The Gospel, the Kingdom and the Church

My friend and boss, Bob Heppe, recently returned from a three week trip to India where he taught in various settings. In this post, he shares an outline of what he taught (and what he passionately teaches to anyone else who will listen):

Bob
Bob Heppe in his office with his grandson, Micah

The corporate and cosmic scope of the gospel: King Jesus is not merely saving us out of the world, but saving a people to be sent as his renewing and transforming agents of this fallen and broken world. We have a gospel that reaches “far as the curse is found”.

The missional purpose of election: The pattern of God’s dealing with man from Abraham through Israel, David and the church, is to call a particular people for his universal purpose. We are not elected instead of the world, but for the world.

The church as the sign, instrument and foretaste of the Kingdom of God: We are called into the blessings of that final shalom of the consummated kingdom, to experience and embody it in advance in communities of grace, love, embrace acceptance, unity, and joy and celebration.

In light of this glorious and exhilarating purpose of God for the world and the church, we then began to address the other side of the story, that there are forces of sin and darkness still very much at work both from within and from outside of us. Given the intense opposition of the world, the flesh and the devil, we began considering:

  • The necessity of lifestyles of repentance. We spent considerable time considering the subtle self-serving, self-reliant depths of the flesh and of the need to practice repentance: the constant reorienting of our lives around Christ and His kingdom, and regular rejection of self-dependence by returning to Christ to find grace through faith-dependence on Him.
  • The necessity of seeking grace for lifestyles of peacemaking, reconciliation, and forgiveness and love. To paraphrase Leslie Newbigin, a gospel of cosmic and corporate shalom must be communicated in and by communities which are embodying (“if only in foretaste”) that reality.
  • The utter appropriateness of lifestyles of joy, celebration, and acceptance and embrace of one another. Again, we saw the need of repenting of self and seeking grace to see and relate to others in light of the great love, welcome and embrace we have known in Christ (Col 3:12ff; Rom 14:17, 15:7).
  • Finally, we considered our prayer lives in light of the gospel and the present state of the world. Reflecting upon the parable of the persistent widow in Luke 18 (with the help of David Wells’ “Prayer: Rebelling Against the Status Quo”), we saw that we must seek to cultivate a mindset that will not accept the suffering, injustice, oppression, idolatry, sin, selfishness, materialism, brokenness, sorrow, misery hopelessness, bondage, apathy, compromise, division, sorrow, … that we should not accept this world in its fallenness as natural, normal or inevitable.

Passionate, persistent intercessory kingdom prayer dies when God’s people become insensitive or reconciled to the fallen world’s status quo. We saw we must nurture a proper faith perspective about our Father in heaven. He is not like the unjust judge. His passion for reversing the effects of the fall is evidenced by the cross where His own Son bore the full force of its evil. Our God and Father wants to rid this world of sin and its consequences.

Jesus’ question at the close of the parable is, essentially, “Do we really believe it?” Lord, I believe.  But there is so much contrary evidence. Help my unbelief!

Shalom,

Bob Heppe (rheppe@whm.org)

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Chris Hatch

Seeking to love God and neighbor