Oct 20

Can I Get a Witness: Living a Life That Reveals the Truth

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If someone didn’t know you went to church, would they know you are a Christian by the way you live your life? I ask myself that question all the time. The answer never seems to come quick. I have to wrestle with it for a

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If someone didn’t know you went to church, would they know you are a Christian by the way you live your life?

I ask myself that question all the time.

The answer never seems to come quick.

I have to wrestle with it for a while. That’s not because I am weighing some massive moral dilemma that is taking place in my life. It’s just that I want to be sure that my answer is honest and without the need to spin the truth.

In his latest book, Kingdom Conspiracy, author Scot McKnight writes, “Credible living makes for credible witness to the truth of the gospel.” The weight of a statement like that cannot be overlooked, its importance cannot be underscored enough. Committed apprentices of Christ concern themselves with living a life that reveals the truth about Jesus’ teachings.

The main message of Jesus that set off an irresistible revolution was that of love, manifested in our actions. Jesus addressed this in the Sermon on the Mount. He instructed his followers to live a life according to God’s will that influences their community and brings glory to God.

We can find this message in Matthew 5:14-16,

“You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.”

What gives credibility and truth to the teachings of Jesus are the ways we live this out in our daily lives. People need to see that we live as we believe. And then we need to give credit where credit is due – to God.

The world doesn’t normally operate according to the teachings of Jesus and the will of God. This can make it difficult for us to love others with all our heart and soul and mind and strength. (John 13:34-35) It’s precisely why this message of extraordinary love seems so radical to people who don’t follow Jesus. Who else instructs followers to love their enemies? (Matt. 5:44) Who else says it is part of the mission to bless those who persecute? (Matt. 5:11-12) Only Jesus!

As people dwelling in the Kingdom of God, we are called to live with and love one another regardless of the circumstances. If people are going to surrender their lives to Christ, it’s important for them to see what God’s love in action looks like. They need to catch the vision of the joy and peace and contentment that the with-God life brings. If someone didn’t know you went to church, would they know you’re a Christian by the way you live your life?

Here’s the challenge that I’d like to issue. Take some time to give the following question some thought and then join me in conversation: What are some other markers of a credible life that makes for a credible witness to the gospel’s truth?

I look forward to hearing from you soon!

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Sep 17

The King Jesus Gospel–So What?

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We’ve arrived at the final chapter of The King Jesus Gospel, “Creating a Gospel Culture.” McKnight doesn’t disappoint in his concluding chapter. He begins by contrasting cryptic cave drawings in Ireland whose meaning (if ever existed) has been lost and one of the Celtic high

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We’ve arrived at the final chapter of The King Jesus Gospel, “Creating a Gospel Culture.”

McKnight doesn’t disappoint in his concluding chapter.

He begins by contrasting cryptic cave drawings in Ireland whose meaning (if ever existed) has been lost and one of the Celtic high crosses.

The high cross depicts biblical stories and is beautiful in its art form, but without interpretation, it means nothing.

Which is true for life: For McKnight’s money, the gospel is Jesus’ and the apostles’ interpretation of the story of life (147).

Stories tell us how to act–emulating good examples, being sure not to repeat bad examples, learning what to laugh at, what to cry at, and a host of other postures and ways of being in the world.

The gospel is the interpretation of life that makes sense when following the King Jesus.

McKnight then dives into a headlong rendition of the gospel story, beginning in the begining (Genesis) and running all the way to the end (Revelation).

What struck me while reading his account of gospel history is the repeated rebellion of us human types. Rejecting has been our nature, from Adam and Eve rejecting God, to the people of Israel rejecting leadership (judges, kings, God), and finally to everyone rejecting Jesus, God become flesh.

Celtic high cross

**Muiredach’s High Cross–Brianann MacAmhlaidh–CC SA 2.0

But you can’t get that note from a flash card version of the gospel, which is what makes McKnight’s longer form (though he admits not exhaustive) version so helpful.

In one sitting you get swept up in the action of God throughout history. We often miss this when we read individual pieces of Scripture, expecting to “get something” out of our efforts.

Takeaway from this story: “what usurpers [that’s us] fear the most is the goodness of God, but, paradoxically, what usurpers most want is the goodness of God, and Jesus was that God, and that is why Jesus as Messiah and Lord is the gospel” (152).

