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Intimacy with God – on Union Theology

Posted on by Glen in gospel, mediation of Christ, recommendations, union with Christ | Leave a comment

WEST-Union-Slider

Do you know about Union Theology? It’s a very exciting development offering theological resources and, soon, theological education too. Here’s Mike Reeves explaining the rationale.

On their new website there are some wonderful resources, have a look around. I’ve also sneaked on with a paper about intimacy with God. Here are the headings and questions for consideration to give you a feel for the paper:

The God of Intimacy:

Do you see God as enjoyable; as worth knowing?

Does it help to know God as a Father pouring infinite Spiritual blessings onto his Son?

 

The Way of Intimacy

Is intimacy something you’re trying to achieve or receive?

How would your pursuit of intimacy change to know it’s a gift that is yours in Christ?

 

The Basis of Intimacy

Meditate on the various portraits of one-ness listed above – which speak to you most strongly?

Is it possible you’ve ever sought “intimacy” instead of Christ? What’s the difference?

 

The Purchase of Intimacy

Is Christ’s blood atonement at the heart of your idea of divine intimacy?

How is your approach to God changed, knowing that it comes through the death of Jesus?

 

The Shape of Intimacy

Have you known “fellowship in suffering”?

What might the God of intimacy be up to in the midst of your current sins, suffering and service?

 

The High Priest of our Intimacy

If you knew Christ was praying for you in the next room, how would it change your experience of intimacy?

What difference does it make to know that, in heaven, Jesus prays for you now?

 

The Experience of Intimacy

What place does church have in your relationship with God?

How can you enjoy God and serve others in your local church family?

 

The Promise of Intimacy

What place does Christ’s return have in your pursuit of intimacy?

How can you cultivate more of that future hope?

 

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The Priesthood of Christ and Your Relationship With God

Posted on by Glen in mediation of Christ, prayer | Leave a comment

Repost

How much thought do you give to the Priesthood of Jesus?  It seems to me to be a much neglected teaching.  But it’s absolutely crucial, especially when thinking about mental illness.

What’s it all about?  Well here’s Job, Paul and the writer to the Hebrews…

“Even now my witness is in heaven; my advocate is on high. My intercessor is my friend as my eyes pour out tears to God; on behalf of a man he pleads with God as a man pleads for his friend.”  (Job 16:18-20)

“Christ Jesus… is also interceding for us.”  (Romans 8:34)

“Jesus is able to save completely those who come to God through him, because he always lives to intercede for them.”  (Hebrews 7:25)

According to the bible we have a Friend in high places.  And He’s praying for us.  Continually.

I remember speaking at a prayer meeting and beginning with these words “You’re all late to prayers.”  One person who’d only just stolen in at the back spoke up sheepishly, “Sorry I had car trouble…”  I said, “You’re not the only one late.  I was late.  Everyone was late.  We are all always late to prayers.  Before we ever think to pray, Jesus has already been offering up to the Father the perfect prayer, the perfect obedience, the perfect worship, the perfect love.  He has been doing it in our place and on our behalf.  And He always will.  Any prayers we pray are just the Amen to His perfect prayer.”

In other words, Jesus is our Priest.  And He will continue to be our Priest forever. Our whole lives are offered up to the Father perfectly by Jesus, no matter where we are or what we are doing.

That’s crucial when dealing with depression or with any kind of dark time.  When it seems impossible to pray, when I don’t even want to pray, Jesus is praying for me.  When my heart is as hard as nails towards God, Jesus is the true Man after God’s heart.  When my internal world is completely chaotic, Jesus is my peace.  And He always lives to intercede for me.  My status before God is not me – it’s Him!

Therefore when times are hard and my heart’s a mess, my hope is not in sorting myself out.  My hope is not in me rising above it all.  My hope is seated far above my stormy circumstances and He is immovably secure.

