It is our custom to consider the “state of the church” at the end of one year and the beginning of the next. In previous years, we have addressed the state of the evangelical church in North America. This year, given the circumstances, it is necessary to take stock of where we are here on the Palouse.
And James and John, the sons of Zebedee, come unto him, saying, Master, we would that thou shouldest do for us whatsoever we shall desire. And he said unto them, What would ye that I should do for you? They said unto him, Grant unto us that we may sit, one on thy right hand, and the other on thy left hand, in thy glory. But Jesus said unto them, Ye know not what ye ask: can ye drink of the cup that I drink of? and be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with? And they said unto him, We can. And Jesus said unto them, Ye shall indeed drink of the cup that I drink of; and with the baptism that I am baptized withal shall ye be baptized: But to sit on my right hand and on my left hand is not mine to give; but it shall be given to them for whom it is prepared. And when the ten heard it, they began to be much displeased with James and John. But Jesus called them to him, and saith unto them, Ye know that they which are accounted to rule over the Gentiles exercise lordship over them; and their great ones exercise authority upon them. But so shall it not be among you: but whosoever will be great among you, shall be your minister: And whosoever of you will be the chiefest, shall be servant of all. For even the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many (Mark 10:35-44).
Jesus does not rebuke James and John for the content of their request. He does, however, admonish them for not knowing what they would go through before that request was fulfilled. Jesus does not say that it is wrong to want to become great in the kingdom of heaven. He does teach us something remarkable about what constitutes greatness. The definition of greatness in the kingdom is not at all like the greatness which was common with rule among the Gentiles. Jesus then says that His surrender to the point of death (the basis of His lordship) was to be the pattern for us to follow. We are to follow it with one another, as individuals with unbelievers outside the covenant, and as a corporate body toward the watching world.
WHERE WE ARE
When it came to spiritual activity and energy, in the mid-seventies Moscow and Pullman were typical and sleepy Northwest towns, with no conservative Reformed presence at all. Today it is the home of an international association of classical and Christian schools, a Christian school with an international reputation, a thriving Christian liberal arts college, a remarkable publishing house, a Trinitarian cultural journal, two healthy churches pursuring covenant renewal worship, and hot controversy surrounding virtually all of it. What happened? Not only are all these things happening, but the influence they are having is disproportionate to the actual numbers.
In the 60s, my father wrote a small but enormously influential book called The Principles of War. In it, he applied the principles of physical warfare to what he called strategic evangelism. This idea of warfare is necessary in order to understand a central part of what is happening here, and by this I mean the concept of the decisive point. A decisive point is one which is simultaneously strategic and feasible. Strategic means that it would be a significant loss to the enemy if taken. Feasible means that it is possible to take. New York City is strategic but not feasible. Bovill is feasible but not strategic. But small towns with major universities (Moscow and Pullman, say) are both.
How shall WE THEN LIVE?
Now this explains why the conflict is here. But we must remember our text, and the nature of the conflict. We have as our avowed goal the overthrow of unbelief and secularism. But we must never pick up secularist weapons in order to accomplish this. How shall we then live?
First, live sacrificially in your families. Living harshly in the home and living biblically toward outsiders has a name—it is called hypocrisy. Second, look for opportunities to live as a servant in our community, whether in business, relations to neighbors, working as an employee, taking classes as a student, and so on. Third, recognize that corporately, the central thing we do is that of worshipping God rightly. Fourth, our corporate stance is that of defying the idols of modernity while sacrificing our lives for those living around us. This is the ministry of God.
THE Ministry of GOD
Note the italics, and the great relevance of this text. “Therefore seeing we have this ministry, as we have received mercy, we faint not; But have renounced the hidden things of dishonesty, not walking in craftiness, nor handling the word of God deceitfully; but by manifestation of the truth commending ourselves to every man’s conscience in the sight of God. But if our gospel be hid, it is hid to them that are lost: In whom the god of this world hath blinded the minds of them which believe not, lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine unto them. For we preach not ourselves, but Christ Jesus the Lord; and ourselves your servants for Jesus’ sake. For God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellency of the power may be of God, and not of us (2 Cor. 4:1-7).