Monthly Archives: June 2012

 

Jun

30

2012

Trevin Wax|3:17 am CT

We Interrupt This Program…

For the past four years, I have taken a break from blogging during the month of July. I have found that this time away has been spiritually and mentally refreshing.

This year, I’ve enlisted more than a dozen talented bloggers and writers to contribute posts and book reviews. I’ve already read through all the contributions, and I have scheduled them to be released one day at a time during the month of July. The posts are great, and I look forward to seeing the response they generate.

Here’s a sneak peek at what’s coming up in July:

  • 10 Tips on Solving Mysterious Bible Passages from Sherlock Holmes
  • Preventing Heresy in Small Groups
  • What Does Gospel-Centered Leadership Look Like?
  • The Secret Life of the Cross-Cultural Missionary
  • How to Help Bereaved Parents in Your Church

That’s just scratching the surface. As you can see, Kingdom People is in good hands for the month of July. My hope is that you won’t even miss me! Seriously, I believe you’ll be encouraged and challenged by the guest contributors, and I encourage you to add these bloggers to your feedreader. They are doing good work.

On August 1, Lord willing, I will resume writing daily here at Kingdom People. Until then, I pray you grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be the glory both now and to the day of eternity.

 
 

Jun

29

2012

 
 

Jun

29

2012

Trevin Wax|2:44 am CT

Trevin’s Seven

Links for your weekend reading:

1. Kindle Deal of the Day: Mile Marker 825 by Jason Mirikitani

On January 15, 2002, this man’s car flipped 5 times, his wife died, & his skull cracked open… but he was rescued… Join Jason Mirikitani on his miraculous real-life journey that is both heart-wrenching and heart-warming… as he re-learned faith in a God that was present when He seemed most absent, hope in a God when He seemed most unreliable, and love for a God that seemed to leave him in the dark.

2. Serving Communion to Former Cannibals

3. Did Mark Fumble His Opening Quotation?

4. PCUSA Membership Dips Below 2 Million

5. Five Principles of Church Website Design

6. Jonah and the Mission of God: A Closer Look

7. Who Was Edmund Burke the Man?

 
 

Jun

28

2012

Trevin Wax|3:25 am CT

From Word-Faith to the Church Fathers: A Conversation with Brian Zahnd

A few weeks ago, I reviewed a book by Brian Zahnd - Beauty Will Save the World: Rediscovering the Allure and Mystery of ChristianitySome pastor friends quickly connected me to Brian, and in our subsequent conversations, I discovered how interesting his theological pilgrimage has been. One friend said Brian used to preach like Joel Osteen but now sounds more like Dietrich Bonhoeffer. I invited Brian to the blog to talk about his journey and how it has affected his congregation.

Trevin Wax: Brian, you’ve had an interesting theological journey in ministry – from Word of Faith type teaching to a celebration of Christianity’s core teachings throughout history. First, tell us about your ministry at the outset - what you were about as a preacher of God’s Word and the vision you had for your local congregation.

Brian Zahnd: I grew up in a Southern Baptist church in the -60s and -70s but was most influenced by the Jesus Movement. I experienced a rather dramatic conversion when I was 15, and within a couple of years, I was leading a coffeehouse ministry; it was primarily a Christian music venue with an emphasis on evangelism. By the time I was 22, the coffeehouse ministry had become a full-fledged church (Word of Life Church in St. Joseph, Missouri).

From my earliest days as a teenage Christian leader, my passion was to call people into a life of following Jesus. That passion has remained consistent over the years. Because the Jesus Movement was closely associated with the charismatic movement, our church took on many of the aspects of charismatic Christianity.

By the late -90s, our church had grown to several thousand, and my primary emphasis in preaching could be described as “faith and victory.” Though I think I can honestly say I eschewed the more egregious forms of “prosperity teaching,” I was certainly identified with the Word of Faith movement. The common thread from the Jesus Movement to the Word of Faith movement (whether I was being influenced by Keith Green or Lester Sumrall) was a deep desire to bring people into a vibrant and authentic Christian experience.

