Monday, October 15, 2012
Miroslav Volf was born in 1956 in Osijek, Croatia, which was then part of the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia. In 1957 he and his five-year-old brother, Daniel were being watch by their Nanny, Aunt Milica, when Daniel “slipped away” from the courtyard to go play with some soldier friends a mere two blocks away. The soldiers enjoyed Daniel because of the diversion he provided from their normal, not-so-exciting duties and had become quite fond of him. On this day one of the soldiers innocently placed Daniel on a horse-drawn bread wagon and then the unthinkable happened. A tragic accident robbed Daniel of his life and the Volf family was left devastated. Miroslav has also experienced brutal interrogations at the hands of then Communist Yugoslavian Officials. These horrific events have uniquely equipped him to interpret well texts such as these in his book, The End of Memory: Remembering Rightly in a Violent World.
You have heard that it was said, “Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.” But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you (Matt 5.43-44, NIV).
But to you who are listening I say: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you (Luke 6.27-28, NIV).
Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good (Rom 12.21, NIV).
I am especially interested in this final text from Romans 12, because it seems that Paul is motivated by a desire for the reader to not be overcome by evil. Paul doesn’t want evil to win. He wants evil to end and he provides us with a sure way for evil to be overcome. The verb translated overcome is from the word nikao which means to vanquish or defeat. Jesus uses the word in John 16.33 where he says, “Take heart! I have overcome the world.” Furthermore, John says the same is true of us who have been born of God. “… for everyone born of God overcomes the world. This is the victory that has overcome the world, even our faith. Who is it that overcomes the world? Only the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God" (1 John 5.4-5). Do you want evil to be defeated – vanquished – overcome? God offers one way to his people. Love those who do evil. Pray for our persecutors. Do good to those who hate you. Overcome evil with good. This gospel truth is why I have been so moved over the past two days by these words from Miroslav Volf, one who has endured the dark intensity of evil.
To triumph fully, evil needs two victories, not one. The first victory happens when an evil deed is perpetrated; the second victory, when evil is returned. After the first victory, evil would die if the second victory did not infuse it with new life.
Among the many reasons God could offer his people to respond to evil with good, one is particularly powerful I think – the desire to see evil defeated. Do you desire the overcoming of evil? The gospel promise is that it will be overcome, ultimately by goodness.
Wednesday, October 10, 2012
One of the most effective ways to make a significant point in a sermon, a story or a book is to emphasize your point at the beginning and the conclusion. Consequently and interestingly, the tree of life makes an appearance in both the opening and final scene of the Bible (see Gen 2.9; Rev 22.1-2). This tree radiated with the very life of God and it is of this tree that all humanity is invited to partake. Nonetheless, we prefer fruit from the tree that appears in Genesis 2, but is absent in Revelation 22, the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. So instead of gladly receiving the life God offers, we have chosen that which leads to death. However, the God who offers life, loves the ones who have chosen death, and offered his own life to the forces of death that we might know life. Through Jesus Christ God is offering the very life of God to the world.
For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life (John 3.16, NASB).
The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly (John 10.10, NASB).
While the life we receive from God through Christ will last forever, the life described here is more about essence than it is about time. It’s more about quality than quantity. Here’s what I mean. God is above time. And the life he offers to the world is the life that he has enjoyed within himself for eternity. This is the life that he has offered and is offering to the world. Through the death and resurrection of his Son – through the pouring out of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost – through the continuing ministry of Jesus through his Body, the Church – God is offering his very life to the world.
My friends, I cannot imagine better news than this. The God of the universe is offering his very being – his very essence – his very life to the world. Moreover, his Son has commanded his Church to proclaim this good news to the world. Are we heeding his charge? It is my prayer that the Spirit of God will nurture within our Church family what I like to call a culture of invitation. We worship a God who freely gives himself to those who will accept him. Furthermore, every time we gather God is offering his life to those gathered. I would like to encourage each of you to contribute to this culture of invitation by prayerfully selecting someone within your network of relationships and saying to that person what Philip said to Nathanael, “Come and see” (John 1.46).
Tuesday, October 2, 2012
“Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations,
baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit … “
~ Jesus the Christ
“Therefore” – One of the most important words in the New Testament. In the original language it’s a simple conjunction comprised of three letters. Within this simple conjunction, however, the key to discipleship is found – within the simple little word the key to God’s plan for the nations is found. The word translated therefore, points us back to the bold assertion Jesus exclaims in verse 18: “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth.” Jesus’ words recall a significant prophetic vision recorded in Daniel 7.14.
And to Him was given dominion.
Glory and a kingdom,
That all the peoples, nations and men of every language
Might serve Him.
His dominion is an everlasting dominion
Which will not pass away;
And His kingdom is one
Which will not be destroyed.
This prophecy tells the story of the world from God’s perspective and at the center of God’s story is a King. Any King “worth his salt” must have a kingdom and the King at the center of God’s story receives His kingdom from God Himself. Aside from the fact this kingdom is God’s, two other elements of this kingdom are worthy of our attention. 1) This kingdom will not pass away. Kingdoms rise and kingdoms fall but not this kingdom. It is everlasting. It will not pass away. It will not be destroyed. This kingdom is worthy of our life’s devotion 2) This kingdom is for all peoples. Daniel’s vision announces the reason the Ancient of Days will give dominion to the Son of Man; that all the peoples and nations of every language might serve Him. And it is this King that we encounter in Matthew 28:16-20. Jesus declares I am the Son of Man. He asserts that all authority in the cosmos is being given to Him. What is the appropriate response? Jesus says, “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations.” In other words, the process of gathering men, women, girls and boys to serve the Son of Man has begun. If you are a Christian – if you believe that Jesus Christ is the risen and ascended Lord, there is only one acceptable response. “Go therefore and make disciples.” It is to the obedience of Jesus’ command that we have dedicated the month of October at SBC. Especially during our Make Disciples! conference with Tim Catchim, we are offering relevant resources that will equip us to obey the One who commands us, “Make disciples!" Linked below is a talk given by Tim which should whet your appetite for how God will use him among us.