Emma and I have a friend who wrote to us with a letter addressed to God.  It was full of mixed emotions – wanting to serve God yet feeling completely unworthy.  On the one hand she had great love for God but on the other, terrible anger and feelings of distance and loneliness.  It was an unresolved tension throughout her prayer.  Extremely presumptuously, I wrote a reply to her as Jesus.  It was His Priesthood that I really wanted to communicate.  Here’s what I wrote (in Jesus’ name):

Dear Lucy,

I hear you.  I know you.  I’m for you.

In the midst of your darkness and pain and in the midst of your sin I hear you, I know you and I’m for you.
I have you on my heart before the Father and I pray for you.  Constantly.  However you feel and however you rebel, you are secure before the throne of God.  I’ve got you.

I offer to God the perfect praise, the perfect sacrifice, the perfect obedience, in your name and on your behalf.

You are more than forgiven Lucy.  Your sins have been covered, cleansed and removed as far as the east is from the west.  My work on the cross was complete.  There’s nothing between you and God now.  Only me.  And I am keeping you together.  I will do that forever – I will never leave you or forsake you.

When you feel unable to pray – I am praying for you.
When you feel far from God – I am lifting you to Him.
When you wallow in the darkness – I’ve got you in the light.
When you sin – I am bearing the wounds of your forgiveness.
When you cut – I am robing you in righteousness and love.

I am yours forever,
Jesus

The Priesthood of Christ lifts us out of ourselves and allows us to take our eyes off our own stuck-ness.  Even if we don’t feel it, that’s ok.  It’s true.  Far above and beyond our own hearts it is true.  So then, let’s allow ourselves to be told the truth:

Before the throne of God above,
I have a strong, a perfect Plea,
A Great High Priest Whose name is love,
Who ever lives and pleads for me.

New Birth is In Christ

Posted on by Glen in gospel | 13 Comments

TFTEmma’s written a great post on what people look for in conversion experiences.  It reminded me of this wonderful sermon by Tom Torrance on John 3.

Here he lays into the modern (20th century) notion of defining the new birth psychologically. Instead we must see regeneration – along with every other aspect of the Christian life – as something found in Christ.

We all know that our forgiveness, adoption, righteousness, election, holiness and redemption are found in Jesus. We ought to know that our new birth is found there too.  It is not a prior experience outside of Jesus which then brings us to Christ. It is the new life which Christ pioneered through His life, death and resurrection.  It is the begotten life of the Spirit which Christ eternally possessed and now shares with those who are His.

Therefore we do not find our conversion in ourselves but in Him. And we do not offer a conversion experience but a Christ who converts.

The implications of this for our discipleship and evangelism are far-reaching – perhaps I’ll tease out more later – but for now let’s just hear TFT…

 

Behind all that Jesus has been saying there lies the fact of His own birth and incarnation. All that Jesus has said in fact about the new birth refers ultimately to His own birth. He is the only begotten Son of God, and it is in Him that our humanity… is born again out of the old Adam into the new. In other words it is in Christ and through Christ only that we are born again.

…This is not very easy for us to understand today, because we have turned the new birth or conversion into a carnal experience of the soul, and have identified it with a psychological event in our lives. This makes it all the more imperative for us to listen carefully to Jesus here, and to look above and beyond our own historical or psychological experience and find the significance of our new birth in Christ Himself. Christ is the only one, strictly speaking, who is born of the Spirit from above, but He gives the right to all who receive and believe in Him or are baptised in His name to become sons of God – that is, not in their own name but in Christ’s Name. Christ Himself is the truth and reality of our new birth…

We must learn to take refuge even from our experiences of conversion, or of new birth, in Christ and find in His birth and in His resurrection the truth and reality of ours…

…In Jesus Christ, from His birth to His death and resurrection, there took place the great “conversion” of our humanity, and its destiny, back to God.

…If we look into our hearts and lives we see how corrupt they still are, how desperately wicked we are, and indeed the nearer we get to Christ the more sinful we feel and know ourselves to be. No, we cannot see our new birth by examining our spiritual experience psychologically, by looking within. We must learn to look away from ourselves to Jesus the Author and Finisher of our faith, for we are dead, as St Paul says, and our life is hid with Christ in God.

