What is it about having a grasp on the world of the New Testament that helps us better live out our Christian lives as parents, mechanics, video game enthusiasts, consumers, self-conscious, realtors, semi-narcissists and people just trying to make it through another day?
Knowing the world behind, in, and around the New Testament enables us – in movie terms – to see things in digital, colour, three dimensional precision. It adds clarity, depth, realism, and clarity. You just understand the New Testament better and are less prone to weird anchronisms.
What historical reality, from the world of the New Testament, has resulted in an unearthing of things about and within your own self that have caused you joy or growth or to love the Christ more?
I could give several examples, but one comes to mind in particular. It was very useful to learn that the Pharisees were not timeless examples of religious legalism and hypocrisy, but were a Judean renewal movement, that had their own plan for Israel’s restoration, their own agenda for what the faithful life looked like, and their own way of observing the law. The debate between Jesus and the Pharisees was not over law vs grace, but about, who speaks for God? Whose was of being Israel can and will prevail? How does one live a life pleasing God?
Do we best understand the New Testament when we first understand how it was understood by those who had understanding of that world?
Well, it definitely helps. We should try understand the implied readers of a text, the initial readers of a text, and all subsequent readers of a text. Ultimately what we call “meaning” is really the history of a text’s reception in the church.
You filmed a brilliant video series, on location, all over the Holy Land. Surely you closed your eyes and imaged as if you yourself were there and when you do see yourself teleported back to the crowds amongst Jesus, and in earshot of His claims and teaching – what sort of emotions and thoughts and concepts would have bounced around your head?
It was an awe-inspiring experience to visit Israel. I had a great time there and learned a lot. You learn, first of all, how small the place is. The Sea of Galilee is only 14km long. It was visiting all the sites and villages around the Sea of Galilee that had the most profound impact on me. This was the place that Jesus walked, talked, prayed, preached, and set his face to go to Jerusalem.
For you personally, what has been the most compelling or powerful aspect of the story of the Bible that you delight in, has come to you fresh, and resulted in you loving God more and being excited to be a part of God’s story?
Oh, many parts. I guess I love the Gospel of Mark, esp. Mark 15, the story of the cross which is suffused with mentions of Jesus as king. I think Mark is portraying the cross as a type of triumphal procession and this is really meant to be the place where we see the kingdom of God come with power!
For those who read this interview and get pricked of mind and heart; what can I do today, right now at this very moment (and beyond), that can result in the story of the Bible take root in my own heart and shaping me as it has you?
Study the Bible with others in a church, in a community, that’s primary. Beyond that, explore the many tools there are to read the Bible. Things like Logos, Olive Tree, Zondervan’s MasterClass series.
What is the “Gospel” and what practical implications does the Gospel make in my everyday life?
The gospel is the good news that God’s kingdom has come in the life, death, resurrection, and exaltation of Jesus, and by turning from our sins and trusting in Jesus, we gain the dividends of reconciliation, adoption, and eternal life. The practical implication is that this gospel is to be proclaimed and we should aspire to live lives worth of the gospel.
What is “sin” and what is so terrible about it when I do sin? And what is my motivation to not sin?
Sin is cosmic treason. It the affront to God’s authority and dominion. Sin is the sum our anti-God, anti-Creation, and anti-human desires.
What is God’s end goal for this world, all humans of this world, and me personally? Where is He taking it and what does it look like for me to be a part of that goal, and how can I have a role and purpose in that goal, and find meaning, and value, and my joy in that goal?
God’s grand purpose is, I believe, to unite himself to creation through the Logos!
How can I, as a Christian who believes the Gospel and affirms orthodoxy, be compelled to genuinely desire God and the kingdom of God enough to become a true disciple, one who is willing to consider all things loss in comparison with knowing and loving Jesus?
Learn to desire God more than anything else. Aspire to be like Christ. And year to be filled with the Spirit. Cultivate godly desires for what you desire is the surest indication of what you worship.
As a Christian, at the end of a long day (when I have done what I ought not to have done – and not done what I ought to have done) what are God’s thoughts of me when I lay down my head at at night and fall asleep?
Well, its hard to speculate on that, but God sees you as a co-heir with Christ.
What is God’s mission given to us and how do I fulfill it without it becoming a feeling of another thing I have to do for God? And based upon that, What is needed at the personal, and church level to shape culture and to be on strategic mission?
God’s plan is to glorify himself by the effusion of his holy love and God’s purpose is to unite himself to creation through the Logos. Our job is to preach Jesus, be faithful, make disciples, nurture the church, and be forgotten.