January 23, 2021

Chaplain Mike: My Manifesto — The Good News of Jesus for the Life of the World

The Sower. Van Gogh

Note from CM: This is my final full post on Internet Monk. I decided to devote it to what really matters. I’ve been happy to share my journey with you and to learn about the paths on which God has led so many of you. But in the end, it’s not just about my journey or yours. At the heart, it’s about the journey Jesus took for the life of the world.

Tomorrow, I’ll combine a final personal word with one from Michael Spencer’s writings. For today, let’s dig down to the roots of what Internet Monk and my life and ministry is all about: the good news of Jesus. Here is, as Paul might say, “my gospel.” This is my manifesto.

• • •

How beautiful upon the mountains
are the feet of a messenger
who proclaims peace,
who brings good news,
who proclaims salvation,
who says to Zion, “Your God rules!”

• Isaiah 52.7 CEB

All shall be well, and all shall be well,
and all manner of things shall be well.

• Julian of Norwich

The good news of Jesus is the message that brings life to the world, now and forever. Today, allow me to outline my understanding of what this good news entails.

An Announcement

The good news of Jesus is an announcement, a proclamation of something real that has happened, something which changes the world forever.

The good news did not simply introduce a new religious option into history. It is not an advertisement for a product that one might want to consider purchasing. As Tom Wright says, the good news does not offer a new religious path, urge a new kind of morality, or present a new philosophical system. It is, rather, the announcement that a long anticipated event has taken place. It is public proclamation of the audacious claim that in Jesus, God has done something that has changed the world and its course completely.

Wright illustrates the difference: “It isn’t difficult to see how this worked. When Roman heralds came into a city like Thessalonica announcing that a new emperor had been enthroned, they didn’t mean, ‘Here is a new sort of imperial experience, and you might like to see if it suits you.’ They meant, ‘Tiberius (or Claudius, or Nero, or whoever) is the Lord of the World. You are the lucky recipients of this good news; [and now] he demands your loyalty, your allegiance…’”

That’s the good news of Jesus. God’s King has come and he is Lord of all.

Two Contexts

The good news about Jesus is announced in the light of two background stories and settings.

The first is the story of Israel. Jesus is the culmination of Israel’s story as told in the Jewish Bible. That story was written down in the wake of the Babylonian Exile and was designed to give the Jewish people a future hope.

The Jewish Bible presents it like this: God’s plan, as Bruce Waltke says, is for God’s people to dwell in God’s land with God’s words guiding them under the rule of God’s king, in order to bring God’s blessing to all the world. The actual story as it developed, long and complex for sure, takes the following general shape in various cycles throughout the First Testament:

  • God chooses and blesses his people in the good land prepared for them.
  • God gives them the vocation of being a light to the whole world.
  • They fail to fulfill that vocation.
  • They go into exile.
  • God delivers and reestablishes them in the land.

This pattern begins with Adam, who represents Israel’s first covenant human, her first king. God tasked him with subduing evil and opening the way for all humankind to the Tree of Life. But Adam and Eve failed and God sent them out of the garden into exile.

At the end of the patriarchal era, the children of Israel find themselves in exile once more, this time in Egypt. God, through his chosen leader Moses, delivers them, calls them to be a “kingdom of priests” to all nations, gives them his laws, and leads them to the Promised Land.

Eventually, the nation is ruled by kings, epitomized by David. However, by and large, the kings fail to lead Israel to be a light to the nations and the kingdom splits, with the northern tribes eventually destroyed by Assyria and the southern kingdom of Judah taken captive by Babylon.

It was in that setting that the prophets spoke, promising an end to exile, a return of Israel to her land, and the coming of a Davidic king (messiah) who would establish God’s rule of justice and shalom throughout the entire world.

The Gospels identify these promises with Jesus’ coming: first, when John announced, “The kingdom of heaven is near,” and then when Jesus came, embodying and proclaiming the good news of that kingdom. Jesus, the new Adam, the new Moses, the son of David, the true Israel, did what they could not do and became the light of the world.

