Archive for the ‘Bloemnuus Columns’ Category

No Cheating   Leave a comment

You study the scriptures, thinking that by them you have life… yet you refuse to come to me to have life. John 5:39-40

There are two ways in which a person can arrive at the answer to a sum: You can get it from someone who already has it (with or without his/her consent) or you can work it out for yourself.

If schoolteachers are to be believed, the latter way is by far the preferable one.

But even here conditions apply. Years ago, way back in primary school, I was awarded one point out of ten for a perfect answer to a quite complicated sum. The teacher disregarded the innovative way in which I had figured the answer out in my head, explaining that I would not be able to do the same with larger numbers. I lost the other nine points because I had ignored the tried and tested formula. I had set myself up to become a maths heretic.

I learned the lesson well in my formative years, but had to unlearn it when I finally graduated into seminary. Here everything was about answers. The sums had already been figured out and we were expected to learn the answers without thinking too much in the process.

The only problem was that another theological school, a mere few blocks away, were teaching their students different answers.

I sometimes wish my mathematics teachers taught me theology. She would have insisted that I became a thinker instead of a parrot. But she would have forbidden me to use my own independent judgment in my thinking. I would have had to think according to very specific rules and within very defined boundaries.

That’s the whole idea. The knowledge of God has been revealed to us in Jesus Christ and is preserved in Scripture and the ongoing teaching of the Holy Spirit within. You cannot have the one without the other. True Christianity is not memorising doctrines or living by laws. It is not to blindly accept the conclusions of another, no matter the brilliance of his/her scholarship or any reputation whatsoever of great understanding or guru-like insight. It is to work it out for yourself: Personally, experientially, uniquely. Yet it is to do so within the clear objective boundaries of Scripture.

If you say “Lord, Lord”, but you don’t know how you got there, you are in for a surprise.

There is nothing as exhilarating as the discovery of truth. It is to find a fine balance in the midst of the mightiest bursts of revelation imaginable. It is big wave surfing in every sense of the term, an encounter with the might and beauty of God, but with a focused concentration and skill that makes the required balance possible. This skill cannot be taught in a classroom, yet the method of obtaining it can. It has to be discovered in a way that will make you feel you are the only one who has discovered it. It is an experience that is wholly unique and original, yet it is one that takes place within very narrow boundaries. It is totally original, yet the scope for innovation is extremely limited. It is your own discovery, yet it can only be discovered according to a method that is so precise that it can be described as a science.

Truth is to know Jesus Christ personally and intimately, but never apart from the clear guidelines presented by Scripture.

Where this happens, the answers will present themselves.

(This article has appeared in abbreviated form in Bloemnews.)

Posted October 12, 2012 by naturalchurch in Bloemnuus Columns

Thinking Soberly   Leave a comment

I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind… For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned. For as in one body we have many members, and the members do not all have the same function, so we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another. Having gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us use them… Romans 12:1-6

A living sacrifice is something that has died, yet it is alive.

Paul’s comment in Romans 12 is the logical conclusion of his teaching in chapter 6 of the same letter: Christ died and was resurrected, and we died with him and were raised with him. We are to “reckon ourselves dead unto sin and alive unto God” (Romans 6:11.)

We are to think of ourselves as living sacrifices, in other words.

This is what the “renewal of the mind” is all about. We need to align our minds with the historical reality of our co-death and resurrection with Jesus Christ. If we do so, our lives will be transformed accordingly.

But Paul does not stop there. This new type of thinking is further elaborated on in verse 3. We many no longer think “higher of ourselves than we ought to.” The illusions of grandeur that were entertained by the old self are no longer allowed. We are now to think of ourselves “according to the measure of faith that God has assigned” to us. This measure is determined by our membership in our new family, that is, the body of Christ.

Our calling in life is not to live up to some projected image of the idealized self. Neither is it to try and eradicate the self in order to become nothing.

No, it is to understand the measure and calling of the new resurrected self, as it fits into the body of Christ, and to live according thereto.

Posted September 28, 2012 by naturalchurch in Bloemnuus Columns

Do Unto Others   Leave a comment

So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets. Matthew 7:12

The Bible is a very thick book. With the help of some of us, it has also become a very complicated one.

