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Is it too much to say "Jesus is the abolition of religion" as I did in my last post?

Thanks to Marc who commented with this:

Glen, this “religion” as a dirty word is tiresome and misleading, don’t you think? Jesus came to abolish man-made religion and false religion, sure. He calls us to true religion of the James 1:27 sort, no?

Here's a couple of thoughts in response:

You could say the same about "righteous acts" (Isaiah 64:6).  Should righteousness be a dirty word?  Well not when it's the LORD's clothing of me (Isaiah 61:10).  But when it's me clothing myself, it's a filthy rag.  

Now the point is not so much that there's bad religion and good religion and the LORD steers us from one to the other.  As He has just said in Isaiah 64:4 - He is unlike any other god since He works for those who wait for Him.  He is the abolition of this kind of working religion for He does the work.  This being the case, it's not simply that the LORD calls us away from establishing a filthy righteousness and into establishing our own pure righteousness.  To establish my own righteousness at all - even by God's law is filthy (cf Rom 10:3-4).  And this is what I mean by 'religion'.  And this is why I use strong language about it.

If this is so, then it could actually be misleading if I only decried one kind of religion.  It's not as though the gospel says 'Don't establish your righteousness like that, establish your righteousness like this.'

The religions of the world can squabble about which path to tread - the gospel comes from above, not as one more path but as the abolition of that quest.

Religion (defined in this sense) is man justifying man before a watching god.  The gospel is God justifying God before a watching man.

So there's something very radical to be upheld when we proclaim the gospel.  And we reach for strong language to do so.  We say things like "faith alone" and we say it strongly even though there are true and right ways in which James seems to deny them (James 2:24).  Strongly proclaiming "Faith alone" might appear tiresome or misleading to some - but we passionately stand behind that phrase knowing the explanations we'll have to make down the track about what James means and how 'works' is a redeemable word in certain contexts. 

Equally, when we say "the gospel is not about do but done" - we say that boldly even though we know we'll need to explain at some stage that there is much for the Christian to do. 

In the same way - to radically uphold the complete reversal of the gospel - I think 'Jesus is the abolition of religion' is in that kind of category.  It provokes people in such a way that they see the radical nature of the LORD who works for those who wait (rather than the other way around).  If it does that, then it's done a useful job I think. 

What do you think? 

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27

Anyone else sick of the whole 'Christ in the OT' debate?  Man... some people just go on and on.

I'm announcing a new hobby horse - Christ in the NT.  In fact I think this is where you really see a preacher's Christ-centredness.  We've had the rule drummed into us by now - Thou shalt 'bridge to Christ' at the end of an Old Testament sermon.  But does this 'bridge' come from convictions regarding Jesus the Word or is it simply a preaching convention that we slavishly follow? 

Well you can probably guess at the answer by listening to a preacher's New Testament sermons.  Now I fail at this all the time but I think the challenge for all of us is this: Is Jesus the Hero of the sermon on the mount or Mark 13 or the gifts passages or James?  And the issue for this mini-series - what about the parables? 

Last time I looked at Matthew 13:44-46.  Who the man?  Jesus the Man.  He seeks and finds us and in His joy He purchases us.  All praise to Him.  As Piper likes to say 'the Giver gets the glory' and in this parable (contra Piper's own interpretation of it) Jesus' glory is on show as He gives up all for His treasured possession - the church.

In this post we'll look briefly at the Good Samaritan: Luke 10:25-37 

First notice this: the teacher of the law asks 'Who is my neighbour?'  This prompts the story.  At the end of the story Jesus asks Who was neighbour to the guy left for dead? (v36).  So now, think about this:  With whom is Jesus asking us to identify?  The priest? Levite? Samaritan?  No.  Not first of all.  First of all we are asked to see ourselves as the man left for dead.  And from his perspective we are to assess who is a good neighbour.  Here's the first clue - we're meant to put ourselves in the shoes of the fallen man.

Why do I say 'fallen'?  Well the man's fallenness is triply-underlined in v30.  He "goes down" from Jerusalem (this earthly counterpart of the heavenly Zion).  He's heading towards the outskirts of the land (Jericho) which is due east of this mountain sanctuary (echoes of Eden).  This would involve a physical descent of about a thousand metres in the space of just 23 miles.  If that wasn't bad enough, the man "falls" among robbers.  He's stripped, plagued (literally that's the greek word), abandoned and half-dead.  That's the man's precidament and Jesus wants us to see it as our predicament.  So what hope do we have?

