Sermon:  The Spirit of God vs. the Spirit of the Age (#1 In the Series: Your Kingdom Come)

Summary:  It is valuable to understand how history, tradition, and culture have shaped 
our faith and mission today.  Medieval, reformation, and enlightenment thought have all left 
distinct impressions on our faith and mission.  We need to name these "principalities" and 
"powers" with discernment in order to evaluate them more effectively. 

Know:  We are always shaped by our surroundings as we interact with it, it is therefore important 
to evaluate the assumptions of our culture about the nature of man, truth, and reality.

Feel:  The subtle danger that lies behind the spirit of the age.

Do:  Discuss the attitudes and assumptions of our culture that are at odds with the principles of 
God.  Identify ways our culture shapes our assumptions, our faith, and how we live our Christian life.  
Consider ways to evaluate, rather than blindly acquiesce to our culture.

Text:  Eph 6:12

Scripture Reading:  Gal 1:3-5

1.  What is church?
	a.  Used to learn the hand exercise in the joy bus and children's church
	b.  Even there, still think of building and institution
	c.  Where do our concepts about church come from?
2.  Only the Bible?  No there is culture and tradition
	a.  Some are good, some not so good, some neutral
	b.  Don't know who discovered water, but we know it wasn't a fish
	c.  We often unaware of our surroundings, can accept it blindly
	d.  When aware of it, can make better judgments about it
3.  This sermon will look at specific cultural developments - the spirit of the age
	a.  (Eph 6:12) - Bible calls spirit of the age things such as powers, 
	      authorities, principalities
	b.  There are unseen forces, some benign, others not so benign 
	c.  If blind to them, can be enslaved to them
	d.  Detrich Boenhoffer said only way to cast out demons is to name them
		- Talking about identifying subtle spiritual forces at work around us
		- We will take a look at what we have inherited as spirit of the age
4.  Ton of material to put in one lesson
	a.  Some of this will be oversimplified
	b.  Will choose some of the most significant factors
	c.  Will be three

