September 3, 2017
Lord’s Day Worship
The sermon starts at 15:05 in the audio file.
Or, Why a Kuyperian Dispensationalist Is Preoccupied with the Future
A popular book in Christian circles came out earlier this year titled The Benedict Option. It’s a book that observes many of our current cultural problems in the West, our moral failings and fallings as a society. We have serious issues at every level: individual, family, church, city, nation. Things are bad and seem to be getting worse as people become less connected to each other, to history, and to God.
The Benedict Option is named after St. Benedict who organized a system of rules for monks. Benedict emphasized order both for the soul and for living together in community. The author of the book urges Christians to get out of the public fight, which he says the conservatives have basically lost anyway, and focus on building our churches and schools and other institutions so that when the modern experiment against reality collapses we’ll have survived. He claims that as long as we have religious liberty we should us it to make sure that we are strong.
I’ve read or listened to a variety of responses to the Benedict Option. On one side are those who want a more prophetic, aggressive, warlike fight to take over culture; one called it the Boniface Option after St. Boniface who cut down a idol with an axe in front of a hostile crowd. On the other side are those who don’t think we have any other cultural responsibility than to evangelize. Maybe we could call this the Bunker Option. Groups such as the church, family, schools, are just platforms to speak the gospel. These groups exist, and fine, but we need not worry about building them.
Our current series, The Kuyperian Dispensationalist, is an attempt to both understand the cultural questions and to provide an answer. What are we here on earth to do? What are Christians saved for? As Premillennial Dispensationalists we not only see culture getting worse in ebbs and flows over centuries, we also see that darkness hates the light and will put up a serious fight until the end. We aren’t surprised by apostasy and idolatry, by unbelief and immorality. But what are we supposed to do? Run away and hide? Just stick it out until the rapture?
Throughout history most Dispensationalists have retreated, and we haven’t done much in our caves except complain (it’s like the Archie Bunker Option). The Benedict Option at least encourages us to build, even if it’s more of a compound tucked away from trouble. But we’ve seen that this is a failure to read the parts of the Bible where God says that His creation is good, it’s a gift, and that we’re to receive it with thanks and stewardship and industry. He made the world and all who love Him will hate the things of earth in one way so that they will be better image-bearers on earth for His glory. We believe His Word, His Son, and expect the fruit of our faith to be abundant and obvious in public view. The fruit of faith will provoke others—the Jews, especially in the end-to jealously. They will want what we have from God in Christ.
Let’s call this the Blessing Option. From our faith we worship the Lord and seek His blessing on our obedience and good works. His blessings may not always be how we would define them. Blessings include wisdom gleaned from trouble, joy in pain, as well as things such as profit and increasing influence. But others will see our God-given blessings and want in.
This will be the last message in the series for now. Lord willing we’ll start 1 Corinthians next Sunday. But my heart still burns, like the hearts of the disciples on the road to Emmaus, as it did at the beginning of the series. This Bible reading and Bible obeying project is one that connects truths, orients perspective, and motivates our work. It is an eschatology with train tracks that don’t run out.
As a refresher, “Kuyperian” refers to a Christian who acknowledges that Jesus created all things and that He cares about all that He created. A Kuyperian mindset seeks to honor Christ in studying theology and in building swing sets, in walking in the Spirit while walking down the halls of Congress, or to the voting booth. A disciple of Christ isn’t defined as much by what he does as much as Who he does those things for.
Abraham Kuyper loved Jesus and confessed that Jesus is Lord so much that he stopped being a pastor and got into publishing and politics. He started a daily newspaper and edited a monthly magazine. He energized Christian education at the grammar and secondary level, then helped to found a university where the students were free to study and steward every thumb’s width in creation. He saw Calvinistic soteriology and raised it with the implications of Calvinistic cosmology.