The priest?  Nope.  The Levite?  No chance.  What about a 'certain Samaritan' (mirroring the 'certain man' of v30)?  He's not at all like the religious.  In fact the one who 'comes to where the man is' happens to be someone who'd equally have been shunned by the priest and Levite! 

Yet this Samaritan 'had compassion' (v33).  In the New Testament this verb, which could be translated 'he was moved in his bowels with pity', is used only of Jesus. (Matt. 9:36; 14:14; 15:32; 18:27; 20:34; Mk. 1:41; 6:34; 8:2; 9:22; Lk. 7:13; 10:33; 15:20) In every narrative passage Jesus is the subject of the verb and the three parables in which it's used are the merciful King of Matthew 18 (v27), here and the father in the Two Sons (Lk 15:20).  More about that in the next post.

Well this Good Samaritan comes across the man left for dead and for emphasis we are twice told about him 'coming' to the man (v33 and 34).  The Outsider identifies with the spurned and wretched.

Now remember whose shoes we are in as Jesus tells this story.  We are meant to imagine ourselves as this brutalized man.  Now read v34:

He went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he put the man on his own beast, brought him to an inn and took care of him. The next day he took out two silver coins and gave them to the innkeeper. `Look after him,' he said, `and when I return, I will reimburse you for any extra expense you may have.'

Now I don't have to tell you what these things mean.  You've got blueletterbible - you can do your own biblical theology of oil, wine, etc.  But remember you're meant to be putting yourself in the position of this fallen man, left for dead, unaided by religion, healed by an extraordinary stranger and awaiting his return.  Are you there?  Have you felt those depths and appreciated those heights?  Well then, now:

You go and do likewise. (v37)

Don't first conjure up the character of the good samaritan.  First be the fallen man.  First experience the healing of this Beautiful Stranger.  Then go and do likewise.

Or... leave Jesus out of it.  Spin it as a morality tale and end with "Who was that masked man? No matter - just go and do likewise."  

See how important 'Jesus in the NT' is?

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Anyone else sick of the whole 'Christ in the OT' debate?  Man... some people just go on and on.

I'm announcing a new hobby horse - Christ in the NT.  In fact I think this is where you really see a preacher's Christ-centredness.  We've had the rule drummed into us by now - Thou shalt 'bridge to Christ' at the end of an Old Testament sermon.  But does this 'bridge' come from convictions regarding Jesus the Word or is it simply a preaching convention that we slavishly follow? 

Well you can probably guess at the answer by listening to a preacher's New Testament sermons.  Now I fail at this all the time but I think the challenge for all of us is this: Is Jesus the Hero of the sermon on the mount or Mark 13 or the gifts passages or James?  And the issue for this mini-series - what about the parables? 

Last time I looked at Matthew 13:44-46.  Who the man?  Jesus the Man.  He seeks and finds us and in His joy He purchases us.  All praise to Him.  As Piper likes to say 'the Giver gets the glory' and in this parable (contra Piper's own interpretation of it) Jesus' glory is on show as He gives up all for His treasured possession - the church.

In this post we'll look briefly at the Good Samaritan: Luke 10:25-37 

First notice this: the teacher of the law asks 'Who is my neighbour?'  This prompts the story.  At the end of the story Jesus asks Who was neighbour to the guy left for dead? (v36).  So now, think about this:  With whom is Jesus asking us to identify?  The priest? Levite? Samaritan?  No.  Not first of all.  First of all we are asked to see ourselves as the man left for dead.  And from his perspective we are to assess who is a good neighbour.  Here's the first clue - we're meant to put ourselves in the shoes of the fallen man.

Why do I say 'fallen'?  Well the man's fallenness is triply-underlined in v30.  He "goes down" from Jerusalem (this earthly counterpart of the heavenly Zion).  He's heading towards the outskirts of the land (Jericho) which is due east of this mountain sanctuary (echoes of Eden).  This would involve a physical descent of about a thousand metres in the space of just 23 miles.  If that wasn't bad enough, the man "falls" among robbers.  He's stripped, plagued (literally that's the greek word), abandoned and half-dead.  That's the man's precidament and Jesus wants us to see it as our predicament.  So what hope do we have?

The priest?  Nope.  The Levite?  No chance.  What about a 'certain Samaritan' (mirroring the 'certain man' of v30)?  He's not at all like the religious.  In fact the one who 'comes to where the man is' happens to be someone who'd equally have been shunned by the priest and Levite! 

