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All-things Restoration

The Message of Jesus contends for change.

Jesus challenged the status quo of His day, contending for change, and His early followers did the same. In contrast, Christendom largely seeks to preserve the status quo due to its hankering for power and its fear of change.

The Endgame

What is God’s endgame?

Paul summed it up in one sentence:

…that in the dispensation of the fullness of the times, He might gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven, and which are on earth—in Him.”

(Ephesians 1:10, italics added)

God’s Genesis-mandate (Genesis 1:26-28), His original purpose for creation (and humanity’s purpose within that plan), is fulfilled in Jesus.

Said another way, in restoring us to the Father, Jesus restored our identity as children of God and our destiny as custodians of all creation.

Yes, God’s endgame will only be fully realised in the age to come—inaugurated through Jesus’ Parousia, His coming. (John’s Revelation captures this sense of the redeemed New Humanity, celebrating God’s original purpose fulfilled in the New Human, Jesus.)

However, a measure of God’s endgame is gradually realised in increasing glory throughout this present age. As Isaiah stated in speaking of the Messiah’s reign, “of the increase of His government and peace there will be no end” (Isaiah 9:6, 7). In other words, every generation of Jesus followers is invited to contribute to the advancing Kingdom project (Matthew 16:18, 19).

A Fascinating Phrase

In Peter’s message at Solomon’s Portico, he made a fascinating statement. He mentioned Jesus’ Parousia (Acts 3:20) but spoke of the “restoration of all things” that would proceed His return (Acts 3:21).

For your reading pleasure, here is what Peter proclaimed:

Repent therefore and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, so that times of refreshing may come from the Presence of the Lord, and that He may send Jesus Christ, who was preached to you before, whom heaven must receive until the times of restoration of all things…”

(Acts 3:19-21, italics added)

The phrase “heaven must receive” implies that Jesus is ‘holding back’ until certain “things” are restored. His return is contingent on the restoration of all things.

While the Great Commission was certainly at the heart of what was implied in the phrase, the “restoration of all things”—Peter mentioned the Abrahamic Covenant and Israel’s role in blessing the nations of the earth (Acts 3:25 c. Matthew 28:18-20)—what other “things” need to be restored before Jesus’ return?

We’ll discuss what else it may have involved for the first century church in the Notes below, but let’s explore what it means for the mess we find ourselves in as the twenty-first century church.

The Darkest of Ages

As Peter stood in Solomon’s Portico, he could not have foreseen the tragic falling away that would occur a few hundred years later when Imperial Rome co-opted the apostolic, organic faith.

The corrupt man-made religious aberration formed through the marriage of state and church during the fourth to sixth centuries set the Kingdom project back for over a millennium … and so entangled God’s people in pagan practices and man-centred religious machinery that despite the disentangling process that started in the 1500s, Christendom is still largely entwined in the mess over 500 years later.

In other words, for God to “gather together in one all things in Christ”, Peter’s prophetic impetus of the “restoration of all things” took on far more meaning than what he personally may have had in mind in Acts 3. (Yes, later, the apostolic writers seem to sense a foreboding falling away from the organic, apostolic faith. For example, Paul’s warning in 1 Timothy 4:1-3 aptly captured the tragic slide into Imperial State Religion, which we’ll discuss in a moment.)

So, in this article, we’ll look at (1) how Imperial Rome co-opted the apostolic faith under Emperor Constantine and the emperors that followed, (2) how the disentangling process through the reformers over the last 500 years struggled through subsequent power battles and finally, (3) how we can respond as this generation responsible for Jesus’ Kingdom project.

Christendom—Not Followers of Christ

First, an important disclaimer.

The issue is Christendom, not followers of Jesus.

Given that Jesus neither started a new religion nor resuscitated an old one—in fact, He opposed religion in all its forms—Christendom is a useful term we’ll use to describe the man-made religion started in His Name.