Trevin Wax: What initiated your movement away from Word of Faith teaching to something more in line with historic Christian orthodoxy? 

Brian Zahnd: Eventually I just found it too thin. It simply didn’t have enough to say. Despite its alleged emphasis on “the Word,” the text actually used in the Word of Faith movement could be reduced to a pamphlet; it’s a highly selective reading of Scripture. It also became apparent that Word of Faith teaching lacked any serious theological reflection.

Disillusioned with an anti-intellectual, paper-thin, contemporary Christianity, I felt a need to discover the historic faith. Almost in desperation, I went searching for my spiritual heritage—like an orphan in search of his family. Not knowing where else to start, I began by reading Augustine (Confessions and The City of God). Later I read The Spirit of Early Christian Thought by Bruce Wilken, and without trying to sound overly dramatic, it changed my life.

Eventually, I purchased the 38-volume set of The Early Church Fathers and began to explore the theology of Athanasius, Gregory of Nyssa, Maximus the Confessor, etc. Now there was no going back. I had emerged from the tiny closet of contemporary American Christianity into the vast cathedral of the Great Tradition.

Trevin Wax: How did that journey begin to affect your preaching and teaching? That’s quite a shift.

Brian Zahnd: Quite a shift, indeed! (Although it didn’t happen all at once.)

In August of 2004, I announced I was packing my bags from the charismatic movement. By “packing my bags,” I meant that I was taking certain things with me—for example, a belief that the miraculous is part of normative Christianity and should be expected. But I was moving beyond the sensationalism, the shallowness, the celebrity that characterized what I was now calling “easy-cheesy-cotton-candy Christianity.”

Trevin Wax: How did your congregation respond? 

Brian Zahnd: There’s no one answer. Initially, not much happened, but as time went by, some members just couldn’t move on with us, so they left. Later, when I began to back away from the politicized faith of the religious right, more members left. Eventually, we lost more than a thousand people.

Of course, this is painful for a pastor, but I understand and bear no animosity. If a pastor has the courage to make significant changes in his preaching for the sake of theological integrity, he has to be willing to endure the pain of misunderstanding and rejection. I accept that. And besides, I’ve been so encouraged by those who have remained and by those who have joined in recent years who are so enthusiastic about the direction and emphasis of Word of Life.

I tell people all the time that I’ve never been more excited about being a Christian than I am now. I’ve always understood the Christian life as a journey, and the journey continues.

Trevin Wax: Explain how this shift affected your move away from a politicized faith. You mentioned it momentarily, but I see in your book that this aspect has been especially formative for you in your leadership. What are the dangers of a politicized faith? And does moving away from that lead us into quietism?

Brian Zahnd: During the first few years of my “big shift,” I was reading widely on the kingdom of God (George Ladd, Russell Moore, Dallas Willard, N.T. Wright, Stanley Hauerwas, etc.). As I came to understand the kingdom of God as an alternative society formed around Christ, I began to reject the church’s acquiescence with political partisanship, which is what I really mean by a “politicized faith.”

Christianity is an intensely political faith and as such can never be compatible with quietism. The church should be a prophetic witness within the body politic—the church is to embody the politics of Jesus. But when the church settles for cheap partisanship, it forfeits its prophetic voice. Once the religious right became the de facto religious wing of the Republican Party, it ceased to be prophetic. To the Left, it was a partisan enemy, and to the Right, it was a partisan tool—but it was prophetic to neither.

Unfortunately, in our polarized partisan culture, if I pull away from a carte blanche endorsement of the Right, it is perceived as an endorsement of the Left—which is not the case at all! For example, as I allow my politics to be informed by Christ, I try to be consistently pro life—so I’m opposed to abortion and the death penalty. As you can see, that doesn’t make for a nice alignment with either the Left or the Right. It’s not political engagement that I’m opposed to but partisan allegiance. Ultimately, political parties are interested in power, but the church is called to transcend the politics of power and embody the politics of love set forth in the Sermon on the Mount.

