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Posts Tagged ‘The Word of God’

Who is Jesus?

May 16th, 2016
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I would like to begin a series on a most encouraging teaching that turns upside down our natural religious instincts.

 I define natural religious instincts as our efforts to draw closer to God and please him. And these can be varied and deeply held as part of who we are. One has to be very careful about disagreements over religion. There can be a lot of emotion and self identity involved.

 Effectively religion is trying to overcome the anxiety behind the two fundamental questions in our relationship with God: is he with us and if he is, is he for us?

 What do I mean turn upside down? Our natural religious instincts focus on what we do to get God on our side. We sometimes think we have to do more to make sure we can answer in the positive.

 A teaching that actually reverses this—it is something that comes to us from above- is the teaching on our union with Christ. That can sound very abstract, almost impractical, more of a good feel. But it is intensely practical, affecting every aspect of our lives.

 We will be talking about something only Jesus can achieve for us and in us. Individual Christians and the Church are to recognize that our true nature and purpose is an existence centred with Christ in God.

 This becomes the source of all our faith and obedience. It flows as a joyful and thankful sharing in and with the living Christ in his own mission and ministry.

 How often we have felt like the anonymous small boy with his fives loaves and two fishes facing the impossible task of feeding at least 5000 men. The understanding of the union with Christ reality gives us a true confidence. It is not about us or even primarily dependent on us. We are joining in what the living Christ is about.

 I will be drawing material from Gary Deddo’s recent series on union with Christ in a couple of weeks, but before I do that I will be using insights from Mohan Jayasekera’s recent treatise for Princeton, from where he received his PhD.

 In these introductory message we want to establish that God becoming flesh is the “controlling centre” for the Christian doctrine of God. Our knowledge of God must come from this revelation of God in Jesus Christ. The Creator becomes joined to his creation.

 We will look at Jesus Christ within three specific interrelations 1) with historical Israel, 2) with God and 3) with humanity.

 Today we will look a the first two.

1) Ancient Israel has been described as the “womb of the incarnation.”

 In order for Israel to know God, its communal life and worship had to be transformed. Therefore, God provided Israel a liturgical system of sacrifice and worship, so that a sinful people could come before God forgiven and purified in their covenant partnership and set apart in their priestly mission to the world.

 This was indeed a high calling.

 For Israel to know God, its previous pagan mind, had to be burned away by the searing light of divine revelation in order for it to be the bearer of the oracles of God.

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Message for the Day ,

The Word of God (22)

March 25th, 2012
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Scripture of the Day: 2 Corinthians 3:18

18 And we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.(NIV)

I would like to finish with an article by James Henderson in a recent Odyssey: Self-Portrait

Did you hear recently that what might be a Rembrandt self-portrait was discovered hidden under another of the Dutch master’s paintings? Using advanced scanning techniques scientists investigated a Rembrandt painting titled Old Man With a Beard. Much to their surprise, the scan revealed that another painting was underneath—one that might well be an early, unfinished self-portrait of the artist himself. It seems that Rembrandt had begun a self-portrait, then later used the canvas to paint the Old Man With a Beard.

The story can help us understand a mistake we make when we try to understand what God is like. Most of us have grown up believing that God is like the first painting—an old man with a beard. That, after all, is how religious artists usually portray him. We think of God as not only old, but also as a distant, rather threatening figure—stern and quick to get angry if we fail to live up to his impossible standards.

But this way of thinking about God, kind of like the painting of the old man that hid the self-portrait underneath, actually obscures what God is really like.

To get a true idea of what God is really like we need to look beneath the layers of popular concepts about God and begin to see the God revealed in Jesus Christ. When we do that, a true and undistorted understanding of God emerges.

The Bible tells us that if we want to know what God is like, we need only look to Jesus Christ. Only then can we find out how God really feels about us.

“If you have seen me, you have seen the Father,” Jesus explained in John 14:9 (CEV). Only Jesus shows us what God is really like. Far from being a remote and distant figure, Jesus showed that God—Father, Son and Holy Spirit—loves us unconditionally and will never let us go. God is not out there somewhere in the sky scowling at us, ready to pounce and punish. The Bible tells us that it is the Father’s “good pleasure to give you the kingdom” (Luke 12:32 KJV) and that God is “not willing that any should perish” (2 Peter 3:9 KJV). It tells us that God sent Jesus into the world because he loves the world—not to condemn humanity but to save it.

Once you get past the layers of misunderstanding, the picture of God that is revealed is one of a God who loves us more than we can possibly imagine. “No one can snatch them out of my Father’s hand,” said Jesus (John 10:29).

Through Jesus we are shown God’s true heart toward us—we see him as he really is, not way off somewhere, and neither angry at us nor unconcerned about us. He is right here with us, ready for us to turn to him and receive his loving embrace, just as Rembrandt portrays in another of his paintings, The Return of the Prodigal Son.

Paul told Christians that they are “being transformed into his likeness,” meaning Jesus’ likeness (2 Corinthians 3:18, NIV 1984). Our problem is that we get in the way at times. We use our own colors and prefer our own strokes to God’s. Sometimes we can airbrush him out of the picture completely. But, underneath it all, the Holy Spirit is making us into the image of Jesus, who is the self-portrait of the Father. As we grow spiritually, that image should become more apparent.

Don’t let other images get in the way of your view of who God is or how God feels about you. Look to Jesus, who alone is the self-portrait of God.

Message for the Day

The Word of God (21)

March 24th, 2012
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Scripture of the Day: Colossians 3:3

For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God.(NIV)

This links with

2 Corinthians 5:14

For Christ’s love compels us, because we are convinced that one died for all, and therefore all died.

Hunsinger: People who are alive are spoken of, and here addressed, as those who have died, you know? So there is some sense in which by the grace of God they have died, because they are already included in the death of Christ.

You have died, you’re alive, but in this deeper sense, from God’s standpoint, God sees you (it’s actually plural here, each one individually also) — you have died, and God sees you in and with the death of Christ, as being included in it. Your life is hid with Christ in God. That hiddenness is from our standpoint. It’s not hidden to God, but we don’t see ourselves as having died. We don’t grasp the full sense of that already.

I think we can see that there is a lot more going on than belonging to our denomination, arguing about who has got everything right, and wearing our WWJD bracelet as if somehow we can will ourselves to be like him.

What we are trying to see is something that required the Word himself becoming flesh, living a fully human life in perfect obedience to the Father’s will, surrendering himself in that obedience even to death, to enter completely our darkness and alienation and allow his body and blood to be given as a sacrifice in a humiliating and disgraced status as the lowest of the low criminals, to reside in the earth in death, to be raised and ascend to the right hand of God.

This tells is two things: we are not able of ourselves to be the true humanity God intends, who bear his image and that God vicariously has to do it for us.

Remember our definition from Chris Ketters: Yeah. What would Jesus do? And that ultimately leads to frustration because we’re not like Jesus. We try to be like Jesus, and we’re not like Jesus, rather than seeing that in the New Testament the humanity of Christ is presented as living a life vicariously, that is, in our place, on our behalf, the life that we’ve been unable to live.

Salvation is the transformation that comes from a union with what Jesus achieved and is today. Salvation is always to the glory of God.

It means that we can be assured that the Father’s purpose for us in Christ is not fragile, dependent on us.

I pray that we can together grow in seeing the true image of God as we are in union with the Word of God:

The Word of God is threefold: Jesus is the living Word, Scripture is the written word, and preaching is the spoken word.

Message for the Day