And I think Christendom is an apt word. Made up of “Christen” and “dom”, it refers to the dogma-enforced Domain of the Christian Religion.

In contrast, the Kingdom of God (Jesus’ re-telling of the Genesis-mandate), made up of “King” and “dom”, refers to the Domain of King Jesus, an all-encompassing domain animated by unbounded love—first from God to us (John 3:16; 1 John 3:16) and then from us back to God and overflowing to all people (Matthew 22:37-40)—and governed by Jesus’ new love-defined morality (Matthew 5:17-20; 43-48; 7:12).

So, the issue is Christendom, not followers of Jesus.

We wrestle not against flesh and blood but against principalities and powers (Ephesians 6:12), which includes those demonic forces that animate religion and its many systemic dysfunctions and injustices, keeping its “insiders” bound and its “outsiders” oppressed. Our fight is not with people, but against the religious systems that hold us all back.

By looking critically at both the co-opted church under Rome (AD 300-1,500) and the factional church under the reformers (AD 1,500-2,000), we seek to become liberated followers of Jesus, free of man-made religion, able to partner more fully with Jesus in His Kingdom project for all creation.

And we acknowledge and applaud the many courageous followers of Jesus—both those who contended for change inside of Christendom over the last 2,000 years and those who explored the organic, apostolic faith outside Christendom.

The best way to honour those who contended for change in the past is to contend for righteous change in the present. We honour those who, challenging the inconsistencies they discerned, sought reform in their day by doing the same today.

We’re not disloyal to the heroes of the faith when we press out from what they’ve restored in the past. In fact, we honour Luther, Wesley and company by being loyal to God in our generation as they were in theirs.

Those brave reformers pressed on from “church as they knew it” to rediscover “church as God intends it”. Just as “David … served his own generation by the will of God” (Acts 13:36), so we must do.

It is our privilege and responsibility to stand on their shoulders and reach further than they did. Standing in their shadow and “holding the fort” is not honoring to them or God. It is our vested interests in what “was” that will keep us from discovering “what could be”. 

When we defend our positions, we stop exploring our horizons.

The Thriving Early Church

Though by no means perfect, the early church was organic, relational, missional and fluid rather than institutional, hierarchical, attractional and rigid—a Kingdom family rather than a religious institution (or a business enterprise).

Think about the impact those early followers of Jesus made.

Without any of the writings of the New Testament for at least 20 years (and without an official New Testament until hundreds of years later), their compassion and service of the poor and marginalised flooded first century society with love and good deeds. Backed up by Christlike character, they rattled the “powers that be”—society’s power brokers and gatekeepers whether political, religious or commercial (see Acts 16:16-24 and Acts 17:1-8 for two Biblical examples).

In Good Deeds, I wrote, “The early church was known for its outrageous generosity, heroic acts of service and good deeds. Early believers advocated for the poor and marginalised of society and found solutions to the chronic orphan problem in their society. They were also responsible for the widespread provision of care and hospitalisation of the sick and the needy. With compassion and grace, they heroically opposed social injustice and oppression—and wicked social ills such as infanticide.”

If we want to enjoy the power that the early church had, then we must rediscover what the early church was. To embrace our destiny, we must honour our legacy.

Some may criticise this looking back as nostalgia. However, we don’t look back sentimentally; we look back soberly knowing two things:

  1. The New Testament record provides only in seed form what Jesus envisioned of a prevailing ekklesia (Matthew 16:18,19). As Richard J. Neuhaus said so well in Freedom for Ministry, “Our restless discontent should not be over the distance between ourselves and the first century Church but over the distance between ourselves and the Kingdom of God to which the Church then and now is the witness”.
  2. The early church started losing its way sometime during the second century before falling apart early into the fourth century.
The Falling Away

So, what went wrong?

The following three factors contributed towards this monumental fall from grace.

Factor 1

The church lost most of its key servant leaders to a martyr’s death. All the first apostles, and most of their spiritual sons, paid the ultimate price for following Jesus. A dearth of apostolic leadership further exasperated the second factor.

