Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Jesus vs. the Anxious Urgency of Eternal Destiny (and all other varieties as well)

sermon notes from the Vineyard Church of Milan 02/05/2012

Matthew 7…

7 “Do not judge, or you too will be judged. 2For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.

3“Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in someone else’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? 4How can you say, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? 5You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from the other person’s eye.

Matthew 7:1-5

We have on the one hand the commands of Jesus to fix our eyes on our responsibilities for ourselves, first and foremost - the planks in our eyes - and after we've done that to be available to help one another with the sawdust in their eyes. 

And on the other hand, we have this sense of anxious urgency produced by the following logic:

our sin separates us from God.

we are often blind to our sin.

if, in our blindness, we never turn from our sin, we will stay eternally separated from God.

we who are not blind to others' sin, then, have a responsibility to tell other people about their sin.

Especially the sins that separate them from God.

So that they can see their sin and repent.

So that they can be saved.

So we end up facing this dilemma when we see someone with some sawdust in their eyes – especially if it seems to us to be the kind of sawdust that we think might really be a problem:

I'm not sure I should say anything, but…

But: if I don't, and they keep doing that, what if they end up in hell, separated from God forever?

But: if I were them, and I were going to hell unless they said something, I'd want them to say something.

But: if I don't say anything, and they end up in hell, I might be responsible for their eternal fate, and then I'd be in trouble too.

But: if I do say something, and they ignore me, or even if they hate me, I'll at least be in the clear, and it's on them now.

This sense of urgency, of a high stakes game in progress, makes it challenging to listen to the voice of the Spirit leading us, doesn't it?

He'd better tell me what to do quick, before it's too late. Because if I don't hear anything soon, I'm going for it! 

[anxiety like static in communication; all communication is emotional, if you're not moving towards, it's hard to hear…the anxiety itself can 1) make it hard to hear, and 2) get us turned in the wrong direction, making us miss what the Spirit is trying to say…]

So what can we do about that anxiety?

we could examine the logic, trying to figure out if any of our assumptions are flawed, or any of our conclusions in error, or

we could listen to Jesus.

[indiana jones clip, whipping out gun against swordsman…]

Jesus does to the anxious urgent edifice constructed by this logic what Indiana Jones does to the swordsman. He looks at it, shrugs, and does away with it.

Jesus says in essence: “hey, I don’t know where you got this anxious urgency from, but you didn’t get it from me.” And as his followers, if it doesn’t look like Jesus, and it doesn’t walk like Jesus, and it doesn’t talk like Jesus, it’s probably a good sign it’s not Jesus. And anxious urgency surely ain’t Jesus.

After all, is a life of faith an exercise in mastering a logic system, or an exercise in trusting God?

Here's the fundamental problem with the anxious urgency approach.  It's simply not how Jesus related to sinful people.  And it's not what Jesus uses as the basis for our mission. So regardless of the merits of our logic, something is off. [which, if we were brutally honest, we’d admit we suspected, if only because of the bad fruit we’ve seen come from it…]

Consider how Jesus went about his saving activity.  Do we ever see that kind of anxious urgency in his interactions with people?  No, we don't.  In fact, we see all kinds of indications of just the opposite.  

[Judas, Peter, as we mentioned last week…]

Jesus withdraws from time to time, time after time, to reconnect with the Father, to rest, to pray.  Despite the clamoring of the crowds.   This is not what anxious urgency would compel him to do, is it? Shouldn’t he just go, go, go, trusting God to give him energy – I mean, he’s only got to keep on keeping on for 3 years, right? What’s the point of conserving energy?

I don’t mean to suggest that Jesus’ mission isn’t urgent, that it isn’t important. I don’t mean to suggest that he thinks it doesn’t matter, so he’ll take his sweet time, thank you very much. No, his mission is so urgent, and so important, that nothing could keep him from it. I only mean that anxious urgency isn’t what moves him. He is intent on cooperating with the Spirit of God – on doing what he sees the Father doing – and the Father values kairos time over kronos time, everytime. [explain…] In fact, Jesus seems to resist anxious urgency whenever he encounters it (mother, lazarus).

When Jesus speaks of how God's kingdom works, he uses language loaded with waiting, with patience. Yeast working through dough, slow and invisible.  Seeds being planted, sprouting in the ground, in season growing up into a harvest. Anxious urgency nowhere to be found.

24 Jesus told them another parable: “The kingdom of heaven is like a man who sowed good seed in his field. 25 But while everyone was sleeping, his enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat, and went away. 26 When the wheat sprouted and formed heads, then the weeds also appeared.

27 “The owner’s servants came to him and said, ‘Sir, didn’t you sow good seed in your field? Where then did the weeds come from?’

28 “‘An enemy did this,’ he replied.

   “The servants asked him, ‘Do you want us to go and pull them up?’

29 “‘No,’ he answered, ‘because while you are pulling the weeds, you may uproot the wheat with them. 30 Let both grow together until the harvest. At that time I will tell the harvesters: First collect the weeds and tie them in bundles to be burned; then gather the wheat and bring it into my barn.’”

