“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!” (Psalm 67:6-7)
“The issue can no longer be evaded. It is becoming clearer every day that the most urgent problem besetting our Church is this: How can we live the Christian life in the modern world?” (Dietrich Bonhoeffer)
In case you haven’t noticed, the world is changing rapidly. From views on marriage and family to the increasing digitalization of social interaction, things we took for granted twenty years ago are being revised at an unprecedented pace, like a car barreling downhill through a residential area without any brakes. And it often seems that authentic Christianity–Christianity that takes the Bible seriously enough to call for repentance of sin and faith in Christ alone–is becoming increasingly unwelcome. Following Jesus by taking up one’s cross isn’t exactly a distinguishing mark of cultural elitism in our day. Rather, the theological and historical distinctives of the Christian life are being lumped in with the likes of backwoods fundamentalism.
Therefore, it can be tempting to hide oneself from the flaming darts of criticism by taking our ball and going home. If we’re being honest, we have wondered at times how much easier it would be to leave all of it in the dust of retreat as we try to forge a new path apart from the mainstream. In fact, I recently read an interview with a conservative scholar who suggested that Christians need to learn from the experience of the Amish, so as to protect our ranks from the contamination of secular culture. But is that a biblical assessment of the context we find ourselves in? How does it square with God’s vision for the church and its witness in the world?
The Lord of the Harvest
I believe the world needs to see authentic Christianity more than ever. The more society’s values are revised, the more the church must graciously embody the old, old Story of a King and His Kingdom. In other words, when the Gospel becomes exceedingly precious to us, we cannot, in our right minds, retreat from the world. There is too much at stake for us to remain silent about what matters most, making isolation a non-option. However, it can be hard to see it that way when the onslaught of hostility is so daunting.
But wouldn’t you know it, Psalm 67 comes to our rescue and gives us some much-needed sanity by assuring us that our witness for Christ will not be in vain. This sung-prayer of missional faithfulness reminds us that, when Christ is our all, we will prosper in the work of the Lord, regardless of whether or not we are welcome in the world. Yes, people are increasingly calling good evil and evil good, but God isn’t in heaven wringing His hands. He isn’t afraid of the future. Rather, He has a surefire plan to unite all things in Christ (Eph. 1:10), and He has invited us to get in on it.
So instead of hiding out in a subcultural storm shelter, the church can enter the madness of the world with confidence, knowing that the King of the universe has our back. And the psalmist motivates us by reminding us that God causes the earth to yield its increase. Through this agricultural imagery, he is giving us a way to see the world through the framework of God’s global purpose.
In fact, Jesus employs this usage of such imagery when He tells His disciples, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest” (Mat. 9:37-38). In other words, there’s a whole field’s-worth of work to do. And even though it is filled with the briars and thistles of postmodernism, it’s God’s field. He is the Lord of harvest and He alone can bring the increase. Are we asking Him to send us? And will we trust Him enough to go? Or do we prefer to remain stand-offish, criticizing from a distance the world we are called to reach with the Gospel?
To the Ends of the Earth
When we get our faces in the Bible and start asking the right questions, we quickly find that the missionary impulse of real worship is reinforced by God’s capacity to bear fruit for the Kingdom, even in the most unlikely of circumstances. To the ends of the earth, He pours out His sovereign grace to make the most vehement God-haters into the most worshipful God-fearers. After all, this is precisely what He did for us, isn’t it? Our former selves couldn’t even stomach the thought of worshiping God, and yet He relocated us smack-dab in the middle of His Kingdom, where righteousness, peace, and joy abound in the Holy Spirit (cf. Rom 14:17). That kind of grace doesn’t make us nice people with conservative values to tout; it makes us courageous missionaries with News to tell.
This Lord’s Day, you’re going to witness a miracle. Don’t overlook the fact that you will walk into a room full of living proof that God alone has the power to yield an increase of authentic Christianity. And He’s inviting us to come alive to that miracle in order that we might respond with the kind of worship that drives missionary impulse. So let’s abandon any notions of ditching our culture, hell-bent though it is. Instead, let’s set our minds and hearts upon seeing it redeemed for the sake of the cosmic Christ, on whose name the joy of the nations is staked. Real worship surrenders everything to do God’s work God’s way, knowing that this ever-changing world needs an unchanging Gospel. So let’s get going. The harvest awaits.
Liturgy for Sunday, May 03, 2015:
Call to Worship:
Shout for joy to God, all the earth; sing the glory of his name; give to him glorious praise! All the earth worships you and sings praises to you; they sing praises to your name. Come and see what God has done: he is awesome in his deeds toward the children of man. (Psalm 66:1-2, 4-5)
Confession & Assurance:
Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. But he was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his wounds we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned—every one—to his own way; and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all. (Isaiah 53:4-6)
May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope. (Romans 15:13)
You can also follow the Spotify playlist for this Sunday.