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Archive for the ‘gospel’ Category

grow-upThis is a re-post reflecting on a couple of things. First, Luther’s saying: “God doesn’t need your good works.  Your neighbour does.”

Second, Dave K’s observation that, post-resurrection, no-one summarizes the law with “love God and love neighbour” but only with “love neighbour” – read it, it’s very stimulating.

….

A friend recently told me of some “higher life” Christians he met who would chant together:

“I refuse, I refuse, I refuse to come down from heaven to deal with earthly realities.”

They were horrible people to be around.  Their marriages were a mess.  And it was impossible to get at their sins because they were supposedly “hidden” from it all at God’s right hand.

Well you do have to admire their sense of unbreakable union with Christ.  I will give them that.

But you’ve also got to question the kind of Christ they feel united to.

Isn’t the true Jesus exactly the kind of Person who does come down from heaven to deal with earthly realities?  Isn’t that His eternal glory?  And therefore, doesn’t Paul constantly take us from that secure union and then into those battles with the flesh?

Never for the sake of our union. But always from that union and in the power of it.  How can union with this Christ mean anything else?

Jesus said: “For their sake I sanctify myself.”  (John 17:19).

Our response should not be “And likewise, Lord, for your sake I sanctify myself.”  No.  There can be no payback here.

But there is a response to Christ’s work.  And it does involve our sanctification.  It means receiving Christ’s setting-apart-of-us, and passing it on in costly ways – just as Jesus passed it on to us in the most costly way.

We do engage with the mess, not for God’s sake but for our neighbour’s.  Jesus doesn’t need my sanctification, but my wife does.  Desperately.  And the way I glorify the other-centred Christ is not to pay Him back with godliness but to pass it on in sacrificial love.  “Hidden in Christ” does not mean hidden from the battle.  Christ leads me into the battle because He’s adopted me into His kind of other-centred life.

So, for God’s sake, don’t grow up for God’s sake
But, for God’s sake, do grow up for your neighbour’s sake.

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EvangelismWhat do you associate with the phrase “man-centred evangelism”?  What would self-centred evangelism look like?

I have a tract in front of me. A fairly innocuous cover – it could be about anything.

Open it up and straight away you’re confronted with death and judgement. When we die we will open our eyes either in a state of supreme happiness or unbelievable anguish. There is no annihilation, no re-incarnation, no escape.

The next page tells us How to be sure of heaven. There follow nine numbered points. These include (among other things) ‘repenting’, ‘coming’ to Jesus, ‘trusting in’ Jesus, ‘looking to’ Jesus, ‘receiving’ Jesus, ‘confessing ‘ Jesus, and ‘reading your Bible and praying every day’. These are all separately listed under the heading ‘How to be sure of heaven.’  The work of Jesus is mentioned in the midst of a couple of these points – His death on “Calvary” is instrumental in your forgiveness and something you must realise and trust in.

It concludes with a sinners’ prayer.

Now… let me say I love first contact evangelism, I love tracts.  I use them often. I’ve just been out door-knocking our parish and found it a very fruitful time. I don’t fault anyone for a sense of gospel urgency and a desire to reach out.  So let’s not get hung up on the particular example, but let’s talk about the theology behind it.

The theology fueling this is not confined to tracts. Some folks seem to reverse engineer their gospel from the throne of judgement.  And they bring it all back to here and now and me.  The logic goes like this:

In the future there will be a judgement.

Today you can prepare for that ‘great assize’ by making some changes.

By the way, in the past Jesus did some things that open up the possibility for your salvation today.

But anyway, back to today.  Back to you.  Here are the nine things you need to do

There are numerous problems here, but let me name some of them…

The entire presentation is not an announcement of good news. It is an ultimatum.

It’s not about Christ and what He has done, it’s about you and what you must do.

Your problem, in these presentations, is not really Christlessness.  It’s the future flames which you want to avoid if you know what’s good for you.

God’s solution – salvation – is not knowing God through Jesus (John 17:3), it’s escaping hell. Meaning…

There is no obvious connection between believing in Jesus and being saved (apart from Jesus’ atonement being instrumental somehow).  Therefore…

Trusting Jesus becomes about trusting a mechanism of atonement, not a Mediator who atones.  Furthermore…

Faith in Jesus is blatantly a means to another end: escaping hell.  Which means…

No love for Christ is being encouraged, only love for self.  Thus…

True faith is not being elicited here.  You can tell this because…

Christ in His word is not creating faith (He and His work are barely mentioned), the evangelist is commanding faith.  But…

Faith is not a response to commands, it’s a response to promises.  Similarly…

Faith is not a contribution we make to our salvation (along with 8 other steps we need to take), it is the gift of God that comes as Christ, in His gospel, takes hold of us.