31 He told them another parable: “The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed, which a man took and planted in his field. 32 Though it is the smallest of all seeds, yet when it grows, it is the largest of garden plants and becomes a tree, so that the birds come and perch in its branches.”

33 He told them still another parable: “The kingdom of heaven is like yeast that a woman took and mixed into about sixty pounds of flour until it worked all through the dough.”

34 Jesus spoke all these things to the crowd in parables; he did not say anything to them without using a parable. 35 So was fulfilled what was spoken through the prophet:

   “I will open my mouth in parables,
   I will utter things hidden since the creation of the world.”

Matthew 13

Farming, gardening, cooking. All about kairos time. Anxious urgency will ruin all equally well…

Watching Jesus, one might even be tempted to think that forging a peaceful, healthy way of being human before God was as important and urgent as getting on with the mission. One might even be tempted to think that it was somehow an integral part of the mission… One might be tempted to think, even, that anxious urgency could be as destructive a sin as any sin that the people anxious urgency compels us to enlighten are dealing with… I’ll leave that for you to consider, if it interests you.

For now,

Consider the context and pace of God's salvation work culminating in Jesus.  

Calling Abraham.  

Wrestling with Jacob and renaming him Israel.  

Allowing Israel's descendants to suffer in slavery 400 years.

10 plagues.

The 12 tribes wandering in the wilderness 40 years.  

Hundreds and hundreds of years more, much of it filled with silence, before Jesus arrives.  

Jesus starting as an embryo, a fetus, a baby, a boy, a teenager, a young man, then finally, around 30, beginning to preach good news and teach and heal and drive out demons.  

Walking from place to place to place, speaking in small towns scattered throughout Judea and the surrounding countryside.  

Anxious urgency nowhere to be found.

Then, when Jesus commissions his disciples to follow in his salvation mission, listen to what he tells them:

Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”

Matthew 28

Notice what the "therefore" follows, and what it doesn't.  "All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.  Therefore…And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age."    Therefore doesn't follow what our logic tells us it should follow: "The time is short, and every second you delay, people are dying and going to hell in their ignorance, therefore…And if you fail, you just may join them."

No, “therefore” follows Jesus' proclamation that he has all the authority in heaven and on earth.  In other words, go about your mission out of obedience to me…and have peace, because I'm with you always, to the very end of the age.  

Obedience and peace, those are qualities connected to faith, to trusting God, aren't they?  When we trust, we obey.  When we trust, we act out of a place of peace.  When God is with us, it empowers our obedience.  When God is with us, peace that passes understanding is present.

And, to top it all off, after he commissions his disciples to carry out his mission, he tells them first, they must wait indefinitely in Jerusalem.  

But Jesus!?  People are perishing, and you want us to wait!??

Yes, wait for my holy spirit, which I will send you. 

Because our mission is a mission of faith, requiring us to listen to the voice of his Spirit, to be led and directed as we trust the leading of his Spirit.  If we run off on our own teaching people to be disciples, we'll be teaching people that what it means to be a disciple is to run off on our own, trusting our own logic, rather than obeying him.  If we wait for the leading of his spirit, and out of obedience carry out our mission, then we will be teaching people that what it means to be a disciple is to trust and obey.  The medium is the message. What kind of disciples do you think Jesus wants?

It's so much like the “buts” we have when it comes to judgment.  Jesus tells us not to judge, and we say, but…!

But, somebody's got to let them know what they are doing is wrong!

But, they are wrong and I am right!

But, I have enough information in this case, it's not a matter of being to hasty and getting it wrong!

Sure, that all makes sense.  It follows a certain logic.  But Jesus says don't do it.

Because when we judge, it doesn't matter if we are right in our judgment or not.  What matters is that our judgment puts us in the wrong posture towards other human beings (above them), and makes it impossible for us to be obedient to Jesus' command to us to love (which requires that we be in a posture of service to one another, below them).  Judgment is for him, and him alone.

It’s similar with the way we come alongside of our fellow image bearers and help them to see and follow Jesus.  Jesus tells us to wait and obey him every step of the way, to focus on our responsibilities for ourselves first, and then help one another with the sawdust after that. And we say but…!

But, the time is short! 

But, they can't see how much it's hurting them!

But, they could be paying an eternal price for some short term pleasure, and they might never know!

Sure, that all makes sense.  It follows a certain logic.  But Jesus says don't do it.

Because when we focus on others' sawdust, it places us in the wrong posture towards other human beings (responsible for them), and we fail in our responsibilities for ourselves and towards them.  And when we act out of anxious urgency, instead of trusting obedience, we become disobedient and unfaithful.

story of Saul.

1 Saul was thirty[a] years old when he became king, and he reigned over Israel forty-[b] two years.

2 Saul chose three thousand men from Israel; two thousand were with him at Mikmash and in the hill country of Bethel, and a thousand were with Jonathan at Gibeah in Benjamin. The rest he sent back to their homes.