This habit that modern people often have of thinking and speaking of the new birth as if it could be perceived in the soul and is something to be possessed in themselves is a great snare to many humble and earnest believers; it drives them to despair or turns them into hypocrites, for though they try to live up to “born again and converted” lived, they know secretly how sinful they are, and that considered in their deepest selves they are not new creatures. That is not the way of Jesus but the way of the Pharisees.
— When Christ Comes, and Comes Again.

.

Here’s a sermon of mine on John 3 which tries to make some of the same points in a more law-gospel kind of way. I.e. We must have this new birth. We can’t conjure it up. But Jesus brings it down as a gift.

 

 

 

Trinitarian Theology? Or Speed Dating at the Pantheon?

Posted on by Glen in Doctrine of God, mediation of Christ, trinity | 3 Comments

christ-the-redeemer

Here’s a statement I commonly hear:

Well yes it’s important to be Christ-centred, but let’s not forget God…

Ever hear that one? I actually hear Christians say this. I know, crazy right?

Well sometimes they remember to sound a little more Christian. So they say:

Don’t forget the Spirit…

Or…

Let’s honour all three Persons of the Trinity, not just the Son…

There can be an intuitive appeal to such statements. After all there are three Persons in God, not just one. And the Son does not keep Himself to Himself. He leads us to His Father and grants us His Spirit. The Persons are other-centred, so let’s not focus on the Son to the exclusion of Father and Spirit. But… if we actually focus on the Christ, the Son of the Father, we cannot we exclude the Father and Spirit. True Christ-focus is trinitarian and – this is equally true – trinitarian theology is Christ-focused.

This is the truth we need to hold onto: Christ is not merely one of the Three – He’s the Way to know them. Christ is Mediator.

When we lose this truth we begin to imagine that ‘being trinitarian’ means balancing our respect for the Persons, as though the trinitarian worshipper stands before a loose association of deities, ensuring equal devotion. That sounds more like speed-dating at the Pantheon. Do we really imagine ourselves to be outside the Three, making sure we spend equal time at the feet of Each?  Have we forgotten that we are in the Son?  And nowhere else. Have we forgotten that the Father and the Spirit are in the Son?  And nowhere else.

The Father is known as ‘He Who makes the Son, Son.’  The Spirit is known as ‘He Who makes the Christ, Christ.’  On the other hand a theologian making a plea for equal time for the Persons… once they turn their gaze from the Son, how are they going to view the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ?

And if we imagine ourselves circulating around the trinity, where do we think we stand? Are we, somehow, a fourth individual at the heart of the Holy Huddle.  Well the Shack might put me there and some Christian art might put me there, (and that might be an improvement on unitarianism), but that’s not really where I am.  I’m in Jesus participating in His Sonship and Anointing.  This is my only access to the life of the trinity.  The trinitarian theologian must be Christ-focused. And being Christ-focused is the way of trinitarian theology.

So, absolutely, let us never forget the Father or Spirit.  We must get to know the Persons in all their distinct glory and grace. But they are not outside of the Christ, the Son of God. And – here’s some good news – neither are you!

Sifted but Lifted

Posted on by glenscriv in faith, gospel, mediation of Christ | Leave a comment

siftedThese are stunning verses from the night before Jesus’ death:

‘Simon, Simon, Satan has asked to sift all of you as wheat. But I have prayed for you, Simon, that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned back, strengthen your brothers.’ (Luke 22:31-32)

Notice these 10 contrasts:

  • Satan makes a fearful proposal. Jesus gives a fearful permission.
  • Satan treats Simon like an inanimate object. Jesus calls Simon by name – three times in one sentence.
  • Satan is ruthless with Simon. Jesus is personal.
  • Satan sifts Simon before the world. Jesus lifts Simon before the Father.
  • Satan is weaker than Jesus but Simon is weaker than Satan.
  • Simon thinks of himself as iron for Jesus (see v32). Jesus doesn’t call him Peter (‘Rock’), He considers Simon to be as ‘flaky’ as wheat.
  • Simon thinks his resolve will motivate his brothers (v32), Jesus knows it will be his weakness that strengthens his brothers (v31).
  • Jesus prays for Simon, but His support will include the need for Simon to turn back.
  • While Jesus prays for Simon’s faith not to fail. Simon fails big time.
  • It’s not Simon who “fail’s not”, it’s Jesus’ prayer.

