These are the four topics expounded upon at Dwell London, a powerful gathering for church-planters and potential CP’s throughout the country of England. After an incredibly intense day of understanding the overall religious culture through immediate immersion, this second day was more focused on the local church and its specific needs in the cultural context of western Europe.
This Present (Hope)
“Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that you will abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” (Rom. 15:13)
How have you seen hope expressed in the local church?
Outside of vision casting, the idea of hope from the pulpit is most often related to eternal glory with Christ. While this is not a bad perspective, it is one which is sadly incomplete. Because the concept of progressive sanctification is little referenced in the church, the hope of future glory tends to override the beauty of present sanctification.
Steve Timmis, regional director of Acts29 in Europe, began to touch on this by stating, “our perspective of hope has been reduced to spiritual anorexia”. The question is: why? The reasoning for this relates to an inaccurate and incomplete view of the overall narrative of scripture among the rising generation of church leaders.
Most evangelicals would ascribe to the Creation (Gen. 1-2), Fall (Gen. 3-11), Redemption (Gen. 12-Rev. 20), and Consummation (Rev. 21-22) narrative of the Bible, but fail to incorporate this into their theology, express this in mission, or teach this through spiritual formation. As Steve continued to express his perspective, the predominant theme he kept coming back to was Genesis 12:1-3. It says:
“Now the LORD said to Abram, "Go forth from your country, And from your relatives And from your father's house, To the land which I will show you; And I will make you a great nation, And I will bless you, And make your name great; And so you shall be a blessing; And I will bless those who bless you, And the one who curses you I will curse. And in you all the families of the earth will be blessed.”
The impact of this passage is critical to the Gospel. After the Fall and the protoevangelium in 3:15, there is no infusion of hope. God promises, yet for almost 1,000 years there is no solution to the problem of evil. Biblical scholars say Gen. 4:1 points to Eve anticipating the savior to be Cain, but that went horribly wrong. And so in between Genesis chapters 4 through 11 all we see is failure after failure over a period spanning more than a millennium. Cain’s murder of his brother (ch.3), the wickedness of man (ch.6), the Flood (chs.7-9), Noah’s sin (ch.9), and the Tower of Babel (ch.11).
And then God speaks.
God chooses a wicked idolater who has no concept of the true God, and speaks a promise of blessing over him. But it was not just localized to Abraham, God does something unbelievable. He promises a heathen that He will make his nation SO BIG and SO EXPANSIVE that every single tribe in the history of the world will be blessed by his descendants! This is an unparalleled covenant, unlike any other in scripture! God makes a universal, global promise of salvation to someone who doesn’t even know Him as the true God!
And so the redemption of humanity began.
Another millennium later, God came down from heaven to fulfill His promise to bless the world through His ultimate Agent of blessing: Jesus—Living…Dying…Resurrecting, Jesus died a substitutionary death so that we could live a sanctified life and experience a glorified eternity. He solved the problem of sin in Genesis 3, but He also did something else.
Jesus blessed us.
This concept of blessing in ancient near eastern (ANE) Israel literally means to expand, or grow. To bless was to speak an expansion of growth and potential over someone. A curse is the opposite: a limiting of potential and restriction.
Naturally, God’s blessing of Creation was turned into the cursing of the Fall with the invasion of sin and depravity. We were destined and blessed to fill the earth, subdue it, and reflect an innocent and perfect expression of the holiness and love of God on an undefiled earth. But sin cannot allow us to do that, and thus we are limited by it constraints and consequences.
So Jesus’ solution to the problem of sin reintroduced blessing back into the world. We are now capable, in a limited and imperfect way, to reflect the holiness and love of God…because of Jesus…by the Holy Spirit.
And thus the message of the Gospel is the fruition of both the promise of salvation in Genesis 3 and the hope of salvation in Genesis 12.
When we understand and connect with this, it unifies our view of the Gospel with the narrative expositions of the OT. Every narrative in the OT reflects humanity’s brokenness and inability to be blessed. And thus the eternal weight of Jesus’ sacrifice becomes much more real when we see it as a fulfillment of Genesis 3 AND Genesis 12!
The marriage of the promise of salvation and the hope of blessing as fulfilled in Jesus Christ is the key to living a sanctified, Gospel-centered life.
How do you see this perspective of hope and Genesis 12 informing the local church’s view of Gospel-centered mission?