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Archive for February, 2009

Sanctification by Faith

Just an excellent podcast (25 mins)

Tim Rudge talks to Mike Reeves on living by faith on an hour by hour basis – applying the truths of the gospel to our sin and cultivating a healthy and happy walk with Christ.  I’ve listened to it twice already.  Great stuff.

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Luther on Galatians 1:4

Galatians 1:4:  [Jesus Christ] who gave Himself for our sins to rescue us from the present evil age.

You will readily grant that Christ gave Himself for the sins of Peter, Paul, and others who were worthy of such grace. But feeling low, you find it hard to believe that Christ gave Himself for your sins. Our feelings shy at a personal application of the pronoun “our,” and we refuse to have anything to do with God until we have made ourselves worthy by good deeds.

This attitude springs from a false conception of sin, the conception that sin is a small matter, easily taken care of by good works; that we must present ourselves unto God with a good conscience; that we must feel no sin before we may feel that Christ was given for our sins. This attitude is universal and particularly developed in those who consider themselves better than others. Such readily confess that they are frequent sinners, but they regard their sins as of no such importance that they cannot easily be dissolved by some good action, or that they may not appear before the tribunal of Christ and demand the reward of eternal life for their righteousness. Meantime they pretend great humility and acknowledge a certain degree of sinfulness for which they soulfully join in the publican’s prayer, “God be merciful to me a sinner.” But the real significance and comfort of the words “for our sins” is lost upon them. The genius of Christianity takes the words of Paul “who gave himself for our sins” as true and efficacious. We are not to look upon our sins as insignificant trifles. On the other hand, we are not to regard them as so terrible that we must despair. Learn to believe that Christ was given, not for picayune and imaginary transgressions, but for  mountainous sins; not for one or two, but for all; not for sins that can be discarded, but for sins that are stubbornly ingrained. Practice this knowledge and fortify yourself against despair, particularly in the last hour, when the memory of past sins assails the conscience. Say with confidence: “Christ, the Son of God, was given not for the righteous, but for sinners. If I had no sin I should not need Christ. No, Satan, you cannot delude me into thinking I am holy. The truth is, I am all sin. My sins are not imaginary transgressions, but sins against the first table, unbelief, doubt, despair, contempt, hatred, ignorance of God, ingratitude towards Him, misuse of His name, neglect of His Word, etc.; and sins against the second table, dishonor of parents, disobedience of government, coveting of another’s possessions, etc. Granted that I have not committed murder, adultery, theft, and similar sins in deed, nevertheless I have committed them in the heart, and therefore I am a transgressor of all the commandments of God.

“Because my transgressions are multiplied and my own efforts at self-justification rather a hindrance than a furtherance, therefore Christ the Son of God gave Himself into death for my sins.”  To believe this is to have eternal life. 

Let us equip ourselves against the accusations of Satan with this and similar passages of Holy Scripture. If he says, “Thou shalt be damned,” you tell him: “No, for I fly to Christ who gave Himself for my sins. In accusing me of being a damnable sinner, you are cutting your own throat, Satan. You are reminding me of God’s fatherly goodness toward me, that He so loved the world that He gave His only-begotten Son that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life. In calling me a sinner, Satan, you really comfort me above measure.” With such heavenly cunning we are to meet the devil’s craft and put from us the memory of sin.

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What Matthew 8:1 does not say…

And lo, having spoken thus, He didst ascend from the mount before their eyes.  And He spake unto them saying, “Remember this that I have taught you.”

And lo, angels didst appear saying, “Why doth ye lookest into the sky?  He hath given to thee thy programme of reform…”

Instead there’s an unclean wretch who runs to the LORD of Israel even in His uncleanness.  And He is cleansed, healed, restored.

Oh, and then there’s that whole death and resurrection thing too.

Might be important.

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Good to have a laugh

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The excellent Marc Lloyd has posted the juciest quotation on Christ the Mediator of all revelation.  It’s from Ronald Wallace’s book Calvin’s Doctrine of Word and Sacrament.  Here he is summarizing Calvin’s view especially of christocentric revelation in the OT.

