The matter is quite simple

About 150 years ago, Soren Kierkegaard wrote these words:

The matter is quite simple. The Bible is very easy to understand. But we Christians are a bunch of scheming swindlers. We pretend to be unable to understand it because we know very well that the minute we understand it we are obliged to act accordingly. Take any words in the New Testament and forget everything except pledging yourself to act accordingly. My God, you will say, if I do that my whole life will be ruined. How would I ever get on in the world?

Herein lies the real place of Christian scholarship. Christian scholarship is the Church’s prodigious invention to defend itself against the Bible, to ensure that we can continue to be good Christians without the Bible coming too close. Dreadful it is to fall into the hands of the living God. Yes, it is even dreadful to be alone with the New Testament

Are we capable of acting accordingly? Yes. Do we want to? No. It’s always a lot easier to remain as a Christian community practicing group deception. 

To my mind, that’s why we are in desperate need of real prophetic voices – challenging our cosy preconceptions and our blindness – stirring things up and causing ‘trouble’.

Too many of the current voices are either marketing the deceit of the prosperity gospel or having fun playing with images of the end times.  Anything but hitting us where it hurts.

Without wanting to sound pretentious, I am convinced this is my calling.  Whenever I get close to Gods’ heart in this matter, overcoming my own propensity to blindness, it is as if there is a fire burning in my bones.  A mantle is laid upon me, and I cannot help but speak, prophesy, in His name.  I am compelled to do so.

There are concequences to this calling, for we also are a stiff necked people, secure in our own pride and affluent arrogance, saying ‘we lack nothing’.  We are rich, we say, secure in all that our malls can provide.  The great god GDP will sustain us forever.

The verdict has already been written.  Rather than being rich, we are poor pitiful fools, hewing our own broken cisterns while forsaking the true living water.  People will not listen.  People cannot listen, lest they be undone from all they hold most dear.  This mantle is one that invites a response of deafness, blindness, apathy, indifference, ignorance, and in the rare case, anger.  There are a few who will turn, who will listen. Listen, for the Lord still calls you, calls you to turn aside from your own way, and back to the True Way.  Choose to live.

The truth is this – if you walk with Him you cannot help but be in conflict with the world.  If you are not in conflict with the world then examine yourself.  Do you really walk with Him?  Or a deception of your own making?  Go back to the bible, go back to Him and enquire.  Is there any wicked way in me, Lord? 

So often we have it all upside-down.  Does Jesus really care if we are popular?  Does he really care if we’ve grown big churches?  Does He care if we have all the trappings of success? 

I read that He was unpopular, scorned, rejected and despised.   I read that He gave hard words that stripped Him of the vast majority of His followers.  I read that He would go off alone to pray when the needs of the world were laid at His feet.   I read that he was a failure in the eyes of the world.

Jesus said – But be of good heart, for I have overcome the world  (John 16 v33).  You must choose in the end, friends.  Whether you will overcome the world, or whether the world will overcome you.  You have to choose.  So, choose life this day.

(original inspiration here

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6 Responses to The matter is quite simple

  1. Jonathan Gibson says:

    Pete,

    Thank you for this insightful and to the point posting. The quote from Soren Kierkegaard is stunning. His words cut so deep and have the precision of a surgeon’s scalpel removing a cancerous tumor. I think the reference to religious scholarship was prophetic in the full sense of the word. Not only was it a forth-telling of what was going in the European scholarship of his own day but it was also a foretelling of what was to come over the course of the next century. Wow!

    The Bible repeatedly challenges us to examine the form of our religious practice. Both in the Old and New Testaments the Holy Spirit shows us how much of our religious observance is shallow and pretentious. Religious faith can so often be the means by which we hide ourselves from having to really deal with God.

    As a priest within the Anglican Church of Canada I resonate with Jeremiah 7. This is that passage where the Prophet challenges the people that they are using Worship as ameans of deception. While they our saying the right words, their hearts are so far away from the living God. They are using the institution’s ritualto shield them from drawing close to the one who is to be at the heart of it all. It seems that the very same thing is happening six hundred years later when Jesus goes into the Jerusalem Temple.

