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Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Urgency of Life & the Alternative

This past Sunday morning our church looked at Luke 16: 13-18. In this passage he speaks about his authority -- (1) His authority to expose our hearts & the sin of the culture; (2) His authoritative fulfillment of God's Law (The Old Testament); (3) His authority to interpret God's Word. But the heart of the passage is in verse 16b, where Jesus speaks of the urgency of getting into the kingdom and, thus, the urgency of the good news (the key to the kingdom).

Jesus' authority creates a sense of urgency. But why do I see such a lack of urgency all around me?

Last night I was thumbing through a book called Life After God by Douglas Coupland. While it was written in the mid-90s, Copeland's book is prophetic in its insightfulness regarding the postChristian world that most of Europe & Great Britain finds itself in and which the U.S. has shown signs of. Coupland's critically-acclaimed book is a sketch or vignette of a man who is coping with questions and disappointment (it also includes little drawings that the main character doodles while telling the story). In this book, Copeland deals with the matter of time/urgency in an insightful manner. Here he has just been introducing himself & his career/vocation-- He is disappointed:
I feel like the punch line to a joke I might have told you ten years ago. But you know: life just catches up on you. When you're young, you always feel that life hasn't yet begun -- that "life" is always scheduled to begin next week, next month, next year, after the holidays -- whenever. But then suddenly you're old and the scheduled life didn't arrive. (p. 147)
I think that description of the life "scheduled to begin next week" is spot on -- I often feel that myself. Don't you find yourself sensing this sometimes -- even if this scheduled life was only vaguely formulated...perhaps while brushing your teeth or after a good movie? We're often searching for God's will for our lives -- but we often do so to the neglect of the clear, urgent will before us: (1) Luke 16: Get into the Kingdom if you haven't trusted your life to Jesus; (2) If you have trusted your life to Jesus, he states at the end of Matthew's Gospel "All authority in heaven and earth belongs to me. Go therefore and make disciples" (Mt. 20:18-19a). Indeed, I've found that by urgently addressing God's evident, revealed will in Scripture, the more nebulous, what-career-or-place-am-I-supposed-to-be will starts becoming more clear.

Jesus was urgent and completed his mission in only 3 years. 3 years!! He's given me about 15 since I became a Christian. But after just 3 years, Jesus said to His Father during the week of his death: "I have brought you glory on earth by completing the work you gave me to do" (John 17:4).

For a lot of folks in our culture & society, when life passes them by and are subsequently left disappointed, they look for a sense of meaning. And when they do so they typically look backwards. Coupland's protagonist reflects back to his teenage years:
Ours was a life lived in paradise and thus it rendered any discussion of the transcendental pointless...Life was charmed but without politics or religion. It was the life of children of the children of pioneers -- life after God -- a life of earthly salvation on the edge of heaven. Perhaps this is the finest thing to which we may aspire, the life of peace, the blurring between dream life and real life -- and yet I find myself speaking these words with a sense of doubt. (p. 273)
Soren Kierkegaard famously asserted, "Life is lived forward but understood backwards." But now it seems many people, when not urged into the kingdom of God, seems pressed with this philosophy: "There is no life forward, all I can do is look backwards and salvage what remains."

When talking to friends or loved ones, have you ever grown frustrated when all they seem to do is dwell on the past? I know I have and still do. Perhaps we've never considered that they've experienced what Copeland describes -- a life scheduled for next week that never happened and, having experienced such disappointment in trying to live forward, being compelled to find hope somewhere in their past.

Perhaps it's possible, by radically depending on God and His grace, to start being urgent about how we live our own lives & interact with others. And by doing so perhaps God might use us to provide an example to such friends & family of a formerly listless life now moving with a purpose and a forward-ness that could only be divinely-inspired. There are people looking for an such an example, and they are often the same people who need to hear from you and I about God's Kingdom.

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