The good news of Jesus must be understood in the context of Israel’s story.

The second is the rule of Rome. The New Testament also positions the good news of Jesus as God’s alternative to the claims of the Roman empire.

For example, Luke’s story of the nativity is replete with allusions to Caesar. In those days, Augustus was proclaimed as the savior of the world, whose rule brought good news of peace to all people. However, as Raymond E. Brown wrote, “The birthday that marked the true beginning of a new time took place not in Rome but in Bethlehem, and a counterclaim to man-made inscriptions was the heraldic cry of the angel of the Lord: ‘I announce to you the good news of a great joy which will be for the whole people: To you this day there is born in the city of David a Savior who is Messiah and Lord.’”

The rest of the New Testament echoes this as Paul traverses the Roman empire preaching that Jesus is Lord and that all things in heaven and on earth will one day bow to him. The NT concludes with the book of Revelation, which identifies Rome with Babylon, bringing together the stories of both testaments. These are the two great empires that typify the powers of sin, evil, and death holding the world in bondage. Revelation foretells the ultimate downfall of these powers as heaven comes to earth and a new creation is established, in which God dwells with his people in shalom.

The good news of Jesus is, therefore, to be understood as the coming of God’s rule contra the great powers of this world that advance the dominion of sin, evil, and death, as represented by Babylon and Rome. The good news of Jesus is the announcement that Israel’s promised Messiah has come to inaugurate God’s rule instead, to end human exile under the hostile powers, to overthrow those powers, and to establish God’s shalom in all the earth.

On Earth as in Heaven

The good news is not about how people can go to heaven when they die and leave this life. It is about how God’s rule has come to this world in Jesus, defeating death and bringing the promise of resurrection life and shalom to all creation.

The good news is not about how people can avoid going to hell when they die to be punished by God for their sins forever. Rather, the good news is that God’s judgment has already been pronounced on the powers of sin, evil, and death that enslave people, a verdict that sets them free from bondage to live in a new creation forever.

The good news announces that this judgment took place when Jesus died on the cross and rose again in triumph. Yes, there will be a future divine reckoning when God will judge people on the basis of their works. But the good news is that this judgment will not be retributive nor eternal, but purgative and restorative. Mercy will triumph over judgment. There will be an apokatastasis, a restoration of all things in Christ.

For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ all will be made alive. (1 Cor 15:22)

Making known to us the mystery of his will…to recapitulate all things in the Anointed, the things in the heavens and the things on earth… (Eph 1:9-10, DBH)

The good news is about what God has done in Jesus. It is not about what humans do or must do. When we announce the good news, we call people to trust what Jesus has done and reorient their lives to the new reality that God has established. This is faith.

Those who trust Jesus begin to taste newness of life. They become signs of God’s rule when they live lives of sacrificial love to help their fellow humans flourish, as Jesus did. The vocation God blessed humankind with at creation (Gen. 1:28) is restored. Each one may participate in the Jesus-shaped task of tikkun olam (repairing the world) by living the baptismal life of dying and rising each day, planting seeds of faith, hope, and love for a great harvest in the age to come.

This is the gospel of our Lord.

Go in peace, and share the good news!

Thanks be to God!

Comments

  1. David Cornwell says

    “On Earth as in Heaven”

    The essence of so much of what we should be about. And I feel this is what this place has been all about. My life has been a hybrid of mainline-evangelicalism, having come from the Methodist Church. The evangelical part is because the churches I grew up tended toward conservatism. Then later I graduated from a Wesleyan oriented college followed by a seminary of the same name.

