Items posted on 5 March 2012
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John 17.1-5 – Our place in God’s universe.
Posted: 5 March 2012 in John

These words spake Jesus, and lifted up his eyes to heaven, and said, Father, the hour is come; glorify thy Son, that thy Son also may glorify thee: As thou hast given him power over all flesh, that he should give eternal life to as many as thou hast given him. And this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent. I have glorified thee on the earth: I have finished the work which thou gavest me to do. And now, O Father, glorify thou me with thine own self with the glory which I had with thee before the world was.

Whenever the Bible gives a motive for the actions of Jesus, or of God, that motive is almost always that God should thereby be glorified. Even when he punishes sin, it is because he has a concern for his own glory. In the Bible religion is very much God centred, whereas in the modern world it tends to be man centred. Probably it is that fact, more than anything else, which helped to empty the churches in Europe, with America following, not far behind. The surest sign of that process being underway in America is the so called prosperity gospel.

Once man has become religion’s central concern, it is not long before the idea begins to take hold that God is there to serve us, rather than us him. Then, when God begins to fall down on the job, as it seems to us, people begin to question whether he is there at all. That idea is reinforced when material prosperity seems to be something we are able to achieve for themselves, whilst ignoring God completely. So the process is complete, and the churches empty.

And what is the Church’s response to that? Well, they decide that they only have to have the prayer books in modern English, and they will have people come flooding back through the doors. When that fails, they only have to replace staid old organ music with pop music, and they will have people come flooding back through the doors. When that too fails, they only have to be socially “relevant,” and they will have people come flooding back through the doors. And so it goes on.

All the time those facile panaceas are being tried, the root cause of the problem is being ignored. And the root cause is simply that we have lost the sense of the transcendent and, with it, any sense of the true God, who dwells in unapproachable light. Instead we tha a stunted and domesticated god. Until God is set back on his throne (so to speak) and we resume our role as his servants, the churches will remain empty in Europe, and emptying in America.

Perhaps it isn’t altogether self evident that the way to fill churches is to emphasise the sovereignty and transcendence of a God who is Lord over all. In this consumer ridden society of ours, the idea certainly seems perverse. But unless the Church ditches the anaemic God theologians have constructed for themselves over the last hundred years, and reconnects with the God it is supposed to worship, it won’t stand a chance of reinvigorating itself.

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