The Mediator of all revelation between God and man in the Old Testament is the Word of God, the second person of the Trinity, the same Christ who became incarnate in Jesus of Nazareth. Throughout the whole national history of Israel, it was always He, the Son of God, who dealt with His people in judgement and mercy, bringing them, with His Presence in their midst, light and life and salvation. Calvin asserts positively that Christ, the Word of God, who “remains with God perpetually one and the same and who is God Himself” (Inst 1:13:7), was “always the bond of connection between God and man” (Comm on Gen 48:15), and “the source of all revelations” (Inst 1:13:7), being “always present in all the oracles” (Comm on Gen 16:10). He is equally emphatic in the frequent negative assertion, “Never did God reveal Himself outside of Christ” (Comm on Jn 5:23). “Nor indeed, had any of the saints ever had communication with God except through the promised Mediator.” (Comm on Ex 3:2) “God formerly manifested Himself in no other way than though Him.” (Comm on Gen 48:15) God never otherwise revealed Himself to the Fathers “but in His eternal Word and only begotten Son” (Comm on Is 6:1). The whole story of the Old Testament is thus the story of how Christ, the Word of God, breaks in upon the life of those whom He has chosen to make his people, and confronts them in these veiled forms through which they can come to know His nature and have communion with Him….

The frequent appearances of the “Angel of the Lord” as the representative of God to the Old Testemant Fathers, and as a guide of the people throughout their history is a sign that Christ is always fulfilling His Mediatorial office of saviour and revealer, and uniting even then the members of His Church to Himself as the Head through whom they are joined to God Himself. Calvin, following the “orthodox doctors” (Inst 1:13:10) on this point, identifies the “chief angel” who appears among the other angelic visitors to earth with “God’s only begotten Son who was afterwards manifest in the flesh” (Comm on Ex 14:19). Even then He performed in a preliminary fashion “some services introductory to His execution of the office of Mediator” (Inst 1:13:10). “There is then no wonder,” says Calvin, “that the Prophet should indictriminately call Him Angel and Jehovah, He being the Mediator of the Church and also God. He is God, being of the same essence with the Father; and Mediator, having already undertaken His Mediatorial office, though not then clothed in our flesh so as to become our brother; for the Church could not exist nor be united to God without a Head” (Comm on Zech 1:18-21). “The angel who appeared at first to Moses, and was always present with the people during their journeying, is frequently called Jehovah. Let is then regard it as a settled point that the angel was Son of God, and was even then the Guide of the Church of which He was the Head” (Comm on 1 Cor 10:9).

Calvin’s Doctrine of the Word and Sacrament (Edinburgh, Scottish Academic Press, 1995) first edition 1953, pp8-10

 

I bang the same drum (endlessly) here.  For more quotes in support from the big guns go here.  Or read Bible Overview, especially appendix 2.

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I’m loving Pascal’s Thoughts.

He would have had a great blog.

Check out this one on “Diversions” (basically our lack of contentment).

Given that, as I type, I have no less than 15 active screens on my computer, perhaps I should take heed…

139.  …I have discovered that all the unhappiness of men arises from one single fact, that they cannot stay quietly in their own chamber. A man who has enough to live on, if he knew how to stay with pleasure at home, would not leave it to go to sea or to besiege a town. A commission in the army would not be bought so dearly, but that it is found insufferable not to budge from the town; and men only seek conversation and entering games, because they cannot remain with pleasure at home.

But, on further consideration, when, after finding the cause of all our ills, I have sought to discover the reason of it, I have found that there is one very real reason, namely, the natural poverty of our feeble and mortal condition, so miserable that nothing can comfort us when we think of it closely.

Whatever condition we picture to ourselves, if we muster all the good things which it is possible to possess, royalty is the finest position in the world. Yet, when we imagine a king attended with every pleasure he can feel, if he be without diversion and be left to consider and reflect on what he is, this feeble happiness will not sustain him; he will necessarily fall into forebodings of dangers, of revolutions which may happen, and, finally, of death and inevitable disease; so that, if he be without what is called diversion, he is unhappy and more unhappy than the least of his subjects who plays and diverts himself.

Hence it comes that play and the society of women, war and high posts, are so sought after. Not that there is in fact any happiness in them, or that men imagine true bliss to consist in money won at play, or in the hare which they hunt; we would not take these as a gift. We do not seek that easy and peaceful lot which permits us to think of our unhappy condition, nor the dangers of war, nor the labour of office, but the bustle which averts these thoughts of ours and amuses us….

….Thus passes away all man’s life. Men seek rest in a struggle against difficulties; and when they have conquered these, rest becomes insufferable. For we think either of the misfortunes we have or of those which threaten us. And even if we should see ourselves sufficiently sheltered on all sides, weariness of its own accord would not fail to arise from the depths of the heart wherein it has its natural roots and to fill the mind with its poison.

