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On Being In The World

This week I listened online to a message from some friends of mine I hadn’t seen for a while.

They were launching into a series on the ten plagues. Seriously. Nothing like a challenge...

Anyway, it got me thinking more about the book of Exodus.

The story of Israel being freed from Egypt by the power of God is a dynamic messianic metaphor. The title Exodus is from the Latin meaning simply the way out. For Christians, the deliverance of the Hebrews from centuries of oppression and subjugation is a beautiful pre-reflection of how Jesus shows us the way out of our personal bondages and shatters the powers of this age for our collective freedom.

He shows us the exit.

In the outpouring of the Spirit in the birth of the Church, Peter delivers a message to the stunned crowd of religious pilgrims that may make us a bit uncomfortable today…especially how he pleaded with his audience. I love Peterson’s paraphrase of Acts 2:40:

He went on in this vein for a long time, urging them over and over, “Get out while you can; get out of this sick and stupid culture!” ACTS 2:40 THE MESSAGE BIBLE

He shows them the exit. And therein is the challenge.

Followers of Jesus walk the tightrope that churches often describe as being “in the world, but not of it.” But here’s a spin on that: in the passage that idea is taken from (John 17), Jesus begins with the idea of “not of the world” before “in the world”. Because of our spiritual rebirth and relationship via his work on the cross, Jesus says that just as he is not of this world, neither are we (he later includes all of us in his prayer, not just the disciples). Before that, he even prayed expressly that they would not be taken out of the world, only protected from malevolent spiritual forces.

But here’s the spin.

He finishes that section with: Send them into the world in the same way he was sent. In other words, don’t cloister. Don’t hide away. Rather, we have a clarified mission to express the heart of the Father and his purposes for the redemption of humanity, to lay down our rights, our personal agendas, and submit ourselves to the objectives of God.

As leaders, if we don’t help our followers understand that distinction, we’ll find ourselves in fortresses rather than forces for grace and healing in this world. Christians can circle the wagons faster than anybody.

Not being of this world, but in it will, of course, create tension for us. But isn’t tension the primary way muscles are formed? “Faith muscles” operate likewise. Without this distinction, we’ll simply reinforce the consumeristic “me-first” culture that we’ve escaped from—a “sick and stupid culture”—that’s antithetical to the Kingdom ethos.

Dave Workman | Elemental Churches

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