Which makes complete sense when you sit with it for a moment.

God created us to be eikons, ruling under his own rule. But we thought we could interpret reality in a different and better way. We thought there was a better path to goodness, so we stormed the throne and came up empty.

Until, we get to the church, or new creation people in Jesus. This whole quote is excellent, sorry for the length:

“And this same God chose to do things all over again with his new cration people: he chose to give them a second chance, which is one way of talking about the magnificent theme of God’s grace. He chose to let them be people of the kingdom, called the church, and he summoned them to believe in Jesus, to turn from their usurpations, and to so identify with Jesus that they would enter into his death and into his resurrection and through that find new life. Most importantly, though Jesus was the true king, the true Messiah, the true Eikon, and the true Lord, God gave Jesus’ people the assignment he had given to Adam and Eve. They were Eikons like Adam and Eve but with a major difference: they had the Holy Spirit. This Holy Spirit could transform them into the visible likeness of Jesus himself. As Christlike Eikons they are assigned to rule on God’s behalf in this world. They do this by listening to this story, by living out this story as their story, and by spreading the good news of this story” (152).

Those last two lines highlight our calling as apprentices of Jesus: rule on God’s behalf (we live in the kingdom of God), and learning, living and telling the story.

But how do you get a gospel culture from that?

We have to become people of the Story (the big story) and people of Jesus’ story. We have to learn to soak in the gospels, ask questions, ponder, discover how the gospel connects to the story of Israel.

If the story of Jesus is the culmination and completion of the story of Israel, then the better we learn the story of Jesus, the better we will learn the story of Israel.

Put differently, a better understanding of Jesus will only come when we search out the Old Testament. And that searching out of the Old Testament will inform our understanding of the story of Jesus.

It’s a win-win.

I’m a liturgical (liturgy means “the work of the people) nerd, so my favorite suggestion from McKnight is: follow the church calendar, because it follows the story of Jesus.

In Advent, we expect the coming of the Christ child, but also the return of Christ and the culmination of all things in and through him.

At Christmas we celebrate the birth of Christ. At Epiphany Christ is revealed to the Gentiles (non-Jewish world–also you and me).

Then comes Lent, Holy Week (Jesus’ final week, crucifixion, burial, resurrection) and then onto Pentecost (the Holy Spirit poured out) and the ascension of Christ to the right hand of the Father.

Then in ordinary time, we study Jesus’ teachings and healings in the gospels (apparently healing is ordinary for this Jesus character).

By following this story of Jesus in church each Sunday, we’ll get the whole gospel story every year. How great is that?

In addition, we need to know the story of the church, from Acts to recent times. Once we learn this story, we can discover ways (both good and not so good) of adapting the gospel to fit our audience and context.

We’ll close with McKnight’s words:

“…this book is a plea that we will both discern the apostolic gospel and embrace that gospel so deeply we are wholly transformed into the image of Christ himself. A gospel culture can only be created if we are thoroughly converted ourselves” (158).

There are a number of other gems in this final chapter, but hopefully this whets your appetite enough to go read the whole thing.

I think McKnight’s counsel is spot on and easily adaptable into almost any church setting. Who’s going to argue with diving more deeply into the story of Jesus and being transformed more and more into the image of Christ?

The work of creating a gospel culture is simple, but not easy. Here’s to realizing that reality in your community of faith.

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Sep 10

How Does Your Gospeling Differ from the Apostles’?

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So far in The King Jesus Gospel we’ve followed McKnight through the New Testament, searching out exactly what the gospel is, and how different authors and people gospeled the gospel. That’s all well and good, but today’s chapter dives into the “So What?” question. Chapter 9

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So far in The King Jesus Gospel we’ve followed McKnight through the New Testament, searching out exactly what the gospel is, and how different authors and people gospeled the gospel.

That’s all well and good, but today’s chapter dives into the “So What?” question. Chapter 9 is all about comparisons.

Comparison can be harmful: she has that, I don’t, now I’m jealous, etc.

But comparisons can also be helpful. Here’s how they gospeled, here’s how we gospel, what’s the disconnect?