Factor 2

Heresy was a disease the apostles had tenaciously kept in check; in their passing, the disease mutated into forms and cultic expressions that threatened the apostolic faith. Fearful, the church began to centralise and control what had been a free-flowing organic faith.

This was further compounded by the growing influence of Greek philosophy in Christian thought and the deepening antisemitism that distanced the church from its Hebraic roots. Where once Hebrew values had shaped the nature of leadership, community and worldview, Greek thinking reached for more abstract and institutional solutions. The church Jesus intended started to slide off its foundation.

Factor 3

After the Roman Emperor Constantine embraced the church for his own political benefit, the marrying of state and church was the final agent in confirming the church’s fall from those awesome early days of power.

Let’s now turn the spotlight on this third factor.

Imperial Faith Capture

Subject to the capricious and cruel whims of the Roman Emperors, followers of Jesus suffered bouts of persecution throughout the first three centuries. Aside from the countless believers that were martyred for their faith, many others were subject to discrimination, theft and torture.

Christianity was finally decriminalised at the end of Emperor Galerius’ rule in AD 311. And in AD 313, it was officially legalised under Emperor Constantine in the Edict of Milan—an edict that granted tolerance and protection to Christians. Understandably, this was received with relief and joy by followers of Jesus.

At the Edict of Milan, Constantine announced he had converted to Christianity, claiming to the beneficiary of a vision from God before his victory in the Battle of the Milvian Bridge (AD 312); against Maxentius, a challenger to his throne. Allegedly, in the vision, he saw a cross of light and the words, “In this sign, conquer”. From this time forward, Christendom was rebranded as an Imperial Religion backed by the political power and military might of Rome.

Whether his conversion was genuine or not, Constantine certainly had political reasons for his claim. By converting to Christianity, he strengthened his power and rule, winning over a fast-growing segment of the population that was admired for their integrity and charity. (If his conversion was sincere, what followed can only be attributed to a chronic failure to understand God’s heart and the Kingdom of God, and the corrupting nature of absolute power.)

The result—through Constantine and subsequent emperors—was the unholy union of state and church. By AD 380, the Edict of Thessalonica made Christianity the state religion (more specifically, it made the Catholicism of Nicene Christians the state religion of the Roman Empire). While this edict ended several competing heresies, it also outlawed any organic expressions of church outside institutional Christendom.

In short, the church was co-opted by the power brokers and gatekeepers.

Christendom, as an Imperial Religion powered by the political and military might of Rome, would misrepresent Jesus and His Gospel of the Kingdom for the next two millennia.

Before & After Constantine

It’s hard to put into words just what a monumental about-turn this was for the once organic, apostolic faith. Perhaps this comparison may help capture it:

  • Before Constantine, the Name of Jesus inspired believers to heroically love and serve, and to courageously refuse power and resist tyranny.

The church opposed the “powers that be”.

  • After Constantine, the Name of Jesus sanctioned Rome’s power brokers and gatekeepers to conquer and kill, to get power and retain power by any means—through threat, force and violence.

The church became the “powers that be”.

As Stanley Hauerwas observed, “Prior to Constantine, it took exceptional courage to be a Christian. After Constantine, it takes exceptional courage not to be counted as a Christian” (Matthew, Brazos, 2006; 62).

In tragic irony, the church became the Empire, and the Kingdom of God was, for all intents and purposes, usurped by the religion of Christendom.

Moreover, to appease Rome’s old religions and cults, the emperors merged Christianity with paganism, cementing the wholesale falling away the apostles had warned about (1 Timothy 4:1-3).

What Was Lost?

