But one by one, men and women did believe it, believed Jesus was
God alive among them and for them.
Soon they would realize that He also lived in them.
To their great surprise they found themselves living in a world where God called all the shots---had the first word on everything; had the last word on everything.
That meant that everything, quite literally every thing, had to be re-centered, re-imagined, and re-thought.
They went at it with immense gusto.
They told stories of Jesus and arranged his teachings in memorable form.
They wrote letters.
They sang songs.
One of them wrote an extraordinary poem based on holy vision.
There was no apparent organization to any of this; it was all more or less spontaneous and, to the eye of the casual observer, haphazard.
Over the couse of about fifty years, these writings added up to what would later be compiled by the followers of Jesus and designated "The New Testament."
Three kinds of writing---eyewitness stories, personal letters and a visionary poem---make up the book.
Five stories, twenty-one letters, one poem.
In the course of this writing and reading, collecting and arranging, with no one apparently in charge, the early Christians, whose lives were being changed and shaped by what they were reading, arrived at the conviction that there was, in fact, someone in charge---God's Holy Spirit was behind and in it all.
In retrospect, they could see that it was not at all random or haphazard, that every word worked with every other word, and that all the spearate documents worked in intricate harmony.
There was nothing accidental in any of this, nothing merely circumstantial. They were bold to call what had been written, "God's Word," and trusted their lives to it.
They accepted its authority over their lives. Most of its readers since have been similarly convinced.
A striking feature in all this writing is that it was done in the street language of the day, the idiom of the playground and marketplace.
In the Greek-speaking world of that day, there were two levels of language: formal and informal.
Formal language was used to write philosophy and history, government decrees and epic poetry.
If someone were to sit down and consciously write for posterity, it would of course be written in this formal language with its learned vocabulary and precise diction.
But if the writing was routine---shopping lists, family letters, bills, and receipts---it was written in the common, informal idiom of everyday speech, street language.
And this is the language used throughout the New Testament.
Some people are taken aback by this, supposing that language dealing with a holy God and holy things should be elevated---stately and ceremonial.
But one good look at Jesus---his preference for down-to-earth stories and easy association with common people---gets rid of that supposition.
For Jesus is the descent of God to our lives, just as they are, not the ascent of our lives to God, hoping He might approve when He sees how hard we try.
And that's why the followers of Jesus in their witness and preaching, translating and teaching, have always done their best to get the Message---the "good news"---into the language of whatever streets they happen to be living on.
In order to understand the Message right, the language must be right---not a refined language that appeals to our aspirations after the best but a rough and earthy language that reveals God's presence and action where we least expect it, catching us when we're up to our elbows in the soiled ordinariness of our lives and God is the furthest thing from our minds.
This version of the New Testament in a contemporary idiom keeps the language of the Message current and fresh and understandable in the same language in which we do our shopping, talk with our friends, worry about world affairs, and teach our children their table manners.
The goal is not to render a word-for-word conversion of Greek into English, but rather to convert the tone, the rhythm, the events, the ideas, into the way we actually think and speak.
In the midst of doing this work, I realized that this is exactly what I've been doing all my vocational life.
For thirty-five years as a pastor I stood at the border between two languages, biblical Greek and everyday English, acting as a translator, providing the right phrases, getting the right words so that the men and women to whom I was pastor could find their way around and get along in this world where God has spoken so decisively and clearly in Jesus.
I did it from the pulpit and in the kitchen, in hospitals and restaurants, on parking lots and at picnics, always looking for an English way to make the biblical text relevant to the condiWens of the people.
---Eugene H. Peterson / "The Message"
What Cost Unity?
Note: One of the "talk subscribers" shared the following with me. It may seem like "strong meat"...and it probably is...however, I felt impressed to share it...hopefully it will give us all something to ponder...(?) It came to me in response to another talk on unity.
Endeavouring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace
We hear much said today about unity. Modern religion has organized church boards and councils to keep 'the unity' of the religious community. There are constant moves afoot to reconcile the differences between the Jews and the Catholics and the Protestants and bring all to Unity with each other. A great hoopla was raised over the portrayal of the Jews in the recent movie, The Passion of Christ. The Jews felt unjustly stigmatized. The Catholics were accused of anti-semitism. Various Protestant organizations took sides. While do-gooders stood on the sidelines and encourged everybody to get together and work out their differences!