It’s not about rules it’s about Working Hard at My Relationship With God…

Posted on by glenscriv in gospel, pastoral theology, prayer | 11 Comments

It’s happened three times in the last three weeks, so let me give you a composite account of the conversations…

— [Embarrassed biting of lip] Umm… I know I should know the answer to this… And I feel really silly for bringing it up.  I realise it’s, like, really basic… but it’s been bugging me for ages now:  How do I Have A Relationship With God?

— What do you mean?

— Well I know it’s not about rules.  I keep hearing that Christianity is not a religion, it’s a relationship.  Well, ok.  But how do I Have A Relationship With God?  It sounds so stupid that I should ask that.  I know this is Christianity 101.  It makes me wonder whether I’m even a Christian.  But when people talk about “having a relationship with God”, I kinda know what they mean.  But I’m not sure I have what they’re talking about.  What are they talking about?

— To be honest, I don’t really know what they’re talking about.  And I wonder if they know what they’re talking about.

Yes, that’s really how I’ve been answering this question.  Really.

Which will make you wonder whether I’m even a Christian.  I mean honestly, who could possibly be against having a relationship with God??

Well I’m not against enjoying the gift of relationship with God.  But I’m dead set against definitions of Christianity that throw the spotlight on me and my relationship with God.  That might sound like a trivial difference.  Actually it’s all the difference in the world.

Don’t get me wrong, I know the living God – a personal God – I hear Him in His word, I speak to Him in prayer.  I enjoy fellowship with the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.  Honest, I do.  It’s great.  All a wonderful gift that’s mine in Jesus.  Fantastic.

But if I have to “have a relationship with God” then I’m stuffed.  Seriously.  I’m hell-fodder if ‘relationship with God’ is up to me.

Let’s put the exact same truth in slightly different terms and you’ll see what I mean:  I love the law. It describes the good life of loving God and loving neighbour.  Brilliant.  And I have performed good works which the Father has prepared in advance for me to walk in (Ephesians 2:10).  And that’s been a lot of fun.  Yay law.  Yay works.  Yay.  But if I ever start talking about ‘the heart of Christianity’ as ‘me obeying the law’ then let me be accursed!  If I ever say “People get the wrong idea about Christianity, it’s not about ancient rituals, it’s actually all about legal obedience” – you’ll instantly realize my error.  Well, it’s just the same when you say “It’s not about being religious, it’s about Having A Relationship With God.”

And you’ll say – No, Glen, you’ve got it backwards.  Religion is about rules – yuck.  But Christianity is a totally different thing.  It’s all about relationship.  It’s not the same thing at all!

To which I’ll say – Really?

Really??

I understand that the essence of Christianity is not my outward works (so far, so good) – but then I’m commonly told that it’s about the quality of my inner devotional life towards God.  Do you see what’s happened?  We’ve come to a different swamp, but we’re still sunk.  We’re still lost in ‘works righteousness’, it’s just there’s a different flavour to the ‘works’.  Before it was all about outward, ritualistic hoops.  Now I’m being told it’s all about inward, pietistic hoops.

Well Hallelujah!  Don’t you feel the chains just falling off you?  Rejoice, you don’t have to perform physical acts, only mental and spiritual ones! Is that the freedom the gospel brings?

No, it’s just a different kind of slavery.  And in some ways, it’s an even deeper slavery.  That’s why Christians, furtively, secretly, wonder to themselves (and sometimes they wonder it aloud to visiting Christian speakers) What is this Relationship With God I keep being told to manufacture?  And why is it spoken of as liberating when all I feel is condemned by it??