McKnight structures the chapter around six major comparisons, so I’ll follow suit:

Comparison 1: What Gospeling seeks to accomplish:

“The gospeling of Acts, because it declares the saving significance of Jesus, Messiah and Lord, summons listeners to confess Jesus as Messiah and Lord, while our gospeling seeks to persuade sinners to admit their sin and find Jesus as the Savior.”(133)

This is pretty self-explanatory, though if you skim that quotation you may not notice a difference between gospeling in Acts and our own gospeling today. The key difference is found in “Messiah” and “Lord” also confesss Jesus as those things. That’s how Acts gospeled. Our gospeling tends to get people to confess their sins and “get saved.”

Comparison 2: What Frames Gospeling?

This is a direct result of the previous confusion, or maybe vice versa. We try to get confession of sin and forgiveness/salvation because atonement (what Jesus “does” on the cross) is most important in our minds. For the apostles in Acts, the story of Israel and its completion in Jesus was the most important.

How you frame the story determines what story you end up telling.

Comparison 3: Gospeling, Wrath, and Judgment

Not much here, really. Judgment is a necessary aspect in the confession of Jesus as Lord and Messiah. Mcknight seems to think we need a better understanding of judgment in our gospeling, but shouldn’t go to the Jonathan Edwards’ “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God” extreme.

Comparison 7: We don't gospel from golden thrones with furry gargoyle creatures nearby.

**Comparison 7: We don’t gospel from golden thrones with furry gargoyle creatures nearby, as St. Mark apparently did.

Comparison 4: The Problem Gospeling Resolves

Our gospeling is focused on sin and forgiveness. Sin is the problem, Jesus’ death and forgiveness are the solution, end of story.

But if the story of Israel is our framing story we’ll discover a different problem and solution. To prove his point, McKnight goes way back, to the beginning.

In Genesis, Adam and Eve, are “eikons” (image-bearers) of God. They’re charged to rule under God. God gives them the reigns and they are to steward/rule as God’s representatives. But, we know how well that goes…

The common narrative about Eden is that Adam and Eve sinned, so they need forgiveness. For McKnight’s money, we’re “not just sinners, but usurpers in the garden” (138). Usurpers, we tried to storm God’s throne and do it our way.

That’s the story of the people of Israel from Genesis through the rest of the Old Testament. Leaders, judges, and kings all fail to live into their calling as “eikons” of God.

Until…Jesus. “Not only is Jesus Messiah, but Jesus over and over in the New Testament is the one true Eikon of God” (139).

And this great quote: “The messianic, lordly, and kingly confession of Jesus is not incidental to the Bible. It is the point of the Bible, and the gospel is the good news that Jesus is that Messiah, that Lord, and that King.” (141)

That lord, and that King, is the one who would fully and rightly be God’s eikon on earth. But it doesn’t stop there, God calls us, in Jesus, to fulfill the roles of ruling and forgiveness we failed to fulfill on our own.

Comparison 5: Empire

A popular argument, especially recently, is that the apostles’ were strongly anti-Empire (against Rome) in their message. McKnight isn’t convinced that this is the case.

To say “Jesus is Lord” is also to say that “Caesar is not Lord,” but I think there is a subtle nuance between that confession and direct anti-Imperialism.

Comparison 6: Talk about Jesus

In short: the apostles told the story of Jesus, we talk about how to be saved (144).

What do you make of McKnight’s comparisons? I think they’re pretty spot on. They offer an easy way to evaluate our own gospeling and the gospeling we hear from pulpits and lecterns (and blogs?).

Next week we’ll finish the book and find out how to go about “Creating a Gospel Culture.”

 

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Sep 03

The Gospel of Peter and a New Way of Reading

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This week we reach the penultimate chapter in The King Jesus Gospel–Ch. 8: The Gospel of Peter. The one big idea in this chapter: The apostles preached the gospel. They filled out the bare bones summary of 1 Corinthians 15 and depicted a living, breathing, dying,

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This week we reach the penultimate chapter in The King Jesus Gospel–Ch. 8: The Gospel of Peter.

The one big idea in this chapter:

The apostles preached the gospel. They filled out the bare bones summary of 1 Corinthians 15 and depicted a living, breathing, dying, resurrected, ascending Jesus who has been identified as Messiah and Lord over all–Jews and Gentiles alike.

