People often ask me: wouldn’t world missions and evangelism be so much easier if Jesus would just show up in person like He did two thousand years ago? He would walk around, do miracles, perform signs and wonders and preach the Word. And wouldn’t His effectiveness be multiplied given that He can now access technology that He didn’t have all those years ago, like the internet and podcasts and Twitter?
I actually think the answer is “no”. If someone showed up in the flesh proclaiming themselves to be God incarnate, your cynicism would likely dismiss them outright. You would say “God wouldn’t look like that”. You would have a certain expectation of His appearance or His status.
It’s just like the Lakeland Outpouring. When I first saw footage of it, I thought: “God can’t be in this. Look at the preacher. He looks like a bikie. And is he punching some old guy in the gut when he should be praying for the guy’s healing?” And we think, “maybe it’s just all hype. Everyone is caught up in the hysteria of it all, but it’s not a real revival.”
In fact, didn’t Jesus face a similar type of opposition when He appeared on earth? The religious establishment had for a long time believed that (in their interpretation of Scripture) Jesus would come as a political figure to free the Jewish nation from Roman rule. They did not expect that a King could be born in a manger, let alone grow up as a carpenter. And then to die on the cross? No way! Jesus could not possibly have been the prophesied Messiah.
And yet (for those us who are born again), we realise that in hindsight, the religious establishment had got it all wrong.
I am reading my signed copy of Frank Viola’s Revise Us Again, a brilliant little thesis on why we need to revise the “Christian script” from which we live.
Here is a pivotal point that Viola makes: “The Lord Jesus Christ will end up coming to us in a way that makes it easy for us to reject Him.”
And Viola says:
We all wish to cling to the Lord that we know now. We all wish to hold on to the Christ that has been revealed to ustoday. But mark my words: He will come to us in a way that we do not expect – through people who we’re prone to ignore and inclined to write off.
Perhaps they don’t talk our religious language. Perhaps they aren’t theologically sophisticated. Perhaps they don’t use our vocabulary. Perhaps they don’t share our jargon or parrot our religious idioms.
And so we cling fast to the Lord that we recognise – receiving only those who talk our language, use our jargon, and employ our catchphrases – and all along we end up turning the Lord Jesus Christ away….
What then does our Lord do when we fail to receive Him when He comes to us in an unexpected way? He moves on. And the revelation we have of Hm ceases to grow.
We see through a glass dimly. No one has a monopoly on revelation. And revelation is just that: it is fleeing, momentary and time-bound. Once it is recorded, set in script and written about, by definition, it soon ceases to be a revelation. In due course, that revelation fades, just like the glory began to fade from Moses’ face.
Paul exhorts us in 2 Corinthians 3:13 that we should not be like Moses, “who put a veil over his face to keep the Israelites from gazing at it while the radiance was fading away”.
So we need to learn to embrace others and the revelation of Christ given to those who are outside our circle. It takes the whole body of Christ (the entire church) to fully represent Christ on this earth. We cannot continue to ignore other parts of the body because they are different. We need them precisely because they are different and fulfill the functions which our part of the body cannot fulfill. True unity embraces our diversity.
And we need to keep in step with the Spirit, not camping around the wonderful theologies and methods of yesteryear, although they were good, but to pursue fresh revelation, fresh insights. That is all part of growing as a church, realising that what we have seen so far is only a part revelation, and that there is more to come. If we fail to embrace change, we will cease to grow; we will stagnate.
Jesus was a revolutionary and we need to capture that revolutionary spirit to advance His kingdom here on earth. We need to embrace change; lest Jesus comes in a way we don’t expect and He passes us by.