Because, seriously, who on earth can have “a relationship with God”?  Where would you even begin?

Look at the person in that photo at the top. Are you like them? Can you do what they’re doing?

And if you could manage it, what, precisely, would be the point of Jesus?  Do we really need “the One Mediator between God and man, the Man Christ Jesus”?  Is He actually crucial to our Christianity?  Or perhaps He just gets us in the door and then leaves us to get on with the main work of Christianity: having a relationship with God?  Is that it?

No! The priesthood of Jesus is absolutely vital to understand. And this is what I’ve told my questioners when they’ve asked. The good news is this: We, by nature, are sunk in self and sin and have no chance of a relationship with God. But Christ is our Mediator who became Man for us, who lived our life for us, died our death for us and rose again to the Father’s right hand for us. He now lives to intercede for us, carrying us on His heart the way Aaron carried the sons of Israel on his (Exodus 28:29).

Jesus is the true David – the true Man after God’s own heart. Now, by the Spirit, I am swept up into Him – carried on His heart while He enjoys the ultimate heart-to-heart. I am included in the true God-Man relationship – not because of any devotional aptitude or inclination on my part. It is a sheer gift of grace given freely in Jesus.

I have a relationship with God. The good news is that it’s not my own relationship, which would be as fickle as my feelings. No the relationship I have with God is Christ’s relationship with God.

Some don’t like this way of speaking.  They think it diminishes a warm and personal walk with God. The opposite is the case. To know that I have Christ’s relationship with the Father is where my personal walk begins. Secure in Jesus I can enjoy my status as a child of God. I can even join in with the Spirit’s constant prayer: “Abba, Father.” But none of this is a relationship I must manufacture. It’s the grace in which – FACT – I now stand through Jesus Christ our Lord (Romans 5:1-2).

So this is what I said to my questioners. Don’t look within, trying to find a relationship with God. You won’t find it in you. Look to Christ – your Mediator, Advocate, Intercessor and Priest. He is your relationship with God. To the degree that you know you’re on His heart, you’ll feel Him in yours.

321 and Creation

Posted on by glenscriv in 321, creation, evangelism, mediation of Christ, trinity | 16 Comments

I’ve begun to explore how the three truths of 321 interact with the four planks of other gospel presentations (creation, fall, cross, repentance).  Those gospel events are vital.  But the three truths of Trinity, Adam and Christ and union with Christ are essential if we’re to understand the four events rightly.

Today we’ll think about 321 and creation….

“God made you, therefore…”

How do you want to finish that sentence?

There are many implications of God’s creative work.  But so quickly we want to speak about what it means for us.  And even when we consider what it means for God we cite implications like: God owns everything, He has certain rights, He’s the legitimate ruler of the universe and of you.  Essentially we think Creator means Creditor or Creator means King – in fact it can be hard for us to think in any terms beyond this.  “God made you, therefore you owe him” is a pretty common way of unpacking the implications of creation.  And when it comes as the first point in an evangelistic presentation, it introduces God to us in profoundly unhelpful terms.

When Athanasius was battling Arius, he identified a grievous error in the heretic’s method: Arius named God from his works and called him “Uncreated”.  He should have begun by naming God from his Son and calling him “Father.”  (Contra Arianos 1.34)  If the first thing we know about God is that he is Maker, we’ll start our gospel on the wrong foot.

For one thing, God defined as Creator becomes quite a needy deity.  He’s like the workaholic who doesn’t know who he is unless he’s at the office.  God defined as Creator needs to work.  He requires a world in order to fulfil himself.  And then creation is not so much a gift of his love as a project for his own self-interested purposes.  Instantly the God-world dynamic revolves around God’s needs and we are the ones to fulfil him.

Nicene faith, on the other hand, begins “We believe in one God, the Father Almighty, Creator of heaven and earth.”  Father comes first.  Which means, before anything else, God is a Life-giver.  Because of the truth of 3, He has lived in love long before He has lived in labours.  He does not achieve His divine identity by creating, instead creation expresses His eternal fruitfulness.  He has no need of galaxies, mountain ranges, rainforests and us.  We do not fulfil Him, He fulfils us.  We do not give to Him, He gives to us.

