Thursday, September 20, 2018

The Mission of Jesus

More than forty years ago, the late Howard Belben published one of the clearest, simplest and most powerful books about Jesus. The Mission of Jesus met a need that no other book that I know of meets. Unfortunately the book went out of print and was not available for many years. We are publishing this new edition so that a new generation can benefit from the insights Howard Belben first presented back in 1970.

Beyond the changing of the Bible translation from the New English Bible to the New International Version and the shortening of sentences, the only other change I have intentionally introduced is the removal of references to British culture that would be unfamiliar to many non-British readers. I have not intentionally introduced thoughts that were not present in the original. This is still substantially Howard Belben’s book, not mine. But it is, more importantly, a book about the mission of Jesus and how we can be involved in carrying that mission forward in our lives.

Special thanks are due to the heirs of Howard Belben for allowing this revision of The Mission of Jesus.
The Mission of Jesus is currently available on Amazon for $5.75 (paperback). The Kindle edition is just $2.99.

A Counterfeit Kingdom

But Jesus called them to him and said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. 26 It shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, 27 and whoever would be first among you must be your slave, 28 even as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” (Matthew 20:25-28, ESV)

In 1889 the Scottish scholar A. B. Bruce published a book concerning the kingdom of God. It is not a book that I can unreservedly recommend. But the following comments certainly drive home the same point that Jesus was making in Matthew 20.

"A kingdom of God so conceived of as to give rise to ambitious passions is not such in reality, but a kingdom of this world. The utmost devotion to such a counterfeit does not amount to compliance with the demand, 'Seek first the kingdom.'.... The kingdom of God is a kingdom of love from which selfishness in every form is excluded;.... Hence it follows that there may be much religious activity, making a great display of zeal and gaining golden opinions, which has no relation to the kingdom of God, except it be one of antagonism, .... The struggle for religious name and church place and power may be more respectable than the struggle for physical livelihood, but it is not less, but rather more, ungodly" (A. B. Bruce, The Kingdom of God, p. 92).

Let us seek God’s kingdom first and foremost in our lives (Mt 6:33). But let us be sure that the kingdom we are seeking is indeed the kingdom of God, and not some mythical kingdom of our own imagination.

Friday, September 7, 2018

Like a Lion

Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour” (1 Peter 5:8, ESV).

Whether hunting zebra, wildebeest, or giraffe, lion do not attack the whole herd. If an individual is straying from the herd, that is the one the lion is most likely to attack. If no animals are straying, the lion will often try to break up the herd before actually attacking an individual animal.

This is exactly how Satan operates. He picks off those who are at the edge, those not deeply involved; or he seeks to divide the church in some way so that he can more readily attack the weak individual member.

No wonder we are told, “Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful. And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near” (Hebrews 10:23-25, ESV).

I have known dozens of people who have fallen away from the church. Almost 100% of those who fell away were marginal members. Most attended Sunday morning only; and they were not really active in the work. I only recall one truly active member who fell away. As it turned out, he had been hiding secret sin in his life for years before his seemingly sudden downfall. Emotionally isolated from his fellow believers, quietly weakened by sin, his final destruction seemed sudden, but it had been a case of steady work by the great deceiver.

If you are currently living as a lone ranger Christian, find a Tonto, find a godly companion to help you in your Christian walk. If you notice other Christians who seem isolated and alone, invite them into the safety of the spiritual sheep-fold.