Yet this Samaritan 'had compassion' (v33).  In the New Testament this verb, which could be translated 'he was moved in his bowels with pity', is used only of Jesus. (Matt. 9:36; 14:14; 15:32; 18:27; 20:34; Mk. 1:41; 6:34; 8:2; 9:22; Lk. 7:13; 10:33; 15:20) In every narrative passage Jesus is the subject of the verb and the three parables in which it's used are the merciful King of Matthew 18 (v27), here and the father in the Two Sons (Lk 15:20).  More about that in the next post.

Well this Good Samaritan comes across the man left for dead and for emphasis we are twice told about him 'coming' to the man (v33 and 34).  The Outsider identifies with the spurned and wretched.

Now remember whose shoes we are in as Jesus tells this story.  We are meant to imagine ourselves as this brutalized man.  Now read v34:

He went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he put the man on his own beast, brought him to an inn and took care of him. The next day he took out two silver coins and gave them to the innkeeper. `Look after him,' he said, `and when I return, I will reimburse you for any extra expense you may have.'

Now I don't have to tell you what these things mean.  You've got blueletterbible - you can do your own biblical theology of oil, wine, etc.  But remember you're meant to be putting yourself in the position of this fallen man, left for dead, unaided by religion, healed by an extraordinary stranger and awaiting his return.  Are you there?  Have you felt those depths and appreciated those heights?  Well then, now:

You go and do likewise. (v37)

Don't first conjure up the character of the good samaritan.  First be the fallen man.  First experience the healing of this Beautiful Stranger.  Then go and do likewise.

Or... leave Jesus out of it.  Spin it as a morality tale and end with "Who was that masked man? No matter - just go and do likewise."  

See how important 'Jesus in the NT' is?

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5

We're in the middle of a mission at the moment (prayers always welcome!).  One of the things we're doing is door-knocking our neighbourhood and we've seen people turn to the Lord even on the door-step.  Praise God!

In our morning meetings there seems to be one kind of prayer that recurs more than any others - that God would prepare hearts so that when we arrive they are open to the gospel.  Now I'll give a hearty Amen to all such prayers and, in His grace, God may well grant this.  But when we think about hearts opened, wouldn't it be better to pray that the word itself will open hearts, conquer unbelief, awaken faith?  Is it possible that we're separating word and Spirit by conceiving of evangelism in these terms?  Is there a danger that the power is thought of as separate from the gospel and not as the gospel itself?  (Rom 1:16).

I think I'd rather pray, "Lord, though the people we meet be stone-hearted, blind and lost in sin and blackest darkness, bring life and immortality to light through your gospel.  May your word do its almighty work and bring life from the dead."

I'd certainly rather conceive of evangelism in those terms.  When we tell the gospel we're not basically hoping that some have previously enjoyed God's power.  Rather, we're going with the power of God which is unleashed upon all, every time we speak of Christ.

 

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3

Do you ever wonder, like this blogger, if Jesus would actually like you?  Not whether some abstract principle of grace covers you.  But the question, How would the radical Jesus of the bible deal with you?

I mean the Guy's fierce.  Totally uncompromising, pure.  No double-standards, no tolerance for double-standards.  He sees you to the bottom.  He knows your heart.  One sentence from His lips will expose you to the world.

More than this He's walking the road to Golgotha and there's only one way to follow - take up your cross and join Him.  On the way, confess His name to the world, stand behind His words, own Him to His deadliest enemies. Love your would-be killers, pray for your persecutors.  Got money?  Give it away.  Got possessions?  Sell them.  Let nothing hinder you.  Don't settle your affairs first, don't even bury your father.  Follow. 

Yikes.

Now think.  Who is surrounding Jesus, following along the Golgotha way?  The religious keen-beans right?  The professionally moral?  No chance.  Those guys are walking away conspiring to kill Him. 

Who is flocking to Jesus?  Sinners and tax collectors.  They run to the Holy One of Israel - the One who could throw them body and soul into hell. 

Try this as a test:  Read the last ten verses of Luke 14.  In it Jesus turns to the crowds and says:

If anyone comes to me and does not hate his father and mother, his wife and children, his brothers and sisters- yes, even his own life- he cannot be my disciple.  And anyone who does not carry his cross and follow me cannot be my disciple... any of you who does not give up everything he has cannot be my disciple.

Now read the first verse of Luke 15 (and remember that chapter divisions are not part of the original Scriptures):

Now the tax collectors and sinners were all gathering round to hear him.