Trevin Wax: You write about the cruciform nature of beauty. How does the cross influence our understanding of the world and our role in it?

Brian Zahnd: I talk about beauty being an interpretive lens for Christianity. The Greek philosophers spoke of the prime virtues of the true, the good, and the beautiful. Later, the church fathers identified these with attributes of God. But during late modernity, these prime virtues have been under pressure—modern man is skeptical about absolute claims pertaining to truth, goodness, and beauty.

In defending truth, the church has created Christian apologetics, and in defending the good, the church has created Christian ethics. But by and large, we have ignored the virtue of beauty, relegating it to the demoted status of mere adornment. Yet the recovery of beauty as a way of interpreting and expressing the Christian faith may be just what we need at this time.

Along with Christian apologetics and ethics, we need some Christian aesthetics. In a culture that is suspicious of our truth claims and less than impressed with our claim to a superior ethic, beauty may be a fresh way to communicate our message. Beauty has a way of sneaking past defenses.

But for us to adopt a presence of beauty, we need a form that we can look to as a guide. Whether it’s a painting or a poem, a sculpture or a song, it’s the form that gives a thing its inherent beauty.

So what is the form of Christian beauty? I think it has to be the cruciform—Christ upon the cross, arms outstretched in offered embrace, forgiving the sins of the world. What I’m suggesting is that the body of Christ should be in the world as the beauty of the cruciform. What we say, what we do, what we demonstrate should be in some way an expression of cruciform beauty.

We should ask ourselves, does this stance, this position, this project, this action, this attitude look like Jesus upon the cross? If not, maybe we should rethink it. This would be a helpful step in getting rid of some of the ugly ways we react to what we perceive as wrong with the world.

Trevin Wax: What would you say has been the most revolutionary insight you’ve come to since you started this journey?

Brian Zahnd: Wow, that’s a great question! The revolutionary insight that’s been central to my theological journey is a deeper understanding of what the kingdom of God actually is.

I remember telling my church eight years ago that seeing the kingdom of God has given me “new eyes.” Reading the Bible with “kingdom eyes” made Scripture brand new to me. I came to realize that the kingdom of God was virtually the sole topic of Jesus’ teaching ministry. The gospel of the kingdom is what the apostles were announcing in the Book of Acts. And even though Paul doesn’t use the term “kingdom of God” often in his epistles, I came to understand that what Jesus tends to call the kingdom of God, Paul tends to call salvation, but they’re talking about the same thing!

Back in 2006, I worked on a single question for several months: What is salvation? I finally concluded the best answer is this: Salvation is the kingdom of God. Our personal experience with the kingdom of God (including forgiveness) is our personal experience of salvation, but the kingdom of God is much bigger than our personal experience of it.

The problem we have today is that the term “kingdom of God” is archaic and obscured under layers of religious veneer. “Kingdoms” went out with the Middle Ages, and we tend to think of the “kingdom of God/heaven” as privatized Christianity experienced in our personal spiritual lives.

But Jesus was announcing that the government of God was at long last being established in the world through what He was doing. The apostolic gospel was a proclamation that Jesus is now the world’s true King; in light of this, we need to rethink our lives and begin to live under the administration of Christ.

This kingdom paradigm revolutionized my theology—soteriology, eschatology, ecclesiology, and political theology all had to be reworked under the rubric of the kingdom of God. So today when I make the seminal Christian confession “Jesus is Lord,” I’m not just expressing something about my personal spiritual life; I’m also making a revolutionary political statement. And that’s a game-changer!

 
 

Jun

28

2012

Trevin Wax|2:31 am CT

Worth a Look 6.28.12

Kindle Deal of the Day: Sermons by John Broadus. $0.99.

One of the founders of Southern Seminary, and the author of a textbook on preaching that is still in print today.