Kuyper himself was not a Dispy. No one is perfect. But he read the Bible right in many areas and obeyed with indefatigable obsession, he just didn’t do it with the intention to make the Jews jealous. That’s what we mean by the term “Dispensationalist.” Our type of Dispy is close to a certain type of Covy in that we don’t believe that there are two ways of salvation or that there are two totally separate peoples of God. All the elect, Jew and Gentile, are part of His people.
We also believe that there is still something special and unique about the nation of Israel. Before Christ, salvation came through faith in the coming Jewish Messiah. After Christ, salvation comes through a Jew, Jesus, but does not depend on a man changing his passport Israeli colors. Americans, Russians, Canadians, Netherlanders, Germans, and more believe as part of the church. Israelites who believe are also part of the church.
But there is coming a day when the fulness of the Gentiles will “come in,” that is, be converted to Christ, and then “all Israel will be saved” (Romans 11:25-26). There are national promises of salvation and blessing that remain to be fulfilled (per the New Covenant promise in Ezekiel 36 and Jeremiah 31). That’s what makes us Dispies.
We Kuyperian Dispensationalists believe God intends to make the Jews jealous through God’s fruitful blessing on our faith. Those blessings will be on earth and not just in our prayer closets. We are the means of God’s ends, like a cue ball breaking the rack and sending balls all over the table.
Some more things need to be said.
We are interested in imitating Kuyper as he imitated Christ. Paul commanded the Corinthians to imitate him (1 Corinthians 11:1), and the author of Hebrews commands: “remember your leaders those who spoke to you the word of God. Consider the outcome of their way of life, and imitate their faith” (Hebrews 13:7). Kuyper is not a savior, but he loved the Savior and wore himself out in service for the Savior. That must be considered.
We make disciples of Christ, not disciples of Kuyper. I don’t tell any of my unbelieving neighbors that they need to “ask Kuyper into their hearts.” And at the same time, it may very well be that my neighbors observe something different about our family that I know grows out of a viewpoint and motivation I learned from considering Kuyper’s faith and way of life.
We are preoccupied with the future today. I’ve read that as a description about leaders: a leader is preoccupied with the future, that a great leader rallies others to a better future. This future focus is a New Testament norm, a pattern established in the Old Testament.
The farmer tills and sows and waters and weeds as he looks to the harvest. The Christian trusts and suffers and worships as he looks to the harvest. Jesus is coming again. The faithful servants in the parable knew that their master was returning soon so they invested (Matthew 25:14-30). Faith, hope, expectation, these fill our hearts with reason for daily deaths.
What we believe will happen later affects what we will do now. Too many Christians, especially the Dispy types, have undervalued earthly relationships and responsibilities, forfeiting their own joy and an obvious way of provoking jealousy.
We are concerned about enculturating the next generation, about edifying one another, about encouraging healthy marriages and families. But this is not only for ourselves, it is for the life of the world. We do it because we already have and we want more of God’s blessing.
In Genesis 1 God blessed Adam and Eve before He gave them their mandate (Genesis 1:28). He blessed them for sake of their marriage and mission of fruitfulness and filling and forming the earth. They were blessed by Him.
In the Psalms the Israelites received and requested more of God’s blessing. The first word in Psalms is “blessed,” describing the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked but delights in the law of the Lord and yields fruit like a tree in season. The Lord’s blessings came in the form of good harvests and in victory over, or at least protection from, enemies. Blessings sometimes looked like gold and sometimes like gladness and sometimes both. Blessings came in the form of a wise and righteous king as well as in judgment on transgressors. Blessing included land, livestock, and eating the fruit of one’s labor. Blessing came in the form of peace of heart, peace with God, peace among brothers. Blessings included forgiveness and feasts. Blessing came in the form of temple worship and in the form of kids all around the dinner table.
The earth has yielded its increase;
God, our God, shall bless us.
God shall bless us;
let all the ends of the earth fear him!
Fear of God extends on earth as God blesses His people.