This imperial faith capture did four things:

  1. It institutionalised the faith, creating an imperial religion that was corrupted by absolute power and wealth.
  2. It reduced an incarnational faith based on a self-giving love that embraced all people into an institutional religion based on dogma (disembodied abstractions influenced by Greek philosophy) that created a class structure—separating the clergy from the laity, and the insiders from the outsiders.
  3. It altered the essential DNA of “church” (ekklesia) from organic, relational, missional and fluid to institutional, hierarchical, attractional and rigid.
  4. It opened the door to a whole swathe of pagan-influenced atrocities such as the worship of Mary, the idolisation of the saints and the like.

While we could devote an entire article to each point, it’s sufficient to note that the result of this falling away was a monstrous aberration—a man-made religion that had nothing in common with Jesus and His Gospel of the Kingdom.

Moreover, long after the Roman Empire itself collapsed, new imperial iterations of the Empire continued the domination narrative endorsed (anointed) by Christendom—from colonising empires like the Dutch, Spanish, Portuguese, French and British to national empires like the Russian, German and American (and South Africa’s apartheid). Most iterations were driven explicitly by a religious-political ideology; others could count on Christendom’s endorsement and material support: its blessing on the successes and its absolution for the failures.

Reformation Struggles

In 1517, the German priest Martin Luther opposed the formidable Roman Catholic Church with his Ninety-Five theses (a protest against the sale of indulgences), and the Protestant Reformation was born.

Over the next 500 hundred years, followers of Jesus kept protesting, as they sought to rediscover the Gospel and untangle themselves from the morass of Christendom. Through each wave of reformation, a restored truth was revived, and progress was made—and today, we enjoy the liberties hard won on the back of those who’ve gone before us.

However, progress was not without its challenges … and its fair share of atrocities.

Power Battles

In order to face and defy the corrupt all-seeing, all-controlling papacy, Martin Luther and co. needed a higher court of appeal, a higher source of authority, from which to confront and break the entrenched power of the Roman Catholic Church.

The Bible was that source.

Aided by Gutenberg’s printing press, the Scriptures were wrenched out of the vice-like grip of the ruling clergy and made available to the common person. However, the means necessary to confront Rome became the means that defined the Protestant Reformation’s very identity. The means became the End with a capital E.

Appropriate reverence for the Bible turned into veneration and ultimately deification. The higher source of authority morphed into the highest source of authority. And in order to cut off every last tentacle from Rome, the Bible was viewed as the ultimate source of authority on all matters, not merely matters of faith. (No, we don’t find the boiling point of water, the make-up of a cell or the birth of a star in the Bible—that’s not its purpose.)

Not only did this later set up the completely needless war between faith and science; in a sense, the Protestant Reformation pledged their loyalty to the Bible on a par with God Himself … and lost the ability to separate their devotion for God from their devotion to the Bible. Jesus’ words to the religious leaders of His day addressed the problem at the heart of Protestantism:

You examine the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is those very Scriptures that testify about Me.”

(John 5:39, italics added)

Now, aside from the small matter of idolatry, there was another problem with making the Bible the ultimate authority on all matters: it still required interpretation.

A human agency was again needed to make the final call, and so the protesting continued forming multiple denominations whose interpretations became the sole authority for their members. There’s some truth in the claim that Christendom settled for a new variant of the papacy: myriad smaller manifestations of it. While not corrupt and controlling like the Imperial Church of the Dark Ages, the same susceptibility to systemic corruption and religious control remained.

Furthermore, since our interpretations then form our dogmatic position, and our denominational identity, any challenge to it is deemed as an existential threat. To fend off the barbarians at the gate (or the scientists in the lab or other versions of Christendom), we not only ascribe non-biblical terms like inerrancy and infallibility to the Bible, but we often project those same overstatements onto OUR interpretations of the Bible, with the lines between the two easily blurred.

In short, Christendom—now in multiple iterations (denominations)—remains largely institutional and through its dogma (denominational interpretations), it fiercely holds on to what power, wealth and influence it retains.

Harsh Lessons

We learn two harsh lessons from the past 500 years. Here’s the first…

Each new wave of reformation eventually became entrenched in the new truth restored to them.