I.  Christendom
	A.  Began with Constantine and Theodosius I
		1.  Worldview was much different, we still have an echo of it today
		2.  Worldview/cosmology:
			a.  Hierarchy that began with God 
			b.  God -Church -Kings/Nobles -The masses -animals/nature
	B.  Word to describe the scheme:  Power. 
		1.  After Constantine, empire was Christianized
			a.  First a legal religion, then the state religion
			b.  Under Theodosius, was the ONLY legal religion
		2.  Church attained political power and privilege
			a.  Church and kingship were two sides of same coin
			b.  Ruler's mission to bring the world to God
				- Enamored with power
				- Missionary wars, missions by conquest
				- It was for the pagan's own good to force them
			c.  Goal of missions - Establish institutional church
				- Had to have a hierarchy
				- Areas without hiearchal church were mission areas
				- Didn't matter how many Christians were there
			d.  Goal of missions was the church
				- Missions text for this time period - Luke 14:23
				- "Compel them to come it"
				- Began with Augustine, was his justification for the 
				   use of force
				- This was cited in future generations as justification 
				   for missionary wars
		3.  To this days, the Western church expects a privilege and power
			a.  Assumption that God has blessed Western Culture
			b.  In the Reformation, church still privileged in public life
			c.  Today in the U.S. - Church and government separate, but 
			     many Christians still expect church to have unofficial 
			     sway in public life
		4.  One exception:  Monastics
			a. Disassociate with institution church, impact on common 
				- Went on journeys, doing ministries of compassion
				- Helped rebuild after conquistadors ravaged areas
				- Monasteries were safe havens of hospitality
			b.  Tried to follow Christ's example (Phil 2:5-8)
				- Bond servant and humble
				- Didn't appear as conquering king, ruler, Pharisee, 
			c.  Mission not carried out from vantage of power or privilege 
				- Christians were marginalized from the beginning
				- 1 Cor 1:26 - Not many wise, mighty/powerful, noble
				- God chose the weak, foolish, despised
				- Some saw Christians as weak miserable
			d.  But God carries out his mission through weakness
	C.  Example:
		1.  2nd century philosopher Celsus wrote said this about Christians:
"Some very few individuals who are considered Christians, of the more intelligent class, make objections against the doctrine of Jesus. Thus the following are the rules laid down by them:—Let no one come to us who has been instructed, or who is wise or prudent, for such qualifications are deemed evil by us; but if there be any ignorant, or unintelligent, or uninstructed, or foolish persons, let them come with confidence. By which words, acknowledging that such individuals are worthy of their god, they manifestly show that they desire and are able to gain over only the silly, and the mean, and the stupid. It is only foolish and low individuals, and persons devoid of perception, and slaves, and women, and children, of whom the teachers of the divine word wish to make converts." - Quoted in Contra-Celsum, by Origen
a. In spite of this, Christianity continued strong and vibrant b. Christianity was everywhere 2. More recent example: The Meserete Kristos Church in Ethiopia This comes from a Mission Journal, the International Bulletin of Missionary Research Vol 29, No.2, p.78
"In 1982 the Communist government singled out this church for persecution by sealing all the MK church buildings and forbidding the holding of church services. The main leaders of the church were put in prison, but the members of the church responded quickly. They worked out a plan by which the entire church was organized into house groups. Services had to be held in secret. Since there was always the possibility of a police raid, such things as hymnbooks were not brought to the meetings. The number of members in each group was limited so as not to attract attention. Women took charge of many of these groups. Now converts were baptized in secret. Sunday school materials were produced and distributed. Communication among MK congregations was strictly by word of mouth, lest written documents fall into the hands of government officials. The ban against the Meserete Kristos Church was not lifted until the Communist government was overthrown in 1991. As happened in China during the years 1949-79, the Meserete Kristos Church grew during the years of persecution. In 1982 baptized membership was reported to be 27,440. When the ban was lifted in 1991, membership had risen to 48,056. The MK has continued growing in the years since."
3. God works more mightily through suffering and marginality than power and privilege 1. Maybe this why Paul want the fellowship of his sufferings 2. Suffering has redemptive purpose - Job, Christ, Paul 3. Jesus is our example 4. But if the church is totally at home and comfortable in the culture, what does that suggest? D. Goal is not to regain power and priviledge 1. Goals is to live as Christ did 2. Church is not to hijack power structures, or it can find itself hijacked 3. Church is to be a counter cultural community/society 4. --There were more developments that Christendom… II. Renaissance/Reformation A. Rebirth of learning 1. Morning star of Reformation was John Wycliffe 2. Full Blown with Martin Luther 3. Worldview shifted some: God - Rulers - Church - People - Nature B. Changes that came about (this is not all of them) 1. Justification by grace through faith a. Luke 14:23 mission text for Medieval church b. Rom 1:16 mission text for Reformation church 2. Centrality of Scripture a. Bible translated into language of the people b. Rejection of Pope and tradition as authoritative c. Rise of "Paper Pope" - Were not free to do whatever your convictions said - There arose new creedal formulations & confessions d. Church defined differently - It a place where the Gospel is preached correctly and the sacraments are administered properly - Note the word "place" - Church is still seen as an institution in this case 3. Territorial Principle a. Would a church be Catholic, Lutheran, or Reformed???? - There were battles fought over this b. Compromise - The territory would be religion of the King c. Still a merging of state and church - An area ruled by a Christian ruler not a mission area - Everyone was Luther, Catholic, Reformed, etc. d. Church still had power and privilege in public life 4. Exception: Marginal Groups such as the Anabaptists a. Anabaptist were hated by all - Only regarded as Christians those who confess and baptized, so tsaw all of Europe as a mission field - Believed church not of world, rejected "state" church - They ignored the territorial principle - Modern day inheritors -Mennonite, Amish, Hutterites b. They seized on a long lost truth: - Jn 18:36 - Kingdom is not of this world - Phil 3:20 - Our citizenship is in Heaven - 1 Pet 2:11 - We are aliens c. Gal 3:26 - Sons of God through faith - Object of faith is not church, or a form, but Christ - The Bible gives witness to Christ - What sets us apart is not our rules, but Christ C. ILL: The Pagan Emperor Julian 332-63 1. "Atheism (ie: Christian faith) has been specially advanced through the loving service rendered to strangers, and through care for the burial of the dead. It is a scandal that there is not a single Jew who is a beggar, and that the godless Galileans care not only for their own poor, but for ours away well; while those who belong to us look in vain for the help we should render to them." 2. Christians were known for their Christian compassion D. Goal of mission is not to establish an institutional church 1. Goal is to love people as Christ did 2. Without it, our witness has no credibility 3. Without it, it is not even a "Christian" message 4. -But there is more than this III. Enlightenment A. Began with philosophers such as John Locke, Francis Bacon, Descarte, etc. 1. Developed tools by which to understand the