    I’ve never been through the kinds of struggles that many of you have. But I have had to wrestle with issues like “assurance,” and head vs heart problems. I’ve never attempted to have a comprehensive understanding of theology, because after studying so much church history, it seems impossible. I’m sure about certain things and I affirm my faith with the Church. This site and the discussions here have helped me tidy up a lot of thoughts, ideas, and internal disputes. And I’ve learned to love some liberals! Mainly because they have shown a deepness of love toward me. I do not need to question their faith or their motives.

    I will miss my sisters and brothers in Christ that meet here on a regular basis. And, very importantly, our Chaplain — a man who has heard and answered a high calling. Thanks Mike.

    There are many more writers and commentators that I would like to spend more time with. I will miss you. I want to say a special “goodbye” to Jeff Dunn. I remember the passion of your writing — and your life.

    Goodbyes are hard aren’t they.

    • How many times over the years have I read your well-considered words and hard-won wisdom, David, and said to myself, “That’s really the sort of person I hope to be like when I’m at that phase of life”? I lost count many years ago. Looking back over this last year, however, I would now like to amend the sentiment to read, “That’s the sort of man I need to be like right now.”

      May goodness and mercy follow you, David, all the days of your life.

    • I speak for many in saying I will miss your gracious touch in your commentary David. God bless.

    • Dear David, what Trevis said. May the Peace of Christ be with you always. Big hugs to you.

      Dana

    • David, I just want to chime in and say that you have posted many gracious words over the years. Thank you for your kindness and insight.

  2. Susan Dumbrell says

    I write late at night New Years Eve 2020.
    A sudden stop to IMonk tomorrow.
    How many of us are ready for this.
    Yes, we were given warning, however no possible alternate option was offered.
    Many of us, myself included, haven’t physically been to a Church service since last February due to Covid 19.
    Churches are still closed.
    IMonk has offered an online community similar to a Christian gathering, each day.
    We have had a couple of commentators who are not Christian but they have added spice to our conversations.
    Suddenly some of us are without a Church community and without this forum. Double loss.
    My church as no chance of opening and obviously neither does this site.
    I feel I have been abandoned by the two things I cherish most, My church community and IMonk.
    Wear this as my discontent with this scenario.
    Susan

    • It is super hard.

      But as I think about this forum I realise that in some very real way it is completing its mission, rather than just ending. But it is doubly hard in this ridiculously hard year, where so many have not been able to go to church through Covid, but others, like me, couldn’t have gone to church much anyway due to health issues flaring up.

      I’m trying to trust that God will do a new thing regardless & bring something new to life to fit this moment. Who knows what that will look like?

      All of which is to say, yes, it’s tough & painful & traumatic, but I’m going to be praying for the next thing to come into focus & for all who need it to find it.

    • You are not abandoned. You’re not a victim. God loves you and everyone here does too. This is life and it flows in and out for all of us. We are all experiencing the outflow of the tide here together. It will flow back in in some new form as we keep our hearts open.

    • Susan,

      It has been a hard year, hasn’t it? Sending warm thoughts your way.

  3. “The good news is about what God has done in Jesus. It is not about what humans do or must do. When we announce the good news, we call people to trust what Jesus has done and reorient their lives to the new reality that God has established. This is faith.

    Those who trust Jesus begin to taste newness of life. They become signs of God’s rule when they live lives of sacrificial love to help their fellow humans flourish, as Jesus did. The vocation God blessed humankind with at creation (Gen. 1:28) is restored. Each one may participate in the Jesus-shaped task of tikkun olam (repairing the world) by living the baptismal life of dying and rising each day, planting seeds of faith, hope, and love for a great harvest in the age to come.

    This is the gospel of our Lord.”

    Yes, that is GOOD NEWS!

  4. Thank you Chaplain Mike! Blessings as your journey withJesus continues. Gratitude for how you have shared with us.

  5. Steve Newell says

    First, I will miss this place since it is quiet place in the chaos of American Christian.