Therefore when the Christian says “God made you, therefore…” – how should we finish that sentence?  There are a hundred things we could say, but perhaps one of the first is, “God is Giver.”  “God is generous.”  “God is immeasurably expansive in His love.”   Whatever we say we need to avoid simply equating Creator with Creditor.  The whole direction of the gospel presentation will depend on this set-up.  Are we introducing God primarily as one who takes (because He’s earned the right by making us) or as one who gives (because He’s shown His life-giving character through creation)?

I hope you’ll see that 3 is a vital truth to surround the teaching of creation.

But 2 and 1 are important too.  Because what connection is there between God, the world and you?  Why does creation matter if, essentially, the gospel is God’s plan to save souls?  What relationship is there between the fall of humanity and the physical world?  What’s the link between Christ’s resurrection and the regeneration of all things?  And what does God actually want with the world?

If the gospel’s not about creation giving to God, then how does God’s giving nature express itself in creation.  Well He gives us our lives so He can give us His life.  He gives in order to give.  He creates a world through His Son and by His Spirit, so that He can enter that world through His Son and by His Spirit.  Again the direction of travel is vital.  God doesn’t create a world below so that we can learn to make our way back up.  He pours out His love in creation so He can pour out Himself in incarnation.  Creation is intended to receive its Lord so that He commits His future to us as a Bridegroom commits himself to a bride.

Creation is not simply a truth to be affirmed and then forgotten while we deal with the spiritual problems of sin and redemption.  Instead creation is the first stage in a unified movement of God, the goal of which is the summing up of all things under the feet of the incarnate Son (Ephesians 1:10)

Therefore the truths of 2 (Adam and Christ) and 1 (union with Christ) are vital – not just for the understanding of redemption.  They earth redemption’s story in creation.  The world, summed up by our Representative Man, is the place where salvation happens.  In this Man, on that cross, in our humanity God has worked.  And in this flesh, on this earth, with these eyes I will see my Redeemer (Job 19:25-27).

…More to follow…

Spot the Difference

Posted on by glenscriv in covenant continuity, mediation of Christ | 18 Comments

Michael Bird recently blogged about using a regula fidei (Rule of Faith) in church.

He quoted Tertullian’s regula fidei from the early second century AD:

[T]he Creator of the world, who produced all things out of nothing through His own Word, first of all sent forth; that this Word is called His Son, and, under the name of God, was seen “in diverse manners” by the patriarchs, heard at all times in the prophets, at last brought down by the Spirit and Power of the Father into the Virgin Mary, was made flesh in her womb, and, being born of her, went forth as Jesus Christ; thenceforth He preached the new law and the new promise of the kingdom of heaven, worked miracles; having been crucified, He rose again the third day; (then) having ascended into the heavens, He sat at the right hand of the Father; sent instead of Himself the Power of the Holy Ghost to lead such as believe; will come with glory to take the saints to the enjoyment of everlasting life and of the heavenly promises, and to condemn the wicked to everlasting fire, after the resurrection of both these classes shall have happened, together with the restoration of their flesh. This rule, as it will be proved, was taught by Christ, and raises amongst ourselves no other questions than those which heresies introduce, and which make men heretics. (Prescriptions Against Heresies).

Michael Bird then attempts a “faithful restatement… in our own contemporary language.”

