The church and the state have become increasingly entangled since Constantine's rise to power in Europe in the early 4th century. Theologians call this time the Constantinian shift where Christianity was adopted as the state religion of the Roman Empire. As Christianity was legalized, persecution virtually stopped. The church began to acquire power, wealth, and land in Europe like never before. Theology was altered and the "spiritual interpretation" hermeneutic began to take root, dramatically affecting the church's witness of the coming Day of the LORD. The empire had become the Kingdom of God, the pope was the "vicar of Christ" to execute God's will on the earth, and anticipation of Christ's return began to slip from the eager expectation of the faithful.
A friend recently showed me a very intriguing cover story on the April 14th edition of Time Magazine. Entitled Rethinking Heaven, the article describes how modern evangelicals are seeking to recover the hope of "heaven". Though the article lacked a correct biblical perspective and had no mention of Jesus and His glory, I did appreciate the article's emphasis on a need to reevaluate the widely-held understanding of a "never ending worship service in the clouds" that many believers (and unbelievers) have in their mind when picturing "heaven".
At the deepest core of our being, God has given every human the longing for an immortal body and the restoration of this very earth that we live on. In contrast to an eternal existence in ethereality, the Bible presents this picture of the culmination of all things in the most vivid and tangible terms in passages like Revelation 21-22 and Isaiah 65. There is coming a day when we will live on this earth with no sorrow, crying, sickness, or pain. But until that fixed Day in the future (Acts 1:6-7, Acts 3:20-21, Acts 17:31; Daniel 2:21) we are called to bear witness to Jesus by taking...
There is much talk in the church today about "inheritance". From healing and the ending of injustices to great revival and financial prosperity, what some have haphazardly or intentionally called the "inheritance" of the believer either falls far short or is completely set against the Bible's description of our inheritance. Put simply, we have mistaken our childhood $5/week 'allowance' for an opulent estate and ownership of the family business.
Since the Renaissance and the Enlightenment when numerous scientific discoveries and social advancements were made, Western culture has increasingly been marked by progress, convenience, and abundance. According to the UNU-WIDER study on The World Distribution of Household Wealth from December 2006, America and Europe comprise only 15% of the world's total population yet possess 66% of the world's wealth. Information is accessible at our fingertips or just down the road in a library. We ate breakfast this morning and don't have to worry about where our next meal is coming from. We can travel long distances by car or by plane very economically. This is simply the world that we have grown up in, and if you're like me, you may not really know anything different.
I am becoming more and more aware of how much "Christian-ese" fills our conversation, song, and writing. We have held phrases in our rhetoric for so long that they have lost virtually all of their meaning - sometimes in writing, but especially when spoken or sung. Modern Christian conversation is becoming at best only peppered with phrases from the Bible rather than being saturated with the precious words of Jesus, the wisdom of the psalmists, or the warnings of the prophets. When Biblical phrases are used, they are often oriented around man and his need, rather than God and His glory. Though I know this is a massive generalization, it does not take an expert to see that this is just the fruit of our Christianity being shaped by our culture rather than the Bible.
One such phrase consists of only a few words that we seem to treasure as much as a coin that we find on the ground. It would be doubtful to think that a modern believer or even unbeliever has not heard one of the following phrases (or other variants thereof):
"I praise you Jesus!", "I worship you!", "Praise God!", "Praise the Lord!", "Bless God!"