God may be mysterious, but he is not complicated. His revelation to us has always been simple. There was nothing complicated about Jesus Christ, his life or his teaching. Paul wrote to the Corinthians “For we do not write you anything you cannot read or understand.”

The Old Testament, commonly referred to as “the Law and the Prophets”, can be summarized in a single sentence. That is how understandable God has made it.

Every single one of my children came into the world knowing exactly what they wanted. Every person I have ever met in my life knew what he or she wanted from others. Inscribed upon human nature is a script that cannot be erased: “This is what I want.”

The central message of the Bible is remarkably simple. It does not prescribe an ascendance of consciousness that will take the participant from one mystical illumination to the next. It does not prescribe decades of academic research to discover the evasive thoughts of God.

No. It takes that which is most clear to every person on the planet and uses it as a script for our lives. It takes the “This is what I want!” and prescribes it as the basis for our actions towards others.

Inside of us are the Law and Prophets of God. We cannot shake them. They are revealed perfectly. The problem has never been with the “What?” It has always been with the “Who?”

You know full well what a human being needs. Now go and provide it.

Posted September 21, 2012 by naturalchurch in Bloemnuus Columns

Rethinking the Great Commission   4 comments

Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptising them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. Matthew 28:19-20

Apart from John 3:16, the “Great Commission” may very well be the best-known and most quoted verse in the Bible. Yet it contains a startling implication that we oftentimes miss when we read it, speak about it or try and obey it.

Note that the calling is to make disciples, not converts. Also note that the way to do this is to teach them “to obey everything I have commanded you.”

Some of us stop reading when we see the word “nations”.

If you are a tent evangelist up in Africa and your fiery sermons and passionate altar calls make thousands stream to the front to say the Sinner’s Prayer and “give their hearts to Jesus”, you are doing a mighty fine job. But you are not fulfilling the Great Commission.

Others stop reading when they see the word “teaching”.

If you are a Bible teacher and you devote your life to expounding the Scriptures and teaching the great doctrines of the Christian faith to people, you should be applauded. But you are not fulfilling the Great Commission.

Note again: The great Commission is about “teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you”, not “lead them to me” or “clarify my teachings to them”.

Jesus Christ is more intelligible than any one of his commentators. His teachings and commandments are crystal clear and extremely simple. The difficulty has never been to understand Jesus. It is to obey him.

We are to go into the world and assist people to obey commandments that are stated in the plainest language imaginable. That’s the Great Commission.

Posted September 18, 2012 by naturalchurch in Bloemnuus Columns

Beholding Christ   Leave a comment

And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. 2 Corinthians 3:18

The first humans were created in “the image and likeness” of God. This image was marred as a result of the fall, but is under construction yet again due to the fact that we are new creations in Christ Jesus.

The New Testament and the Old Testament are perfectly correlated as far as our reason for being is concerned. From the beginning God’s purpose for you and I was to exist in the image of God.

But there is a catch. In order to be transformed into this image, we need to “behold” it first. The word is not one we use in everyday English, but can be roughly translated as “looking with intent”.

Why? Sociologists and anthropologists may provide the answer. The process of human growth and maturation is dependent on an intricate process of identification with a “role model”, they tell us. This may be confirmed by the fascinating studies that have been done on so-called “feral children”, that is, children whose primary caretakers, during their formative years, were animals.

Feral children take on the characteristics of the animals that raised them. They typically walk on all fours, have short lifespans, develop many of the same sensitivities and oftentimes suffer from telltale growth deformities.

We become like our role models. We become like those we look up to. We identify with them and in the process trigger a magical transference of qualities that are characteristic to them.

It is the same spiritually. We become what we behold. The most important song on planet earth may very well be the classic Irish hymn: “Be thou my vision…”

Who, or what, are you beholding?

Posted September 8, 2012 by naturalchurch in Bloemnuus Columns

Jesus Junk   3 comments

Making a whip of cords, he drove them out of the temple… And he told the pigeon-sellers, “Take these things away; do not make my Father’s house a house of trade.” John 2:14-16

USA Today reported in 2009 that American retailers “sell about $4.6 billion worth of Christian products annually.”

