Archive | January, 2013

Seeing The Gospel Objectively

31 Jan

Seeing the bigger picture in the gospel is highly important in giving us insight, deeper understanding and meaning to Christianity. The gospel subjectively is one of a very personal nature, in that God saves me from my sins that have separated me from Him. Now I have personal access to the God who walks with me every day, I have a relationship with Him. These facts may be very true, however to naively focus on the subjective gospel would do salvation an injustice. Seeing the gospel through an objective lens is essential for contextualising our individual and corporate experience/journey.

The promise fulfilled in Christ

2 Corinthians 1:20 For as many as are the promises of God, in Him they are yes; therefore also through Him is our Amen to the glory of God through us.

In order to understand the gospel more fully there has to be an understanding of the promise given to the fathers, as the gospel is a fulfilment of the promise given to Abraham.

Genesis 12:1-3:

Now the Lord said to Abram,

“Go forth from your country,
And from your relatives
And from your father’s house,
To the land which I will show you;
2 And I will make you a great nation,
And I will bless you,
And make your name great;
And so you shall be a blessing;
3 And I will bless those who bless you,
And the one who curses you I will curse.
And in you all the families of the earth will be blessed.”

Genesis 22:18 “In your seed all the nations of the earth shall be blessed, because you have obeyed My voice.”

In chapter 12 the promise given to Abraham has three focuses.

1/ The Land – Abraham is to go to the land God shows to become a great nation

2/ The Nation – the Nation is to be blessed

3/ The Nations – all the Nations are to be blessed by this formed Nation

Abraham gives birth to Isaac and Isaac gives birth to Jacob. In Jacob God forms the Nation Israel. Israel is to enter the Promised Land to be a blessing to the surrounding nations, sharing the light of God. However, cutting a long story short, Israel had failed to be a blessing to other nations because of disobedience and turned away worshipping idols and false gods, therefore invoking the wrath of God in the form of exile (Babylonian and Assyrian invasion).

Israel’s rebellion sets the stage for the long awaited Messiah who will redeem the nation back to God, therefore enabling it to become once again a light to the other nations through Him(Isaiah 42:6, 49:6, 60:3). 700 years after the prophet Isaiah speaks of the Messiah, Jesus is born in Bethlehem.

The Nation Israel who were commanded to be a light had failed, therefore the Light of the world (Jesus) appeared in the form of a man to be a light unto the nations (gentiles). In Matthew 4:15-16 the writer quotes the prophet Isaiah:

“The land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali,
By the way of the sea, beyond the Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles
16 “The people who were sitting in darkness saw a great Light,
And those who were sitting in the land and shadow of death,
Upon them a Light dawned.”

Here we see the Messiah promised to Abraham (Galatians 3:16) and prophesied by Moses (Deuteronomy 18:15) accomplishing the promise by fulfilling Israel’s destiny. Christ chooses His disciples and walks with them for 3 years founding them on the revelation of Himself and The Kingdom. The gospel of the Kingdom is proclaimed through Him telling of God’s ruler-ship and reign, not of an earthly Kingdom but of a heavenly one.

Nearing the end of His ministry on earth, Christ is put to death at the hands of gentiles and Jews. Israel due to disobeying God’s law had bought a curse upon themselves and although now not in physical exile, were exiled spiritually (Deuteronomy 27:26), therefore Christ became a curse on Israel’s behalf (Galatians 3:13).

He is then buried in a tomb; however He could not be held by death and therefore rises from the dead in the form of a resurrected body. Jesus then ascends in to heaven 40 days later after a period of revealing Himself to His disciples where He must remain until the period of the restoration of all things (Acts 3:21). The redeemed nation in Christ (Church (1 Peter 2:9)) receives the Holy Spirit promised by Jesus and go into the known world (nations) preaching repentance and the forgiveness of sins through Him.

We see this gospel preached in Acts 13:32-39:

32 And we preach to you the good news of the promise made to the fathers, 33 that God has fulfilled this promise to our children in that He raised up Jesus, as it is also written in the second Psalm, ‘You are My Son; today i have begotten You.’ 34 As for the fact that He raised Him up from the dead, no longer to return to decay, He has spoken in this way: ‘I will give you the holy and sure blessings of David.’ 35 Therefore He also says in another Psalm, ‘You will not allow Your Holy One to undergo decay.’ 36 For David, after he had served the purpose of God in his own generation, fell asleep, and was laid among his fathers and underwent decay; 37 but He whom God raised did not undergo decay. 38 Therefore let it be known to you, brethren, that through Him forgiveness of sins is proclaimed to you, 39 and through Him everyone who believes is freed from all things, from which you could not be freed through the Law of Moses.

