I am sitting in a hotel next to the Sea of Galilee in Israel as I write this short blog. Because of the time difference I tend to wake up at 3am every morning right now and today is no exception.

It is interesting that I am here in Israel because, while I love the history of what God did in the world, I also feel like we miss the point if we only focus on broken ruins of where God was and not what He is still actively doing in the world today. One of my friends has an uncle who led tours in Israel and invited my wife and I to go at cost, my wife said we should go, so we came (not that my jet lag is her fault).

On this tour we are mixed with a whole group of pastors from other churches, mostly from the southern United States. As the days have progressed, I have noticed a difference in how I view God’s promises and the call of Jesus differently, in a cultural context, than many of the other people on this expedition. As an example, someone asked our guide what the original borders of Israel were that were given to Abraham verses what they are today, a perfectly valid question with no ulterior motives. Our guide said, “further east and further south,” it was a nice dodge of not stepping on a landmine for American Christians (I almost applauded him). Another question came on the heals about Israel’s aspirations to reclaim all of that promised land, to which the guide said that he believes it would be impractical based on the political climate of the world. One last person then piped and said, “when Jesus returns, He’ll give it to you.” Our guide was gracious and said, “when Jesus returns there will be no borders.” 

I found the guide’s statement brilliant and the some of the responses by our group odd because it kind of missed the point of what Jesus said to do in the world.

The Gospel, in its raw form, is the GOOD NEWS of Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection. Jesus lived the life we could have never lived, one of goodness and perfection. On the cross Jesus took our death upon Himself and gave us His life, He took our sin and gave us His own righteousness. We get to be reconciled to God because of what Jesus did and that is good news (the Gospel). Today people and churches tend to fall into one of 3 categories in regards to what the Gospel is and does.

  • Gospel Past – This would be where you hear phrases like “remember the good old days, we need to go back to when men were men, pews were long, and everyone loved the King James Version of the Bible.” I jest, but you get my meaning.
  • Gospel Future – This is when churches spend all their time talking about what God WILL do ONE DAY. He will come back, crush enemies, rapture us, and all sorts of other things.
  • Gospel Present – This is where I think we all NEED to be. A church that understands our rich and deep heritage that has been handed to us from the past, a hope of what God will truly do at the return of Jesus, but a present attitude that sees that the Gospel is good news for today and every day because it means reconciliation now.

When Jesus rises form the dead the disciples ask Him in Acts 1:6 “Lord, will You at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?” This is kind of like the guy’s statement in our tour group, “when Jesus returns you will get the land.” It is a Gospel future mixed with a gospel past attitude that misplaces Jesus work in the world to only be for our perceived benefit and not good news for all of the lost. When the disciples ask Jesus this question about their own borders He responds with (Acts 1:7) “It is not for you to know times or seasons that the Father has fixed by His own authority.” That is a nice way of saying, “no, and you missed the point about the restoration of the true Kingdom of God.” So Jesus then says (Acts 1:8) “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you, and you will be My witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”

What Jesus does is reminds them what the Gospel will bring, relationship with God that results in God’s Spirit indwelling us. God’s Spirit will indwell for the purpose of speaking the Gospel as a present reality to all the world now. He is saying that the results of the Gospel in our lives is peace with God which can (and hopefully will) result in peace with one another. We need stop asking God, “Lord, will You at this time restore the kingdom to Israel…make America great again…destroy the infidels…bring back family values?” And start to live in the present mission which will speak of God’s reconciliation of the world; it is WHY God gave us His Spirit and power. We do not need to have our focus be the ruins of an ancient society, or a future of bloody destruction where everyone finally realizes “we were right;” what we need is a present reality of the true and living God offering us hope and restoration to Himself by what He Himself did in the Good News of Jesus’ death and resurrection.

It is not just for us, it is for all people.

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