God the Father, the maker of the universe, who, through Word and Spirit, made all things out of nothing, planned all things for the demonstration of his love and the satisfaction of his glory. He created Adam and Eve in his own image and after their rebellion, He also revealed himself as the Lord in diverse ways to the patriarchs, to Israel, and in the prophets, to call to himself a people worthy of his name, among and for the nations. When the time had fully come, He sent his Son, born of a woman and born under the Law, a Son of David, enfleshed as a man in the womb of the Virgin Mary through the Holy Spirit, and who came forth as Jesus of Nazareth. Jesus was baptized and in the power of the Holy Spirit he preached the hope of Israel and the kingdom of God, he proclaimed good news to the poor, did many miraculous deeds, was crucified under Pontius Pilate, he was buried and rose again on the third day according to the scriptures. Then, having made purification for sins, he ascended into the heavens, where he sat down at the right hand of the Father, from where he shall come again in glory to judge both the living and the dead, and after the great resurrection, he shall take his people into the paradise of the new creation, and condemn the wicked to everlasting fate. The church now works in the mission of God, in dependence upon the Father, in the power of the Holy Spirit, bearing testimony to Jesus Christ, to preach good news and to show mercy, until the day when God will be all in all.

Did you spot the difference?  What is being said about the Old Testament in these two statements?  We go from language of “the Son” being “seen” and “heard” to language of the Father merely “revealing himself as the Lord” in diverse ways.

I’m not even sure the switch of Person was a deliberate decision.  (I’ve asked).  I wonder whether the modern theologian is simply blind to what the early church held self-evident: that the Son is the eternal Word through Whom the Father always acts and reveals.

I’m not saying it’s rank revisionism, but I am saying it’s a revealing shift and one we should try to undo.

The Son is not the best Word – He’s the Word.  He’s not the clearest Image – He’s the Image.  He’s not the Seal of a series of improving revelations.  He is the Revelation of God.

Let us indeed get back to such a rule of faith!

 

Christ: Our Substitute and Representative

Posted on by glenscriv in Cross, gospel, mediation of Christ, pastoral theology | 2 Comments

Here’s a reboot of an older post…

Mike Reeves talks about Adam and Christ in these great audios on sin and evil.  Once we frame creation and salvation as the story of two men we see things much clearer.

For one thing we’re able to honour Christ not only as Substitute but also as Representative.  And we need both.

You see Christ drinks the cup so that – in one sense – we don’t have to (Mark 10:38).  But in another sense we do drink the cup He drinks and are baptised with the baptism with which He is baptised (Mark 10:39).  He does die for us so that we do not face that same judging fire – this is His substitution.  But we also die in Him, hidden in our Head and taken through the flames – this is His representation.

We tend to be good at ‘substitution’ talk but not so good at ‘representation’ talk.

I can think of a very prominent preacher who I greatly admire. Ordinarily he’s excellent at preaching Paul.  But I’ve noticed that every time Paul speaks of “us being crucified with Christ”, this preacher translates it as “Christ pays off our sins for us so completely, it’s as if we ourselves died on the cross.”

Do you hear what’s happened?  Paul uses representation language, the preacher translates it into substitution language. Paul says “We died in him”, the preacher doesn’t seem to have a category for that, so he simply re-iterates the substitution motif: “He died for us.”

Those two things are not the same.  And our lack of a category for “representation” thinking is a great loss.

Consider this fairly common way of conceiving salvation and judgement…

salvation-judgement1

Here the key players are the saved and the damned.  Christ is not in the picture.  But of course once we’ve set things up like this, Christ becomes extremely necessary.  Yet He’s necessary in that the cross becomes the accounting tool required to balance the justice books.  Without the cross the system doesn’t work.  So in that sense Christ is central.  But in effect, He’s a peripheral figure only required because other factors are calling the shots.

When things are viewed like this, Christ is very much thought of as ‘substitute’ but not really ‘representative’.  And, when the details are pressed, even His substitution will start to look very unlike the biblical portrait.

We need a better formulation.  We’ll think of 1 Peter 4 and then tie this back to Adam and Christ.

In 1 Peter 4:17 it says that judgement begins with the house of God.  It doesn’t say ‘Judgement avoids the house of God.’  It begins there.  It begins with Christ, the true Temple of God.  It continues with the church, the temple of God in another sense.  But then it flows out to the world – God’s house in yet another sense.

salvation-judgement2

Here humanity is judged.  And this is where Adam and Christ will be so helpful for us.