Thus so wretched is man that he would weary even without any cause for weariness from the peculiar state of his disposition; and so frivolous is he that, though full of a thousand reasons for weariness, the least thing, such as playing billiards or hitting a ball, is sufficient to amuse him…

 …Consider this. What is it to be superintendent, chancellor, first president, but to be in a condition wherein from early morning a large number of people come from all quarters to see them, so as not to leave them an hour in the day in which they can think of themselves? And when they are in disgrace and sent back to their country houses, where they lack neither wealth nor servants to help them on occasion, they do not fail to be wretched and desolate, because no one prevents them from thinking of themselves.

Read them all here.

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Michael Spencer absolutely nails this one.  Go and read the whole thing here.  Here are some highlights:

“Anything that one imagines of God apart from Christ is only useless thinking and vain idolatry.”- Martin Luther

…It truly breaks my heart to hear, see or read anyone who is a Christian approaching the subject of God, God’s will, God’s guidance, God’s message—without going to Jesus and camping right there with no intention to move or be impressed with anything else.

There are dozens, hundreds of ways to avoid Jesus when talking about God. There are dozens, hundreds of ways to manipulate Jesus to a less than defining place.

Many of these are fun. Some have the approval of important and powerful people. Some are wrapped in scripture verses. Many are surrounded by books or endorsed by ministers.

But at bottom, Jesus isn’t defining the God conversation. So the conversation is on the wrong foot and making a wrong turn. It may not be worthless, but it isn’t reliable.

…Jesus will break our idols, complicate our assumptions, overturn our tables and put himself squarely in the center of every question. He is the way, the truth, the life. He is the answer. He is the one way we think about, know, love, worship and relate to God.

When you think about God, go to Jesus.

Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.

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Prayer request

Hi guys,

Please pray for my wife.  She’s still in hospital and if she doesn’t respond to treatment in the next 36 hours the surgical options are pretty nasty.  Pray for wisdom too – not sure how to respond to the ‘drug her, drug her more, ok cut her’ approach…

Thanks,

Glen

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UPDATE 25/02/09:

Hi Everyone,
Thanks so much for your prayers.  Emma’s slightly improved.  Enough anyway for the doctors to stop talking about immediate surgery.  So that’s really good.  But she hasn’t improved that much either.  And they don’t seem to have a great handle on what’s wrong or how they’ll fix it.  So it looks like more hospital for the forseeable and maybe surgery too if things don’t properly improve.

Thanks again for your prayers – we have both felt very upheld and very loved.  THANK YOU.

 

UPDATE 11/03/09:

Emma’s now out of hospital. The doctor’s don’t know what’s wrong but they’re now treating her as an outpatient for which we’re both very grateful.

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A short but extremely helpful book taking you through 1 Corinthians 7:

“God, Sex and Marriage” by John Richardson

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For married couples seeking to reignite romance in marriage:

http://www.romanceinmarriage.org/

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For help with the issue of singleness, try:

‘Singled out for good’ by Paige Benton Brown (excellent short article)

Ros Clarke on singlenesss – practicalities and theology (two short pieces) 

 The Single Issue by Albert Hsu (book)

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Josh Harris’s thoughts on singleness, courtship and marriage:

I haven’t vetted all of this, but Harris seems a good guy

Free Sermons:

Romance Revisited: The Necessity of Biblical Convictions 

Courtship Schmourtship

Courtship is a community project

 

Books

‘I kissed dating goodbye’ 

Boy Meets Girl: Say Hello to Courtship

 

For help in the struggle against sexual temptation:

Triple X Church (more on these guys later)

Free Accountability Software

Internet Filter

Online recovery programme

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This makes for disturbing reading.  Jason Goroncy writes “Pastoral Ministry: Enter at Risk”  The statistics are sobering.

For instance, of 338 Protestant clergy in Canada:

* 94 per cent said they read Scripture for sermon preparation, but it rarely spoke to them personally.

* 86 per cent prayed regularly with others but had little time for personal prayer.

* 71 per cent did not feel spiritually affected while leading worship.

* 89 per cent sometimes felt like they were simply going through a ritual when they led worship.

* 70 per cent felt unfulfilled in ministry.

Read the whole thing here.

