Sharing Keys

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The prevailing power of the church is based upon sharing access with others.

The prevailing power of the church is based upon sharing access with others.

Have you ever had a neighbor you’ve shared a key with?

We used to have neighbors who would come over to our house when we were gone for the holidays and get our cat and take the cat to their house, because they said they didn’t want her to be alone on the holidays.

We have neighbors on either side of us now, who have our key and we have theirs. We’ve taken care of each other’s dogs when out of town.

When keys are exchanged there is a relationship. There is trust. There is authority and access.

In Matthew 16:19 Jesus tells his followers, “I will give you keys. These keys have the power and authority of heaven” [my translation].

Keys allow you to access the purpose of the object they are applied. The purpose of a house is for living in it. A key can open the door to enter or close it shut. If it is a car, a key can start it or shut it off. If it is a post office box, a key can unlock or lock it. Keys are all about accessing the intended purpose.

Jesus’ keys are for the purpose of entering the realm of the King. Jesus’ kingdom keys allow access to the space where God rules and reigns. This is where things are as they should be and whatever is brought into God’s realm is made right.

I love Eugene Peterson’s take on Jesus’ words in Matthew, “You will have complete and free access to God’s kingdom, keys to open any and every door: no more barriers between heaven and earth, earth and heaven. A yes on earth is yes in heaven. A no on earth is no in heaven.”

Most of us here can tell a story of how someone used their key to give us access to the kingdom. The prevailing power of the church is based upon sharing access with others. What will you open, close, start, stop, unlock, or lock with the keys you’ve been given?

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You Are the Key

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How do we use our key to open up access, not just across the street, but across town, across the nation, and the world?

How do we use our key to open up access, not just across the street, but across town, across the nation, and the world?

Sharing keys with neighbors
Have you ever had a neighbor you’ve shared a key with? We shared keys with Jim and Kathy Lee, next door to our first home. If we were gone for the day, they would get our cat. They didn’t want her to be lonely, so they would keep her at their house. We ended up giving the cat to them.

Giving someone access

We have neighbors on either side of us now, who they have our key and we have theirs (or the garage key code) and we’ve taken care of each other’s dogs when out of town. Neighbors have hired my kids to take care of pets while on vacation. Giving someone access to your home means there is relationship and trust.

Keys are all about access

Keys are all about access. After Jesus’ promise to build his church, he went on to say, “I will give you my keys. These keys have the power and authority of heaven” (my paraphrase of Mt 16:19). Jesus handed his followers his keys. What are the ramifications of this?

Christians making entrance

Craig Blomberg comments, “[T]he imagery of keys that close and open, lock and unlock (based on Isa 22:22) … take the binding and loosing (and Jesus is not just saying this to Peter because in 18:18 he says the same thing and it is in the plural) as referring to Christians’ making entrance to God’s kingdom available or unavailable to people through their witness, preaching, and ministry.”

More open doors

Complaints are often made in the church as to why we don’t see more open doors for the gospel. Three that come to mind are [extra points for the alliteration]:

  1. Resources
  2. Relevance
  3. Receptivity

Resources lacking

People argue that a lack of resources is keeping doors from opening. If only they had more money, were better equipped, or developed more training. It’s not true! We have everything we need to accomplish what God has asked.

Relevancy of the church

People say we need to make ministry more relevant. People criticize the church for not being technologically or culturally relevant. That is always misapplied energy. This probably deserves a separate conversation.

Receptivity of the culture

Others still, complain about the receptivity of the culture. It is true, there are places where gospel growth is faster than other places. Jesus spoke about hearts that produce more growth than others. But the fact is, we can’t blame culture for not being more open to the gospel. The Bible says people are dead in sin. Are we saying people are more dead in some places?

The problem is access

The church does not need more resources. Our problem is not relevancy. I don’t think we should even pray for more receptivity. The problem is access. Jesus has left the building of the church to our utilization of the keys he’s given us. It’s up to us to share access with others. We are the key!

Jay Pathak and Dave Runyon offers a great exercise for living a life of access in their book The Art of Neighboring. Draw a tic-tac-toe box with you in the middle and write down the names of the neighbors around you. If you don’t know their names, that’s the first step. If you can name them, are you praying for them? If not, that’s the second step. Then create a practical plan for how to give them access to your life. For me, taking a van full of neighborhood kids to Awana that has been one way of creating access.