The initial pioneering spirit that forged a new future against the odds slowly petered out and settled for the new truth revived. And around this reclaimed revelation, another iteration of Christendom crystallised, complete with religious power structures of control and dogma that again separated the clergy from the laity and the insiders from the outsiders. What may have started as a fresh and vital movement pregnant with hope sadly morphed into a rigid monument founded on a revised statement of faith—and one that now regarded anything new as an existential threat.

For example, Martin Luther’s bold defiance of the Roman Catholic Church led to the establishment of the Lutheran Church on the restored truth of “justification by faith”.

Yet Lutherans persecuted the Anabaptists who restored adult “water baptism”—challenging infant baptism, the means through which both the Roman Catholic Church and Lutheran Church laid claim to their citizens via the state church.

In 1531, just fourteen years after his brave challenge of the Roman Catholic Church, Martin Luther publicly affirmed the 1529 edict to put Anabaptists to death. Throughout Europe, Anabaptists were burned, drowned and beheaded for their new-wave claims.

And herein lies the second lesson.

Each new wave of reformation was persecuted by the previous wave.

Entrenched in their new version of Christendom, with their identity and status invested in their custom iteration, the now-old wave resisted any new wave of reformation. Defending their vested interests, they condemned those who challenged the status quo. The new wave’s heroic reformer was the old wave’s blaspheming heretic.

When the line between heretic and reformer depended on which side of a reformational wave one rode and orthodoxy was often decided by who won the moment’s argument (often by force), it is wise to use both terms—orthodoxy and heresy—with great caution. The sad truth is, the terms reveal as much about religious power battles as they do about theology.

So, the implications of these two lessons? For one, we need to continue questioning the inconsistencies we discern in our day, knowing how easy it is to get stuck along the journey.

And for two, we can expect backlash from those with vested interests in the current versions of Christendom.

One more thing.

We can take heart from a corollary lesson. After a new wave has endured the persecution of the previous wave, it tends to peter out over time but the truth it revived is often (not always) assimilated into mainstream Christianity. The Charismatic Renewal among Catholic believers is but one example. In other words, each new wave tends to benefit (or at least influence) the whole—even if the whole is typically slow to get on board. This tendency has increased with the advent of the internet and the resulting global village.

Back to the Future

We’re on a journey, we’re going back to the future.

Think of all the Biblical words that start with the prefix “re”—meaning, “again” or “to go back”.

Revive, restore, redeem, repent, regenerate, renew, refresh, refine, reconcile, rebuild, repair and resurrect.

They all refer to God taking us and His creation back to something original.

That’s the goal. We’re going back to Jesus and His vision of the Gospel of the Kingdom—His re-envisioning of the Genesis-mandate.

Yes, we get many clues from the early church, but we take our cues from Jesus alone.

[Quick sidebar: Remember, the early church provides only in seed form that which Jesus envisioned of a prevailing ekklesia (Matthew 16:18, 19). They got the party started, but they didn’t get past the appetisers.]

In Jesus, and Him alone, we see the Father’s glory, “full of grace and truth” (John 1:14).

Who Do You Think You Are?

So, let’s first answer a common criticism.

When we question a long-standing church interpretation or tradition, it’s not long before someone says something like, “Who do you think you are to arrogantly question hundreds of years of church doctrine?”

The question is answered by another question: Whose church are we questioning?

We’re questioning the church man built, not the church Jesus envisioned.

More accurately, we humbly review the dogma of man-made church in the hopes of becoming the church Jesus envisioned.

And we’re in good company. We only have the liberty to question our iteration of Christendom today because brave reformers challenged the version of their day. We honour those who have gone before us by standing on their shoulders, reaching higher, as we seek “for the city which has foundations, whose builder and maker is God” (Hebrews 11:10).

As long as Man’s Church remains far from the reality we see of Jesus’ Church in the Scriptures, it our duty to review Christendom’s dogma

And by “review”, I mean rethink … and repent and realign where necessary.