Bottom line – there’s a real spiritual / theological problem here.  First there’s a professional model of ministry invested in by all – clergy and lay.  And it’s not as though ministers signed up thinking ordination would be a spiritual trip and ‘Hey, why’s everyone pressing me to be CEO!’  Typically selection for ordination involves selecting CEO-types in the first place (in evangelical settings anyway)!

Secondly let’s realise that this is a ‘job satisfaction’ type psychological assessment which again buys into the professional model.  I wonder how Paul would have filled out the survey:

8 We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; 9 persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; 10 always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies. 11 For we who live are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh. 12 So death is at work in us, but life in you.  (2 Cor 4:8-12)

So however we assess it and according to whichever model (and especially when it’s all-of-life, communal, missional, Pauline!) then one should enter pastoral ministry under no illusions!  It feels like death.  But then true life always does.

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John Richardson (whose excellent blog is here) adds his voice to this discussion on Stand Firm in Faith.  He writes about the place of repentance in the communion service.  It chimes with a lot of what I wrote here

I have long felt Anglicanism (specifically Thomas Cranmer) to be good at driving us to our knees in repentance, but not so good at letting us get up again.

In regard to this, I would point out the contrast between what the Book of Common Prayer says about our preparation to receive Holy Communion and what Luther said. The Exhortation in the BCP says in effect that if we are to receive Communion worthily we must first put ourselves right with God.

Contrast this with Luther. First, he says, “There must be faith to make the reception worthy and acceptable before God, otherwise it is nothing but sham and a mere external show.”

And what is this faith? It is “a firm trust that Christ, the Son of God, stands in our place and has taken all our sins upon his shoulders and that he is the eternal satisfaction for our sin and reconciles us with God the Father.”

But what does this mean for our ‘worthiness’? “This food demands a hungering and longing man, for it delights to enter a hungry soul, which is constantly battling with its sins and eager to be rid of them.”

Therefore those with the right faith are those, “who suffer tribulation, physical or spiritual … spiritually through despair of conscience, outwardly or inwardly, when the devil causes your heart to be weak, timid, and discouraged, so that you do not know how you stand with God, and when he casts your sins into your face.” (emphasis added)

I don’t think the BCP reflects this. Rather, the BCP urges communicants first: “search and examine your own consciences … that ye may come holy and clean to such a heavenly Feast, in the marriage-garment required by God in holy Scripture, and be received as worthy partakers of that holy Table” and so, “examine your lives and conversations by the rule of God’s commandments; and whereinsoever ye shall perceive yourselves to have offended, either by will, word, or deed, there to bewail your own sinfulness, and to confess yourselves to Almighty God, with full purpose of amendment of life” (emphasis added).

The Anglican way is ‘be cleansed, then come’. The Lutheran way is ‘come and be cleansed’.

For my view, go to this sermon called Eating with Jesus (listen here).  Just don’t tell the bishop.

 

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In the last month Emma’s been in and out of hospital 3 times (she’s in at the moment) and I’ve consistently had man-flu.  (Sorry to those who’ve sent messages and comments recently.  I’ll get to them in time).

It’s struck me very forcibly how offensive illness is to our fleshly sensibilities.  Just speaking of my own meagre maladie, here’s the sort of thing said to me on a daily basis:

[Shocked] Haven’t you seen a doctor then?

[Tutting] Haven’t you been taking your medication?

[Frowning] Haven’t you been inhaling hot lemon and eucalyptus like I told you?

[Disappointed] Haven’t you rubbed menthol on your chest and belched La Marseillaise

[Appalled]  Elderflower, saffron and moose hair Glen – that’s what I keep telling you.  How long will you choose frailty over my curse-proof stratagems??

Maybe I’m imagining it, but I often sense a note of anger in the advice of others regarding illness.  It doesn’t really fit our default world-view for people to just get sick.  We need to believe that there are practical reasons for the suffering and dependable remedies to fix it.  When our friends have an illness that doesn’t budge, it actually becomes very threatening.  It forces a collision between two strong emotions.  On the one hand there’s deep love and concern for your friend who’s suffering.  But on the other is an un-named but powerful belief that life will work for us if we act smart, work hard, keep trusting God and never give up.  Of course this entails the belief that bad stuff is preventable if we’re prepared, persistent and prayerful enough.  And so when our friend is sick, and stubbornly sick… well… you love ’em.  But deep down you know that somewhere, somehow they’ve done it to themselves.  (“Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents that he was born blind?” John 9:1)

Of course the battle is there in the sufferer too.  We end up suffering double when we believe the lie that all bad stuff is preventable.  Not only do we face the illness, we face bitter self-flaggelation for succumbing in the first place.

