I’m excited about this book and proud to have joined the team during the home stretch. I want to recommend this book to you. Jeremy offers a biblical theology of place, as it relates, to our mission (Matt. 28:18-20). He does so in a way that’s familiar, but also fresh. Reformed folks talk a lot about creation, fall, redemption. Jeremy talks about these events in the gospel as well, but he does so in terms of place (dislocation, relocation, renovation). These fresh terms draw attention and prevent the contempt of familiarity, when discussing how the gospel changes our point of view on place. So if you’re wondering what teaching all nations looks like practically, Jeremy walks us through the practical piece--how the gospel collides with us in our homes, work, third places, and cities. Place is important because our mission requires us to spread the gospel where we are now. It’s important because God will redeem all of creation and make all things new in the end. Enough said.
To close out, I want to share one of my favorite excerpts from everPresent (37-39).
One of the predominate features of any religion, particularly the major religions of the world, is their viewpoint on this concept of getting home. For most, the endpoint is an afterlife location. Many people perceive that world religions are essentially the same because they all have an end place in mind that is much better than the one we have here. It is believed that Christianity, Islam, Buddhism, Hinduism, and any other religion have the same location in mind. In essence, we are all trying to get to the afterlife of “heaven” or “paradise” or “Nirvana,” whatever each culture envisions and names that place.
While it is true that there is a shared desire for a paradise beyond this life, a distinguishing reality between Christianity and other religions is that we actually don’t leave this earth. It is still very much our home and always will be. Instead of leaving planet earth for a paradise-place in an alternate reality, we find the Scriptures clearly demonstrating that God comes to this created place of his own, inhabits it perfectly, reconciles the people who live in that place, and ultimately reconciles the place as the perfect home for his children.
This is the plot-line of the entire Bible. Paul unpacks for us the way the Son of God came into the very universe he created and sustains (Col. 1:15-17) to do the work of reconciling all things back to himself by his sacrificial death on the cross (1:19-20). “All things” includes the earth that we live on. This is why in the amazing vision of the end that the Apostle John is given he doesn’t see an Escape from LA type scenario. He sees the return of the Redeemer-King in order to “make all things new” (Rev. 21:5). Humanity is not transported away to heaven, but heaven comes down to humanity on the earth. Christ descends once again, permanently, to dwell with humanity (Rev. 21:3). All things are made new, even this earth, and we will live in a perfectly restored, perfectly renewed creation as perfectly renewed beings (21:9-22:5).
The fundamental dislocation that we feel in the here and now isn’t relieved by our being transported away to a different place. It’s not even relieved in trying to put a new coat of paint on a decaying building. The dislocation that we feel is only relieved by God himself being dislocated from heaven to earth to redeem his people and to restore this place. Everyone is trying in some fashion or another to attain the “heavenly-life” either in this world or the world to come. The question is how do we attain that life? How do we get to heaven? Or how do we generate enough buzz to get heaven to come down to us? The way in which we live our lives reveals how we believe that greater and better place is attained.
So how do we get home? How are we going to make it?
Mathew Sims is the author of A Household Gospel Fulfilling the Great Commission in Our Homes and has written for CBMW Men’s blog, Gospel Centered Discipleship, Borrowed Light, and Servants of Grace. He also works as the managing editor at Gospel Centered Discipleship. They attend Downtown Presbyterian Church (PCA) in Greenville, SC.