The LORD pronounces His curse on Adam.  And all humanity is in him.  “Sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned.” (Rom 5:12)  It is a universal judgement.  No exceptions.  The only path to salvation is the path through judgement.

But Adam is a type of the One to come (Rom 5:14).  He was only ever setting the scene for Christ to take centre stage.  And He does so, assuming the very humanity of Adam as substitute and representative.

salvation-judgement31

Here centre stage is not occupied by the two groups of people (the damned and the saved).  What’s driving everything is the two humanities (Adam and Christ).  The former is expressly a type of the Latter.  And the Latter expressly assumes the fate of the former.  So that in all things Christ will have the preeminence! (Col 1:18)

These diagrams were originally used in a blog post on judgement and salvation in Isaiah and for a sermon on Isaiah 2:6-22 (listen here).

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Below I’ve listed 10 verses on union with Christ in His death.  Meditate on these verses – and reckon yourself dead to Adam, to the flesh, to sin, to wrath, to the law, the principalities and powers and to the world.  For the living, those powers exact a terrible penalty.  But you know what a corpse owes these things?  Absolutely jack squat.

#EnjoyYourDay:

All of us who were baptised into Christ Jesus were baptised into his death We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life.  (Romans 6:3-4)

In the same way, count yourselves dead to sin… (Romans 6:11)

Our old self was crucified with him so that the body ruled by sin might be done away with.  (Romans 6:6)

You died to the law through the body of Christ, that you might belong to Another.  (Romans 7:4)

I was crucified with Christ and I no longer live.  (Galatians 2:20)

I belong to Christ and thus my flesh has been crucified.  (Galatians 5:24)

The world has been crucified to me and I to the world.  (Galatians 6:14)

 In Christ you were also circumcised with a circumcision not performed by human hands. Your whole self ruled by the flesh was put off when you were circumcised by Christ, having been buried with him in baptism.  (Colossians 2:11-12)

You died with Christ to the elemental spiritual forces of this world (Colossians 2:20)

You died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. (Colossians 3:3)

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Do you believe in incarnation?

Posted on by glenscriv in gospel, grace, mediation of Christ | 4 Comments

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Check out this explanation of Mormonism.  What’s wrong with this picture?

Too much to mention right?

There’s the teaching of faith as a thing contributing towards salvation.  There’s the classification of Joseph Smith as a prophet. There’s the elevation of personal revelation to a position effectively superior to the Scriptures.  There’s our pre-existence, for goodness sakes!

Now all of these things are troubling and profoundly mistaken.  But there’s something else that towers above those heresies.  It’s their view of Christ.  There He stands – a benevolent well-wisher presiding over our path towards salvation.  This impotent, essentially irrelevant, Christ has been replaced by us.  We are the ones who exist with the Father, who come to earth, pass the test and ascend back to the Father.  We are Christ, working salvation in our own person.  And who is Christ?  An encourager, an example, an empathiser.  But essentially it’s all down to us.

Perhaps it’s easy to spot the errors of Mormonism, but what about our own Christianity?  What is it that makes our gospel any different?  Is Jesus for us the achiever of salvation?  Is He the One who, not only blazes the trail of salvation, but also carries His people with Him back to the Father?  Does Jesus merely make us save-able, or does He save us?  Does He unite Himself to our humanity and bring us on His heart back to God, or does He wish us well from a distance?

We might feel that we have rejected the Mormon gospel because we’ve streamlined the path of salvation.  For us there’s no belief in the prophet Joseph Smith or “the covenant in the house of the Lord” and yet we essentially believe salvation to be a path that we tread. 

Let’s not be reformed Mormons.  Let’s be Christians.  Let’s be those who believe in incarnation – the Lord Himself has come from heaven, taken our flesh, trod the path of salvation and ascended back to the Father.  He is the Way, the Truth and the Life.  And to have Him by faith is to have salvation.

Jesus does not preside over the path to salvation.  He is the path of salvation.  He is its beginning and end.  And we are not those who are on their way – we are in the Way.  That’s true Christianity.  Everything else is a cultish heresy.

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