Both sufferer and comforter should stop being surprised by the fiery trial (1 Pet 4:12).  We must ditch this ridiculous belief in our curse-proof stratagems.  Let’s comfort one another as those who know we are east of Eden and the Suffering Servant is the only way back.  

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Soft words make soft people

I’m hearing this saying doing the rounds in sermons etc:

“Soft words make hard people, hard words make soft people.”

The implication being – therefore speak hard words.

Well.  Maybe.  And maybe Proverbs 15:1

“A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.”

Let’s not forget how this dynamic usually plays out:  Hard words produce hard speakers.  And hard speakers produce hard people.

I mean, if the saying just meant ‘call a spade a spade’ and ‘straight talking reaches the heart’ then that’d be grand.  I’m just not so keen on justifying ‘hard words’ per se.  To use them for their softening ability seems like the myth of violence applied to speech.

Allow this to be a gentle word on the matter.  I wonder what kind of commenters it will produce…

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We’ve been thinking about a theology of mission grounded in the doctrine of God.

Here are some relevant talks from me on the subject.:

Luke 14 – Mission the way Jesus did it

Mission in 1 Peter

1 Peter 2 – Doing mission together

Here is Paul Blackham on being salt and light

And here is hands down the best talk I’ve heard on mission and missional church.  Tim Chester on Rethinking Attractional Church.  The whole series of talks with him and Steve Timmis are just excellent.

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Recent sermons

I haven’t updated My Sermons for a couple of months.  Here are my last few months worth of sermons.

1 Corinthians 5:1-6:8

1 Corinthians 3

1 Corinthians 2:6-16

1 Corinthians 1:18-2:5

1 Samuel 17 (shorter)

1 Samuel 17 (evening)

1 Samuel 17 (morning)

Philippians 2:5-11 & John 1:1-14

Philippians 2:5-11

Mark 7:1-23

Mark 6:30-56

Mark 6:1-29

Mark 5:21-43

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Turning the other cheek is the very nature of Jesus’ posture towards us.  It defines His way.  This is true in the OT as much as the New.

It is a response to being wronged.  (Note that being sued and forced labour are the parallel cases in Matt 5:40,41 – it’s not just about non-violence, it’s about our posture towards any and every kind of assault).

When you are wronged the natural response is either retaliation or retreat.  You either strike back or shrink away.  Jesus commands an entirely different response – standing firm in meekness.  Offering the other cheek effectively says:

It hasn’t worked has it?  You want me to diminish myself – either to run or to descend to your level.  But here I am in an apparent weakness that hides unnatural strength.  You have not won.  I have taken the blow and remain unaffected.  I have arrested the cycle of violence and now I stand here confronting you with your own wickedness.   I’m outmaneuvering you.  I have entirely changed the terms on which we are relating.   You may change them back again, but each time I will disempower you by refusing to perpetuate your aggression.  I may look like I’m losing.  But in reality you lost the minute you struck me.  And I refuse to join you.  My way – the way of voluntary weakness – is really the only way to win.

Now we know how this tactic has worked en masse.  Think of Gandhi’s non-violent protest.

But here I want to think about it’s transformational power in personal relationships.

Imagine three families where one of the members acts as a kind of scapegoat.  The scapegoat is the member of the pack who becomes the perpetual butt of every gag.  The family only properly functions when the scapegoat is to blame.

In family A the scapegoat eventually hardens into a sharp-tongued, spikey wise-guy. 

In family B  the scapegoat shrinks into a self-blaming, shy, clutz. 

But what about a third way?  Imagine if the scapegoat finds Christ.  And in Him finds a power to receive the very worst blow and neither to lash out nor to shrink down.

And so this time the barbed comment comes their way….

Father:  You just crashed the car, you stupid clutz!  You’re always doing that.  What’s the matter with you, how can you be such an idiot?!

Now scapegoat A would fight back.  Scapegoat B would crumble into tears.  But in family C the scapegoat says…

Oh Dad, I’m much worse than a clutz.  My life is chaotic, I’m always running late, I never look where I’m going.  There are some deep seated problems that I’m praying through right now, and ‘stupid’ doesn’t even touch the depths of my problems.  But Dad, let’s forget about the car for a second and let’s talk about why your first response to my car accident was to abuse me?  Seems like there’s something pretty wrong in our relationship if that’s the case…

Wouldn’t that be a powerful?  Wouldn’t that be turning the other cheek?