One cannot help but wonder how big that figure is today and how big it would be if the rest of the globe were included in the statistics.

According to the report, you can now wear a “Jesus Christ wants to be your friend” Facebook shirt and an “iPray” hat while listening to your iPod. Preachers can buy material for sermons based on the popular television reality series “Survivor”.

That’s only the tip of the iceberg. Christian merchandise include dolls, jewelry, stationary and a host of items sporting designs that are oftentimes trademark rip offs of well known brands like Coca-Cola (“Jesus Christ—Eternally Refreshing”).

Other designs are totally original, like the one that has Jesus dressed as a hockey goalie accompanied by the words “Jesus Saves!” And then there is the rubber Jesus duck for your bathtub, and the “Wash away my sins bubble bath” to accompany it.

I still have my three-decades-old coffee mug with St Francis’ Peace Prayer on it. And I have joyful memories of buying my first Christian bumper stickers shortly after my conversion. But I think we have lost it somewhere between the Jesus revolution of the early seventies and today. The new vision of a culturally relevant Messiah, expressed joyfully and colorfully by Hippies who had become “Jesus People”, appears to have become a corrupt money-making machine.

In fact, I am quite convinced that we would see a repetition of the events described by John above if Jesus were to return today.

Posted August 24, 2012 by naturalchurch in Bloemnuus Columns, Money

Preparing for Glory   5 comments

Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? So run that you may obtain it. Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last; but we do it to get a crown that will last forever. Therefore I do not run like a man running aimlessly; I do not fight like a man beating the air. No, I beat my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize. 1 Corinthians 9:24 – 27

This week the words “hope and glory” flashed across my television screen. I was not watching a religious show, but a broadcast of the 2012 Olympics. Above the words was the face of a man in rapturous ecstasy. He had just won a gold medal.

I know the feeling. I experienced it for the first time after having won a yo-yo competition in the mid seventies. I was a mere kid, and that night I went to bed feeling intoxicated. The feeling could best be described as a mixture of bliss and immortality.

But it did not last. And so I had to follow it up with other victories. When victory evaded me I learned to resurrect the feeling by siding with others who were winning, such as a boxer or rugby team. The stadium atmosphere in the face of victory was equally glorious – an experience of joyful communion and collective invincibility.

It took me years to realize that these feelings were religious ones. Like a prophetic dream, they revealed a deep longing within to fight and conquer the enemy, to finish a race, to receive a “crown” (literally a “prize of honour in the public games”).

At the end of his life, Paul used these words again, this time with hindsight: “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day—and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing” (2 Timothy 4:7).

In the final analysis, the Olympic Games presents us with a parable that can only be decoded in Jesus Christ, and with a startling contrast between the shadow and the real. As Paul said above: “They do it to get a crown that will not last; but we do it to get a crown that will last forever.”

Strict Training…

The verses above are important as they present one of the clearest contrasts in Scripture between true and false glory (See related posts here and here). Also, they explain why human beings are so obsessed with winning. In the absence of God we try and satisfy the demands of our spiritual instincts by fabricating lookalikes of the divine.

The greatest of human instincts, such as desire and love and fear, are manifestations of our yearning for God. Idolatry is not nearly as crude a thing as we have been led to believe. No, human beings are usually most idolatrous when most sophisticated. The act of substituting God with self is what human history is all about, and we have become extremely good at it.

It is this single-minded focus that Paul addresses in the passage above. If we miss this, we miss Paul’s central point. Whilst the passage in 1 Corinthians 9 presents a striking contrast between two types of running and fighting, and also between two “crowns”, the most important contrast drawn by Paul is between two types of preparation: “Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training… They do it to… but we do it to.”

It is not only the nature of the competition or the ceremony afterwards that is different in Paul’s analogy. It is the life before. The Christian fights a different enemy, runs a different race, has a different goal, experiences a different hope and anticipates a different glory. As a result, the Christian has a different training program. This is Paul’s point.

What does this program look like? “I beat my body and make it my slave”, Paul says. I subject my human appetites, desires and needs to the heavenly calling.

There is much to be said about this, and I do not wish to do so with this post. The best commentary on these verses, in my view, comes from Watchman Nee. If you are not familiar with his book The Character of God’s Workman, and especially with the section that deals with this issue (chapter 3), I would advice you strongly to read it. Simply click here for chapter 3.

