Reproclaiming the Everlasting Gospel
Continued from part 3. This is the final installment
What are you doing?
The Exodus 19 passage quoted above gives voice to the concept of the kingdom of God that was fundamental to the foundation of Israel. But the prophets spoke of a life in the Kingdom of God that would transcend the Mosaic law. Moses pointed to the prophet whom God would raise up, into whose mouth He would put His words. This prophet would speak God’s word to the people of God. Those refusing to hear would be cut off from the people of God. Isaiah spoke of all their sons being taught by God and called for all who hunger and thirst for this to incline their ear and delight themselves in abundance of listening. Jeremiah reminded the Jews that the foundational commandment was/is “Hear My voice...” not sacrifice, not observance of holy ritual, etc. He speaks of a new day when God’s law would be written on the heart of flesh and all should know Him from least to greatest. Ezekiel spoke of the one true shepherd and saw the multitude who live by the breath of God. Joel, referring to how in the past God’s breath had been poured out upon the Israelites, declared of the days when God’s breath would be poured forth upon all flesh, male, female, young, old.
Jesus began his ministry with the proclamation “Repent, the Kingdom of God is at hand,” the Kingdom of God is upon you, the Kingdom of God is within you. We can expect the fulfillment of all those things spoken of in the prophets, on one condition: “If you will hear my voice and keep my covenant...” But since the days when Jesus made that proclamation, those who profess to follow him have turned away from that Kingdom. George Fox said,
And now is the time come of Isaiah’s prophecy, that the teacher shall be no more removed into a corner, though they have bread of adversity, and water of affliction, but thine ears shall hear a word behind thee, saying, this is the way, walk ye in it; now all people being strangers from the covenant of light, their faces toward Egypt, which is darkness, the word calls behind, and all people are walking toward the first priesthood that is changeable, and the first covenant that is changeable, and doth decay, and to the synagogue and temple, and the ordinances that Christ blotted out, and maintaining the priesthood with tythes, which were of the first priesthood, but the covenant is changed that made them, and the command disannulled; now this word is behind all these, for that is not the way, and the word saith this is the way from all those ways, the word saith Christ is the way, who saith learn of me, and saith God, this is my beloved Son, hear ye him, him that Moses said God would raise up, this is the word, here is the voice behind, and who heareth this voice, and hath heard this word, hears the Son; in these last days God hath spoken to us by his Son, who is heir of all things, whose name is called the word of God. Rev. 19. Now they that are of the Jews, are for holding up synagogues, and temple, and priesthood, that hold up the first covenant as the Jews did; the priests that take tythes, they will not hear this word, nor this voice behind them, they will have none of Christ, will not suffer him to reign over them, and so will not hear the prophet that Moses said God would raise up, and said people should hear, and so disobey Moses’s command, and God’s command, who saith, this is my beloved Son, hear ye him, and Christ’s command, who saith, learn of me, whose name is the word of God. (Works of Fox, Vol. IV, pp. 148-149)
Lewis Benson set forth the characteristics of the disciple Church is a series of six lectures given in 1958. I can’t offer a summary of what Lewis stated, but I do hope you will take the time to read through those lectures when they become available. The key to the disciple Church is found in Jesus’ words from John 8:31, “If you would be my disciples, abide in my words” abide in my teaching, hear my voice and keep my covenant. “...and you shall know the truth and the truth shall make you free.”
In the New Testament, writes Benson, “truth” is not the opposite of error, but the opposite of sin. Sin is not merely “falling short,” “missing the mark” or mistakeness. It is belief in a lie and the words of a liar. In so far as human life has become dominated by a lie the captive state has come to be the condition of mankind.
The lie appears in its most insidious form when it reaches us in the guise of religion. In institutional religion the liar can offer comfort, security, and a kind of order in place of the voice of God’s heavenly prophet, Jesus Christ... (The Disciple Church: Six Lectures by Lewis Benson, p. 39)
If, as Lewis Benson set forth, the early Quakers were a prime example of a disciple church, then the only way to describe today’s church is as an example of the Jesus-fan-club Church. Here the focus in not on learning from the master, but rather engaging in activities to generate enthusiasm and team-spirit.
It is the disciple, not the fan, who comes to know the truth and to be set free from the enslavement to sin, enslavement to the father of lies. It is the disciple, not the fan, who remains in the father’s house with the son. It is the disciple, not the fan, who enters now into the joys and obligations of the kingdom of God.
Who are you? Are you part of the people of God?
What are you doing? Are you abiding in Jesus’ teaching?
What do you want? It is these desires of your heart that sets your direction of travel. Do you want power, fame, wealth, long life, and influence? You might get it. However, the more you eat of the fruits of these desires, the hungrier you become. Do you have enough money? No, I need more. What I have does not satisfy me. Do you have enough power? No, there are people or circumstances beyond my control. Do you have enough fame? No, someone else has just caught the public’s attention and threatens to eclipse me. Do you begin to hear the echos of that temptation, “...when you eat of this fruit you shall be as Gods?” Jesus said, “Blessed are ye that hunger and thirst after righteousness, for ye shall be filled.” This want, this hunger, produces a result that shows the shallowness of all other pursuits. Unlike all the other desires of the human heart, righteousness satisfies. There is nothing more Godlike than righteousness. It is part of the image of God, part of those characteristics that mark one as being a child of God.
I am not talking about religion or about being religious. People get involved in religion for a number of reasons. The religion game is just another way to exercise power and control over others under the guise of “doing good.” That disguise can fool many, but it can’t counterfeit righteousness and it can’t fake life. If you hunger and thirst after righteousness, which only comes by way of life, nothing but righteousness will appease that hunger. No amount of death and unrighteousness will cause you to push back from the table with that deep sense of satiety that comes when you have fed upon the thing your body is hungry for.
The hunger for righteousness will lead you to the light Christ has enlightened you with. Living in this light, under its direction, produces righteousness and turns you away from all that would produce unrighteousness.
What do you want?
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The hunger for righteousness precedes being filled with life. The righteousness is not a Pharisaic legalism of adherence to cultural norms, rather it is first-known as an intuitive refusal of falsehood, and is felt as a despairing, lonely seeking for a true foundation for one's life. The drive for what is real, actual, and right seems to me to be the key element of being human, and, initially, it unexpectedly leads to Christ where we learn the original of our being, that we are the express likeness. Identity is given, and joy and peace are felt.