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Some Verses Calling For Repentance Among Western Christians

This is intended for an evangelical Christian readership, of which I am one.

Don't treat this as poetry; it's not. It's a crafting of words with the help of a chosen scheme (Adelstrop first line) to help getting ideas efficiently and perhaps more attractively into words.

These verses introduce a little-known theological position [1], but which speaks to the increasing concern for God's world and engagement with mainstream issues. Since it is little-known, notes are given at the end of this page.

The Parts I to V each have a particular purpose or topic, which you you might or might not like to know before you read; if so, see [Note 2], which is available at each heading.

Part I [2]

Yes, I remember Luther, Knox,
    Calvin, Zwingli -- Reformers
of Europe who re-discovered
    One Dimension of salvation:
The wonder that God accepts us
    Not by works, not by rituals,
But by turning to the Christ's work done;
    "No condemnation in Christ Jesus." [3]

And, I remember Livingstone,
    Carey, Taylor - those whom Christ called
to spread throughout the world He loves,
    news of forgiveness, peace with God.
News of freedom from guilt, hatred,
    evil, demonic oppression.
Extending the Great Commission
    through many cultures of God's world.

Yes, I remember holiness
    and pentecostal streams outpoured,
Americans rediscovering
    a second Dimension of God's work:
Heaven's joy available right now;
    Experience Father here and now
in ordinary life and major projects, as
    Holy Spirit writes our hearts. [4]

Yes, I remember Wilberforce
    Shaftesbury, Nightingale, the Booths:
British social reformers inspired
    by Christ to form a better world.
Changing attitudes, structures legal
    frameworks economic, vision national.
Feeling ways to work salvation
    throughout the structures of the world.

Part II [2]

Now, I conjecture: Might God be
    working something new, these days?
Dimension 3: Concern for Earth,
    being destroyed as never before.
"With eager longing, waits Creation
    for the 'hious' of God to appear." [5]
- Those mature ones, like their Father,
    acting by nature as He would do.

See, God's own Spirit in us grows
    love for all the wide creation,
joy in ways creation works,
    peace towards the natural world.
Patience with the speed it functions
    kindness, goodness, faithfulness and
humility in approaching nature,
    self-control in all our demands. [6]

Look, God intended all his people
    to lead the world in loving rule
of his creation, to its blessing
    flourishing, intended joy.
To open up its vast potential
    for the sake of all that lives.
Then all creation, in true harmony
    responds with willing praise to God. [7]

This, third Dimension: Saving grace
    mediated to all through us,
made in God's very image, and
    trusted with His power to bless. [8]

Part III [2]

But, Oh disaster! Trust betrayed!
    Image hidden by self-centred
wilfulness, arrogance and self-rule.
    God's own people reject his calling!
Living for ourselves alone, we
    think the world exists to serve us.
- plundering for delights and comfort,
    careless of destruction caused.

Reject? Just as Eve and Adam did -
    and they were expelled from Eden;
just as Israel and Judah did -
    and they were expelled from their land.

Hark, twenty-four elders plead with God
    "The time has come: rewarding, judging
small and great, all alike, and for
    destroying who destroy the earth." [9]
Do we assume we have God's favour
    while we ignore his call to image
love of God to all creation?
    Might he not expel us too?

Yes, I remember Billy Graham,
    Who cited his wife Ruth's exclamation,
    "If God doesn't punish America,
    "He'll have to apologise to Sodom and Gomorrah." [10]

"See, Oh My people, is not this
    the reason Sodom was destroyed?
Overfed, arrogant, along with
    unconcern for poor and needy.
Haughty they were." Are we like them? [11]
    Do we safeguard, by trade and weapons,
privilege, convenience, reputation, wealth?
    Why should we escape when Sodom and Judah were destroyed?