Huh??  Shouldn't the 'sinners' be running for the hills?  How can Jesus turn up the discipleship temperature to nuclear and at the same time have the most notoriously immoral people draw near??

Well perhaps these words from Jesus will help.  They might just be my favourite:

"It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners." (Mark 2:17)

Jesus is not the Health Police - enforcing wellness, punishing the sick!  He's the Doctor.  The sick do not run from Him but to Him.  It's the 'healthy' who run away.  The 'righteous' cannot bear His presence.  Ostensibly they worry about Jesus' reputation - eating with sinners.  In reality it is their reputation at stake - eating with the Doctor.  For to share His company is to admit to a deep spiritual sickness and to abandon the 'healthy' facade.

Yet for the sick, they have abandoned the healthy facade.  And they've come to realise that their sickness does not prevent them from coming to Christ.  Their sickness is why they come to Christ.  And so they come and find in Jesus a Doctor for Whom no disease is beyond His healing power. 

Jesus is the Doctor for sick sinners.  And this understanding is at the heart of the question 'How does the radical Jesus of the bible deal with me?'  Not as the Health Police but as the Doctor.  He calls me to Himself in all my sin - in all my inability to follow.  

So Christ's radical call to discipleship goes out.  If I'm seeing things clearly I know three things:

1) Jesus is right, that is the way. 

2) I have no chance of treading that path.  None. Zero. Squat.

3) Jesus is the Doctor - He and He only can take what is natural to me (desertion!) and turn it into discipleship.

In this way I answer Christ's call.  I draw nearer to the One who commands, not because I recognize in myself the strength to answer His call.  But I recognize in Him the power to redeem my weakness.  It's not about seeing health in us.  It's all about seeing healing in the Doctor.

In the future (when I've got some time) I'll look at Christ's actual healings as demonstrations of just this dynamic. 

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From the ridiculous to the sublime.

I've posted quite a few long-winded reflections on faith in the past.  (And how we shouldn't reflect too much on it!)  Here, here, here and here

 But they're all summed up and vastly surpassed by one paragraph of Stott's Romans commentary:

"Further it is vital to affirm that there is nothing meritorious about faith, and that, when we say that salvation is ‘by faith, not by works', we are not substituting one kind of merit (‘faith') for another (‘works').  Nor is salvation a sort of cooperative enterprise between God and us, in which he contributes the cross and we contribute faith.  No, grace is non-contributory, and faith is the opposite of self-regarding.  The value of faith is not to be found in itself, but entirely and exclusively in its object, namely Jesus Christ and him crucified.  To say ‘justification by faith alone' is another way of saying ‘justification by Christ alone'.  Faith is the eye that looks to him, the hand that receives his free gift, the mouth that drinks the living water. ‘Faith... apprehending nothing else but that precious jewel Christ Jesus.' (Luther's Galatians).  As Richard Hooker, the late sixteenth-century Anglican divine, wrote: ‘God justifies the believer - not because of the worthiness of his belief, but because of His worthiness Who is believed.'  (John Stott, The Message of Romans, IVP, 1994, p117-118).

 

Isn't that brilliant?

He goes on a bit later...

"...The antithesis between grace and law, mercy and merit, faith and works, God's salvation and self-salvation, is absolute.  No compromising mishmash is possible.  We are obliged to choose.  Emil Brunner illustrated it vividly in terms of the difference between ‘ascent' and ‘descent'.  The really ‘decisive question', he wrote, 'is the direction of movement'.  Non-Christian systems think of ‘the self-movement of man' towards God.  Luther called speculation ‘climbing up to the majesty on high'.  Similarly, mysticism imagines that the human spirit can ‘soar aloft towards God'.  So does moralism.  So does philosophy.  Very similar is the ‘self-confident optimism of all non-Christian religions'.  None of these has seen or felt the gulf which yawns between the holy God and sinful, guilty human beings.  Only when we have glimpsed this do we grasp the necessity of what the gospel proclaims, namely ‘the self movement of God', his free initiative of grace, his ‘descent', his amazing ‘act of condescension'.  To stand on the rim of the abyss, to despair utterly of ever crossing over, this is the indispensible ‘antechamber of faith'."  (John Stott, The Message of Romans, IVP, 1994, p118.  Brunner quotes from The Mediator)

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In the debates on justification - don't ever lose those two paragraphs!! 

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... TO OTHER CHRISTIANS!