That’s what evangelism is then – placarding Christ.  And yes, talk about judgement – but talk about the condemnation that is our Christlessness, now and eternally (John 3:18). Talk about salvation, but talk about Christ as our salvation.  And talk about repentance and faith, but talk about it in the context of Christ offered to you.  Don’t make it your offering to Him.

If we fail to be thoroughly Christ-centred in evangelism we will be man-centred, no matter how much we quote the King James Bible, no matter how fundamentalist we sound, no matter how proud we are of ‘preaching the hard truths.’  Without Christ it always comes back to me.  Only Christ-centredness is true God-centredness.

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cartmanThis follows on from my series “Why be good?

Kath has been writing about obedience and asking what’s helpful in seeking to love an obedient life.  It’s a good question, because people in the Bible seem pretty thrilled by the idea. The Psalmist sees the law as eminently loveable (Psalm 119:97), Paul calls it “holy, righteous and good” (Romans 7:12). Jude, Peter, James and Paul all introduce themselves as “Slaves of Christ” in their letters.  They love obedience!  They have seen an awesomely attractive vision of life and they’ve submitted themselves to it with joyful abandon.

We don’t like obedience – as a rule. (If it were a suggestion, we’d be much more amenable).

Why don’t we like it?

  1. We’re not any good at it. I’m always inclined to hate something I’m bad at. (I’m afraid there’s no real solution to this one – we’ll always be really bad at obedience.  All of us.  Until we die. But it’s we who are bad, not the law).
  2. Obedience feels like it’s taking us away from the good life. We imagine that God has set up an arbitrary set of hoops for us to jump through. We imagine he’s not really interested in goodness, in justice, in flourishing, in cosmic shalom.  We fear that he just sets little tests for the world in order to sort out the pious wheat from the irreligious chaff.  It rarely occurs to us that God has laid out “The Good Life” for us.  We consider it to be merely “The Hard Life.”
  3. Law sounds like the opposite of love. Somehow someone convinced us that law and love are on opposite sides of an unbridgeable chasm.  They must have had their bibles firmly shut at that point because law and love go together everywhere you look in Scripture. But, according to the caricature, over there are law people obsessing over irrelevant duties, but over here, we’re just liberated lovers, leading with our big, warm hearts. In this world, the word obedience definitely belongs over there. But notice too – in this world, both sides of the supposed chasm are far from self-forgetful gospel faith.
  4. Works seem like the opposite of faith (rather than the fruit). In our minds, we set up the difference between gospel faith and legalistic religion like this: YOU are faithlessly busy.  I am trustingly inactive.  God prefers my internal “faith” to your external “works”.  Notice though, that this understanding is actually Christless – it makes me the Saviour, through my cognitive contribution.  But the gospel is that we’re saved in spite of our inactivity and in spite of our busyness – we’re saved by Christ. It’s not really our faith that saves us (as though God prefers internal mental assent to external physical acts!) It’s Christ who saves us and sets us on our feet as children of the same heavenly Father.  Now that we’re in the family, how could obedience be a dirty word?  All of a sudden obedience makes sense.
  5. Obeying God seems besides the point, perhaps even Pharasaical. If, in the gospel, my goodness is irrelevant to my standing with God, we very quickly ask the question “Why be good?”  We rarely round on the question and ask an equally incredulous: “Why on earth be bad??” (We don’t react that way because we’ve bought into lie no. 2 – we think that badness is a kind of delightful naughtiness). Positively speaking, it rarely occurs to us to answer the “Why be good?” question with an emphatic: “Because goodness is good!”  Or “Because Father knows best”.  Or “Because the life of Christ works through us!”  Or “Because there’s a world out there to bless!”

Once the incentive of heavenly reward is absent we seem to lose whatever interest in obedience we might have had.  But that’s not a sign that we’re too focused on the gospel.  The very opposite – it’s a sign that we haven’t allowed the gospel to properly re-calibrate our thinking.