We are the key

How do we use our key to open up access, not just across the street, but across town, across the nation, and the world? Access becomes an acute descriptor when we realize there are areas of the world which will never have access to the gospel unless someone from the outside uses their key to go to them.

When it comes down to it, we are the key! We are the bearers of the gospel message. The issue is not resources, relevance, or receptivity. The issue is accessibility. Our lives in proximity to others is what opens access to the gospel.

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Jesus’ Most Baffling Statement

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Does He Really Mean That?

Jesus’ conversation in Matthew 18 with his disciples has similarities to his conversation with Nicodemus in John 3. After Jesus told Nicodemus he must be born again to enter the kingdom of heaven, the logical question followed of how a person can go through that process again. We don’t hear the disciples’ response in Matthew 18. They must have wondered what Jesus expected them to do with this. In Matthew 18:1-5 we find:

At that time the disciples came to Jesus and asked, “Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” He called a child, whom he put among them, and said, “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Whoever becomes humble like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. Whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me.

Why Return To Childhood?

Jesus told his disciples if they didn’t become like children, they would never enter the kingdom of heaven. That’s a heavy consequence. So why is this demanded by Jesus? Many reasons could be given, but two surface in my mind. First, I think Jesus is saying to learn how to live in my kingdom you have to start over. You have to return to childhood and relearn everything. Second, I think Jesus is saying you’re going to be provided for. Ideally a child’s needs are taken care of.

How Do We Do It?

But how? How do we practically live this out? This seems contrary to the Scriptural calls to grow-up and mature. In addition, we naturally don’t like feeling dependent on others. As with so many truths, one truth is not abandoned by embracing an apparent contrasting truth. I have experienced 3 ways of living out this truth of becoming like a child in the kingdom.

1. Welcoming Children by Being with Them

When I am with children I experience the presence of Christ and come into kingdom life. I experience this working with Awana. On the one hand, the kid’s simple questions feed my own faith. On the other, they test my patience (and a lot of other virtues), which reveals how much work I need. Welcoming the interaction with kids puts me in contact with Jesus.

2. Re-family-ing Ourselves in Kingdom Community

In the context of the church community, a kind of kingdom re-family-ing transpires. I experience this in small groups I’m involved. I’m kind of a small group junkie. I am in four groups that meet either every week or every other week. I have found myself watching someone in the group and feeling a reprograming happen in my heart as I downloaded what a person said or watched how a person behaved. I feel like a child deciding to imitate a big brother or sister. Children learn to inhabit the world by imitation. The same occurs in learning to inhabit the kingdom.

3. Surrendering Our Futures by Trusting the Father

Children are vulnerable. There is a forced-humility children are subjugated to. Children require others to protect and provide. Unfortunately, some children do not have anyone to rely on who have their best in mind. That is not the case in the kingdom of heaven though. We can humbly surrender ourselves, trusting a good God has our best in mind. Like carefree kids, we can walk into the future knowing the kingdom of heaven is our Father’s.

What About You?

What would it look like for you to change and become like a child with the issue you are worrying about most right now?

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Is This Your Hope?

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Jesus’ ministry began the manifestation of the kingdom (“The time has come. The kingdom of God is near.” Mark 1:15). In one sense, the kingdom is present and is seen breaking in as the Spirit is at work in the church. Yet, the kingdom is not fully realized or consummated. It is this consummation that we await, when Jesus will put everything to rights (“We wait for the blessed hope and the manifestation of the glory of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ.” Titus 2:13.) Therefore, something has started, but it will be Jesus, the Coming King, who will finish it.

 

Core to Alliance teaching is placing the expectation of the consummation of the kingdom on Christ’s return. This is a chief differentiation between post-millennialism or amillennialism. Premillennialism teaches it is the King who will bring the kingdom, not the church. In this present age, the onus is on the church to fulfill Christ’s mandate, which is to evangelize the nations. G.E. Ladd wrote,

 

How are we to know when the mission is completed? How close are we to the accomplishment of the task? Which countries have been evangelized and which have not? How close are we to the end? Does this not lead to date-setting? I answer, I do not know. God alone knows the definition of terms. I cannot precisely define who “all the nations” are. Only God knows exactly the meaning of “evangelize.” He alone, who has told us that “this Gospel of the Kingdom shall be preached in the whole world for a testimony unto all the nations”, will know when that objective has been accomplished. But I do not need to know. I know only one thing: Christ has not yet returned; therefore the task is not yet done. When it is done, Christ will come. Our responsibility is not to insist on defining the terms of our task; our responsibility is to complete it. So long as Christ does not return, our work is undone. Let us get busy and complete our mission.[1]

 

The mandate of the church is to make disciples of all ethnes, not bring the kingdom. Therefore, we are very comfortable in The Alliance to stand in an eschatological camp that keeps us focused on that mission.