Or a marriage (could be any marriage!) where the husband comes home late after some ministry activity:

[Fuming] You said you’d be home half an hour ago!

Response A:

Honey, it was for the gospel!  And if you were for the gospel you’d understand!

Response B:

I give in.  I can’t win.  I’m off to blog…

Response C:

You’re right.  There were some unavoidable delays, but at heart you’re right – and it’s worse than you think.  I have this horrible need for people to think I’m a funny, personable guy so I stick around to crack jokes.  I put my image ahead of my word to you and that’s awful, I’m going to pray about it.  But first can we talk about a better way of communicating in these situations?

You refuse to retaliate, you take the blow in all its fullness and then you turn to address the relationship (not the fight).

Now you have a go.  Is there a situation where you need to turn the other cheek?  How will you do it?

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PS – for a brilliant example of Bob Kauflin turning the other cheek to a guy stealing his car battery, listen to the first 5 minutes of this

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Hung on a tree

This makes a lot of sense.

Especially since Jesus was crucified in the garden (John 19:41).  A garden of death, a tree of curse becomes Eden renewed (John 20:15).  The very tree of life.

Can you imagine ‘cross’ necklaces that took this to heart?  Very interesting..

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UPDATE:  Some artwork along these lines.

cross-as-tree-of-life-1

Apse of San Clemente’s upper church, Rome.  Photo: Lawrence OP

 

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Pacino di Buonaguida’s “Tree of Life”.  See here why there’s a Pelican at the top!

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But of course these superimpose the cross on the tree of life.  I can’t find any artwork of the crucifixion that has Christ simply hung on a tree!  Can you?

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I’ve had the blogging equivalent of getting my face wiped with spit on a hanky.  My mother (long-time reader, first-time commenter) could keep her silence no longer when I failed to mention Old Testament incidents of turning the other cheek.  Well in keeping with my theme I graciously submit to the correction and ask that others add their own examples.

I’ll just mention four.

First from the law:

“If you come across your enemy’s ox or donkey wandering off, be sure to take it back to him.” (Exodus 23:4)

Note that this comes in the same body of law in which ‘eye for eye’ is found (Ex 21:24).  Eye for eye never precluded loving your enemy. 

Second I can think of Esau meeting Jacob in Gen 33.  Jacob feared Esau and had every right to fear him!  Yet, verse 4:

“But Esau ran to meet Jacob and embraced him; he threw his arms around his neck and kissed him. And they wept.”

No wonder Jesus uses these words to describe His own father-like response to sinners (Luke 15:20).  This is a paradigmatic example of turning the other cheek.  And Genesis itself has set us up for this.  Just as Jacob saw Jesus face to face (Gen 32:30) and found blessing, so he found the same grace in Esau’s face:

“To see your face is like seeing the face of God, now that you have received me favourably.”  (Gen 33:10)

Esau had shown grace to a scumbag just as Jesus had done the night before.  Turning the other cheek is not just an honourable human action, it is the very character of the Face-to-Face God.

Third example is David sparing Saul.  The whole Saul – David interaction parallels Adam and Christ.  The first ruler looks promising but leads the people down into shame and defeat.  The world sees Saul on the throne, but God has anointed another king.  Those in the know sing about David and follow him even though they respect Saul’s outward kingship. 

During this overlap of reigns, Saul seeks to kill David and David would have every right to kill Saul.  Yet he spares Saul’s life twice (1 Sam 24 & 26).   David will not bring in his kingdom that way.  When Saul realises the grace shown to him he weeps, confesses his own sin and David’s righteousness.  (see 1 Sam 24:16-22 and 26:21-25).  This seems to be a model of how turning the other cheek can shame an enemy into confessing their wickedness.

That’s a prominent theme in my fourth example: Proverbs 25:21-22

 21 If your enemy is hungry, give him food to eat; if he is thirsty, give him water to drink. 22 In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head, and the LORD will reward you.  (Prov 25:21-22)

What an incredible piece of advice.  We think retaliation is the best way to show someone God’s opposition to their sin (‘burning coals’ – Ps 11:6; 18:8; 120:4; 140:10!).   Actually kindness to enemies – that’s what will really reveal the judgement of God.  

In the next post I’ll think about what turning the other cheek would look like in various practical examples.

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