Hey! Nine-Eleven - sign from God?
    What was hit? Only the symbols
of arrogant trade and military might,
    by which the earth is destroyed.
World trade, Protector of the rich
    Despoiler of God's splendid world!
Military might, Protector
    of the strong but terror to the poor. [12]

Part IV [2]

"Look! I have made you, those who know me,
    to prosper in the deepest sense:
When you follow My Creation's flow
    Creation works with you to bring
blessing, justice, love, joy, peace, health,
    for yourselves and all around you.
To attract the world to my ways
    of dignity, destiny and delight." [13]

Yes, I remember how it went:
    "No faithfulness, no love,
no acknowledgement of God in the land.
    only cursing, lying, murder,
stealing, adultery, bloodshed.
    Because of this the land all mourns,
beasts, birds, fish dying; all waste away.
    Priests and prophets stumble." [14]

Oh! How America leads the world
    to destroy the earth by their greed. [15]
"Yes, all destroyed are my people
    because they rejected knowledge,
exchanged their glory for disgrace.
    Priests fed on the sins of the people
relishing their wickedness.
    Like people, like priests; I punish both." [16]

Part V [2]

"Come! O My people. Think again!
    Repent and return to me."
Preach the Gospel to all Creation. [17]
    - The Gospel of the Love of God
and Hope that Time is coming soon
    when wolf and lamb, lion and calf,
will dwell together peacably
    and a little child shall lead them. [18]

Think: What is "preach"? Why to "all
    Creation"? And who is this child?
Is not preach to image God,
    to be like God to all Creation?
To love and give, to keep and heal, [19]
    so all Creation experiences
joys of the kind that each thing can -
    no longer terror or destruction?

Child? Child is twofold. Messiah sent
    as a baby to be salvation.
And then His people in the world
    who let the Holy Spirit grow
in them, humility and love:
    so they become God's mature 'sons' (either gender)
to lead Creation toward its good. [5]
    Humans are key to blessing God's world.

So, "Let this thinking in you be
    which also in Christ Jesus was,
who, in form of God existing ...
    poured himself out, form of a slave taking. ..." [20]

Should not we too pour out ourselves
    for the rest of the Creation?

See, God so loved the world that He
    gave His only Son, so that those
who accept Him have God's life
    that treats Creation right at last. [21]
Will we not leave our self-regard,
    our comforts and conveniences,
so that we can be God's children
    leading the creatures of the world?


NOTES

1. These verses are an expression of what I have called "A New View in Theology and Practice", for want of a better name.

2. The Parts I to V each have a particular purpose or topic, which you you might or might not like to know before you read:

3. Romans 8:1 "There is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus ...". This is the first dimension of salvation, acceptability before God.

4. Romans 8:14ff. "Those who are led by the Spirit of God ... we call God 'Abba Father'". This is the second dimension of salvation: God active with and in us here and now and grow God's fruit in us so we become more and more "con-formed to be like His Son".

5. Romans 8:19 "The creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God". This is the third dimension of salvation: God is active with and in us here and now for a purpose: so we can be God's image to the rest of creation, as originally intended at the creation of human beings. The word 'sons' is translated from the Greek hious, which refers not to offspring, but to those mature sons who are so like their father that they can be trusted to act as their father would in any situation. Does not the Holy Spirit of God dwell in God's people, making us mature like Christ, giving us power and gifts to represent God to the rest of the earth? Does not the creation "wait with eager longing" to experience this God's agape love mediated through us? Psalm 145:9 tells us "God has compassion / tender mercies / tender feeling over all he made." Should not all God's hious have this compassion and tenderness towards the entire Creation - without exception and without excuse?

6. Galatians 5:22-3 reads "for the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control." These are attitudes that are grown (as 'fruit') deep inside those who let the Holy Spirit work. As attitudes they are outward-looking, towards all that the mature 'hious' of God encounters. This must of course include all the rest of Creation, not only God or human beings.

7. Genesis 1:26-28. "Then God said 'Let us make humans in our image, in our likeness, and let them rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air, over the livestock, overall the earth, and over all the creatures that move along the ground.' So God created human beings in his own image, in the image of God he created them, male and female he created them. God blessed them and said to them 'Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air and over every living creature that moves on the ground.'"