What Needs Restoring?

Now, let’s discuss what needs our attention. You may recall the four things that changed when Imperial Rome captured the faith:

  1. It institutionalised the faith, creating an imperial religion that was corrupted by absolute power and wealth.
  2. It reduced an incarnational faith based on a self-giving love that embraced all people into an institutional religion based on dogma (disembodied abstractions influenced by Greek philosophy) that created a class structure—separating the clergy  from the laity, and the insiders from the outsiders.
  3. It altered the essential DNA of “church” (ekklesia) from organic, relational, missional and fluid to institutional, hierarchical, attractional and rigid.
  4. It opened the door to a whole swathe of pagan-influenced atrocities such as the worship of Mary, the idolisation of the saints, and the like.

Let’s discuss them in reverse order.

#4 Paganism

This speaks of the compromise that Imperial Church made to accommodate Rome’s old religions and cults, merging Christianity with paganism.

The reformation over the last 500 years has largely addressed the paganism of Rome’s version of Christendom. Still, if we discern inconsistencies in this regard, we should repent and take appropriate action.

#3 Church

This speaks of rediscovering the organic, relational, missional and fluid DNA of the early church.

Much thought has been given to this in many church circles over the last few decades, yet much of Christendom’s institutional and hierarchical rigidity remains.

And it’s important to note that institutional systemic change does not in itself bring renewed life. Only the Father can create new life. Rearranging the furniture, so to speak, doesn’t change the heart. However, institutional structure and systems can certainly hinder the life the Father seeks to create.

Our quest is for a renewed heart (DNA) and while this requires a radical and ruthless re-examining of our ecclesiology, we need far more than mere innovation.

While I refer the reader to our Kingdom Ecclesiology series for more on this point, I think the next two points are more pressing.

#2 Dogma

This speaks of reviewing our interpretations of Scripture in light of Jesus and His love-defined morality.

This is where much of the present-day conflict and schisms in Christendom are happening. As followers of Jesus rethink their inherited interpretations, those anxious to maintain the status quo react in fear and condemnation.

Yes, I think there’s the danger of throwing the baby out with the bathwater, especially if we’re reacting against past disappointment, hurt or abuse. In this case, I think personal healing and restoration is needed first before contending for church reform. Otherwise, our efforts are refracted through the prism of our pain.

[Quick sidebar: If you have suffered through a bad church experience or were wounded at the hands of abusive church leadership, I pray you’re able to find the safety of two or three mature followers of Jesus. In their love and counsel, take the time you need to rediscover your love for God and your confidence in Him.]

In contrast to reacting against Christendom, responding to Jesus and His vision for the ekklesia launches us into a new, fresh and exciting adventure, ready for the challenges that will come.

#1 Power

This speaks of Christendom’s love and misuse of power and wealth.

For over 1,700 years, Christendom has used power and wealth to control its adherents and to condemn its opponents. Even after the much-needed separation of church and state, Christendom retained much of its status and influence. However, instead of using this cachet to serve society, advocating for the poor and the marginalised, it instead upheld society’s systemic injustices—opposing women’s rights and the rights of minorities, for instance—and had the gall to appoint itself as society’s moral police. To add insult to injury, the fall of so many of Christendom’s high-profile leaders exposed the hypocrisy, and the political and prejudiced shenanigans of so many others laid bare the bigotry.

Over the last 50 years, there’s been significant push back against Christendom and over the last few decades, we’ve lost any moral high ground we may have enjoyed. One way to appreciate society’s level of suspicion and hatred of Christendom is to ask yourself this question: 

How would you feel and respond if Sharia Law was declared tomorrow, and the Qur’an was forced on you and those you loved?

Honestly take a moment to think about it.

The repressed anger and hate dolled out against Christendom stems from centuries of living under the thumb of a religion that’s revelled in its power and privilege.

In my opinion, we’re presently experiencing a much-needed correction.