So in summary the gospel is the good news that all people can be part of the promise given to Abraham by faith in the death, burial and resurrection of Christ through the forgiveness of sins. This gospel Jesus bought to earth in Himself was the fulfilment of the promise given and repeated to many other Israelite generations. The promise was fulfilled in Christ’s resurrection in that Christ is the Messiah, foretold to come from the Kingly line of David (the blessing of David). David served the purpose of God in his generation, however died. Christ served the purpose of God in His generation however lives.

Returning back to the promise, we look again at the focuses in the light of Christ’s fulfilment:

1/ The Land – Abraham is to go to the land God shows to become a great nation

Christ fulfils the land promise in that He forms a nation in Himself, called in Galatians 6:16 “The Israel of God”. This new nation is not an earthly but a heavenly nation, God does not replace Israel (Romans 11 (The Church does not become Israel, however Jews and gentiles must be saved and grafted into Christ through faith)), He forms a new creation (one new man) of people through faith in His son. It is formed not through ethnicity, for Christ brings down the dividing wall of Jew and Gentile and fashions a commonwealth of believers through faith and not allegiance to the law.

The hope of the promise is fulfilled in the resurrection of Christ. The resurrection of the heir of promise (Christ) affirms that the promise inherited through the righteousness of faith (Romans 4:3), to all who believe and have faith, past and present have the hope of a bodily resurrection on earth. Therefore the promise that Abraham and his seed would inherit the land is confirmed in Christ’s resurrection. This promise to Abraham is still yet to be completely fulfilled at the consummation of age when the righteous dead are raised and given new embodiment in the eternal Kingdom of God.

2/ The Nation – the Nation is to be blessed

3/ The Nations – all the Nations are to be blessed by this formed Nation

This new nation formed in Christ, composing of Christ’s disciples of faith is blessed. Christ fulfils the promise given to Abraham that “all the families of the earth will be blessed” by turning everyone away from their wicked ways (Acts 3:26).

Acts 3:24-26:

24 And likewise, all the prophets who have spoken, from Samuel and his successors onward, also announced these days. 25 It is you who are the sons of the prophets and of the covenant which God made with your fathers, saying to Abraham, ‘And in your seed all the families of the earth shall be blessed.’ 26 For you first, God raised up His Servant and sent Him to bless you by turning every one of you from your wicked ways.”

Now in Christ, His followers are sent into the entire world to preach the gospel of the Kingdom to creation (Mark 16). The gospel enables even gentiles to become heirs and partakers of the promise in Christ (Ephesians 3:6). God through Christ dwells no longer in a temple made with hands (which is how God dwelt with Israel under the old covenant) but in those who are Christ’s disciples. His disciples bear God’s image throughout the earth as people from every tribe and tongue through the good news are born in to His new covenant, preparing the way for His Kingdom on earth as it is in heaven. His body (Church) is sent out to usher in the “already here but not yet” Kingdom before His return to reign on earth.

So what does this mean in terms of seeing the gospel objectively?

Christ dwells in me – Christ dwells in His creation

As we have seen, in the promise fulfilled by Christ, God wishes to dwell in the earth and rule and reign in the nations. He wishes to bless the nations and become central to them, being central in their political, social and economic systems. After all, Christ’s inheritance is the nations (Psalm 2:8). Christ dwells in His believers, but to what end? The glory of God in all the earth, and as believers we are to recognise and serve as part of this much bigger plan.

The gospel changes my heart – The gospel transforms the world

The gospel not only transforms an individual’s heart, it penetrates the world systems that misrepresent and disrepute God’s Kingdom.  Fruit must be seen in a person who has heard and believed the gospel; however, the earth’s transformation is essential in a world that refuses to acknowledge its creator.

“The call of Jesus is actually much more radical than simply a moral repentance; his call is completely world altering. It defies the religious, political, economic structures, even so far as the basic family structure. What is beautiful about Jesus is he goes further with his message than even the average radical street corner proselytizer is willing to go; Jesus goes all the way down to destroying your whole world view, not just your moral code.” (http://jonathanperrodin.com/2010/08/n-t-wright-on-repentance/)

Sin separates me from God – Sin distorts and contaminates God’s creation

Sin is destructive; in Genesis we see sin separating God and man but also man’s involvement in creation. When Cain murdered Abel, Abeles blood cried out to God from the land. This murderous act not only meant his punishment was becoming a vagrant wanderer in the earth but also had an impact geologically and geographically. In Numbers 35:30-34 we see that sin pollutes the land.