3 Jonathan attacked the Philistine outpost at Geba, and the Philistines heard about it. Then Saul had the trumpet blown throughout the land and said, “Let the Hebrews hear!” 4 So all Israel heard the news: “Saul has attacked the Philistine outpost, and now Israel has become obnoxious to the Philistines.” And the people were summoned to join Saul at Gilgal.

5 The Philistines assembled to fight Israel, with three thousand[c] chariots, six thousand charioteers, and soldiers as numerous as the sand on the seashore. They went up and camped at Mikmash, east of Beth Aven. 6 When the Israelites saw that their situation was critical and that their army was hard pressed, they hid in caves and thickets, among the rocks, and in pits and cisterns. 7 Some Hebrews even crossed the Jordan to the land of Gad and Gilead.

   Saul remained at Gilgal, and all the troops with him were quaking with fear. 8 He waited seven days, the time set by Samuel; but Samuel did not come to Gilgal, and Saul’s men began to scatter. 9 So he said, “Bring me the burnt offering and the fellowship offerings.” And Saul offered up the burnt offering. 10 Just as he finished making the offering, Samuel arrived, and Saul went out to greet him.

11 “What have you done?” asked Samuel.

   Saul replied, “When I saw that the men were scattering, and that you did not come at the set time, and that the Philistines were assembling at Mikmash, 12 I thought, ‘Now the Philistines will come down against me at Gilgal, and I have not sought the LORD’s favor.’ So I felt compelled to offer the burnt offering.”

13 “You have done a foolish thing,” Samuel said. “You have not kept the command the LORD your God gave you; if you had, he would have established your kingdom over Israel for all time. 14 But now your kingdom will not endure; the LORD has sought out a man after his own heart and appointed him ruler of his people, because you have not kept the LORD’s command.”

1 Samuel 13

God’s priority for us in every situation is for us to be responsible for ourselves, and as part of that responsibility to be responsible to love and serve those to whom God has called us.

Saul was king of Israel.  King of the people who were called apart as God's own, in a land God had given them.  He was responsible before God to, first and foremost, trust God.  

Then his men started to desert.  His prophet didn't show up.  

The invitation of God in the midst of every anxious urgency is "trust me."  Saul didn't.  He abdicated his responsibilities as king to take on the prophet's responsibilities, out of fear. I felt compelled, he said. That wasn't God's Spirit leading him, was it?  No.  And the kingdom was taken from him because in his anxious urgency he stepped out line and did what was reserved for another to do.

We face so many anxious urgencies, don't we?  Anxious urgency is always a tool of the enemy to draw us away from our responsibilities for our ourselves and to others, to twist those up in a such a knot that we can't hear the voice of God's Spirit leading us, in such a knot that we can't see clearly the way forward, in a such a knot that we stop trusting and obeying.  

We face it about our money...  

We face it about our important relationships...  

We face it about our kids...  

We face it about our bodies...  

We face it about our ministries, even...

[pastoral questions about the eternal fate of loved ones…do you trust Jesus?  Is he good?  That's where peace comes.  That's the place from which we can live faithful, obedient lives.  It's the same with questions like "do you think such and such a behavior that so and so is engaged in leads to hell…?"  what does it matter with respect to your trusting obedience of Jesus?  The real question is, in what way is the Spirit leading you to love and serve that person?  Oh, you have trouble listening to the leading of the Spirit?  Perhaps that's the plank that needs attention first…]

Jesus is saving, restoring, healing this broken world. Jesus. He is redeeming, renewing, rescuing. He is making all things new. And he’s including us. Starting with us, and commissioning us to join in cooperation with him through the empowering of his Holy Spirit.

We, in our old creation bodies, with our old creation minds, are subject to the anxious urgency of Kronos time, which always seems to go too slow when brokenness abounds, and go way too fast when heaven rains down. But Jesus, the firstborn from among the dead, in his resurrection body, equally at home in the river of time and in the eternity of the heavens, has eyes to see Kairos time.

Will we wait when he says wait? Will we go when he says go? Will we learn to resist the voice of anxious urgency, recognizing that it is not the voice of the good shepherd? Will we come to understand that no matter what it says, no matter what sense it makes, it is not the voice of the one who loves us? Will we learn to listen to Jesus’ voice? His voice is the voice of peace. All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to him. He will be with us always, even to the end of the age.

Practical Tips:

1. Get on the right hook. Do you feel this gets you “off the hook” for confronting other people about their sin? It might, I suppose, depending on the context. But it’s really about getting “on the hook” for being obedient to Jesus. For you taking the next step of discipleship with him. Does that mean asking him what you need to repent for? Does that mean asking him who you need to serve and love and how? Yes, yes, and yes. Are you doing that – intentionally, actively in your life right now? Keep it up. Are you not? It’s time to start. Kairos time.

2. Get off the Anxious Urgency train. Is there something you are doing in your life because of an anxious urgency? Talk with a wise brother or sister about it. Pray that Jesus would give you grace to resist the anxious urgency and trust his leading instead. Pause and pray the Lord’s prayer before you act next out of anxious urgency next time.

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