In the words of Peter, “judgement begins at the house of God” (1 Peter 4:17). Perhaps we’re enduring God’s chastening—His loving discipline (Hebrews 12:5-13). Or maybe we’re simply reaping what we sowed (Galatians 6:7). Either way, we need to understand why society at large so hates Christendom and we need to humble ourselves, repent and embrace the new default position of compassionate love and outrageous service—advocating for the poor and marginalised.

Personally, I think we’re in for a long and painful correction. However, the length of it depends on our response.

Begin Again

To a curious Pharisee named Nicodemus, Jesus said, “unless one is born again, he cannot see the Kingdom of God” (John 3:3).

This wasn’t about salvation per se. And unlike how we incorrectly turn “born again” into a noun to name an experience or an adjective to describe a ‘real Christian’, Jesus used this metaphor of childbirth to call this religious leader, who ought to have known better (John 3:10), to begin again.

Like Nicodemus, unless we have regular begin again moments—to review and rethink what we know, to re-examine our preconceived ideas and to confront our inherited assumptions—we’ll never fully grasp the Kingdom of God. Or we may lose our grip on the treasure we once cherished.

To begin again requires the discipline of regular seasons of intentional reflection where we create the space to allow the Father to prune anything that competes for our allegiance to Him or our affection for Him (John 15:1-3).

And there’s really no better word for the process than repentance (Greek: metanoia), as it captures exactly the ongoing rethinking and relearning necessary to follow Jesus more honestly and holistically—free from religion and messy dogma. Indeed, the Biblical response to the Gospel of the Kingdom is repentance (Mark 1:14, 15), a life-long response to the loving Lordship of Jesus that involves more than merely turning from sin, but also defecting from the religious systems that hold us back.

So, Where Do You Start?

Where do you even begin the “begin again” process?

The best place to start is to settle your understanding of God’s nature and God’s purpose for humanity.

All our theology—our dogma, our values and our practices—needs to be reconciled with these two foundational themes.

Without a fresh revelation of God’s nature (the Father-heart of God revealed in Jesus) and God’s purpose (the Genesis-mandate re-imagined in the Gospel of the Kingdom), we’ll have no sure foundation on which to begin again (rethink, relearn and rebuild).

Moreover, getting to grips with God’s nature and God’s purpose has the additional core benefit of resolving the identity question deep in the human heart. (How? Our identity is derived from His nature. Since God is essentially my Father, I am essentially a child of God. That’s my identity. My sublime privilege; my greatest honour.)

Without a fresh revelation of these two foundational themes, the unresolved identity problem will drive and distort the begin-again process. Without this sure foundation, I’ll end up making the entire process all about me. And that makes for a small, sad life indeed.

In contrast, when the begin-again process is built upon the sure foundation of God’s loving nature and His ever-increasing Kingdom, we embark on a thrilling adventure, as we respond to the ongoing revelation of Jesus and His Kingdom. A journey of discovery, one free of past grievances and personal handicaps. Empowered by God’s Spirit, we walk humbly in the paths of restoration that others have worn before us: brave prophets and heroic reformers, and yes, the Prophet-Reformer who grew up in backwater Judea, died just outside Jerusalem and now reigns as the King of Glory—Jesus, in whom the Father gathers together in one all things.


What Next?

If you haven’t yet explored the Message of Jesus series, I recommend starting there first, as it provides the platform for all we cover on this website.

Otherwise, I recommend the below articles next.

Generous Orthodoxy, Kingdom Perspectives, A Better Future Now

Generous Orthodoxy

The Message of Jesus governs how we relate to other believers.

We have far more in common with other believers than what we don’t. And what we have in common has far greater substance than what doesn’t.

Unbounded Love, Kingdom Perspectives, A Better Future Now

Unbounded Love

The Message of Jesus governs how we relate to all people.

Jesus smashed the bounds of family, communal and national love, modelling a boundless love that includes everyone: our neighbour, the stranger and our enemy.


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