The gospel enables me to have a relationship with God – The gospel restores the world into its rightful place with its Creator

When I believed in Christ and He forgave my sins I entered into a relationship with God. This gospel stretches further than my redeemed relationship, it re aligns the world into its rightful place. God is a God of order and cannot contend with sin; therefore all things stained by sin must be redeemed. This includes not only my personal relationship but order is also required in governmental, political, social and economic systems.

I speak the gospel to my friends and colleagues – We speak the gospel to creation

To belittle telling the good news to friends, family and colleagues would be wrong. This gospel must be spoken to those we interact with in our daily lives. Nevertheless it is not solely spoken to humanity, but to creation itself. To explain this further we could take the example of global warming. As I have described above, sin distorts and affects our earth geologically. The gospel therefore must also be effective in redeeming our physical earth. Scientists need the gospel to research renewable clean energy, governments require the gospel to keep recycling a priority and farmers must grasp the gospel to use ethical products in their farming.

So how can we conclude?

1/ our focus on the gospel must not be merely subjective but objective.

2/ the gospels bigger picture is one of fulfilment of the promises given to the fathers.

3/ an objective lens helps us to contextualise our personal experience of salvation.

References

http://jonathanperrodin.com/2010/08/n-t-wright-on-repentance/

Advertisements

How to Approach the Father

24 Jan

“Don’t come to God in relation to what you’ve done. Come to God in relation to what Christ has done.”

How often do we find ourselves coming to the throne of God saying “Lord I come to you BUT …………… I’ve messed up.”

Hebrews 10:15

15 The Holy Spirit also testifies to us about this. First he says:

16 “This is the covenant I will make with them
after that time, says the Lord.
I will put my laws in their hearts,
and I will write them on their minds.”

17 Then he adds:

“Their sins and lawless acts
I will remember no more.”

18 And where these have been forgiven, sacrifice for sin is no longer necessary.

19 Therefore, brothers and sisters, since we have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus, 20 by a new and living way opened for us through the curtain, that is, his body, 21 and since we have a great priest over the house of God, 22 let us draw near to God with a sincere heart and with the full assurance that faith brings, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water. 23 Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful.

So many times I come to God trying to make penance, striving, only to feel even guiltier to make up for my sins. This is me attempting to sacrifice for my sins. The great gospel message gives us rest in that no longer do we need to sacrifice for our sin any more, but we can enter with confidence into Gods holiest place, knowing that He sees us not through our efforts, works or failures but through the cleansing blood of Christ. Christ’s blood is acceptable to God; our blood is marked with sin. For those who believe and confess upon Christ that He is Lord are covered by this pure acceptable blood. This is that which gives us confident access.

It would be right of us to come with guilt, shame and fear of rejection if we were to trust in our own righteousness or works to gain access. But thanks be to God in our Lords Jesus Christ, we can enter with full assurance in our hearts because of Christ’s pure sacrifice.

The beauty of Gods lavishing grace and mercy is that we can come boldly. What does it mean to come boldly? It means without guilt, without the need to make penance. We can be confident that full atonement has been accomplished in Christ.

Below is a song by Keith Green called “When I hear the Praise Start”. This song speaks of how God now sees us through Christ. He no longer sees us as stained humans but as His Children.

My son, My son, why are you striving
You can’t add one thing to what’s been done for you
I did it all while I was dying
Rest in your faith, my peace will come to you

For when I hear the praises start
I want to rain upon you
Blessings that will fill your heart
I see no stain upon you
Because you are my child and you know me
To Me you’re only holy
Nothing that you’ve done remains
Only what you do for Me

My child, My child, why are you weeping
You will not have to wait forever
That day and that hour is in My keeping
The day I’ll bring you into Heaven

For when I hear the praises start
My child, I want to rain upon you
Blessing that will fill your heart
I see no stain upon you
Because you are My child and you know me
To me you’re only holy
Nothing that you’ve done remains
Only what you do in Me

My precious bride, the day is nearing
When I’ll take you in My arms and hold you
I know there are so many things that you’ve been hearing
But you just hold on to what I have told you

For when I hear the praises start
My bride, I want to rain upon you
Blessings that will fill your heart
I see no stain upon you
Because you are My child, and you know Me
To me you’re only holy
Nothing that you’ve done will remain
Only what you do for me