When we consider Unity as the Word portrays it, we must look first at the body of Christ. Those who recognize the Body of Christ will recognize that God sets us in the body in our given positions as we are saved. Now the body isn't made like a jigsaw puzzle with one hand the Baptists and the other the Methodists and still another part the Lutherans. It's a ''fitly joined together" unit of saved men and women. There are certainly born again individuals affiliated with various denominations in the body, but the religious group as a whole isn't designated as part of the Body of Christ.
If we read Paul's great dissertation on the Body of Christ in I Corinthians 12, we find the meaning of Unity clearly described. Verse 4 says there are diversities of gifts, but the same Spirit. 5. And there are differences of administrations, but the same Lord. 6. And there are diversities of operations, but it is the same God which worketh all in all. Now many take this to mean differences in denominations and beliefs---especally the "operations" part, but reading on further clarifies Paul's meaning.
Verse 8 begins: For to one is given by the Spirit the word of wisdom; to another the word of knowledge by the same Spirit; 9. To another faith by the same Spirit; to another the gifts of healing by the same Spirit; 10. To another the working of miracles; to another prophecy; to another discerning of spirits; to another divers kinds of tongues; to another the interpretation of tongues: 11. But all these worketh that one and the selfsame Spirit...So we see that the differences of "administrations and operations" doesn't refer to a series of different church organizations but to the various tasks and gifts of the individual members of the body.
Apostles, prophets, teachers, miracle workers all have their responsibilities in the Church. And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ: (Ephesians 4: 11- 12). Why did he institute these different callings? We're told right here: to make the saints perfect, to reach out to sinners, to build and strengthen the People Christ died for.
Being Human, and subject to fleshly emotions, if we don't govern them carefully, we often begin to esteem one calling higher than another or feel that one calling is more important than the other. Then jealousy or fault finding develops. It's in this area that we must make special effort to keep the unity.
We're admonished to Let nothing be done through strife or vainglory; but in lowliness of mind letting each esteem the other better than themselves. (Philippians 2:3) Yes, even in the Body of Christ, these things can rear their ugly heads if we don't subdue the flesh. Paul knew that, and he took special effort to acknowledge it and rebuke it. We must not become petty and selfish, puffing ourselves up and placing ourselves in ascendency over our brothers and sisters. These are the things that disturb the Unity of the Church.
God didn't establish a multiplicity of 'christian' denominations. Men established those as they sorted through the scriptures and weeded out the ones with which they didn't agree or didn't want to comply. Thus all the various creeds were developed that separate denominational religious organizations today. We're not instructed to keep the unity with every organization that calls themselves 'christian,' but with members of The Church.
We cannot sort through Biblical teachings and find the ones we prefer and toss out the others. We can agree to disagree, but we can't set aside God's Word to maintain a false unity. Can we step off the narrow way in order to fellowship those traveling the broad one? When the narrow gate will only admit the blood washed righteous people of God shall we abandon it to accept the comradship of others?
Can two walk together, except they be agreed? (Amos 3:3) The answer to
that question is obvious!
How to have a Happy New Year!
Delight thyself also in the LORD: and he shall give thee the desires of thine heart. Commit thy way unto the LORD; trust also in him; and he shall bring it to pass. Psalms 37: 4-5
As we begin this new year, only one thing will bring us into the relationship with God that we desire. It is not living our lives as though God were a Big Cop standing over us with a billie club demanding obedience. It is not keeping our actions in line with what the church teaches or the preacher says to do. It is not conforming to the standards of a congregation. Or a parent. Or a spouse. It is not a constant concern for the dangers of Hell-fire or God's record book.
The only thing that will bring us into a relationship that is pleasing to God and a blessing to us is serving Him in Love and Obedience. We love Him because we realize the many blessings He bestows upon us daily. We love Him because of the Salvation He granted us. We desire to constantly serve Him in obedience because we DO love him.
Obedience engendered by force or fear can never please the Father, but obedience because of love thrills the heart of God. In a natural father that loving obedience creates a greater love and precipitates additional benefits bestowed on the child. Thus with the Father God, our loving obedience to His Precepts engenders a responding love and blessings toward us.
May we always delight ourselves in the Lord and His Word. This next year will then be filled with obedience and blessings!