It’s the legalist who sees obedience as an arbitrary set of hoops to jump through.  Legalists are like the older brother of Luke 15 – happy to prove themselves by jumping through the hoops. The licentious are like the younger brother of Luke 15 – happy to find themselves by casting such burdens away.  But both of them completely misunderstand obedience.  We should think of obedience as one way – a beautifully attractive way – of characterizing ‘the father’s house.’  Yes it is a place of love, blessing, security, celebration, joy, mercy, peace, etc, etc.  But it’s also a place where the beautiful will of the Father is done.

On this understanding, legalists are like the older son, self-righteous in the field. The licentious are like the younger son, lost in the far-country. The true position is to be a sinner robed, in the father’s household.  But just imagine that younger son, the morning after the feast.  With what eagerness he will serve his father now!  He’ll get it wrong.  He’ll have to learn. But obedience in the father’s house is not a dirty word, it’s the very atmosphere of home.

It’s true that there is a slavery on the near side of sonship and that is spiritual death.  But there’s a slavery on the far side of sonship and it is life and peace.

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you shouldnt have[A repost from the early days of the King’s English]

On the King’s English I’ve been thinking about a triune creation.

In the beginning

Let there be light

Let us make man in our image

Be fruitful and multiply

Behold, it was very good

God rested

The Breath of Life

It’s really striking me how profligate is the triune God of grace.  The Father, Son and Spirit bubble over in love.  A unitarian god needs creation.  And all relations between such a creator and its creature are quid pro quo arrangements.  The triune God does nothing about of necessity.  It’s all about gift and free overflow.

We can genuinely say “You really didn’t have to.”  And the Lord will reply, “I know, but I wanted to.”

So my friend, whoever you are.  Know in your heart: You are entirely unnecessary.  Entirely.  Unnecessary.  You are a profligate extravagance, a superfluous addendum, a needless flourish.  The Lord, His universe, His church, His kindgom purposes could so easily do without you.  You are completely surplus to requirements.

And you say “I need to be needed!  If my children don’t need me, I’ll fall apart.  If my church doesn’t need me, I’ll crumble.  If my work doesn’t need me, who am I?”

But you don’t need to be needed.  You only think you need to be needed because you’ve forgotten you’re loved.  So let me remind you…

You are wanted.  You are desired.  And not for anything ‘you offer.’  You are surplus to requirements.  But our God doesn’t deal in requirements, He enjoys the surplus.  He delights in you.

Because of His great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions–it is by grace you have been saved.  (Eph 2:4-5)

You are entirely unnecessary, but utterly loved.

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define-good3If we’re freely forgiven in Christ – apart from any goodness of our own – why be good?

Everyone asks the question.  All the time.  And evangelicals aren’t always brilliant at answering it – at least, not without undermining the whole ‘free forgiveness’ thing.  So what can be said?

First we thought about the nature of forgiveness.  Forgiveness is not a “Get out of hell free card”.  Jesus is forgiveness.  To receive Him freely is not to receive a licence to sin.  Rather we’ve been redeemed from sin and delivered into the realm of God’s Beloved Son.  Here we have free forgiveness, but we have so much more.  We have Christ Himself, unbreakably and unconditionally. This ought to transform the way we think about salvation and sin.

Then we thought about the assumptions going on behind the question.  To think that grace removes any motivation towards goodness is to admit to something very perverse indeed.  If our motives for goodness are only about avoiding punishment and attaining reward, those motives are not good!  Whatever “goodness” is  ruled out by the gospel was never good – it was only the “filthy rags” of our own righteousness.  The gospel kills such “goodness” but it also establishes the possibility of true goodness.  Now, without any carrots or sticks, I am free to love you, and to do it for your sake, not mine.

Yesterday  we explored Isaiah’s teaching on this. Apart from Christ, our goodness is a filthy covering which cuts us off from our neighbours, gives us a false “holier than thou” status and focuses us on strengthening our imagined bond with God.  In Christ, we are judged for our goodness, but then raised with Him to spread His righteousness to the ends of the earth.  The good news makes goodness truly good.  It turns us out to the needy to participate in Christ’s self-giving love.

Finally, today we’ll see how Jesus transforms our views of God, the world and ourselves (and yes, that does sound uncannily like 321, but I promise I had no intention of crowbarring that in. It just happened ok?)  When we focus on our goodness it always ends badly.  When we get the big picture, genuine goodness results.

So first – Jesus reveals the real God.