Wrapped up in that big idea is an important note: With the resurrection of Jesus and the ourpouring of the Spirit at Pentecost, the apostles experienced a “hermeneutical revolution” (117).hermeneutic

Hermeneutical, think interpretation. The veil was pulled back from their eyes and they saw the story of Israel (the Old Testament/the Scriptures) in a whole new light.

It wasn’t so much that the apostles’ old interpretation (hermeneutic) was faulty, as it was incomplete. Now, they could see they whole picture and it was both stunning and life-changing.

Probably a little overwhelming, too.

Those two terms–Messiah and Lord, connected to Jesus–offer a new way to read the texts.

It’s kind of like reading John 1:1-18. What’s this “Word” John keeps mentioning? Then one day–someone tells you or it just clicks–you realize this “Word” is “the Son” is “Jesus” and you can never read John 1 the same way again.

It’s kind of like that, but more…

Read through the Old Testament sometime and you’ll follow the story of a people called by God and looking for leadership. Judges, Kings, prophets, all fall short, but point toward another who will come and restore Israel–the Messiah.

The way Peter gospels in Acts, it’s like he’s reading the Scriptures for the first time, he can’t go back to the way he read them before. It’s good news for Israel.

The second term–Lord–is significant for Israel and everyone else (looking at you, Gentiles).

Lord over all–all means all.

Everything, so nothing he’s not lord over.

This gospeling is good news even for people who don’t know the Old Testament as Scripture.

McKnight offers the example of Paul in Athens. Paul doesn’t try to explain the covenant between Israel and God. He doesn’t explain Leviticus, or talk about Torah, or even line up Jesus’ lineage with King David.

Nope, Paul doesn’t even mention the name Jesus in his impromptu homily: instead he talks in terms they can understand. He tells them about “the God who made the world and everything in it, who is Lord of heaven and earth” (Acts 17:24).

He adapts the gospel of Jesus to fit his audience, but the integrity of the gospel is still here.

This section is probably worth the price of admission: “True gospeling that conforms to the apostolic gospel leads directly to who Jesus is, whatever the gospeler has to say to get folks to move in that direction. Once there, the apostolic gospeling in the book of Acts summons the audience to respond.” (127)

Which made me wonder, how much of my gospeling has led directly to Jesus? How much of yours has?

That’s the deal with this whole gospeling thing, through all the variations of presentation (Paul, the Gospels, apostles, Peter), it’s still all about Jesus. End of story.

But it’s not the end of the story, because the goal of the gospel is response:

 “To believe means more than just mentally agreeing to some truth, even if that truth is that Jesus is Messiah and Lord over all. The entire sweep of the Story of Israel and the Story of Jesus ushers us into a world where God’s people rely on and trust in God, and such a trusting relationship generates a life of obedience, holiness, and love.” (127)

That response is about more than salvation (though that may be included in the story), it’s about a hermeneutical revolution in your life. You no longer interpret/see things the same way you did before. Things change because Jesus is Lord over all.

Next week we’ll finish up The King Jesus Gospel with “Gospeling Today.”

Will you add The King Jesus Gospel to your bookshelf? What book would you like to see on the blog next?

*Merriam-Webster online

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Aug 28

Did Jesus Preach the Gospel?

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We continue a read through “The King Jesus Gospel” by Scot McKnight. Today, ch. 7. Did Jesus preach about himself? Yes or no? What’s always the answer in Sunday school or bible study or church? You got it: Jesus. Even with the question for this

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We continue a read through “The King Jesus Gospel” by Scot McKnight. Today, ch. 7.

Did Jesus preach about himself? Yes or no?

What’s always the answer in Sunday school or bible study or church?

You got it: Jesus.

Even with the question for this chapter–Did Jesus preach about himself?–you could answer, Jesus, and come out ok.

More accurately, McKnight’s question in this chapter is: “Did Jesus preach himself a the completion of Israel’s Story in such a way that he was the saving story himself?” (92).

In other words, does Jesus see himself as the completion and culminating figure or reality in the Story of Israel?

Does Jesus preach about Jesus?

McKnight is confident that Jesus does.

