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Heavenly thinking now on earth

What’s wrong with the world today? The Materialist says “nothing.” What is, is. 

Few fully hold this view. We all sense something is wrong.

The Humanist says humans are the problem and solution. We have not advanced enough. Has our growth in knowledge solved the basic problems of the world to date? 

The Spiritualist replies that is the wrong kind of knowledge. What we think we know is wrong. As Mark Twain said, “It ain’t what you don’t know that gets you into trouble. It’s what you know for sure that just ain’t so.” We are deceived by the physical world, and we need to free our minds from the suffering of this world.

The Christian answer? Sin. “Sin” refers to many things and many words are used for the concept. We often think of it as wrong behaviour. Then the answer becomes moral living. This reminds me of the Bob Newhart comedy skit of a counselor who just keeps replying to a person stating their issues and struggles. Newhart’s answer is just “stop it.” But we cannot just stop it. We are enslaved. We cannot free ourselves.

Repent

Jesus’ opening address to us was, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near” (Matt. 4:12, cf. Mark 1:15). That is more than just “stop it.”

We usually think of “repent” as changing our actions. We understand it like conversion, “Turn around, reform.” Originally “repent” connotes a change of heart, regret. Synonyms are “apologize, grieve.” These are secondary.

The Gospel writers use a Greek word meaning “change your mind.” Jesus calls us to change our way of thinking.

Jewish cultural answers

The Jewish culture had different groups convincing people how to think and live. The Pharisees were the Keep the Law people. Be moral and pure. Do not associate with anyone who lives differently. This will bring God’s return to a holy people. 

The Sadducees were the Worship people. Offer sacrifices in the Temple. Keep your devotion true. Get along in the world and politics, but keep sacrificing. God will respond to our prayers and worship.

The Essenes were the Withdrawal people. We will build our own communities apart from others and wait for God to act and the system to collapse. Be patient and wait upon the Lord. He will come soon.

The Revolutionaries were Action people. Now is the time to act. Do not cooperate with evil. Use whatever power you have to fight.

Our cultural options

Canadian Conservatives, U.S. Republicans and Fundamentalists call for law and order, individual responsibility, morality. NDP, Democrats and Liberals look to community action to reform and develop society. Libertarians yell about loss of freedom. In frustration others call for revolt. Protest, obstruct, fight, destroy. Bring down this government.

Heavenly thinking

To all of this Jesus says, “Repent,” change the way you think. Taking care only of yourself with your power – that is the first temptation. Testing and manipulating God through your worship – the second temptation. Bowing down to human power – the third temptation. Repent. Listen to God’s Word. Trust, don’t test, God. Serve God by heaven’s ways.

Look at what Jesus did and taught, inviting others to join in. Reach out to the sick and suffering. Suffer with and for others. Bring light into the darkness, not by power but by presence, by coming near. Jesus joins us in our temptations, shows us a new way to see God and calls us to follow him in his mission. 

See those blinded by darkness and bring light. We see the sick and offer healing. We see those outside our borders and invite them in. We see those paralyzed by fear or failure and offer purpose and possibilities. We see those tormented by demons of mind and body and proclaim deliverance.

Mind and actions

Heaven’s way is: peace, not power; mercy, not might; service, not self.

God’s Spirit is here now on earth. “People do not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.” Listen to God through his word and Spirit. Change your mind and your actions.

“Repent, for the Kingdom of heaven has come near.”  

Author

  • Dr. Thomas Wolthuis is a CRC pastor serving as the English pastor of the Chinese Church of Iowa City. He has been a campus minister, institute president, professor, pastor, and church planter. His Biblical Studies podcasts are at www.geneva-ui.org.

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