A British bishop once quipped when wondering about the impact of his ministry: “Wherever Paul preached he started a riot, and wherever I preach they throw a tea party….”
The words spoken by way of accusation against Paul and the Christian message are entirely true: “These men who have turned the world upside down have come here also…saying that there is another king, Jesus.” (Acts 17:6) Do we believe as readily as they did the truth of this statement?
Indeed, in Jesus, God has moved and acted in a way that has changed everything. Psalms 70 and 71 begin with cries for deliverance, help, rescue, shelter, and – in Jesus, the only true King – God hears the cries of his people and he intervenes to save. Through his cross and resurrection he saves in a once-and-for-all way, and he makes known that he is the once-and-for-all King, never to be replaced or dethroned.
A new and glorious reality is here, and yet to some degree we live in an in-between time. There is so much that is not right in the world around us and so much that is not right in our own hearts. Some refer to this as “the now-and-not-yet”.
The reformers spoke of the paradox that as Christians we are simultaneously saints and sinners: forgiven, restored and justified by God (saints) and yet in practice often failing, faltering, falling (sinners). All true – yet in the faith and preaching of the earliest Christians, the joy of our new reality in Christ shines though.
The preaching of Paul and the early Christians is wonderfully winsome and convincing. They delight in the fact that their hope is in God and not in themselves, that a holy God has loved and sought sinful people such as them and made them new. They share with simple freedom the good news that God fulfills his promises, not trying to make the message profound or give it power – because it has real, inherent power.
They proclaim that in Jesus’ suffering, death, and resurrection God enters, forgives, and frees those whose trust is in him. We see what it looks like when people turn to the King and find they are free, forgiven and loved beyond their merits and beyond their wildest dreams, and the reality of this good news compels them out into the world.
Perhaps you need your world turned upside down (or right side up?) Perhaps you’re weary of trying to hold it all together (or at least looking as if you do?) Perhaps you’re weary of being competent, in charge, “master of all you survey”? Perhaps you’re weary of being a mess, out of control, swirling and spinning, tossed to and fro?
If any of these words are true for you and you’re in need of having your world radically realigned, there is good news: Look to Jesus and be saved.
The love and power that changed the lives of the earliest Christians is the same power that seeks us today. Jesus the King, crucified and risen, source of our life and hope, continues to seek and to save.