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In Part Four of The Jesus Creed, Scot McKnight discusses a personal relationship with Jesus. In fact, he begins with, “The goal of a disciple of Jesus is relationship, not perfection.”

We hold Christians to a different standard; a higher standard. When Traci and I first moved to Abilene we encountered a challenge to our faith. Traci was job hunting. During this experience, she was lied to. This wasn’t so troubling, but the people lying to her were calling themselves Christians. We hadn’t really experienced that. In our experience, people calling themselves Christians were typically trustworthy and honest.

McKnight observes, “Everyone knows that anyone claiming ‘I am a disciple of Jesus’ had better be a good person. In fact, we’d all agree that such a person would have to be extraordinarily good. We might shy away from saying they have to be perfect, but we might as well admit that inside we are holding any person making such a claim to a pretty lofty standard. But Jesus, so it seems to me, would not have joined us in these thoughts. He thinks the primary point is about ‘believing.'”

That’s not to say behavior doesn’t matter or that it was okay for those people to lie to Traci during her job-hunt. McKnight clarifies: “A disciple is someone who engages Jesus as a person by trusting him, and because of that relationship, begins to live out the virtues Jesus talks about. It all begins here, in this order, and if it doesn’t begin here, it doesn’t begin at all.”

It is about relationship first and behavior second. If you don’t have the relationship, then the behavior, even if it is good, doesn’t really matter. Being “in Christ” makes all the difference.

The Bible talks about heaven, but doesn’t really go into the detail we might like. Still, our “perspective” should effect how we live. Jesus presents the end as a judgment followed by fellowship with God.

McKnight writes, “If eternity is eternal fellowship with the Father (and not a theology test), then we need to get started right now in knowing this One with whom we will share the table.” We pray, read the Bible, serve others, not out of obligation, but because these things draw us into relationship with God.

McKnight argues, “One’s view of the eternal (the end) gives one perspective in this life (our beginning each day). The most potent incentive to spiritual formation is to see the end of history, to ponder God’s eternity, and to realize that this end shapes our beginning each day.”

In light of this, how will you live today?

Why did Jesus perform miracles? Often we are argue that they were so that he could prove his divinity; that he was from God. Why did the early church perform miracles? To confirm their message. Scot McKnight argues that this is not the primary purpose for Jesus’ miracles.

Instead, “They restore people. Miracles are performed by Jesus out of love and are done to restore humans to God and to others.” While John calls Jesus’ miracles “signs,” these signs are not performed for the entertainment of the audience. Frequently they were out of compassion.

McKnight observes, that in many instances of the miracles, “He [Jesus] is restoring the marginalized to the center of society and reclassifying them as pure. The kingdom of God is the society in which the Jesus Creed transforms life–and one way to transform life is to restore humans to God and to others by performing miracles.” Those who are broken, those considered unclean, those without a place in society; Jesus restores to wholeness.

How can we, by God’s power, restore others to wholeness?

McKnight argues, “Spiritual formation is not all contemplation and meditation, or Bible study groups and church gatherings. Spiritual formation, because it begins with the Jesus Creed, involves loving God and others. We need not choose one or the other; we need both, because loving others includes brushing up against the thorns of injustice in society. Love wants them removed.”

The Restoration Movement has typically done well with the Bible study and church gatherings, but we’ve not always done well with social justice. I think we are doing better. We’re becoming more involved with those around us (beyond studying the Bible with them). This involvement is increasing awareness. Now, it’s just a matter of doing something about the injustices we see.

What do you think? How have we done locally in social justice issues?

Jesus said, “The kingdom of God is like a mustard seed.”

Scot McKnight asks and answers, “Why does a mustard seed attract comparison to the kingdom of God? Because for Jesus the kingdom is about the ordinariness of loving God and loving others. The kingdom is as common as sparrows, as earthy as backyard bushes, as routine as breakfast coffee, and as normal as aging. He hallows the ordinary act of love, making it extraordinary. Instead of finding it in the majestic, Jesus sees God’s kingdom in the mundane. The kingdom of God is the transforming presence of God in ordinary humans who live out the Jesus Creed.”

This is, I think, part of the genious of the kingdom of God. It is the simple things that matter. They are so simple. And yet, it seems we can’t accomplish them without God’s help.

What does the “Jesus Creed” look like when it is lived out? Jesus spoke about what this looked like; he called it the “kingdom of God.” McKnight defines the “kingdom of God” as: the kingdom is the society for which the Jesus Creed transformed life. Three parts here: first, it is a society; second, the content shaping that society is the Jesus Creed; and third, the impact of the kingdom is that it transforms life.”

Kingdom transformation begins by turning to Jesus, continues by following Jesus, and sustained by fellowship. Our transformation starts when we seek a relationship with Jesus. But transformation will not happen over night. We need the continued relationship. We also need the support of others to encourage our transformation.

According to McKnight, John’s story is about learning to love. The Apostle John is known as the Apostle of Love. Throughout his writings this theme returns again and again. “A new command I give you: love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.”

But John didn’t begin as the instructor of love. Consider a few accounts from his life. “Jesus, do for us whatever we ask. . . . Let one of us sit at your right and the other at your left in glory.” Or the disciples see a person driving out demons in Jesus’ name, but he’s not one of us. Should we stop him? Jesus answers, “Whoever is not against us is for us.” Or some Samaritans refuse hospitality to Jesus. “Lord, do you want us to call down fire from heaven to destroy them.”

McKnight observes, “For someone who spends his last days writing about love-love-love, John sure fails when his love is tested. John may learn about love, but as a young man, h is crusty and cranky.” However, John had a good teacher. John learned to love because he was loved by Jesus. Through all the ups and downs, Jesus loves John.

And Jesus loves us. Will we learn to love others as John did?

Scot McKnight contrasts views of conversion. Some view conversion as a birth certificate; others as a driver’s license. The birth certificate view looks to the one specific moment. But the driver’s license view looks to a longer perspective. McKnight advocates the driver’s license view. Conversion is a total conversion — heart, soul, mind, and strength. We are given permission to “operate on life’s highways.”

Consider the story of Peter. When is Peter converted? When he is introduced to Jesus? When he confesses he is a sinner? When he confesses Jesus is the Messiah? Is it only after the death and resurrection of Jesus? Or when he receives the Holy Spirit on Pentecost?

McKnight writes, “No one doubts that Peter is converted, but we may not be sure when the ‘moment’ occurs, when he gets his birth certificate. And therein lies the mystery of conversion. Conversion is more than just an event; it is a process. Like wisdom, it takes a lifetime.”