Like John Wimber liked to say: "everyone gets to play". Gary's book has been a wonderful and refreshing reminder that this includes me!
This fits well within the context of what I have been hearing and seeing lately re: the Kingdom of God (if the idea of an Enacted Inaugural Eschatology excites you, then check out the three in-depth lectures available here in both mp3 and PowerPoint).
To whet your appetite and let you in on what is exciting me, here are some excerpts from Gary's book (ch 5: Bringing the Kingdom to People): (OK, yes, this is a long post -- but it is well worth the read, as is the entire book, of which this really is just a very small taste)
Through his life and his death, Jesus countered and conquered each of Satan's strategies that had created humanity's bondage:
- Satan came with doubt and deception; Jesus invariably spoke the truth.
- Satan's goal was always separation from God through these lies; like a shepherd, Jesus' goal was to find the lost sheep and bring them home.
- Satan's ultimate intention was disintegration and destruction; Jesus came to bring freedom.
Let's look at each of these in turn.
First, in contrast to the deceiver, Jesus walked in absolute integrity in his relationships with others. He always spoke truth and never deceived or manipulated. He said: "I am the way, the truth, and the life" (John 16:6). Drawing a contrast between himself and Satan, the "father of lies" (John 8:44). He never told people what they wanted to hear, he told them what they needed to hear -- how to turn and be freed from their bondage and oppression. Yet his truthfulness was always clothed in unconditional love and acceptance; it was an invitation to life and hope, not simply harsh condemnation.
And you will know the truth and the truth will set you free.
If we are to bring the Good News of the kingdom to the oppressed effectively, we must understand the power of the truth, base our lives and thinking on it, and be able to speak it with authority. This means cultivating an ever-deepening relationship with Jesus, who is truth embodied. It also means faithfully studying and meditating on the Scriptures, the soil of truth out of which the Holy Spirit speaks and guides (2 Timothy 3:16). With this foundation established in us, we can anticipate gifts of both wisdom and revelation from the Spirit to assist us in penetrating spiritual strongholds of deception that keep people in bondage.
Usually when people speak of "telling the truth", it is a negative experience, reminding others of what isn't and who they are not. It is usually associated with failure and rejection. Our ministry of truth is very different: It is centered on who we can be when we walk into the freedom of dependence on and restored relationship with God.
Second, whereas Satan's central intention has always been to build walls of separation (first between people and God, then between people and finally, even within their own personality and sense of identity), Jesus came to tear these walls down. "He has broken down the wall of hostility that used to separate us," is the way Paul describes it in Ephesians 2:14. While Satan's ultimate goal is hell or "outer darkness" (billions of people absolutely isolated and alone), Jesus goal is the fully revealed kingdom of God (multitudes completely united in an eternal community of love).
On our own, we could not and would not find our way back to the garden, the place of restored relationship with our Maker. God either had to reach out to us or he would have to abandon us -- there was no other way.
God had truly captured [Saul's] heart. His central motivation was now to respond to this love that had come to him so unexpectedly. He said: "Whatever we do, it is because Christ's love controls us" (2 Corinthians 5:14). From this point on...his consuming passion was to bring others to this same great mercy that had reconciled him.
And, Paul would say, this is precisely what God wants to bring about in all of us who have been similarly redeemed from deception and separation. God has commissioned and authorized us to act as his ambassadors of reconciliation, extending the offer of God's free gift of grace through Jesus Christ (2 Corinthians 5:18-21). When the desires of God's heart and gratitude for his kindness take root in us, this is a privilege, not some obligatory "project" for God.
We can, with all the authority of heaven, pronounce to people that God's intention is no longer to count their sins against them (total amnesty).
Finally, Jesus directly confronted the spiritual, physical, and emotional strongholds of Satan's rule in the lives of people.
Jesus recognized that much of the brokenness and "disease" of people is a natural consequence of a fallen world, separated from the life of God. Jesus came to reverse those consequences -- through him the kingdom and rule of God had come near with multifaceted salvation. It is not surprising that much of his ministry was directed to overturning those situations by healing the sick, restoring relationships, and supplying miraculous provision. Jesus knew that often Satan and his forces were directly oppressing and binding the lives of these people.
When anyone hears the Good News of the kingdom and turns to it in repentance, the rule of God comes to their aid. That is, and always has been, bad news for God's enemy. Jesus made it clear to those who misunderstood his encounters with demonic strongholds: These were clear signs that God's kingdom was present in him (Luke 11:20-22). Since we are called to this same ministry, we can expect the same kind of authorization. Jesus has commissioned us to continue his mission. We must remember that our ultimate goal is not simply to rescue people out of one kingdom. It is also to bring them successfully into the next.
All this, (within the context of the rest of the book, my experience following Jesus, and my place within the Vineyard tribe), strikes me as amazingly accessible; do-able!
I get to play! YEA!