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Archive for the ‘mediation of Christ’ Category

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

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

Notice these 10 contrasts:

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

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

Today we’ll think about 321 and creation….

“God made you, therefore…”

How do you want to finish that sentence?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

…More to follow…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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Here’s a reboot of an older post…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Consider this fairly common way of conceiving salvation and judgement…

salvation-judgement1

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

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

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

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

salvation-judgement2

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

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

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

salvation-judgement31

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

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

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

#EnjoyYourDay:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Too much to mention right?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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We celebrate the victory of our Champions, though we haven’t expended a calorie of effort ourselves.  They represent us – clothing themselves in our colours (and we in theirs).  Because of our connection, their victory is our victory.

Just so, Jesus takes on our condition, clothes Himself in our humanity.  And His victory is our victory.

Knowing Christ as Champion is the chief article and foundation of the gospel…

Martin Luther: “The chief article and foundation of the gospel is that before you take Christ as an example, you accept and recognize him as a gift, as a present that God has given you and that is your own. This means that when you see or hear of Christ doing or suffering something, you do not doubt that Christ himself, with his deeds and suffering, belongs to you. On this you may depend as surely as if you had done it yourself; indeed as if you were Christ himself. See, this is what it means to have a proper grasp of the gospel.”

Sermon audio

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Far and away the best Australian comedy ever made, The Castle is a must-see movie.  Brilliantly observed, funny, heart-warming and if you’re not punching the air at the triumphant ending I fear for the state of your soul.

The Kerrigan family are threatened with eviction by a nasty corporation.  But ‘a man’s home is his castle’ so they fight it through the courts and… (last second spoiler alert!)… win.

It taps into some deeply felt Australian myths.  It’s about home and land – with overt references to aboriginal land rights.  It’s about family and mateship and a fair go. Most of all it’s the myth of the little Aussie battler winning through.

Or is it?

In the story, Darryl Kerrigan (right) is completely helpless.  He’s all at sea in a legal world far beyond his understanding.  As much as he wants to protect his family, he’s absolutely powerless.  His fate, and the fate of his household, lies with one of two advocates.

First, Dennis Denuto (left) makes terrible representation (see below).  All is lost.

But a saviour is found in Lawrence Hammill QC (centre).  Everything changes the minute ‘Lawrie’ utters those words, “I’d like to appear on your behalf – gratis… free!”

To the court, Darryl Kerrigan only looked as good as his representative.  When his representative was poor, his case was thrown out.  When his representative was good, he was utterly vindicated.  His destiny lay in the hands of his advocate.

As an audience, we have a soft spot for the Kerrigans.  But Lawrie wins our hearts.  Only the emotionally constipated could watch his final speech (not shown above) with dry eyes.

The Castle’s not about a working class hero who never gave up.  This is not the story of one man standing against the powers that be – much as we love that myth.  It’s about the powerful one stepping down for the weak.  It’s the strong advocate who graciously intercedes.

Therefore – two things.  1)  Go and see The Castle if you haven’t already!

And 2) realise this:  You are not the determined little guy who’ll make good in the end.  You’re facing trial – powerless and guilty.  But you have a brilliant Advocate.  He says, “I’d like to appear on your behalf – gratis!”  And He makes faultless representation to the court of heaven.  You stand in Him completely vindicated.  What kind of Advocate is this!

24 Because Jesus lives for ever, He has a permanent priesthood. 25 Therefore He is able to save completely those who come to God through Him, because He always lives to intercede for them. 26 Such a high priest meets our need–one who is holy, blameless, pure, set apart from sinners, exalted above the heavens.   (Heb 7:24-26)

19 Even now my Witness is in heaven; my Advocate is on high. 20 My Intercessor is my Friend as my eyes pour out tears to God; 21 on behalf of a man He pleads with God as a man pleads for his friend.  (Job 16:19-21)

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