This world IS our home and it DOES matter when we lose the battle...

You might be wondering what this blog is about today, or you might have already connected with the title with two popular Christian songs on the radio: Home by Chris Tomlin and Greater by Mercy Me. Both songs represent a theology that is an epidemic among popular Christianity today.

Many Christians believe that this world is not really our home, that it is just a temporary place that we are passing through and (hopefully if we found Christ!) we go TO heaven and not experience eternal conscious torment in hell. That allows us to say (as it says in the song Greater by Mercy Me) that if we lose the battle with doubt or sin, it doesn't matter because we have the grace of God and so we still get to go to heaven (side note: this isn't exactly what the song means, but it is what it says. The song seems to be saying that because we are redeemed we don't have to earn grace. That is true but it overstates the point).

The Christian world has focused on eternal salvation, however following Jesus is about so much more than simply getting saved so we can escape hell and end up in heaven. When we have that as our theology, we believe that our choices don't matter because ultimately all that matters is going to heaven! That is an awful way to live. I am going to unpack this a bit using an email that a friend forwarded me from Kurt Willems. Feel free to check him out at theologycurator.com. I would link the blog but I can't find it online and it may be emailed content.

The lyrics of Home say this, "This world is not what it was meant to be..." This statement is absolutely true. We believe that God designed and ordered, sin-free world but humans chose to walk away from God, causing sin to flood into our existence. The song loses me when it starts talking about wanting to go home to heaven to run away from the problems right here. Thankfully God did not run away from the problems in our world but rather sent Jesus, the son of God, to become flesh and dwell among us (John 1)! God's plan isn't to provide an escape ladder but rather to be a part of this world and show us how to live. Yes, Jesus died for our sins! Yes, Jesus saves us so that we can be with God! No, that isn't the sum total of what God is about. God wants nothing less than all of the creation to be reconciled to God through Jesus. Romans 8:18-23 tells us that creation itself is groaning in anticipation of the coming glory from God.

What we believe about death is a two stage event: when people die they get to be with God, we call that Heaven. That is temporary! We believe in a bodily resurrection of the dead (Paul says this is such an important belief that if there is not a resurrection of the dead, then don't bother believing Jesus was resurrected from the dead 1 Corinthians 15:12-13. You can find Paul discussing this in Acts 24:15, Philippians 3:10, and all of chapter 15 of 1 Corinthians. That is not all the discussion but it is everywhere). We expect to be resurrected as Jesus was because he is the first fruits of the resurrection and then we will come later. Revelation 21 describes a new heaven and a new earth where God is coming to live with the people here! Ancients did not see heaven as another location but rather an invisible interlocking sphere with our own. Yes, we go to heaven but that is also temporary. The goal is a reinvigorated creation with humans fulfilling their God given vocation as stewards and rulers, being ruled by Jesus.

What we do now matters because it matters to God. To say that because of graces our mistakes don't matter is simply cheap grace as described by Dietrich Bonhoeffer, "Cheap grace is grace without discipleship, grace without the cross, grace without Jesus Christ. (Cost of Discipleship)." If we make mistakes, we will be forgiven, but those choices still have consequences. I am sure the guys at Mercy Me agree with this, we just have to be careful with what we say, especially when it will be sung in church. Bonhoeffer says, "Costly grace confronts us as a gracious call to follow Jesus, it comes as a word of forgiveness to the broken spirit and the contrite heart. It is costly because it compels a man to submit to the yoke of Christ and follow him; it is because Jesus says, 'My yoke is easy and my burden is light.'" Bonhoeffer knows about cheap verses costly grace. He chose to go back to Germany to oppose Hitler and it led to his death. As a follower of Christ, he could not choose another path.

Escapism leads to cheap grace where we don't actually care about being a light into the darkness. That is simply not the good news that Jesus preached. Willems has an interesting point on our role as partners with God in what God is doing to restore all of creation. He discusses Tim Gedderts translation of Romans 8:28 where the Greek word sunergei denotes two parties working together rather than just God doing the work. God doesn't need us, but God chooses to partner with us. So perhaps 8:28 should be translated as "In all things God works together with those who love him to bring about what is good..." What we do now matters. What we do has an eternal impact on us, our neighbors and the world around us!  Rather than saying "This world is bad, I can't wait to get to my condo in the sky!" We should say, this world is my home and I have a responsibility to partner with God through the power of the Holy Spirit to clean up the sin, the death, the destruction, the exploitation. What we do matters because we say the Lord's prayer "Your kingdom come, your will be done, on EARTH as it is in Heaven..." As Christ followers, we have a choice. We can choose to act in God's will and we make earth more like heaven; or when we choose to sin, we can make hell on earth.

If you call yourself a follower of Jesus, are you ready to stop trying to run away from a broken world and be a part of the solution to reconcile it? If so, the church is the place for you. We don't always get it right, and eventually, it will take the act of God to fulfill the promise. Until then, I choose to serve God and work to shine the light of the Father into this world!