The Early Jobs of 24 Famous Writers:

24. Harper Lee, author of one of the great American novels and winner of the 1961 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction, had worked as a reservation clerk at Eastern Airlines for years when she received a note from friends: “You have one year off from your job to write whatever you please. Merry Christmas.” By the next year, she’d penned To Kill a Mockingbird.

What Does it Mean for an Elder to Be “Able to Teach?”

The one qualification for eldership that stands out from the rest is the ability to teach. And herein lies the debate—what does it mean for an elder be “able to teach”? Well, it depends upon whom you ask.

Considering (and Surviving) Unhealthy Christian Organizations:

The organization has to be willing to listen to its constructive critics. If no one can say to the leader, “there are issues,” well, then, there are issues. Big issues. Healthy organizations do not listen to every cynic (and there are many), but they do listen to discerning critics.

Tim Keller - The Priority of Character:

All the causes of either visible or pending failure stem from a failure to cultivate the inner life. Look at the list of the causes of fruitlessness. They are the results of failing to know ourselves, failing to believe the gospel, and forgetting the truth of God’s word. Thus, we must cultivate the work of the inner life.

 
 

Jun

27

2012

Trevin Wax|3:41 am CT

Don’t Waste Your Beach Vacation

Last week, I interviewed Steve Dewitt about his book Eyes Wide Open: Enjoying God in Everything.

With his permission, I am posting a section of his book titled “Meeting God at the Edge of Infinity and Why I Like Walking Ocean Beaches.” Since summer is here and vacation season is upon us, I thought it would be a good reminder for us to see through the beauty of nature to our beautiful Creator.

Meeting God at the Edge of Infinity

The beach is a great place to meet with God.

I didn’t know this for a long time. I didn’t see an ocean until I was nineteen. Over the years, I have sought opportunities to get away and to walk the beach. I am writing this from Southwest Florida, where the beaches afford a special opportunity: the ocean sunset.

These are special times for me. The drama of a sunset says so much to my soul. First of all, as the sun begins its descent the beach bums and sunbathers have long gone. It’s only the serious theologians who are on the beach at sunset. I refer to us as “theologians” because, whether we realize it or not, we are all going to enjoy a theological experience.

Of course, the remnants of the day of play are all around: a sandcastle here, a forgotten sandal there, notes written in the sand to lovers and politicians. All of them are destined for the oceanic eraser known as high tide. If any of us stopped and thought for a moment, we would realize that there is theology here as well. All of life’s pursuits, whether great or small, are like these sand monuments: destined to crumble and be forgotten. However, I don’t go to beaches for the sand.

I go to beaches for the ocean. Specifically, for the opportunity to stare into infinity. (Before you seek to correct me, I realize that oceans aren’t infinite, but they look like it from the beach.) Life provides few opportunities to do this. Maybe your life is like mine – a swirl of priorities that are always pressing, always begging for my attention. I am constantly staring at finite things: finite problems, finite food, finite laundry, finite people – including myself in the mirror. My life and my thoughts are so frustratingly finite.

Another way to say it is that my thoughts are too small. My world is too small. Can I dare say it? – My view of God is too small. When the infinite is small, the finite gets big. And that is the problem: I hate living with finitude. My problems seem overwhelming and unfixable. My relationships are unsatisfying. My everything is too anything but what I want it to be. I hate it.

So what do I do? I go to an ocean beach at sunset. I stare into infinity, and something happens in my heart. The overwhelming finitude within me shrinks. Why? I’m not sure, but I think it has something to do with rays of light from millions of miles of away arching through the sky in shades of purple and pink. Waves sent from somewhere on a kamikaze mission to crash at my feet. A large and brilliant globe sinking into the ocean like it has decided to just give up.

Theologians gather at the shore, most of them with cameras. Infinity makes for great pictures. The walkers stop. The lovers pause. For a few moments, everybody stares at infinity. An observer would think we are watching to see what will happen. But we know what will happen – the same thing that has happened the same way for thousands of years. Yet, when it happens, we still applaud.