    Remember that we are called to be the sheep of Christ in a dying world. As he taught in his parable of the Sheep and the Goats, we are called to share the love of Christ by caring for the hungry, helping the homeless and to visiting the imprisoned. This is how we share the “Good News of Jesus for the Life of the World”

  6. Chaplain Mike,

    Thanks so much to you and all the other writers who have contributed to Internet Monk over the years. I’ve commented only a couple times, but I’ve been reading since before Michael Spencer passed away. I grew up in a sheltered Evangelical household with a brittle faith that probably wouldn’t have survived me growing up and leaving the Christian bubble. But Internet Monk exposed me to a community of committed Christians who didn’t necessarily believe in all the secondary issues I’d been taught were so important (e.g Young Earth Creationism). This website may have literally saved my faith. I don’t know if I’m as “good” a Christian as I used to be, but I think I’m a more authentic one.

    I’m going to miss this place.

  7. This!

    This is why have I come back to this blog again and again for close to 20 years.

    Internet Monk has taken some turns here and there over those years. Like all of us, it has been prone to some navel gazing at times. But here is this site at its best (and CM at his best): thoughtful, reflective biblical scholarship with dirt under the nails, which helps us commoners look upwards and outwards. This is what I will miss the most, and I don’t know of another blog doing this kind of work.

    Thank you for carrying on the mantle of “Jesus-shaped spirituality.” I’ll keep fighting for it until I die.

    • “dirt under the nails”: yep, I’ve seen quite a lot of elders, pastors, leaders in my time. The best ones have dirty hands 🙂

  8. Nothing substantive to add, but I wanted to chime in to thank everyone here. This blog has been part of my daily routine for many years, to my great benefit. Godspeed.

  9. senecagriggs says

    I’ve always been available.

    senecagriggs@yahoo.com

    2021 is here; I’m as ready as I’ll ever be.

  10. Michael Bell says

    What is the gospel? People use the word all the time without being able to define it?

    Those who proclaiming eternal suffering in hell if you don’t believe what they believe is hardly proclaiming good news.

    Thank you for this wonderful summation that presents the gospel as truly good news.

  11. I’m going to miss this place, mostly because of the people whose voices I’ll no longer “hear.” It feels like when I come to the end of Lord of the Rings… I just want it to keep on going.

  12. I too will miss this place and its many voices. God bless you all!

    “All shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of thing shall be well.”

    St. Julian of Norwich

  13. I will admit that when I played that Cockburn tune you posted the other day, The Last Night of The World, my eyes welled with tears. This site has changed me and I will miss it. I may have to retire the ChrisS moniker going forward. It has only ever belonged here. God bless each and every one of you, whether we have been agreeable or otherwise, we have been a part of this together.

  14. I always felt that people gave something of themselves to others and received something of the other in return when there was ‘good will’ and ‘encouragement’ and ‘concern’. So if I am right about this, then there is no ‘good bye’ because one’s life has been enriched by knowing and sharing with others and exchanging opportunities to pray for one another;

    and for this, I am grateful and can only be thankful to all associated with Imonk. So, in spirit I will keep some of you close, tucked in my sleeve, and bring you out when I pray, and in that way, you are not lost or ‘gone’, but part of a mystery I hold dear.

    Going out into sun now for a while. It is peaceful in the garden, though the ‘roses’ are ‘out of town’ just now; but they will return in seasonal time and if I am here, I will see them again. 🙂 All shall be well in the Kingdom of Our Lord. No worries. Until then, we bide a while longer, sheltered in the Peace of Christ. It is our way.

  15. I’ll add another thing…

    This site — with its “leaders” and its commenters — has helped me become much more Jesus-shaped than I was before coming here. There sere (are) certainly other “shaping” factors, but the iMonk community and its bloggers have been a major element. An especially big thanks to all the “Michaels”: the late Michael Spencer, Chaplain Mike, Mike Bell, Mike the Geo.