Blessings to all fellow runners and fighters.

(This post appeared in abbreviated form in Bloemnews.)

Posted August 10, 2012 by naturalchurch in Bloemnuus Columns

Truth and Glory II   2 comments

How can you believe when you receive glory from one another and do not seek the glory that comes from the only God? John 5:44

Strange as it may sound, you were created for glory.

Glory is a somewhat abstract term, and so many translations use the word “honour” in the quote from John 5 above. The New International Version uses “praise”.

The point is that humans have a deep need to be praised, honoured and acknowledged. We were created this way, and so we spend our lives doing things that attract praise and honour.

Our role models are those who have succeeded in their quest. We want to be like them, and we teach our children to do the same. It is for this reason that most of us want to associate with the rich and famous. We hope that some of the glitter will rub off on us. We obsess about their television reality shows, feeling that they have allowed us in their homes, that we are part of their glamorous lives.

When we are tortured by our own insignificance, we try and bask in others’ glory. That’s the point.

Some of us prefer more subtle and sophisticated methods to gain glory. We despise the tabloids and reality shows, calling them gutter journalism. Instead we chase after Nobel prizes, or Honorary Doctorates, or the top spot on the career ladder, or standing ovations for piano recitals. But in the end it all boils down to the same thing.

I do not accept praise…

It is extremely significant that Jesus said “I do not accept praise from people” (verse 41 in the NIV, preceding the passage above). This raises an obvious question: Was Jesus Christ different to us in this aspect? Did he not have the same human need to be acknowledged and honoured?

Not at all. The difference between Christ and us had nothing to do with the need for commendation, and everything with the source of commendation. Jesus understood that the true source of honour was his Father in heaven, and not the praises of people.

For he received honor and glory from God the Father when the voice came to him from the Majestic Glory, saying, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased. 1 Peter 1:17

As Henri Nouwen pointed out: Christ’s immunity to the devil’s temptations in Matthew 4 is found in his Father’s commendation of him in Matthew 3, the words quoted by Peter above. He was defined by these words, and that was more than enough. He had no need to be defined by Satan, the world or the flesh. His identity as a son was secure. His Father’s praise was his glory.

I suspect that this is a much more important truth than what we have been led to believe by most standard presentations of the gospel. To repent is to turn from the praises of people to the praise that comes from God alone. If this is not a fundamental aspect of our repentance, then we have not repented.

Note the following verses:

Everything they do is done for men to see: They make their phylacteriesa wide and the tassels on their garments long; they love the place of honor at banquets and the most important seats in the synagogues; they love to be greeted in the marketplaces and to have men call them ‘Rabbi.’ Matthew 23:5-7

A man is not a Jew if he is only one outwardly, nor is circumcision merely outward and physical. No, a man is a Jew if he is one inwardly; and circumcision is circumcision of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the written code. Such a man’s praise is not from men, but from God. Romans 2:28-29

Be careful not to do your ‘acts of righteousness’ before men, to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven. Matthew 6:1

Am I now trying to win the approval of men, or of God? Or am I trying to please men? If I were still trying to please men, I would not be a servant of Christ. Galatians 1:10

Slaves, obey your earthly masters in everything; and do it, not only when their eye is on you and to win their favor, but with sincerity of heart and reverence for the Lord. Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving. Colossians 3:22-24

On the contrary, we speak as men approved by God to be entrusted with the gospel. We are not trying to please men but God, who tests our hearts. 1 Thessalonians 2:4

The one who speaks on his own authority seeks his own glory; but the one who seeks the glory of him who sent him is true, and in him there is no falsehood. John 7:16 – 18

The Day of the Lord’s Glory

He will bring to light what is hidden in darkness and will expose the motives of men’s hearts. At that time each will receive his praise from God. 1 Corinthians 4:5

It is Gods’ will that all his sons and daughters should have the same attitude that was in Christ Jesus (Phil.2:5). They are not to seek the honour and praise of people, but of their Father in heaven. If they do, the day in which Christ Jesus will be revealed will be the day when they, too, will be revealed as God’s children. Romans 8:18-19 combines “the glory that will be revealed in us” with the “revelation of the sons of God”.