The Hebrew word radah refers, usually translated "rule", "have dominion", etc., refers not to the harsh dominion of a self-serving, pleasure- and comfort-loving prince, but to the kind of rule that a good shepherd has over the sheep: directing sheep to places where they will benefit, and even laying his life down for the sheep. The harsh rule of the "shepherds of Israel" in Ezekial 34 is explicitly condemned. Right, good 'shepherding' of all creation is seen as a mandate for all humanity, to 'shepherd' the rest of creation for its own sake rather than selfishly for our own sake, thus imaging a God who gave Himself for the sake of the world. (We are not consumers of the world, nor even just stewards, but shepherds; see Shepherds not Stewards.)

8. The notion of three dimensions of salvation is fairly new. A summary of it may be found in Three Dimensions of Salvation on this website. The third dimension is closely linked to the idea of representing (imaging) God to the rest of Creation. The theme of one part of creation or people representing God to the rest occurs throughout Scripture, in varied forms, from the imago Dei of humanity in Genesis, through Israel, prophets, priests, Jesus Christ and the church. Only Jesus Christ, God representing himself to us immanently, has done it properly. Repesentation is not just telling and showing, but also achieving God's plan. "We are ambassadors for Christ," wrote Paul. See page on Representing God.

9. Revelation 11:18 "The time has come for judging the dead, and for rewarding your servants the prophets and the saints and those who reverence your name, both small and great - and for destroying those who destroy the earth." [my emphasis] The destructive impact of human activity (ecological footprint) is greatest by those in the USA - 40 times those of Somalia - being at least two and and a half times that which the planet Earth can sustain. The USA was blessed with the Gospel of Christ, in its first and second dimensions (see above Note), 150 years ago, but the Christians there have become so used to comfort, conveniences and pleasures that they are in danger of worshiping them. Those who refuse to reduce their ecological footprint (especially for spurious biblical reasons; see e.g. Cornwall Alliance) are likely to be the most guilty before God as those who destroy the earth. That, at least, is what I have come to believe.

10. Ruth Graham, the wife of Billy Graham, exclaimed this when reading the draft of a book. See Billy Graham's account. She was appalled especially at the sexual and materialistic sins in the USA, back in the 1970s or 80s. But I believe that these have a deeper root, in self-centredness, which is also the root of the current refusal of the USA (including some of its Christians) to take seriously the way their lifestyles are destroying God's earth. Moreover, since the USA is widely seen as the world's foremost 'Christian' nation, this is bringing the holy Name of CHrist into disrepute. I see the same theme here as when the people of Judah were exiled. See the note on Ezekiel 16:49; does it not apply the today's USA and all who follow her and aspire to her 'standard of living'?

11. Ezekiel 16:49. Cited by Billy Graham, but he saw only moral decline in USA, sexual morals and abortion. I believe it applies more widely. Affluence, arrogance and unconcern for the poor are an attitude of heart, an idolatry, which manifests itself in many external ways. One of these is decline in sexual morality. Another, increasingly important, one is refusal to consider responsibility for climate change and environmental destruction. The gifts God gave the USA to build the world and bless all creation, have been used to build our own prosperity and comfort and bless ourselves. Worse, this 'prosperity gospel' has been exported to Korea, Nigeria and other places, as a gospel of "Trust God and He'll give you a better car then your neighbour". What has been exported from America seems to be not the pure gospel of Jesus Christ and the very Holy Spirit of God, but self-seeking, self-centredness, self-protection, the very opposite of self-giving agape love. Has it not all been excused in the name of religion and perhaps a distorted interpretation of the Great Commission? So the Name of Christ has been dishonoured among the nations - especially among those who follow Islam and Hinduism. See also the Note on 9/11, next.

