Monday, October 27, 2008

Council Estate Christians part 5: The priority of knowing God over social transformation

As a child growing up on a council estate, I didn't even know it was a bad area (it was only later in life as I mixed with people outside of the estate that I realised this). The estate was normal to me, but not having a dad around was heart breaking. I did not need my estate to be transformed, as much as I needed to know God as my heavenly Dad. This knowledge later changed my life. The social improvement the local council brought to the estate has done little for me by comparison. I have helped a number of people on the estate through youth work (and believe this was right to do) - but the effects of this is tiny in comparison with knowing God as your father.

Over the years I have heard shock from some people about the social deprivation and crime of council estates, but this is not the greatest problem. Our greatest problem is not knowing God as our loving creator. Our greatest problem is that we live as enemies to God, and we need to be brought into a right relationship with God.

Carson writes:
We must always remember that: The Gospel is not admired in Scripture primarily because of the social transformation it effects, but because it reconciles men and women to a holy God. Its purpose is not that we might feel fulfilled, but that we might be reconciled to the living and holy God. The consummation is delightful to the transformed people of God, not simply because the environment of the new heaven and the new earth is pleasing, but because we forever live and work and worship in the unshielded radiance of the presence of our holy Maker and Redeemer. That prospect must shape how the church lives and serves, and determine the pulse of its ministry. The only alternative is high-sounding but self-serving idolatry.

D. A. Carson, For the Love of God : A Daily Companion for Discovering the Riches of God's Word. Volume 2 (Wheaton, Ill.: Crossway Books, 1998), 25.