Thursday, November 27, 2008

The Demands of Jesus #3

A word about teaching and learning. The teaching and learning relationship is one of the primary ways by which change happens in the world, and it is one of the primary ways by which the kingdom of God "comes." Piper reminds us of this in his introduction to What Jesus Demands of the World. He notes that Jesus' final instructions to the disciples was that they should go teach people. Every Christian is in this same way sent to teach, but I fear it is a mission for which we are often ill-equipped.

And yet, the kingdom comes, invisibly, inexorably, through teaching. Teaching what? Well, the disciples spent time with Jesus, absorbed his message, and in time went about repeating it. The message was, essentially, Repent, for the kingdom of God is here.

But I feel compelled to note that that message seems profoundly in need of explanation. What does it mean? Why should anyone care? Why not just be a good person and leave it at that? Such questions are an essential part of teaching and learning about the kingdom. Clearly, then, teaching and learning follows from the proclamation of the kingdom as naturally as these questions do.

In the previous post in this series I quoted Piper's saying the great challenge he faced as a teacher (in writing What Jesus Demands), was in discerning "God's way of making impossible obedience possible."

Now check this out:
Jesus said this impossible goal happens through teaching. "Make disciples . . . teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you."There is of course more to it than that--like the atoning death of Jesus (Mark 10:45) and the work of the Holy Spirit (John 14:26) and prayer (Matt. 6:13). But in the end Jesus focused on teaching. I take this to mean that God has chosen to do the impossible through the teaching of all that Jesus commanded.
When Jesus sent out the twelve disciples on their own for the first time, they simply repeated the message that Jesus had been preaching. Repent. The kingdom of God is here. In that way they initiated the process by which, person by person, the Kingdom of God salvages lives, heals souls, and fills hearts with joyous gratitude. In the coming posts in this series we will take a closer look at that simple message and its implications, but next up, we will look at the first of the commands of Jesus in Piper's list. "You must be born again."

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