We need infinity. Not that we can understand it. But only with it does life make sense. That’s why I like walking ocean beaches. Because for me, the infinity of the horizon is a glimpse of what the God who made it is like. Breathtaking. Beautiful. Big. REALLY big.

Lift up your eyes on high and see:
who created these?
He who brings out their host by number,
calling them all by name,
by the greatness of his might,
and because he is strong in power
not one is missing.
Isaiah 40:26 

- Steve Dewitt, from Eyes Wide Open: Enjoying God in Everything

 
 

Jun

27

2012

Trevin Wax|2:34 am CT

Worth a Look 6.27.12

Kindle Deal of the Day: The American Dream:A Short History of an Idea that Shaped a Nation by Jim Cullen. $1.99.

“The American Dream” is one of the most familiar and resonant phrases in our national lexicon, so familiar that we seldom pause to ask its origin, its history, or what it actually means. In this fascinating short history, Jim Cullen explores the meaning of the American Dream, or rather the several American Dreams that have both reflected and shaped American identity from the Pilgrims to the present.

Teachers are the Tongues of the Church:

Teachers may be few, but they hold a great deal of sway over the actual outcome of discipleship in the church.  Teachers are the tongues, rudders, bits, and sparks of the church.  We need then to be diligent not only to start classes, but to train teachers.

What “Mainline” Does and Doesn’t Mean:

Now we’re left wondering what a makes a denomination “mainline.” So, to figure out more precisely what it means to be a mainline Protestant, we’ll have to figure out what “mainline” itself means. And that’s a trickier proposition because we have several mistaken ideas about the term.

Why Evangelicals Can’t Write:

The liturgical churches foster a lot of schlock and kitsch of their own; but they are also communities that are capable of fostering and nurturing great writers and great writing.  So far, we Evangelicals have not.  In fact, one could make a case that we positively discourage “literary” writing as being of questionable spiritual value. I am just crazy enough to want to change that state of affairs.

8 Most Dangerous Leadership Traits:

There are some leadership traits which a leader can never delegate away. If the leader can’t work through them, in my opinion, his or her leadership will be crippled. With these traits, the best the leader has to offer will never fully materialize. These leadership traits will eventually wreck a leader’s success.

Meet Talbot’s New Dean:

In May, Biola’s Board of Trustees approved longtime Talbot professor and respected New Testament scholar Clinton E. Arnold to take the reins from Dennis Dirks as dean of Talbot. Here are six things you should know about him as he steps into the new role.

 
 

Jun

26

2012

Trevin Wax|3:01 am CT

“The Idea of Evangelism Makes Me Uncomfortable”

I often meet Christians who are uncomfortable with the idea of evangelism. Whenever I dig down to the root of the discomfort, I encounter issues related to the nature of truth, what it means to follow Jesus, and the role of worship. Here’s a fictional example of how this kind of conversation usually goes…

Christian: I know we’re supposed to tell people about Jesus, but I don’t like the idea of pressing someone to come to my way of thinking. When I talk to people of other faiths, I don’t want to come across looking like I think my religion is better than theirs.

Evangelist: But even when you don’t try to persuade someone to become a Christian, you still think your religion is better, don’t you?

Christian: How is that?

Evangelist: The very fact that you’re a Christian means you must think Christianity is superior to other religions. If you don’t think Christianity is better than Buddhism in any way, then why are you a Christian? And the reverse is true too. If you’re talking to a Buddhist, for example, surely they would think Buddhism to be superior. If you don’t think your religion is best, why not convert to whatever religion is best? You should always be kind and civil, but make no mistake… Both of you think you’re right and both of you think the other is wrong.

Christian: So it’s okay to believe Christianity is superior?

Evangelist: There’s a difference between believing your religion is superior and having a superior attitude.

Christian: The minute you think your faith is better than someone else’s, you start down the path of having a superior attitude.