What is this glory? Note the words of Peter, referring to our suffering in this present age:

These have come so that your faith – of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire – may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed. 1 Peter 1:7

That is the day that we live for, when we will hear those very words: “You are my beloved child. In you I am well pleased.” This is what the so-called doctrine of future glorification is all about: The honour and praise of our Father, resulting in him handing over the inheritance to us as his heirs.

But there is a price to pay. We are to resist any glory in this world. We are to treat the praises of people as something venomous. More than anything else, they contain the potential to rob us of the greatest treasure: The glory that comes from God alone, the treasure in heaven that is kept for us.

“I do not accept praises from men”, he said. Was it because he was the Son of God? Of course, and so are you. Do not dare to think for a moment that this was a unique responsibility of Christ that does not apply to us. “As the Father has sent me, I am sending you”, he said after his glorification. The same glorification awaits us, and the same conditions to get there apply. We are to shun the approval and honour of people. If not, we have receive our reward in the here and now.

Go and reread Jesus’ instruction about storing up treasures in heaven instead of on earth (Matt.6:19-20). The context has to do with the honour and praise of people. Those who have been “honoured by men” (verse 2), have “received their reward in full” (verse 3). You cannot have both. They are mutually exclusive.

A Startling Implication

These truths come with huge implications. They suggest a type of Christianity that cannot exist without the exact humility that characterised the life and ministry of Jesus Christ. They redefine what it means to take up one’s cross and follow Him. In fact, they challenge much of what is understood as Christian ministry.

Can a man (or woman) embrace these truths and still allow his business card to carry a title? Can he allow himself to be draped by a multicoloured robe in front of multitudes and receive such a title? Can he allow a ministry to bear his name? Can he allow his picture on a cover of a book or magazine? Can he allow a life-size cutout of himself in a Christian bookstore window? Can he charge people a fee to come hear his voice, even if he should decide to sing to them instead of preach?

I think not.

Am I propagating a false humility? Am I saying that one is instantly humble when he/she refrains from the above? Not at all. I am merely suggesting that we have not done nearly enough to consider the logical conclusions of “not accepting praise from people”.

I realise that I may upset some people with this post. But then, the beauty of the above is that it does not matter what people think. You see, these truths do not only take away from our lives. They add to them. We may sacrifice the honour of people, but we gain immensely more. We gain freedom from trying to keep up with the Joneses, from trying to outrun the other rats, from the pain of not having been noticed, or promoted, or acknowledged, or thanked, or respected. We also gain freedom from the idiocy of thinking that promotion in God’s kingdom means a calling to the bigger church with more nickels and noses, and so we are liberated to go where the harvest is ripe and unattended to: The poor, the widows, the orphans… And we do so blissfully, BECAUSE IT DOES NOT MATTER WHETHER OUR EFFORTS ARE NOTICED OR NOT. We gain freedom from anxiety, depression, feelings of worthlessness and a host of other demonic states, because these are all related to judging our worth according to the standards of a fallen world where people survive on one another’s praises.

And, of course, we develop an uncanny ability to distinguish between truth and error, as pointed out in the previous post.

Let me share a secret with you. When you accept these truths, heaven is opened and the rest of God begins. The glory of God is a future event, yes, but it is so in the sense of it being “revealed”, that is, of it becoming public. But this does not mean that the glory only begins with the resurrection. No, it begins in the here and now, in the heart of the one who has turned his/her back on the glory that comes from people. The moment that the praise of people is resisted, the praise of God begins in the heart, and the glory thereof is incomparable with the pale counterfeit offered by the praises of men. The very Spirit that cries out “Abba, Father!”, is the Spirit that responds with the echo “You are my beloved child, in you I am well pleased.” Glorification is for the here and now, but it is private, not public, and it is in the heart, not yet in the body. This is the inexpressible joy spoken of by Peter.

Note, once again, 1 Peter 1:7, and then note the sentence following it:

These have come so that your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed. Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy.

A glorious joy… The joy of glory. Anticipated, yet present.