The God of Jesus is not like Allah.  He is not administrating a cosmic experiment in delayed gratification. He’s not interested in moving you closer or further from “paradise” according to your performance.  He’s a Father who has deposited you, once and for all, into the radiant Kingdom of Jesus, His Beloved Son (Colossians 1:13f).  Now you inhabit a realm of freedom, love and unconditional mercy.

When sinners hear this, they might ask: “Wow, so what kind of behaviour can we get away with now?”  But that’s not usually our response to those who love us unconditionally.  Usually when a person loves you unconditionally you treat them better because of it, not worse!  Therefore, if I’ve understood Christ’s redemption, my real question will be: “Wow, so what kind of God is this??”  The answer is, He’s a Father, who counts me as His unrejectable child and who loves me with all His almighty Paternal love.  This is the God revealed by Jesus.

Second – Jesus reveals the real world

I can’t overstate how crucial this is.  These days we’re tempted to think that the real world consists of scientific and practical certainties.  You know, like the four laws of thermodynamics and GPs’ surgeries and mortgages and Newsnight.  That’s the real world and the Jesus stuff is a very important past-time that sends us back into the real world with some other-worldly hope and courage.  Hopefully.  And when we encounter moral choices in the real world we weigh up, on the one hand, the brute facts of the matter and, on the other, the spiritual teachings of Jesus.  And if we’re very moral we’ll allow the spiritual teachings of Jesus to outweigh real considerations.  How very Christian!  Except that it’s not.

What is Christian is to insist that Jesus defines reality.  This really is His world.  Like, really.  And if it’s His world then a life of down-scaling, cheek-turning, rights-yielding, self-giving love is The Way. And not just “the way” for religious types.  It’s literally THE WAY.  It’s how, properly, to correspond to the universe.  Because it’s Christ’s universe.

Third – Jesus reveals the real me

Paul says: “I know that good itself does not dwell in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out.” (Romans 7:18)  When Paul looks for goodness, he realises he cannot ‘search for the hero inside himself’.  There is no such hero within.  But that’s less than half the story about ‘the real Paul.’  It’s vital that he understands his birth in Adam and that inherited nature – it means he won’t try to dress up “the old man” in “filthy rags”. But the real Paul lies beyond himself.  The real Paul is hidden in Christ (Colossians 3:1-4).

This means that his desire to do good – implanted by the Spirit of Christ – will never be fulfilled by drawing on his own resources. If he wants to do good he will have to constantly turn from self and turn towards Christ (i.e. it’s the life of faith).  The real me is the me that forgets me and trusts Jesus instead.  Or to put it the way Jesus said it: “Whoever finds their life will lose it, and whoever loses their life for my sake will find it.” (Matthew 10:39)  Whenever we’re tempted to indulge the sinful nature we imagine that we’re being true to ourself.  Jesus begs to differ.  We are true to our real self when we lose our old self.

So Jesus reveals the real God, the real world and the real you.  How does that free us into goodness?

Worked example: Many times in the last few months Emma and I have sat in a fertility specialist’s office and insisted – against all his objections and scoffing laughter – that we want no part in treatments that lead to “embryo wastage” [shudder].  By law he has to follow our wishes but he’s making us insist on it at every point.  If we weren’t alert to the issues and adamant about our chosen path, we would have easily been led into a procedure that involves the “wasting” of about 8 “embryos” per cycle of IVF.  A chilling thought.

Now, why ‘be good’ here? Why not cave in to the specialist who, for goodness sakes, knows about the real world of fertility facts and figures. Why not go for options that will increase our chances of pregnancy many times over?  God knows we want kids.  Why be good?

Honestly, it’s not a hard decision.  Not having kids is hard, sure.  But life is hard – there simply are no options that can sidestep the curse.  Childlessness is hard but saying ‘No’ to children-at-all-costs is not hard.  Because this doctor is not God, neither are the odds of pregnancy, neither is the estate of parenthood.  We have a Father who is very, very good and who has given us all we need in the kingdom of His Beloved.

What’s more, the real world is not the world of utilitarian calculations.  It really is Jesus’ world.  And however medics want to speak of it: “embryos”, “zygotes”, “blastocysts” – Jesus names reality.  And once you call life “life” you gotta admit, the ethics of the whole thing resolve pretty starkly, wouldn’t you say?

