owe it to our forefathers. We owe it to our children. We owe it to the global family. We owe it to our Christ. Let’s do this well—living under His authority with all of His love living through us.

 

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