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Here's my ill-considered overstatement of the issue:  Our problem is not that we aren't telling the gospel to our pagan friends.  It's that we don't tell the gospel to our Christian friends!

When's the last time you looked another Christian in the eye and said 'Mate you're a sinner.  I know you have struggles, I know you're tired but, deep down you're wicked!  That's your real problem.  But Mate - you're clothed in the righteousness of Christ, carried on His heart before the Father, rejoiced over in the presence of the angels.'

I don't mean, When's the last time you talked about the toughness of the Christian life, or the state of the nation's morals or the soundness of certain bible teaching etc etc.  I'm talking about eye-balling your brother or sister and speaking God's word direct to them - His blood was for you, you are clean!

We all struggle to muster up the courage to evangelise non-Christian friends and family.  But I wonder whether a significant part of our difficulty is that we're not even used to speaking the gospel to people who should welcome it!

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Channel 4 screened the first of Make Me a Christian last night.  Haven't seen it yet.  But here's one reviewer's reaction:

The infuriating thing will be if some of the group think happier lives can only be achieved through Jesus, rather than, say, empathy and courtesy and not being fat / crying / shagging all the time.

btw I'll give you one guess which newspaper!

Anyway, here's the gist of their gripe: 'You Christians can have your Jesus, I'll stick with my empathy and courtesy.' 

First notice what diminished values they are.  Not love and sacrifice - empathy and courtesy.  (Reminds me of a parishioner telling me we need to preach more 'tolerance' from the pulpit. I told him we'd do no such thing.  We would preach what Jesus preached - to love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us.  How ridiculous is the virtue of 'tolerance'!)

But notice most of all the self-righteousness.  They haven't rejected Jesus in favour of license.  They've rejected Him in favour of law.  Their own law to be sure, but law nonetheless. 

Even the most 'lawless' can actually be seen seeking their own righteousness by their own power according to their own law.  Hitler was a non-smoking, vegetarian, tee-totaller. He had his own struggle with his own rules by which he would be righteous.

In this sense the vast majority of people are legalists.  Only the truly despairing, depressed and suicidal have actually given off the quest for a righteousness of their own.  And note too that such people have also given off their quest for freedom and happiness.  I'm just not sure that there is a category of licentious people who are not also legalists.  Am I wrong on this?

If not, what would this mean?  Well it should remove from us any desire to give people God's law as the proper guide for their self-righteous instincts!  The problem is not merely and not mainly that the law by which they are seeking to justify themselves is faulty.  To justify themselves by the right law is even worse!  The Jew who sought to justify themselves by God's law is not less but more culpable in His sight (Romans 2-3). 

The gospel must be the answer.  The gospel is not, 'Try doing things this way'.  The gospel is 'It is finished!'  Now that will humble.  That will drive the world down to contrition and brokenness because our real drive is not an abstract lawlessness but a craving to establish ourselves, justify ourselves, to make a name.  Jesus, in being our righteousness, strips us of our fig leaves of empathy and courtesy.  Our deepest social, ethical and environmental concerns are filthy rags.  He calls us to renounce this 'righteousness' and be clothed only in Him. 

That's far more offensive than telling people the right laws by which to self-justify.  I wonder which route the Channel 4 team will take?  I think I can guess.

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UPDATE: Read Marcus' blog here or Daniel Blanche - seems like my fears are founded!

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Channel 4 screened the first of Make Me a Christian last night.  Haven't seen it yet.  But here's one reviewer's reaction:

The infuriating thing will be if some of the group think happier lives can only be achieved through Jesus, rather than, say, empathy and courtesy and not being fat / crying / shagging all the time.

btw I'll give you one guess which newspaper!

Anyway, here's the gist of their gripe: 'You Christians can have your Jesus, I'll stick with my empathy and courtesy.' 

First notice what diminished values they are.  Not love and sacrifice - empathy and courtesy.  (Reminds me of a parishioner telling me we need to preach more 'tolerance' from the pulpit. I told him we'd do no such thing.  We would preach what Jesus preached - to love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us.  How ridiculous is the virtue of 'tolerance'!)

But notice most of all the self-righteousness.  They haven't rejected Jesus in favour of license.  They've rejected Him in favour of law.  Their own law to be sure, but law nonetheless. 

Even the most 'lawless' can actually be seen seeking their own righteousness by their own power according to their own law.  Hitler was a non-smoking, vegetarian, tee-totaller. He had his own struggle with his own rules by which he would be righteous.