More than that, if this is Jesus’ world, He’s not a coach who’s trained us hard, given us advice and is now yelling from the sidelines.  He’s the One in whom every atom and act coheres.  We’re not shutting our eyes to the real world to follow our spiritual advisor, we’re going with the grain of the universe – His universe.

Finally, the real me is not found in indulging my desires (no matter the cost).  The real me is in Jesus.  Which means He is never taking me away from real life and real fulfilment.  Never.  Because He’s it!  There are some burdensome yokes out there – millions of ’em.  But Jesus’ yoke is not – it’s the one easy yoke.  That’s what He said.  His life is the only easy life.  I promise you – He said that.  Seriously, look it up.

Some preachers manage to make Christianity sound like the second worst experience in all existence – second only to hell (but at least it’s not hell so it’s the clever option).  But no, life in Christ is a life connected to the real God, the real world, the real you.  All other yokes fit badly – they burden you. But His yoke is easy, His burden is light.

So why be good?  Because forgiveness is not a blank cheque, it’s Jesus.  He’s put to death our point-scoring moralism and raised us up into His self-giving life.  He shows us the real God, the real world and our real selves.  In Jesus, the Good Life is simply given to us.  And now, instead of using or spoiling or avoiding goodness, we’re free to live it!

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I started writing this for an all-age talk, but I think it might not be simple enough for that. What do you think?

He climbed up the hill, the cross on His back.
He breathed His last breath and the sky turned black.
But death could not hold Him, He rose up in might
And showed us the Dawn that’s beyond the Night

It was Country walks and heart-warming talks,
Mind-blowing preaches and breakfast on beaches.
Hope reignited, friends reunited,
Feasting and family and grace
And Jesus our battle-scarred Brother,
Speaking His peace to us face to face.

The hill we must climb, it stretches ahead
The footsteps of Jesus, His people must tread.
As night closes in we ask “Is there a Dawn?”
The risen Lord Jesus says “Think Easter Morn”

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holier than thouYesterday we mentioned Isaiah’s take on “goodness”.  Perhaps no other biblical author plumbs the depths of the problem like Isaiah.  Let’s look a bit deeper at his teaching.

He begins his book with a withering attack on the Israelites’ “meaningless offerings”, their “trampling of my courts.” The “blood of goats and bulls” in which He finds “no pleasure.”  “The multitude of your sacrifices – what are they to me?!” asks the LORD. (Isaiah 1:10-17)

Oh.  But LORD, I thought… didn’t you want… I assumed you were into this whole…?

…No, not like this, says the LORD.

And so we see God’s prophet dispensing woe after woe upon the world (chapter 2-5). The nations, but Israel too.  Israel especially, in fact.  The flagrantly wicked are exposed but then – chapter 6 – in the Holy of Holies, the One who is ‘Holy, Holy, Holy elicits the only proper response from Isaiah: “Woe is me, I am unclean.”  Isaiah was the best of the best – God’s prophet, a model Israelite.  But in the presence of the LORD Christ (cf John 12:41) – in the presence of superlative holiness – Isaiah is completely undone.

Human goodness is condemned – even the best of the best.  And yet, from the altar, fiery forgiveness flies to Isaiah. Guilt is taken away, sin is atoned for (Isaiah 6:6-7).  And from this redeemed prophet a message will sound forth.

What’s the message?  Be good and God will save you?  Be religious and He’ll save Israel?  No, the message is one of utter doom and destruction (Isaiah 6:9-13).  Cities, houses, fields will be ruined, the people will be sent away, the land will be forsaken.  The whole tree is coming down.  But beyond this destruction, the Seed will sprout – the Holy One (Isaiah 6:13).

In chapter 7 He’s called Immanuel.  In chapter 9 He’s the Divine Son given to those walking in darkness. In chapter 11 He’s the Spirit Anointed Shoot from the stump of Jesse.  He will save the world.  He will bring righteousness (v4-5).  He will restore the cosmos (v6-11).

Christ is the only hope for the world.  He’s the only hope for God’s people.  No amount of goodness can save Israel – judgement will fall.  Their only hope is the one Righteous Branch – He would begin something else, something beyond mere human goodness and religion.