The first element in the presentation is kingdom: “The king is Jesus, the citizens are those who follow Jesus and the land is the place where they will embody the kingdom of God.” (93).

Central to this kingdom idea is Jesus’ insistence that the kingdom of God is an event taking place in time and space, in history.

In this kingdom there is a new way to be in the world; good news is offered to the poor and oppressed, the captives are freed (Luke 4:18-19). Among other ideas, the central point: “Jesus declares he is at the center of the kingdom of God” (98).

It’s all about Jesus.

You can’t have the kingdom of God without him, you wouldn’t know what it was or where to find it or how to enter it.

One of the most interesting sections of the chapter was a look at what others thought about John the Baptist and Jesus, what John and Jesus thought of themselves, and what Jesus thought about John (and vice versa).

The section culminates in five points Jesus thought about Jesus:

  • “Jesus went to the Bible to define who he was and what his mission was.
  • Jesus believed he was completing scriptural passages.
  • Jesus predicted and embraced his death and resurrection.
  • Jesus therefore preached the gospel because he preached himself.
  • Jesus preached the gospel because he saw himself completing Israel’s Story” (104).

Don’t Forget the Old Testament

Jesus is described by others in terms of great Old Testament figures (Elijah, or a prophet), and he too sees his significance in line with those figures but further along that line.

He interprets Isaiah in Luke 4 and sees himself as the culmination of this vision, of the year of the Lord’s favor.

**Gottlieb, Christ preaching at Capernaum

**Gottlieb, Christ preaching at Capernaum

He waxes on about his death and resurrection to the disciples (whether they understand or not). And he saw all this as in accordance with the Scriptures (that is, the Old Testament, or “the Story of Israel”).

This section was especially helpful because it highlighted just how much Jesus sees himself in explicit connection to the story of Israel. There’s no way to disconnect the two.

You can’t make sense of Jesus without the story of Israel (at least not with any integrity) and the story of Israel finds the long expected one (the messiah) in Jesus.

McKnight drives the chapter home with three examples of Jesus explicitly teaching himself, not teaching himself, but preaching himself, you get the picture.

He offers up a way of life in the sermon on the mount, a vision of a community where those left out by the powers of this world are blessed in this new kingdom of God. And this “new” way of life isn’t new in a way that abolishes the old, but new in a way that fulfills the old (see Matt. 5:17-20).

He gathers 12 disciples around him. Yes, there were 12 tribes of Israel, yes this is a culmination, but notice McKnight’s slap-yourself-for-not-realizing-it point: Jesus isn’t one of those twelve. Sure he’s part of the group, but he’s the leader, the Messiah. If 12 signifies a future reality of a reunified Israel, in the eyes of Jesus and the Gospels, Jesus is the leader of that new people.

Finally, Jesus powerfully interprets his death in terms of Old Testament images:

1) the Son of Man from Daniel 7 (see Mark 9:31),
2) the lamb whose blood will protect the people (think Passover from Exodus).

Both are completed in Jesus and both are interpreted as complete in Jesus by the God-Man himself.

If you still don’t believe McKnight’s arc of the argument: read Luke 24. Jesus again interprets the events of the last few days (his crucifixion, death, and resurrection) in terms of the Scriptures (again, the Old Testament).

I didn’t expect to be intrigued much by this chapter. Based on McKnight’s argument to this point, I didn’t expect him to come out and say Jesus did not preach the gospel.

But it was the details, rather than the overall main point (which McKnight promised early in the chapter to repetitively drive home) that made the impact. I’ve tried to offer the chapter in rough outline form here, but it loses some of its gusto in the transfer.

Grab a copy of the book and dive into the details for yourself. I think you’ll be surprised at some of the different angles McKnight takes into viewing Jesus. It transformed some of my previously assumed knowledge and gave me a better ability to talk about the gospel in general.

Finally, two of my favorite lines from the chapter:

“This new question (Did Jesus preach himself? see above) shifts the entire focus from the benefits of salvation that we experience to the Person who himself is the good news” (92).

Mark 8:35–“To respond to Jesus was to respond to the gospel; to respond to the gospel was to respond to Jesus.” (111)


Did Jesus preach the gospel? Did he preach the gospel McKnight conveys? What do you think?

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