In this sense the vast majority of people are legalists.  Only the truly despairing, depressed and suicidal have actually given off the quest for a righteousness of their own.  And note too that such people have also given off their quest for freedom and happiness.  I'm just not sure that there is a category of licentious people who are not also legalists.  Am I wrong on this?

If not, what would this mean?  Well it should remove from us any desire to give people God's law as the proper guide for their self-righteous instincts!  The problem is not merely and not mainly that the law by which they are seeking to justify themselves is faulty.  To justify themselves by the right law is even worse!  The Jew who sought to justify themselves by God's law is not less but more culpable in His sight (Romans 2-3). 

The gospel must be the answer.  The gospel is not, 'Try doing things this way'.  The gospel is 'It is finished!'  Now that will humble.  That will drive the world down to contrition and brokenness because our real drive is not an abstract lawlessness but a craving to establish ourselves, justify ourselves, to make a name.  Jesus, in being our righteousness, strips us of our fig leaves of empathy and courtesy.  Our deepest social, ethical and environmental concerns are filthy rags.  He calls us to renounce this 'righteousness' and be clothed only in Him. 

That's far more offensive than telling people the right laws by which to self-justify.  I wonder which route the Channel 4 team will take?  I think I can guess.

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UPDATE: Read Marcus' blog here or Daniel Blanche - seems like my fears are founded!

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Tim VB put me onto this 9 week course about Gospel Centred Living which is freely available here.  It looks great.  They draw on material from World Harvest Mission - their Gospel Tranformation and Sonship courses.  To give you a flavour of these, here is the blurb about the Sonship course:

Sonship: Live the theology you believe!

Many of us understand the faith intellectually, but our hearts have not quite kept up with our heads. Sonship is designed to help you take some of the glorious theological truths of the gospel - truths that you may know in your head - and apply them to the nitty gritty reality of daily life.

You'll find that as the gospel re-makes you, there is greater joy and desire to share the wonderful news of God's lovingkindness with others.

I have to say I've been very impressed by what I've seen so far. 

One thing that struck me was this testimony found here in the Sonship course.  It illustrates brilliantly a truth I'll remark on at the end: 

One day when I was very young, I saw my older sister hanging up my father's white business shirts on the clothesline to dry. I was suddenly filled with the urge to hang up one of my daddy's white shirts. He was my daddy too, and I was his daughter; I loved him in my childlike way and wanted to express it. I couldn't reach the clothesline-it was too high, but I saw a wheel barrow in the yard and its handles were just the right height for me. I didn't notice how rusty it was and I rather joyfully clothes pinned the wet shirt to the handles.

When my dad got home and saw the shirt on the wheelbarrow, he became very angry with me and punished me severely for ruining his shirt. I had not realized the impact that event and others like it had made on me. However, as I was repeatedly convicted during the Sonship conference for not believing God concerning his delight in me and in the gracious nature of my relationship with him, this memory returned to me. Now, you cannot hardly get through 24 hours of a Sonship conference without realizing that your own heart is as murderous as anyone else's-so I wasn't primarily focusing on only being the innocent victim of my father's cruel anger.

As I remembered these scenes from the past, I saw that through the years I had not been believing that my Father in heaven was any different than my earthly father. I had not been listening when he described himself. In short, I hadn't been believing the gospel, that by faith in Christ and his perfect atoning sacrifice, he now loves me, and is forever for me and delighted in me. In Christ, he has made me beautiful and pleasing to him forever.

So the next morning I told our counselor that I thought I was beginning to understand. I told him the memory and said that I guess if the Father saw me standing next to the wheelbarrow with the ruined shirt on it, he would forget the shirt and hug me. "You still don't understand fully," Jeff said. "God would not overlook the shirt, but take it, put it on, and wear it to work. And when someone commented on the rust marks, he would say, ‘Let me tell you about my little girl and how much she loves me.'" I was overwhelmed with that realization.

What a brilliant picture of the gospel!  Not just overlooking the shirt - wearing the shirt and celebrating his daughter!

Often we think of the gospel as God overlooking our sin, tolerating our presence and simply relenting from judgement.  We are left in the law court, the not-guilty verdict is passed and we're just relieved to have avoided hell.  But can such a gospel change our hearts?  Somewhat, I'm sure.

But the good news is not that God allows us to live in the suburbs of His presence.  We are adopted, indwelt, sung over, glorified, rejoiced in.  Letting the Father love us in Christ is the kind of 'overwhelming' that truly changes.

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