  16. I’ll be thankful and grateful for as long as I retain my memory, to so many wonderful people I’ve read on this site over nearly twenty years. I’m especially happy to have the chance tho read something from Denise Spencer once again after so long a silence. I caught up from 29 December until today so this is not only about this elegant summation by Chaplain Mike.

    I don’t remember everyone”s name or handle of whom I’ve read in the comments or even in the main posts. Some of you are more likable than others, more insightful or more eloquent. However everyone cared to come here or do the work of making this site, everyone made a difference, created a thought or response in someone such as me. That’s value in a real and human way.

    Jeff Dunn peace and mercy to you, I do not know all of you, but our Creator does so I trust when I lift up y’all it will be understood and honored in the way it should by the Creator’s will and love and mercy. I’ll miss fresh content and ongoing discussion, but I’ll keep in mind what I learned while trying to keep it going in my life along the road.

    Goodbye to each of you.

  17. I will miss this blog and miss the wonderful writers and miss the thought provoking discussions. May the road rise up to meet all of you. I have learned much from coming here and wonder where I will now go when I read about American Christianity and need reassurance that I have not lost my mind.
    Blessings to all of you, wherever your journeys take you.

  18. Dear Chaplain Mike,

    a great summation; thank you.

    A large part of the blessing that has flowed from this site is the sense of true community. We’re meant to be members of a body, never alone. My prayer for each one here is that you could find a church community in which at least a few people understand the Good News, and are willing to struggle to live and act from the depth of its meaning.

    Christ is risen from the dead, trampling down death by death, and upon those in the tombs bestowing life!

    Dana

  19. Thank you, CM! Blessings to you as you go forward.

  20. a little snow
    endures the
    pouring rain

  21. Mike, simply wonderful words about a wonderful gospel

    Thank you

  22. Thank you for for keeping this sight going these past years. I will miss the all the content that has both taught and challenged me as I’ve continued my journey. My Saturday morning routine is now forever altered as I won’t be able for those posts. God bless you all who have made this possible.

  23. Thank you, Chaplain Mike, for taking on the responsibility for IM and continuing Michael’s work here for so many years. I have not been a consistent IM follower in a while, but I’ve appreciated the opportunity to pop my head in every now and then. This blog has served as a voice of reason for me since I first visited in 2007–among the most significant and helpful finds in all my time ever spent on the web. And thanks to all the other writers and commenters who have contributed here over the years. God bless you all as you follow Jesus into the next phases of your respective journeys.

  24. a happier New Year to all –

    https://bgr.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/12/bgrpic-copy-36.jpg?resize=782,500

    (A photo of the Orion Nebula captured by the Hubble Space Telescope. Image source: NASA/JPL-Caltech STScI)

  25. It has been a while since I posted a message here, but I want to say thank you to Chaplain Mike for picking up Michael S.’s work here. Mike, you’ve posted (and reposted) some great material here. You also created a space for people to share and think and connect. I think many who have come here, for a long or short time, have benefitted from your efforts. THANK YOU.

    To everyone who has commented over the years, thanks for sharing your thoughts and your journies and your poems. Really. I have always enjoyed the commentary here. And if I may be so bold, yes – the community. A lot of times there is some personal isolation that comes from moving from one place to another. I, for one, and I am sure there are others, have been glad to able to listen and talk.

    On this note: Thanks for putting up with me!

    I realize this may not be possible, but if there is effort made to keep lines of communication open between regulars here … or if anyone finds themselves in Baltimore-Washington, please feel free to let me know. You can drop me a line at historybird at g mail .

    A few of us are in the internetmonk FB group too. Drop a line?

    Again, thank you everyone, for your honest and gracious words.

  26. I will miss all yall, every last one of you.

    It’s been a long, strange trip and I’m sorry it’s over.

  27. “The good news is about what God has done in Jesus. It is not about what humans do or must do.”
    This hit me with the full force of revelation a few years ago.
    Probably whilst reading something here.

Speak Your Mind

*