    Here is the text from Jeremiah”

    This is the word that came to Jeremiah from the LORD : 2 “Stand at the gate of the LORD’s house and there proclaim this message:
    ” ‘Hear the word of the LORD, all you people of Judah who come through these gates to worship the LORD. 3 This is what the LORD Almighty, the God of Israel, says: Reform your ways and your actions, and I will let you live in this place. 4 Do not trust in deceptive words and say, “This is the temple of the LORD, the temple of the LORD, the temple of the LORD!” 5 If you really change your ways and your actions and deal with each other justly, 6 if you do not oppress the alien, the fatherless or the widow and do not shed innocent blood in this place, and if you do not follow other gods to your own harm, 7 then I will let you live in this place, in the land I gave your forefathers for ever and ever. 8 But look, you are trusting in deceptive words that are worthless.

    I am so grateful to God that you have established this blog. As the priest of the church to which you belong I encourage you to continue to speak in the tradition of Jeremiah. For we have a propensity to declare “This is the Temple of the Lord” but to live in ways that don’t reflect his glory but rather that gods of this age and world. It has always been thus and yet when God can get hold of a people who desire to be shaped by him and his ways I pray that Kierkegaard’s predictive statement need not be true of us.

    Thank you for the food for mind and soul you have given me this morning my brother.

    In Him who in his humanity embodied the fullness of what it means to live a life reflecting the image of God,

    Jonathan

  2. Tell me if you agree…

    This challenge, you have worded it well in this post, is one that we cannot ultimately embrace as individuals but rather as community. We need the support, encouragement, and stimulation of one another to successfully disentangle ourselves from the culture in which we find ourselves enmeshed.

    I am not talking about some radical disavowal of all things modern, a refusal of popular media, etc. I yearning for a fundamental difference in the way I manage my time, plan my furture, and manage my money. I want a life that is underpinned more so by the unilateral quest for the Kingdom, than the knee-jerk impulses of the dominant culture.

    First things first, the source of power for a changed life is God. The beginning point is prayer-asking the Father to have His way in my life. But, I keep thinking about the need for community. Can a congregation take on such a challenge together? I long for a fellowship that challenges me to press onward to that upward call.

  3. Peter says:

    Jonathan – you are most welcome! It’s so challenging to me too, and I want to reflect more as to how we can change to be ‘in’ but not ‘of’ the culture. Oh yes, and I will be shortly changing my ‘About’ page to reflect the church I belong to, just so all is above board.

    Jason – I agree with you. This is a challenge to a community as much as it is to individuals. How then shall we live? This is something I have been reflecting on a little more here: https://theagetocome.wordpress.com/2006/10/19/reflections-on-spirit-of-the-age-part-2/

    However, until enough people catch the fire, are inspired to seek a deeper way, these things cannot come to pass. I feel as if there are some who are groaning beneath the weight of our culture and looking to throw it off. My prayer is that there be more, that we can together seek a better way. I agree that we are not advocating an Amish style solution (after all, if I was I would not be blogging), but a way of living counter-culturally. I’d say for me and for my church this is still very much a work in progress.

  4. I followed the link. It was very encouraging to read. I am wondering how to stimulate a communal way of thinking in a very individualistic culture. There, obviously, are no easy answers here. Nonetheless, I am inspired by reading thoughts that resonate with my own.

    Thanks!

  5. Mary says:

    Well Pete;
    Have you read “The Cost of Dicsipleship” by Dietrich Bonhoefer? This is a very sobering matter, condition, state of being. To wake up one day and realize that The’ God of ALL Creation has placed upon you a calling and anointing to speek THE TRUTH, weather people like it or not. You can struggle with this for a very long time, even to the distant years when you think, maybe God has forgotten about it now. I have learned that when The God of Creation whats something done, and He tells you to do it, He doesn’t forget about it.
    If you have a message from the Creator, you know what you have to do Pete. The world will not like it, we know that. It scares the ____ out of me. But, it is time to speek up. Remember what we have heard, “Peace, peace, but there is no peace”. You know why? There can be no peace while everyone keeps their little handmade gods of wood and stone, or even silver and gold tucked in their pockets as they walk through the door of the Great Temple. Father God, say’s, SEE WHAT YOUR PEACE TREATYS DO. THEY JUST ALLOW ALL THESE STRANGE MEANINGLESS gods, TO CROSS THE BOARDERS AND ENTER MY CHILDRENS HEARTS. THERE WILL BE NO PEACE UNTILL THESE little gods ARE DESTROYED, AND THE LAW IS GIVEN THAT THERE WELL BE NO OTHER GOD BEFORE THEM.

    God Bless you Pete
    Stay strong in Faith
    Mary (forgive my bad spelling, God does I know)

  6. Peter says:

    Peace, peace, but there is no peace. Indeed.

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