Sunday, 15 July 2007

IFES World Assembly: Unique entry

Luke 1-2, Peter Kuzmič

Peter started with some preliminary comments about preaching the word after the model of the incarnation of Christ. We come to a holy text - inspired Word of God. The ministry of this word doesn't take place in a vacuum. God didn't bring the word to us from a safe distance a long way away. There is a continuous 2-way journey between the test and the context. If we ignore the world we actually betray the word - subculture does not communicate the word. But if we ignore the word like our liberal friends do, you've nothing to bring to the world. It's a transformation message. Here (as God's people) we represent the world under the word. We return to our contexts and the perpetual quesetions of how to be faithful to the word and relevant to the world. The written word is not an end in itself, but leads us to the Word Christ. Jesus didn't just take up a megaphone on a platform somewhere above the earth to shout down, "Repent!" He took up human flesh. Spoke our language and walked our roads.

1. Unique announcement (1.26-38)
The incarnation was not as we'd have arranged it. A despised town, a peasant girl. Peter commented on Mary - how she is the recipient of grace, not the source of it, and how she is devoted, obedient, Scripturally well-informed and humble. In v.33 we get the announcement of Jesus' master-thought: the Kingdom of God is coming. And note this is not just something personal and private: Mary's song involves social and ethical revolution.

In thinking about the kingdom, and this announcement, Peter warned us of being too private in our mentality about the coming King. Don't buy into the end-time industry, whether Hal Lindsay or Tim La Haye - or any other aspect! It serves as an evangelical substitute for astrology. Go back to the Scriptures - because of the gospel we can trust the coming King. Trust to him the details. He is Alpha and Omega, the first and last. The final word in human history is his. The great commission is rooted in this: in Jesus' person and absolute power. Russia doesn't have the final word, as some predicted. Nor does China. Nor does North Korea. Nor Washington. The final word in human history belongs to Christ! (There is a hilarious amount of applause at this conference - but this is one of the points I actually felt like applauding! Our King is coming and he has the final word.)

2. The Revolutionary hymn (1.46-56)
There are three revolutions here:
- moral revolution - pride put to death
- social revolution - the mighty humbled, an end to social labels
- economic revolution - the hungry rich (cf. the early church)
The announcement of a great reversal. Not only eschatological.

Note in vv.46-49 Mary's personal testimony - 5 times she says me / my - what an evangelical! But she doesn't stop there - she goes social (my note - as she's quoting / referencing psalms, this is a thoroughly Biblical view of what God's kingdom will be like inaugurated by the Messiah she bears). Materialism and individualism, which we're inclined to the West, can be poisonous for the Christian faith - we need to know we aren't gods! It is a personal gospel because it addresses us as persons and calls us to metanoia. It is a social gospel because it's the gospel of the Kingdom.

Peter noted the difference between God's kingdom revolution and secular revolutions. Secular revolutions rejoice in revenge over the rich. God's revolution is grace and covenant. Memory and mercy. Victory but not revenge. Justice but not self-righteous triumphalism. Cf. Ephesians 2 - presented with two peoples, Jesus didn't kill the enemy but killed the emnity! On the cross he is the king of peace. In Christ, the "Other" doesn't belong to the enemy but to the King.

Lastly Peter noted how the hymn of the angels is programmatic: there will be peace on earth in proportion to the glory given to God.

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