We rightly acknowledge that we have been blessed “in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places” (Ephesians 1:3). We know that a man can have every temporal good on earth that he thinks he wants and still not have joy (Ecclesiastes 6:1-6); as Doug Wilson illustrated, he has a warehouse of canned peaches and no can opener. But Jesus taught that the blessed are blessed with earthly as well as eternal good.
In Matthew 5, the opening of Jesus’ sermon, the blessed will inherit the earth, they get comfort, they get satisfaction, they get fellowship with God. The blessed believe, they worship, they repent, they long for righteousness. And these blessed ones are salt.
You are the salt of the earth, but if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything except to be thrown out and trampled under people’s feet. (Matthew 5:13)
Salt is not merely a preserving agent keeping a culture from extreme decay. Salt is a flavoring agent. Jesus Himself explains what He means by it. Salt makes savory. Salt tastes good and makes one thirsty, it makes the mouth water. The blessed are the salt of the earth.
These blessed ones are light.
You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven. (Matthew 5:14–16)
This is not only the light of righteousness, but the light of reality. Light reveals what was hidden, in some cases exposing the guilty and in other cases enabling enjoyment. Note how the light is equal to “good works,” not clever criticisms and certainly not complaints.
Good works are often simple: a cup of cold water given in Jesus’ name, or as in the case of widow who has “a reputation for good works: if she has brought up children, has shown hospitality, has washed the feet of the saints, has cared for the afflicted, and has devoted herself to every good work” (1 Timothy 5:10). It could include so many things; there are endless thumbs-widths to use. Light is productive. And the blessed cause others to see something about the Blesser.
How can we seek God’s blessing in such a way that others will be the right sort of jealous? How can we profit so as to make others recognize the true source of the profit? How can we count it all joy in trials so that others will recognize the giver in heaven? How can we succeed, or suffer, in such a way as to make Jesus look good?
We need to get better at boasting in the God of blessing.
In God we have boasted continually,
and we will give thanks to your name forever.
as it is written, “Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.” (1 Corinthians 1:31, a quote of Jeremiah 9:23-24)
We are #blessed.
When we think about making the Jews jealous, it’s difficult to imagine a culture of people who have endured in persecution and who have stewarded material gain so well as they. It’s not just about the blessing of prosperity and peace, but also of patience through pain and persecution. Christians ought to be worshiping God in such a way that He blesses us so that Israel will see what they are missing in Christ.
This will happen according to Romans 11. This is God’s purpose for us. We are the means of this part of the eschaton according to God’s promises. This is the Blessing Option.
A Kuyperian Dispy will look like our Covy brothers in many ways. For that matter, we will look like those with common grace in success or endurance. But we will be able to explain it.
It starts with faith in Christ and worship of God in Christ through the Spirit. God opposes the proud. God also blesses the humble.
The church does not run this. The church gathers to worship God and the leaders equip Christians to go into their spheres. A culture of Christians seeking to honor Jesus as Lord is bigger than the church.
This takes time. It takes daily deaths. We may not see the fulness of the blessing harvest. But if you knew that today’s dying would grow fruit you wanted tomorrow, you’d certainly do it. So we live by faith.
We are preoccupied with the future and optimistic about history to come, that God will bless us and use the light of our good works for sake of glorifying His name among the nations. Certain things around us will get darker in jealous response to our blessings. Good and evil are not a pie with inverse proportion; they can both increase. This is already happening as unbelieving men want the fruit without the work of farming. Yet by God’s plan the Blessing Option will eventually work the right sort of jealousy among the Jews. Our overflowing buckets of blessing will be a witness to the nations.
You are in the story now. You may or may not be intentional, frustrated, lazy, underperforming, complaining, or on the cusp of a blessing breakthrough. Jesus is Lord, and He has called us all to be dependent on Him for His jealousy-producing blessing.
You all share a hope in the promises of God and in the return of the King. You all also share a habit of purposeful fellowship, a fellowship that encourages one another to live in love and light, and a fellowship that makes others jealous. Your fellowship is not in vain as the day draws near.
Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful. And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near. (Hebrews 10:23–25, ESV)