Worm theology

I am working through the new devotional called “Live Dead Joy” by missionary Dick Brogden. “Live Dead” is a missions effort to put missions teams in the hardest, most unreached parts of the world. It is a radical call to missions and as such, Dick Brogden is a very driven man. I admire him greatly.

I enjoy the Live Dead devotional because it is NOT soft pedaling anything. It’s not your “warm thought for the day” kind of devotional. It is a call to live under the power of the cross of Jesus Christ.

But today I have a bone to pick with his thought process.

Today’s devotional starts with this sentence:

“Revelation wreaks havoc on any theology that has a high view of people.”

A few lines later:

“There is no man-centered triumphalism in the last days — there is only disaster.”

Revelation does point out what happens when humanity puts themselves at the center. We witness this all over the world all the time.

But to say there is no place for a “high view of people” ignores… well.. the Bible. We too often have a “worm theology.” I draw this from the song “At the Cross” where the line says “Would he devote that sacred head for such a worm as I?”

I grew up with that theology.

It’s not about being “man centered.” What is needed is a theology of God that is so great that we understand GOD has a high view of humanity. Without God, we’re foolish. Yes. But WITH God, what is constantly put in front of us biblically is the thought: ALL IS OURS.

Without God, we end up in disaster. Revelation portrays that. Yet, WITH God, we have the opportunity to understand what it is to walk in the image of Christ.

Here are a couple of reminders we need from Scripture:

His divine power has given us everything we need for a godly life through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness. Through these he has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature, having escaped the corruption in the world caused by evil desires. (2 Peter 1:3-4)

I always thank my God for you because of his grace given you in Christ Jesus. For in him you have been enriched in every way—with all kinds of speech and with all knowledge— God thus confirming our testimony about Christ among you. Therefore you do not lack any spiritual gift as you eagerly wait for our Lord Jesus Christ to be revealed. He will also keep you firm to the end, so that you will be blameless on the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. God is faithful, who has called you into fellowship with his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord. (1 Cor. 1:4-9)

We need to be reminded from time to time that GOD has a high view of us.

1. Don’t think you do it all on your own. That’s disastrous.

2. Don’t think you’re an unworthy worm. That’s disastrous as well.

3. In Christ, ALL IS OURS. That is victorious.

Jesus is not your servant

Live Dead Joy is not your typical “devotional.” You can read it every day, but you’ll end up on your face repenting every day. It’s not what you think of as “devotional.” But it IS necessary.

Example from today:

It is somewhat ludicrous to call Jesus a servant-king. The danger in reducing Jesus to this hyphenated nonsense is that it leads us to consider Him a genie who exists to meet our needs and do whatever we command. This is insulting to the character of God. It does not reflect the eternity of Jesus, and it is not representative of the King of Kings and Lord of Lords.
Read at your own risk.

Transformational thinking starts with suffering. Really.

Picking up N T Wright’s book, After You Believe, is a tremendous bonus as I work through these texts on “live dead” for my messages on Sunday.

Wright does not pull any punches. He examines the New Testament texts thoroughly. While a lot of his writing sounds a lot like the old “Kingdom Now” theology, it varies off wildly from that strain of thought because of where Kingdom power really starts: in suffering. It’s not all “glory” in our own terms, like Kingdom Now tended to propose, or some strains that I hear in other teaching from time to time these days.

NT Wright takes James. 1:2-4 and 2 Peter 1:5-8 works them this way:

Here we are clearly in the same world of thought. All these characteristics lead to one another, of course. The point is not to spend some years acquiring the first, and then move on to the second, and so on; they work together. And the point is their forward look: the aim of it all is to be fruitful in working for Jesus (2 Peter); to be “complete,” teleioi, ready for whatever contingency may arise, since your character has been formed to be prepared for anything and everything (James).

Character formation is the key, not just good feelings over someone getting healed. Suffering leads that way in New Testament teaching:

Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us. (Rom. 5:3-5)

Live Dead is necessary for any believer. America. North Africa. China. Live Dead may look “different” in particular contexts, but above all should be the idea of character transformation. Our lives are to be different from this world. It takes our minds being transformed. It takes US being willing to have our characters formed by Christ and allowing Kingdom habits to become second nature.

Walk in transformational thinking. Walk in new life. Really.

It’s hard to kill a dead man

I’ve met several missionaries who are part of the “Live Dead” teams being raised up to go into the hardest places of the world. They have been to my church. I’ve sat with them at lunch. They are incredibly determined people.

Meeting one in context is somehow a very different story. Sitting in another country, listening to them almost casually talk about being run out of one country and now the opportunity God has given them in a new hard area, and they rejoice.

To hear stories of missionaries barely making it out of a country like it was out of the movie Argo, without the camera lights and the Academy Awards, of course…

And they are praying strategically for the next thing God has for them.

It’s hard to kill a dead man.

They’ve obtained a prize. They have pursued Christ and found him to be everything. They have died long ago. They are now in LIFE like this world can’t know.

Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith— 10 that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, 11 that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead. (Phil. 3:8-11)

Living Dead Brings New Life

24 Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. 25 Whoever loves his life loses it, and whoever hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life. 26 If anyone serves me, he must follow me; and where I am, there will my servant be also. If anyone serves me, the Father will honor him. (John 12:24-26)

The source of life for others comes in the death of some seed. Something had to die. Pride. Ego. Even a literal life laid down. Something was surrendered. Something was given over. Something died. 

Then… LIFE.

When I will live out the fullness of Rom. 12:1-2 and put my life on the line every day, willing to allow death to my own systems, there is the possibility of multiplication. What am I willing to do? Not for MY life, but for the life of the Kingdom?

Live Dead Challenge: Good News isn’t “Self Help”

We are just into a series on “LIVE DEAD” at our church. This week’s reflection is on Romans 12. Next Sunday we reflect on Romans 13:8-14. 

The process of “LIVE DEAD” begins with Paul’s urging in Romans 12:

So, brothers and sisters, because of God’s mercies, I encourage you to present your bodies as a living sacrifice that is holy and pleasing to God. This is your appropriate priestly service. Don’t be conformed to the patterns of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds so that you can figure out what God’s will is—what is good and pleasing and mature. (vv. 1-2, CEB)

We need transformed minds that will call us out. We need a fresh call to move away from being conformed to the spirit of this age and have our whole beings surrendered fully to the patterns of the Kingdom of God. 

The gospel means “GOOD NEWS.” It’s not a discussion on philosophy or a self-help tract. We have a message to proclaim and a new life to live out in front of this world. 

The question for this week in my life is this: Is my life fully surrendered to the power of the gospel?