Christ’s righteousness is a spreading goodness – an outward-looking, overflowing generosity to the ends of the earth.  He comes for the needy and poor of the earth (Isaiah 11:4); the bruised reeds and smoldering wicks (Isaiah 42:3); the weary and those in darkness (Isaiah 50:4,10); the sinful, suffering, straying sheep (Isaiah 53);  the poor, the brokenhearted, the bound, the despairing.  To those who have nothing, Christ will be their everything.  But to those who consider themselves somebodies…

There is fierce condemnation for those who imagine themselves to have something to offer.  We’ve seen Isaiah’s assault on the “filthy rags”  of our “righteousness” in chapter 64.  Perhaps even more famous is His attack in the following chapter.  The LORD sees these folk “standing by themselves” saying:

“Come not near to me; for I am holier than thou.”  (Isaiah 65:5, KJV)

Don’t you just despise that attitude?  Not as much as the LORD does.  The verse continues…

These are a smoke in my nose, a fire that burneth all the day.

The “holiness” of these religionists keeps them “standing by themselves” and it helps them to rank themselves above their neighbours.  Is this true holiness?  We know it’s not.  Isaiah has shown us the Holy One of Israel flying to sinners to atone for their guilt (Isaiah 6:5) and constantly moving towards the suffering and straying.  The LORD’s holiness is a radiant goodness that enters the darkness to transform it.  But the “holier than thou” keep themselves to themselves, attempting, through religion, to strengthen whatever bond they imagine exists between themselves and the divine.

These were the kinds of people who were fasting in chapter 58.  Intent on strengthening the bond between themselves and God, they are indignant when God seems not to notice their spiritual displays:

‘Why have we fasted and you have not seen it? Why have we humbled ourselves, and you have not noticed?’ (Isaiah 58:3)

Just like those “trampling God’s courts” in chapter 1, these “do-gooders for God” are seeking to strengthen their vertical relationship with God.  And they expect God to be impressed.  He is mightily unimpressed:

Is this the kind of fast I have chosen, only a day for people to humble themselves? Is it only for bowing one’s head like a reed and for lying in sackcloth and ashes? Is that what you call a fast, a day acceptable to the Lord?  (Isaiah 58:5)

What an image: bowing one’s head like a reed.  Is that what a “good person” looks like?  Religious folk the world over will tell you it is.  They “stand by themselves” in order to “come before God” and affect humility by bearing the burden of being good.  Jesus spoke of those who actually disfigured their faces so everyone would know they are fasting (Matthew 6:16).  It’s a pathetic charade.  To them the LORD says:

Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen: to loose the chains of injustice and untie the cords of the yoke, to set the oppressed free and break every yoke? Is it not to share your food with the hungry and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter – when you see the naked, to clothe them, and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood?  Then your light will break forth like the dawn, and your healing will quickly appear; then your righteousness will go before you, and the glory of the Lord will be your rear guard.  (Isaiah 58:6-9)

The religious wanted to strengthen the bond between themselves and God.  The LORD says, True godliness is releasing the bonds of others.  The LORD’s idea of goodness is the complete reverse of His people’s!  The LORD does not treat us as good (or potentially good) religious try-ers who need to strengthen our bond with Him.  We are wicked sinners, who need to be released from our guilt and set free.  Now what does godliness look like?  It looks like what our God looks like.  It looks like joining Him in His liberating mission to the world.

True goodness begins with knowing we’re not.  It begins with “Woe is me.”  But instantly Christ flies to that sinner, atones for their guilt, sets them on their feet and says “Pass it on.”  There is a radically horizontal aspect to true goodness.  Nothing is now done to strengthen our bond with God.  We receive our relationship with God in Christ.  He is our covenant with God (Isaiah 42:6).  The vertical is taken care of.

Does that mean there’s no doing in the Christian life?   By no means!  Before God, I simply receive, but before the world there is everything to be done.  To be sure, none of my actions can ever strengthen or loosen my connection with God – I am in Christ and as close to the Father as He is.  But there’s much that I can do to release my neighbours from their imprisoning chains.  Having received from God, there is a fullness to share.

In this other-centred mission, “righteousness goes before us and the glory of the LORD is our rear guard.”  All holier-than-thou attitudes are swept away in the LORD’s outgoing flood.  No longer do we “stand by ourselves”, no longer do we consider goodness to be a rank that elevates us.  It’s a gift that propels us onwards and downwards towards the needy.

Why be good?  It is not an act (or even a habit) by which we’re raised up to God.  Instead it’s a life, joined to Christ’s life, in which we reach out to the world.

More to follow…

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