 

The Alliance’s eschatological position is theologically generous and missiologically satisfying. It maintains an inaugurated kingdom that will be consummated by the Coming King. Most importantly, it keeps the church centered on Christ’s mandate to bring a gospel witness to all people. The establishment of the kingdom and the reign upon the throne, we leave to Jesus.

 

Sometimes I wonder if we should talk about the future more. It is tempting to want to pin people’s hope to God straightening things out here and now. The blessed hope, as it says in Titus, is awaiting the manifestation of Jesus. I think deep down, people see through the advertisements that offer the good life now by way of great teeth, great sex, and great food. If we could really explain how good “the manifestation of the glory or our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ” is going to be, people might even get excited about waiting for it.

 

 [1] George Eldon Ladd, The Gospel of the Kingdom: Scriptural Studies in the Kingdom of God (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1959), ch. 9, “When Will the Kingdom Come?”

 

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2 Ways to Break a Slump

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Do you feel stuck? Are you waiting for something to happen? This may be stating the obvious, but the fastest way to break a slump is to take action. I am not proposing the initiative of the autonomous self. I am suggesting you start moving, because God has already acted.

The calling of the people of God is defined with action phrases.

“Go….” Matthew 28:18
“Walk….” Ephesians 4:1
“I press on….” Philippians 4:12
“Run….” Hebrews 12:1

However, for God’s people, any action we take is always in response to action by God.

Do you feel or sense the activity of the kingdom around you? Or within (Luke 17:21)? If not, may I suggest the reason could be you are static. You are not moving. A lack of action goes against the grain of the universe. From the smallest molecule to whopping galaxies, everything is in motion.

You may not feel a sense of anticipation or excitement about kingdom-life. Perhaps you have been praying about your reluctance. You have been aware of this malaise. You have confessed this to friends and to God. Perhaps you have been reading books to find out more about this condition.

The kingdom is kinetic because God is always working. Jesus said in John 5:17, “My Father is always at his work to this very day, and I too am working.” God is always moving, non-stop action. This activity of God calls for a response from his people.

No amount of prayer, confession, or study will change your dullness to the kingdom of God if you are static. You have to move. You may say, “But, I don’t feel like moving.” If you will get going, though, your feelings will catch up. Act first, your feelings will follow. Step into the water, then it will part (Joshua 3:13). Ask, search, and knock (Matthew 7:8). Draw near (James 4:8). Movement will mold your mood. Here are two things you can do right now to get moving:

1. Serve.

Go find someone to help. How are you uniquely positioned to meet a need? Go buy a bag of groceries and secretly set them on their porch. Ask! What can I do for you? Go for a walk and just listen. E-mail or post a note that says, “I’m thinking of you.” After Jesus took the towel and the basin, he said we should do as he had done (John 13:15). Kingdom people have been equipped for works of service (Ephesians 4:12).

2. Fellowship.

Go find someone who is helping. Put yourself in the company kingdom-people who are moving. Give them a call. You don’t even have to tell them why you’re calling. Simply asking what they are doing can be enough of a spark. Better yet, go be with them. Watch them serve. Consider how they can provoke you to love and good deeds (Hebrews 10:24).

You must cultivate your calling. Cultivate comes from a word that means “prepared for crops”. You must work your life like a farmer works a field. You are to walk worthy of the calling to which you have been called (Ephesians 4:1). As Eugene Peterson points out in his conversation on Ephesians, the word worthy is axios, that is, balanced on the scale. A crossbeam on a post with two pans dangling from each end would be axios if they equaled the same. They correspond to each other perfectly. The weight of one matches the other. Your walking is to respond to God’s calling. God’s calling is active. The kingdom of God is always moving.

What are you doing to keep moving?

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