world 2. Used things such as reason, rationalism, empiricism, logic, the inductive scientific method, etc. 3. These would produce objective truth and freedom 4. Word view shifted again during this period a. Early Enlightenment: God - People - Government - Nature - Church b. Later enlightenment: Nature (self authenticating) - People - Government - God - Church c. People elevated, become authenticator of God B. Word to describe this paradigm: Pride 1. Elevation of Human Reason a. Very positive time, many new discoveries b. Reason was seen as nature's gift to man c. Only truth was what could be observed, tested, and proven 2. Faith in Human Progress a. There was a sense of destiny - Objective science producing many advances - Medicine, Mechanics, Physics, etc. b. Belief there was a methodological solution to everything - Just need to analyze, test, investigate all data - ILL:Star Trek an example-Spock always find solution - Through pure logic - Confidence and pride in human progress and potential c. This enlightened thinking promised to improve human condition 3. This affected the church as well a. Postmillennial fueled by spirit of the age positive feeling - Felt they making the world better place through both Gospel & science - Gospel and Social work together - Human efforts that were making the world a better place would usher in the unified, millennial Kingdom of God - Confidence in human ability left little need for grace or power of the Spirit - Just need to take charge and make progress with tools of reason, logic, and rationality b. Emphasis on Method: If reason, rationality, scientific induction improve human condition, it should improve the religious condition as well - "Methodist" an example of this - In the our movement, Campbell felt that debate was an effective evangelistic method - Enlightenment tools for Scientific study of Bible to produce a blueprint - Other religious groups did the same: Some codified them into creeds, others rejected creeds but unofficially propagated the blueprint through Christian journals - Didn't produce intended unity in the church - Churches defined self in terms of other churches, so energy was focused inward - Faith became academic - Bible became scientific artifact to be dissected, probed, and analyzed, a human controlled process - There was a time when preacher training schools included classes in logic - (Heb 4:12) - The "living" word is sharper than any 2 edged sword, it supposed to analyze and dissect us - But emphasis on method continues to prevail - eg: - With rise of consumerism, marketing strategies for the church - Church became business like, a vendor of religious good and services - Competition with other churches - Search for a methodological blueprint - fads - Need to learn to think theologically about such things c. Rise of Premillenial - Wars that destroyed optimism - Some recognized we couldn't "fix" world problems - Distanced from social work, only concern with soul - Others renewed the effort to "fix" problems - One known as social gospel, other known as evangelicalism/revivalism/fundamentalism d. Facts/Values Split - What can be analyzed, proven, tested was fact - Everything else fell under the heading of values - What is fact (scientific truth) became universal applicable to all, values (religious truth) became private - Result: Made religion irrelevant to public life - Result: Contributed to religious pluralism 4. All of this demonstrates limits of human wisdom a. There were people such as Immanuel Kant that pointed out the limits of pure reason and empiricism b. (1 Cor 2:4-5) Not words of wisdom - Paul not make use of Philosophical tools and such - Jesus did not come as a rational logical proposition - Jesus came as a person c. There is a place for reason and logic, but don't elevate it over the object of our faith - Jesus d. Love, humility, service has priority of place, as Jesus did C. ILL: Dry Bones ministry in Denver 1. Met some people from Denver who planted themselves in downtown Denver 2. Goal - to Love street people as Christ did 3. They don't preach down at them, they get to know them and love them a. Open a couple of places for them to hang out, one a pool hall b. Some say - "I like coming here, because I feel like a person." c. They get treated as valuable people God loves d. Many avoid institutional churches because "I am not like those people" - No reasoned arguments - Their main argument is love 4. They bring people to Christ, but many are still broken a. Not so prideful in thinking they can "fix" these people b. Healing is a process c. For some, complete wholeness will not come till Christ comes D. Perhaps we need to spend less time with well reasoned arguments that divide and more time loving people as Christ did 1. The strongest sermons are acts of compassion 2. This is why Jesus was such a phenomenon 3. This is why early, simple, uneducated, marginalized Christians in the early church had such a huge impact on their world Concl: 1. I just barely scratched the surface on this a. Unlike Christendom, we are not called to power, but humility and weakness b. Unlike the Reformation thought, the church is not a place or an institution c. Unlike Enlightenment thought, human potential in itself is limited. Our faith needs to be in the power of God, not the ability of man. 2. Purpose not a comprehensive critique on principalities and powers, but to help us be aware of the type of influence they can have on us a. Some are neutral, others contradict Christian ideals and values b. Many people in previous generations were barely aware of how they were influenced by their surroundings c. Some believed they got their blueprint straight from the Bible without any influence from their experience, tradition, or culture d. Some became dogmatic and divisive about it 3. We need to be aware of these forces as we take a good look at what the church is to be in our current culture 4. We need to proceed with humility and grace ============================================ Small Group Questions: The Spirit of God vs. the Spirit of the Age It is valuable to understand how history, tradition, and culture have shaped our faith and mission today. Medieval, reformation, and enlightenment thought have all left distinct impressions on our faith and mission. We need to name these "principalities" and "powers" with discernment in order to evaluate them more effectively. Open: (choose one) - Out of all of your senses, which do you feel is your greatest? Your weakest? - What discipline or area of academic study to you find most difficult to comprehend? Discussion: 1. Eph 6:12 - What are the powers, authorities, and principalities? What are some of the more subtle forms of them? In what way can we be missional in light of these unseen, subtle powers in our culture? 2. What are some attitudes and assumptions in our culture concerning the nature of humans that are at odds with the theological view of humankind? 3. What are some attitudes and assumptions in our culture concerning the nature of truth that are at odds with the theological concept of truth? 4. In what ways do the cultural view of life, reality and truth potentially shape and challenge the way we as Christians live life, do ministry, and carry out its mission? 5. Discuss ways that the effect of our culture on ourselves may have either inhibited or freed us in carrying out the mission of Christ. Apply: 6. Heb 4:12 - Are we to wield the word, or is the word to wield us? Discuss the differences in perspective in each of these and how it may affect our approach to mission. How would differences in these perspectives affect your personal approach to mission? 7. In what ways can we avoid becoming captive to the principalities it work in the air and remain faithful to the mission of Christ? 8. In what way does this material help us to discern your place in the world, in the church, and in this group? Prayer: Pray for wisdom, humility, and insight on our place in this community and the world at large.