12. "Why did God allow 9/11?" is a question that many United States citizens are still asking. Does it show God is weak? Or that God doesn't care? Or might it show that God is warning those who have assumed they are God's people, the Christians in the USA? For a discussion of this, see the pages on Trying to Gain God's Perspective on 9/11 (September 11th 2001).

13. See Proverbs 3 for an exposition of this. Also some of Deuteronomy and Joshua.

14. Hosea 4:1-5 contains almost exactly the words in the verse (in the NIV).

15. Greed, says Paul, is a form of idolatry (Colossians 3:5)

16. Hosea 4:6-9 contains these items. God's people reject knowledge of God, loving evil instead, even while having a form of worship of the True God.

17. Mark 16:15 has the apparently astounding command of Jesus to preach the Gospel, not just to humankind but to "all creation". How does it make sense to preach to porcupines, pandas, poppies or pebbles? Only in the way shown here: we have to understand "preach" as being not just with words but with deeds and attitudes that exhibit the character of the One who sends us. And is that not what many godly preachers of the past have also said: not just with words but also with deeds and attitudes - but because of this 'now' situation, we can see that it extends to "all creation", just as Mark records Jesus saying two-thousand years ago. Have we largely ignored this for 2000 years? Is it only now that Jesus' wisdom here is being recognised? See page of representing God.

18. Isaiah 11:6 shows the peace that God intended between different species that currently fight each other, and significantly they are led by a little child. So does Isaiah 65. What does this refer to? The peace seems to be a picture of the harmony that God intended and intends for His Creation, before sin entered and after sin will be removed when full (multi-dimensional) salvation is brought in. The child might refer to Jesus the Messiah who came as a baby, or perhaps to those whose attitude is that of a "little child", who alone can enter the Kingdom of God (Mark 10:15, Luke 18:17), and who are great in God's eyes (Matthew 18:4). "Little child" refers to humility, dependence, and crucially not bending or destroying the world to one's own designs.

19. Genesis 2:15 "He put the man in the garden to tend and care for it". The Hebrew words for tend and care are rich in meaning, and reflect God's own care and upholding of His Creation and His people. For a detailed discussion of these Hebrew words, see On the Interpretation of Four Hebrew Words: Radah, Kabash, Abad, Shamar.

20. Philippians 2. I have placed the English words in the order they occur in the Greek, and have translated "mind" as "thinking", because the Greek word is 'phronesis' (to regard), more active than 'nous' (mindset). It is not the activity of thought as such, but is active regard that emerges from mindset, possibly implying active thinking in life along the lines mentioned here: pouring out ourselves for the rest of creation.

21. That well-known verse John 3:16 says "God so loved the world" (not just humankind "that he gave his only begotten son that whoever receives him should not perish but have eternal life." How is it that those who receive Jesus having eternal life brings about salvation of "the world"? One good answer to this is contained here: "Eternal life" refers to, and is intimately linked with, God's life in human beings by the Holy Spirit, which, as seen above, is about making us more like Christ, as 'mature sons' who will treat Creation aright. This is how God's love is effected on "the world" via those who have "eternal life". It is "eternal" not just that it is God's life in us, but also because it continues into the next life, as a seed continues into the flower it grows into (I Corinthians 15:35ff.).

ACKNOWLEDGEMENT

I would like to thank Andrew Rudd for valuable comments he gave on these verses, to improve them, and remove some things that might annoy.


This page, URL= 'http://www.abxn.org/nv/verse.html', is offered to God as on-going work in developing a 'New View' in theology that is appropriate to the days that are coming upon us. Comments, queries welcome.

Copyright (c) Andrew Basden to latest date below, but you may use this material subject to certain conditions.

Written on the Amiga with Protext.

Created: 17 July 2017 Last updated: 10 August 2017. 8 October 2017 some modifications and added Philippians 2, from comments that Andrew Rudd sent. 15 October 2017 Redid Phil 2, tidied up and corrected a few mistakes - this is the version that is first made public.