Once upon a time in Nashville, I wrapped up a series on the kingdom called "Invasion: A People, A City, A Movement," with a message on the church living the kingdom life missionally. There was a lot to pack in. The major textual thrusts were the Beatitudes, the Lord's Prayer, and Acts 2. I talked about living out the Great Commission by obeying the Great Commandment. I talked about the kingdom community running counter to culture by being typified by two things: Reconciliation (with God and with each other) and Exaltation (of Christ). I talked about racial reconciliation, forgiveness, spiritual values that run counter to worldly values (meekness, grieving with hope, turning the cheek, etc). I talked about a people passionate with the confession of Jesus as Lord conquering hell. I talked about eschatology: the gospel bearing fruit in the world, the kingdom conquering all other kingdoms, God being "all in all," Christ's resurrection being the firstfruits of ours, the work of Christ being the start of the "end times" like dawn is the start of the day, Christ dismissal of Satan in the wilderness, the paths being made straight, Christ setting people free from demonic possession, the kingdom being like a mustard seed that grows into a large plant, the kingdom being like leaven in dough, the kingdom filling all the world until the new heavens and new earth fill all in a sanctification not unlike the Spirit bearing fruit in our lives through personal sanctification.
Then I came home, checked my e-mail, and received a bombshell message from a very close friend.
Lies. Sin. Facades. Betrayals. Crimes.
All this gospel stuff can't just be something we talk about.
The gospel is for the real world, for real people. It conquers real strongholds, restores real brokenness. It carries the real weight of the real world.
This is why I was disappointed to once see a Christian musician I respect positively review a book by Marcus Borg on Jesus. Marcus Borg is an intelligent, engaging scholar. But his Jesus is dead. His Jesus only rose symbolically, or quote-unquote "spiritually." His Jesus is only as powerful as you believe him to be. Or something.
The Jesus of the gospel is really alive. His actual body came out of an actual grave. I need that. I cannot put hope in a symbolic resurrection, because I couldn't care less about a symbolic rescue. My flesh and my blood cry out for redemption, because my problems, my brokenness, my sins are real. A dead Jesus gives me nothing, even if he's written about eloquently and inspirationally.
We crave real resurrection. The weight of the world is equivalent to a heavy cross pressing on flayed shoulders. The gospel must account for that. Everything else is just pretty words that help nobody.