Evangelist: Sometimes. But what’s the alternative?

Christian: What if we said no religion is superior? What if we said all religions are on equal footing?

Evangelist: Believing no religion is better than another is itself a belief. You don’t lose the attitude of superiority by saying no religion is superior. You get even more reason to feel superior. Now you’re standing over against all the religions of the world, saying none is better than another.

Christian: I guess when it comes down to it, there’s no way around it. I do think Christianity is better. But evangelism still doesn’t sit well with me.

Evangelist: That’s because you’re thinking of Christianity as if it’s a preference. Like having a favorite color or something. Trying to push your favorite color on someone else would make anyone uncomfortable. But at the end of the day, we don’t believe the gospel because it’s helpful. Or because it’s prettier. Or because it’s our upbringing. We believe the gospel because it’s true. Not just a preference, but true. Truth about the way the world works.

Christian: I still think we look bad when we tell people they should become Christians.

Evangelist: Then what do we do with the Jesus’ final instructions? “Go and make disciples of all nations.” What do we do with Jesus’ prediction that the world would hate those who follow Him? What do we do with Jesus saying His disciples would be fishers of men?

Christian: But it seems so arrogant to proselytize.

Evangelist: We don’t proselytize. We evangelize. Proselytism is about getting someone to change from one religion to another. Evangelism is proclaiming the evangel – the gospel. It’s an announcement about the way the world is. Then we call people to bring their lives in line with that reality.

Christian: But it still seems arrogant.

Evangelist: Frankly, I think it’s more arrogant to be against evangelism. Whoever says we should just keep our faith to ourselves and not evangelize – they’re really saying we ought to follow their instructions and not King Jesus. That is the height of arrogance, if you ask me.

Christian: So I guess we ought to just grit our teeth and do evangelism because Jesus said so.

Evangelist: No, not at all. You see, failure to evangelize is a worship problem. The New Testament picture of evangelism is not that we share Jesus with gritted teeth. It’s a picture of lips and hearts overflowing with worship. Whenever you are completely taken with something or someone, you can’t help but talk about it. Love can’t stop talking about the beloved. Fix the worship problem, and evangelism starts coming naturally. So remember, we evangelize because the gospel is true and eternity hangs in the balance. But most importantly, we evangelize because we love Jesus and want others to know the joy of loving Jesus too.

 
 

Jun

26

2012

Trevin Wax|2:11 am CT

Worth a Look 6.26.12

Kindle Deal of the Day: A Way with Words by Christin Ditchfield. $2.99.

Women have a way with words. A woman’s strength, influence, and ability to change the world for better—in every season and in every relationship—lies in the words she speaks each day. But with that God-given power comes the need to use it wisely, and this book provides both biblical and practical guidance to that end.

How We Die in America: 1900 vs. 2010

Here are the top 10 causes of death in the U.S. in 1900 compared to 2010, based on data from the New England Journal of Medicine…

Rick Warren – 7 Ways to Reduce Your Stress Level in Ministry:

Jesus dedicated his whole life to pleasing God—not himself or others. He realized that pleasing God would always be the right move. You can’t please everyone, so Jesus focused on pleasing his Heavenly Father instead.

David Platt – “The Sinner’s Prayer and the SBC”

Any cautions I have expressed with a “sinner’s prayer” have absolutely nothing directly to do with the doctrine of election, and I definitively don’t believe that certain people “actually have no chance for life in Christ.” Instead, my comments about the “sinner’s prayer” have been deeply motivated by a concern for authentic conversion and regenerate church membership—doctrines which many Calvinists and non-Calvinists, as well as many Christians in between, would rightly value.

John Piper, Same-Sex Marriage, and the Media:

I’m seeing quite a lot of Facebook discussion on the article “Key Minnesota pastors opt out of marriage fight” about John Piper “opting out” of the discussion on same-sex marriage. And I’ve seen a quick rush to judgment against Piper based on this article.

