The great missionary-evangelist E. Stanley Jones once remarked, "The gospel involves both the Person (Jesus Christ) and the Plan (the kingdom of God). The Person without the Plan yields personal piety only; the Plan without the Person yields social reform but not its essential source and power."
This is a much needed word for today.
Tuesday, September 17, 2013
Tuesday, September 03, 2013
A Review by Bob Roberts, Jr. (Senior Pastor, NorthWood Church, Texas)
This book, Heaven on Earth by R. Alan Streett, was NOT what I expected. A college professor and theologian wrote it – so I expected a good exegetical, academic, intellectual discussion of the Kingdom. It did that – but a whole lot more as well. As someone who has been captivated by the Kingdom, I could tell this was no mere 10-year study into the Kingdom, but a 10-year adventure of his personal experience in the Kingdom! Some people know that I’m pretty obsessed with the Kingdom of God written about in the Gospels, so I often get requests to read such books. Most are ok, a few are truly exceptional and powerful – i.e. Willard, Lloyd-Jones, Glasser, Tolstoy, Bonhoeffer, etc. This book on the Kingdom was filled with passion because someone was experiencing it beyond explaining it. What was it that I liked about this book so much that set it apart from other books on the Kingdom?
First, Alan Streett is from my tribe – so I understand his mindset, background, and culture. Yet, he is marching to a different beat – a good beat – a kingdom beat. The kingdom is never found in mass – but personally. He has done that. The kingdom is never lived in solitude – but in community with others and in collaboration with the city and the world. His conclusions, ideas, and positions are not always mainstream in our tribe in terms of how we live this out – but they are dead on Biblically. He gets the big picture and takes you on a Biblical “trek” of the Kingdom present all throughout the Bible. He does a fantastic job of bringing the Roman & Jewish cultures to bear on the issue as how it’s seen in the life and ministry of Jesus and metaphors that were used and the context they were used in that help with interpretation. He validates what I’ve believed for many years – the more conservative you are towards the use of the Scripture the more loving and grace-filled you are going to be and the more open you are going to be to other people – even if you disagree with them theologically. That’s Jesus!
Second, he deals with Kingdom authority. Most look at demonic issues and signs, wonders, and miracles as the moving of the Holy Spirit. They are – but much more than that. They are expressions of the authority of Jesus, the King of the Kingdom. If you get the concept of authority – it’s a game changer in your understanding of the Kingdom. Authority is the valve that opens signs and wonders and Jesus’ name is the key.
Third, he makes the Kingdom accessible and easy to every follower of Jesus. His dealing with the Beatitudes and other things in the Sermon on the Mount make this point. I like his “Mars” hermeneutic – interpret the Bible simply as if someone from Mars were reading it for the first time – how would it come across. I believe that – because first and foremost Jesus came for everyday, ordinary people. The Kingdom is not complex – it cannot be for it to be lived out. I loved his chapter on AM & FM Christians – learning to hear God’s voice. This is huge in the Kingdom.
Fourth, he ties the Kingdom to the Church. I’ve often said, “You can have the church and not the Kingdom, but you can’t have the Kingdom and not have a church.” He takes that to the point of breaking down the different expressions of the church lived out in community with other believers in homes. He holds on to the expression of “church” in corporate worship but sees it as so much more than that.
Fifth, he ties the Kingdom to the mission of the Church. “Missions” is not something the church does – but the natural life she lives. He looks at how the church is too often defined by “nationalism” instead of “Kingdom” and what that looks like. If the church doesn’t have a Kingdom perspective – she will never fulfill what God has called her to.
I would heartily recommend this book as even your first reader on the Kingdom if you’re serious about it. Here’s why – it’s simple, clear, historical, biblical, theological, practical – and very challenging. It’s rare you get one book on the Kingdom that does all that.