To Judge the World (6)
“Truly, this only I have found:
That God made man upright,
But they have sought out many schemes.” Ecclesiastes 7.29
But when they did not find them, they dragged Jason and some brethren to the rulers of the city, crying out, “These who have turned the world upside down have come here too.” Acts 17.6
Not the way they’re supposed to be
We have mentioned Cornelius Plantiga’s observation that, regarding the present condition of the world, things are “not the way they’re supposed to be.” God created human beings upright, and the world around them very good (Gen. 1.31). But the misguided propositions, schemes, and programs fallen human beings have pursued over the years have turned God’s good and upright world upside-down. The place is still recognizable and workable, even fruitful and enjoyable, but very little is going according to God’s plan – except, of course, in the larger perspective of the long march of time.
Human beings, the philosopher George Santayana once observed, are remarkably adaptable. But we should be concerned about what we can become adaptable to; and it’s clear that people by and large have grown accustomed to our upside-down world, so much so that they scarcely recognize its upside-downness, and believe that any effort to re-right the world constitutes a threat.
Well, they’re right about that, as the people of Thessalonica quickly grasped. The Gospel of Jesus Christ that set people free from guilt, liberated them from the constraints of man-made philosophies and traditions, taught them the way of self-denial and sacrificial love, led them to lay aside familiar worldly ways and walk a new path of righteousness, peace, and joy, and emboldened them to call their neighbors to repentance and faith in Jesus Christ – that Gospel was an upside-down force in the early years of the Christian movement, a power with the potential for turning the world rightside-up in Jesus Christ. The Gospel is a threat to an upside-down world because it turns people and their values, worldview, aspirations, and intentions upright, and infuses them with the power to bring God’s goodness and shalom into the world.
And that potential exists yet today.
Set your mind
Seated at the right hand of God, as we saw in Psalm 110, our Lord Jesus holds a scepter of uprightness (Ps. 45.6), the emblem of His rule and the standard of His agenda. And He sends His people forth into the world each day as He Himself was sent (Jn. 20.21), to seek and advance the Kingdom of God’s shalomamong the peoples of the earth.
By our daily acts of judging and judgment we assert the rightside-upness of Jesus into our upside-down world, and bring a new program and a new economy to light within our own Personal Mission Fields. In all our relationships, roles, and responsibilities we strive to realize the uprightness that brings the goodness of God to light in the land of the living – courtesy, kindness, decency, civility, excellence, duty, going the extra mile, truthfulness, beauty, encouragement and edification, and spiritual fruitfulness and flourishing.
But if we are to succeed in this, so that the rightside-up rule of Jesus prevails wherever we are seeking His Kingdom, we’ll need to fix our minds on Him, to see Him in His holy array, enter His glory, become immersed in His Word, and draw on the filling of His indwelling Spirit.
Our calling to judge the world depends on this. We will only know how to choose, what to say, or where and how to act for righteousness and shalom to the extent that we set the Lord always before us, hide His Word deeply within us, and yield to His Spirit rather than to the inclinations of our upside-down age (Ps. 16.8; Ps. 119.9-11; Col. 3.16; Gal. 6.16-23).
We have the mind of Christ and His Spirit, but these will only serve us in our call to judge the world as we are renewed in them daily, and obedient to them at every turn (1 Cor. 2.16; Rom. 8.5-9). We must exercise our minds with the things that pertain to God’s shalom. As Paul put it in Philippians 4.8, 9: “Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things arenoble, whatever things arejust, whatever things arepure, whatever things arelovely, whatever things areof good report, if there isany virtue and if there isanything praiseworthy—meditate on these things. The things which you learned and received and heard and saw in me, these do, and the God of peace [shalom] will be with you.”
Walk in the Spirit
The people of Thessalonica persecuted those who tried to right their world. Our world will persecute us as well; as we bring the righteousness and truth of Jesus into all our conversations, actions, and obligations. Jesus said that if they hated Him, they will hate us, too (Jn. 15.18-25). But we must not flinch at the prospect of someone objecting to our witness, laughing at our appeal to Scripture, mocking our insistence on truth and common decency, exposing the lie of and dismantling their cherished opinions, and resisting their efforts to infuse our part of the Lord’s Kingdom with worldly values and ways. The Thessalonian believers were persecuted, but undaunted, and the witness of their lives and words spread throughout Macedonia and Achaia into every place as they faithfully pursued their calling to judge the world for the shalom of God (1 Thess 1.1-10).
We are called to judge the world, but we will need the perspective, presence, and power of the Holy Spirit if we are going to succeed. We must be renewed in Him daily and rely on Him continuously, heedless of what others might think or how they might respond, our minds set only on seeking the upright and good Kingdom of righteousness, peace, and joy in the Spirit at every opportunity.
Turning the world rightside-up is a full-time calling and the work of the entire Christian community. Make sure you’re ready to do your part.
1. What evidence do you see that things in the world are not rightside-up? How has this come to be?
2. What is required to be daily renewed in the perspective, presence, and power of the Spirit of God?
3. How can you increase in the mind of Christ?
Next steps – Preparation: Memorize Philippians 4.8, 9, and act consistently on its teaching at every opportunity.
T. M. Moore
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This week’s study is part 4 of a 4-part series, To Judge the World. Each part consists of seven lessons and is available as a free PDF download at the end of the study. In the tag for part 7, we’ll give you a link to download part 4, To Judge the World.
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Except as indicated, Scripture taken from the New King James Version. © Copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission.
- T.M. Moore
- December 10, 2018
We can change the world and turn it upright.
To Judge the World (6)
T. M. Moore is principal of The Fellowship of Ailbe, a spiritual fellowship in the Celtic Christian tradition. He and his wife, Susie, make their home in Essex Junction, VT.