 
 

Jun

25

2012

Trevin Wax|3:41 am CT

Subversive Kingdom: A Conversation with Ed Stetzer

I like the adjective “subversive” when describing our identity as followers of Christ. We’re not subversive in the political sense that seeks to undermine and overthrow an earthly government. Yet we are deeply subversive in the spiritual sense. We belong to the King of kings. We deliberately subvert the powers and principalities of this world as we exalt Jesus with our actions.

This truth led me to write Holy Subversion: Allegiance to Christ in an Age of Rivals (Crossway, 2010). It is also a truth on full display in Ed Stetzer’s most recent book, Subversive Kingdom: Living as Agents of Gospel Transformation (B&H, 2012). I asked Ed to answer a few questions about the kingdom of God and how it shapes our identity as Christ’s followers.

Trevin Wax: What are some ways Christians commonly misunderstand the nature of God’s kingdom? Why is it important that we get this right?

Ed Stetzer: It seems that for some, the kingdom of God is a new theological playground where many new ideas are being developed. For others, kingdom of God teaching is suspect – liberals talk about that. Well, they may be right, liberals did talk about the kingdom (often wrongly), but you can’t talk about Jesus and not talk about the kingdom. The Gospels show Him talking about it 80 times.

As a new believer, I was taught that all that “kingdom stuff” was for the next age (or the age after the next one, or something like that). Well, the reality is that the kingdom is here, now, and we need a biblically driven idea of what it is, how we are a part of it, and why we serve in it.

Trevin Wax: You use the phrase “rebelling against the rebellion” as a way of laying out our posture as citizens of God’s kingdom. How does this phrase help us understand our identity?

Ed Stetzer: Many Christians don’t see that the world is in rebellion against its legitimate King. Now, it is an illegitimate and illegal rebellion.

So, we live in a rebellious world, but we are not of it. Colossians 1:13 tell us that we have been rescued from the domain of darkness and transferred into the kingdom of God. So, we live in a rebellious world, but we are not part of the rebellion. We bow before the real King and declare subversively, “He is Lord.” We are the rebellion against the rebellion.

Trevin Wax: I love how you take us to the Sermon on the Mount, where we get a vision for what a kingdom life looks like. How does the Sermon change the way we relate to others?

Ed Stetzer: Just yesterday, I met with our Pastoral Apprentice Team to start planning our way through the Sermon on the Mount. We sketched out the Beatitudes and already were starting to see how our kingdom ethics shape how we relate to the world around us.

The Sermon on the Mount is the kingdom’s ethical guide. It describes how kingdom citizens live.

The ethical teachings of Jesus point to how God always saves a people and puts them on display – in this case, more through our actions than our customs, as in the Old Testament.

For example, the seemingly random admonition to not take oaths is pretty amazing. Some take it to mean that you should not swear in a courtroom (and for the record, I don’t – I “affirm” rather than “swear”). But the point of the whole passage is missed if we focus on oaths.

The point is that citizens of the kingdom are so different, so radically honest, that they always tell the truth. They don’t need to “cross their hearts,” raise their hand, or place their hand on the Bible. They are (and everyone should see) uncommonly honest because they have chosen to live their new life in Christ as those radically changed by the gospel.

Trevin Wax: How is the church’s mission connected to God’s mission to bring Himself glory?

Ed Stetzer: God has always been concerned with His glory. He created us to give Him praise.

I get that that does not sound good. It sounds like God needs our affirmation. But that is only because we think of God in human terms. No human should want the praise of everyone. And that is the point. God is not like us. He is rightfully worthy of all our praise.

As such, God uses us to proclaim His name so that men and women might hear, repent, and be born again so they may join in His praise.

Trevin Wax: Who is the book geared toward?

Ed Stetzer: This is a book geared toward regular laypeople. Pastors will find it encouraging and I think helpful, but it is for their church. There is also a small group curriculum (with optional videos) if small groups want to start the study together.