It took me over 30 years of Christianity to get this. Looking back, I weep. For the first time I understand why so many pastors burn out. For the first time I understand why the burden of the Pharisees was a heavy one, and why Christ’s is a light one. The one contains deeds “for men to see”, the other deeds for God to see. People are much harder to please, believe me. God is not hard to please.

As I write this, my three year old is running around without his pants on, acting like a clown and screaming for my attention. I am so very pleased with him, and it has taken no great effort from him to cause this approval. He is my flesh and blood, and nothing gives me greater pleasure than to inform him about my love.

It’s had an interesting effect on him. The following conversation has now become extremely regular in our house:

Oliver: “Dad…”
Me: Yes, my boy?”
Oliver: “I love you, dad.”
Me: “Oh, wow. I love you, too. Very much.”

We love, because he first loved us. And that is enough. It does not matter what others think. My Father’s estimation of me is out of this world.

(This article has appeared in abbreviated form in Bloemnews, 6 June 2012.)

Posted July 6, 2012 by naturalchurch in Bloemnuus Columns

Truth and Glory   5 comments

Jesus answered them, “My teaching is not mine, but his who sent me. If anyone’s will is to do God’s will, he will know whether the teaching is from God or whether I am speaking on my own authority. The one who speaks on his own authority seeks his own glory; but the one who seeks the glory of him who sent him is true, and in him there is no falsehood. John 7:16 – 18

The theological discipline that aims to teach people how to distinguish between truth and error is called “apologetics”. If you study apologetics you will learn about cults, sects, aberrant television evangelists and the great heresies that keep on appearing in different guises throughout the church ages. Google “apologetics” and you will find so many websites that your head will spin.

Christian apologists (called “heresy hunters” by their enemies) range from dull university professors to ecclesiastical vigilantes. They come in all shapes and sizes, and it is not unusual for them to turn on each other. Some of them, like the beloved Dave Hunt (no pun intended), have done legendary work in exposing deception in the church.

However, much of Christian apologetics would be totally unnecessary if we would simply heed Jesus’ words above. Firstly, they reveal the secret to discerning truth: An earnest desire to do God’s will. Secondly, they reveal the fundamental difference between the true and false teacher: The former is interested in God’s glory, the latter in his/her own glory.

The conclusion is clear: The person who seeks to do God’s will is sensitive to teaching that glorifies God, and so a natural detector of truth. Likewise, the one who seeks his/her own honour is attracted to teachings that can provide it, and to teachers who embody it.

Simple, isn’t it?

Why Wait?   Leave a comment

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade—kept in heaven for you, who through faith are shielded by God’s power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time… Therefore, prepare your minds for action; be self-controlled; set your hope fully on the grace to be given you when Jesus Christ is revealed. 1 Peter 1:3-5, 13

“See to it that no one is… unholy like Esau, who sold his birthright for a single meal.” Hebrews 12:16

I want it all, and I want it now. Freddy Mercury

Q: What do the prodigal son and Esau have in common?

A: They could not wait for their inheritance. They wanted it all, and they wanted it now.

This is more than a casual observation or an interesting question for a Bible study class. It is a prophetic warning for the church of Jesus Christ. Esau and the prodigal were not unbelievers, but children of a loving father who had a rich and good inheritance stored up for them. Yet they were immature and impatient. Their desire for instant gratification robbed them of their real reward.

The prodigal’s story ends well, but we should not allow this to confuse us. Many scholars believe that the father’s words to the elder son, “…all that is mine is yours”, indicate that the prodigal had indeed forfeited his inheritance.

Similarly, when Esau “desired to inherit the blessing, he was rejected, for he found no chance to repent, though he sought it with tears” (verse 17). You cannot have your cake and eat it.

The single biggest theological shift that I have witnessed amongst Christians over the past three decades has to do with exactly this. What was once regarded as a future inheritance is now said to be immediately available. For the first time in the history of the church, there is a widespread consensus that the blessings of God’s kingdom are accessible here and now. We merely need to claim it.

Perhaps some correction was necessary. Perhaps we needed to understand more about the “victory of the believer”. But the pendulum has swung too far. It would appear that some of us are no longer feasting on the bread of life, but on huge bowls of lentil soup.

Posted June 26, 2012 by naturalchurch in Bloemnuus Columns

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