In my current CrossRoad series, I am trying to take a step back and be more “explicit” about the core biblical concepts that undergird my teaching. For the sake of clarity, five key themes that have been increasingly louder and more recurring in my sermons over the past couple years are the following:
- The gospel is about Jesus becoming King and establishing his reign on earth by way of the cross. The gospel of personal forgiveness and Heaven when we die is a truncated gospel.
- The church is the visible Kingdom of Jesus on earth called to be an alternative society of resident aliens living amidst the kingdoms of the world (cf. Rom. 12:2).
- To preserve our witness to the nations (of which the United States is just one among many), the church needs to be separate from the state. “Give to Caesar what is Caesar’s, and to God what is God’s.”
- The Constitution of the Kingdom Society is the cross-shaped or “cruciform” ethics of Jesus (e.g., Sermon on the Mount). This ethic often challenges conventional wisdom and common sense. Still, we must obey our Lord’s commands (Matt 28:20).
- The cross was not just the way Jesus died, but the pattern for how Christ and His followers are to live. It’s not just a CrossEvent we celebrate but a CrossRoad we are to called to walk down (Luke 9:23; Phil 2:5-11).
Each of these five are massively important and deserve teasing out one by one (which we can’t do now, though Three Taverns is designed for deeper dives like that). If one accepts these premises which I contend are well-grounded in the New Testament (and held by the vast majority of New Testament scholars today), they lead naturally to two bold critiques that can at times ruffle feathers.
First, this gospel is about allegiance to a different kind of Kingdom and therefore critiques all other political allegiances. Thus, this Kingdom calls us to rethink the nature of our citizenship as Americans. (On this, see especially Salvation by Allegiance Alone by Matthew Bates.)
Second, this gospel of the Kingdom offers a critique of popular gospels many of us were raised with that limits the cross to personal redemption and life in Heaven. This is a truncated gospel that doesn’t do justice to the full apostolic gospel of Jesus, Paul and the rest of the New Testament, and the apostolic teaching of the early church. (On this, see especially Surprised by Hope by N. T. Wright; The King Jesus Gospel by Scot Mcknight; The Divine Conspiracy by Dallas Willard, and many more!)
What do you think of these themes and concepts? Which of them do you find most challenging? Most exciting?