God Likes Dirt
Hello Church Family,
Have you ever been to a good old-fashioned tent revival? Well, I’ve been to a few. Not necessarily because I wanted to go, but because I was forced to go. When God saved my mother out of a life of alcoholism and paganism, she made sure that my sister and I were in church whenever the doors were open. And if there was a revival going on at church (or a nearby tent) we didn’t miss it.
It seemed like every revival had a single agenda: soul winning. With sweat pouring off their foreheads as though they could already feel the flames themselves, fiery preachers talked about “saving souls” from the fires of hell. And as the seven verses of Just As I Am played on the keyboard to wrap up a meeting, folks would flood to the front to commit their souls to Jesus.
I have no doubt that a lot of good took place through those revivals. (In fact, I know people who have received Christ at such crusades). But I’m also aware of at least one negative: without anybody really realizing it, Greek metaphysical dualism was subtly reinforced across rural America. Here’s what I mean: with such an emphasis on the soul, revival participants were unwittingly led to believe that God doesn’t care much for the physical.
It would be years after my last tent revival that I realized how much I had been influenced.
To be sure, salvation is spiritual. But it’s not strictly spiritual. God’s plan is bigger than just saving souls. Yes, the souls of men, women, and children are at the top of God’s list, but God’s list is long and it includes restoring all the things that are wrong with the world: bodily disease, ebola outbreaks, fatal car accidents, polluted rivers, bad landscaping, destructive tornadoes … even death. Notice everything on that list is physical.
In Romans 8, Paul tells us that “the whole world has been groaning together as in the pains of childbirth until now. Not only creation but we ourselves … as we wait.”
Well, what we are waiting for is redemption, when God will “buy back” everything sin has corrupted.
In his book, Cornelius Plantinga says:
“In a thousand ways, God will gather what’s scattered, rebuild what’s broken, restore what has been emptied out by centuries of waste and fraud. In a thousand ways, God will put right what’s wrong with his glorious creation. … The earth is the Lord’s, in all its fullness. We have corrupted the earth through folly and sin, but God means to restore all things in the harmony, justice and delight of shalom. This is a sign to us: On the third day Jesus Christ rose again from the dead, the pledge that one day all things shall be renewed.”
And this, by the way, is the great hope of the believer. Not simply that our souls will be saved and we’ll float around on clouds forever playing harps. (That’s not terribly exciting to me … and I have nothing against harps!) Our hope is that Christ will return and transform this broken world that we live in. That Christ will put an end to our suffering. That we will live forever on a new earth that’s been refurnished by fire, where we’ll be eating, drinking, working, singing, dancing, and doing earthly things.
God is concerned about the spiritual, but he also cares about the physical. As theologian Al Wolters said, “God doesn’t make junk and he doesn’t junk what he’s made.”
The same Jesus that rose from the dead will return and put an end to hatred, racism, oppression, rejection, and loneliness. But he’ll also destroy hunger, sickness, disease, physical abuse, and death.
With that in mind, it makes it easier for us to cry out, “Come Lord Jesus.”