The Glory of God in the Cross

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The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth. John 1:14

A series of preceding posts looked at the work accomplished by the Savior on the Cross. Each focused on the salvific work and the categories of understanding that theologians have applied: propitiation, redemption, justification and reconciliation. Limiting our descriptive language to this taxonomy leaves us questioning; we see what God accomplishes on the Cross but we are deficit in hearing the complete message that He wants to communicate via this moment in history.

The first revelatory facet that we note is God’s glory revealed in the Cross. The same glory that filled the Temple in Old Testament revelation is also seen in Jesus, who dwelled among us for a little while (Jn 1:14). In addition to satisfying God’s righteousness requirements, in fulfilling His demands for justice, Jesus proclaims how the Father’s glory is seen in his humiliation and sacrifice (John 17:1). As Stott points out “the glory that radiates from the cross is that same combination of divine qualities which God revealed to Moses as mercy and justice, and which we have seen in the Word made flesh as ‘grace and truth (Ex 34:6).”

Grace and peace to you…

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Reconciling to Himself All Things

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For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross.

(Col 1:19-20)

Reconciliation is the last of four images that man has commonly used to portray the atonement of Christ. It is also the most popular as it is the most personal. Reconciliation is something we can grasp, something we can understand and apply to our lives. The key aspect of reconciliation often eludes us though.

To reconcile one to another means that there was a preexisting relationship to be breeched.

So removed from the falter in the Garden are we that more often than not forget to reflect upon the original design for relationship between God and humanity. We were created for constant communion with the Creator, the introduction of sin building the un-crossable chasm between us. As Christ became sin to atone for the intergenerational sin, He also become the bridge that renewed the possibility for the repair of the rift.

Be reconciled…

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Facing Cavalry Six : Substitute

Lenten Reflections Anno Domini Nostri Iesu Christi 2012

imageWe all, like sheep have gone astray, each of us has turned to our own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all.

He was oppressed and afflicted, yet he did not open his mouth; he was led like a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before its shearers is silent, so he did not open his mouth. Isaiah 53:6-7

Of the array of forensic categories for understanding the atonement, it is the substitutionary idea that draws our attention. Facing Golgatha, we ask why in seeking to understand the necessity of the Savior  hanging upon the cross. The answer, it seems, is quite simple; He alone was able to do what we could never do. Jesus alone was able to take the sins of all humanity on His scourged shoulders, bearing up the weight unto death and assuaging the righteous God.

The application is more complex. As Cranfield writes in his commentary on Romans:

God, because in his mercy he willed to forgive sinful men, and, being truly merciful, willed to forgive them righteously, that is, without in any way condoning their sin, purposed to direct against his own very self in the person of his Son the full weight of that righteous wrath which they deserved.

The wrath that we deserve for our heinous sins. The wrath that we deserve for our lack of love for others. The wrath we deserve for the slightest transgression that we dismiss without a thought. The wrath demanded by the perfect holiness of the God we serve. The wrath expressed in love; the great paradox of God placing himself in our position. The love we are challenged to understand;

But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Romans 5:8

Grace and peace to you in the Name of the One who is over all and through all and in all.

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Danger Close

 

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A ship in a harbor is safe, but that is not what ships are for.  J.A. Shedd

Moving forward in any meaningful way demands a step in faith. Faith–deep soul-rooted, life-directing faith–may lead to danger. We take the steps of faith because we trust in God for what may come, whether it be into blissful comfort or the first tentative steps into the enemy’s territory, fully aware that sacrifice may be the result. A church that never moves from the sanctuary is safe, but that is not what the Church is for.

Read Paul’s boasting in 2 Corinthians 11:16-33. Contrary to the witness of those who merely call themselves Apostles, Paul has the scourge scars and water marks of one who has walked, trusting God with each step as he fulfilled His calling to bear witness to Christ to the Gentile world. We continue to marvel at his effectiveness thousands of years later as he is held up as the model for our own vocational calling. We marvel, but are tempted time and time again to retreat to the safety of tradition and practice.

Church, this is not what we were created to be or do. We are the last hope of a dying world. We possess the fire of the indwelling Spirit meant to guide our hands and feet in boldly stepping into the darkness to call others out. Like the sailor who knows nothing of buoyancy and displacement but who trusts the Oak, nails and pitch to keep them afloat in the capricious and danger-filled seas, Christians need not know how or why God may lead them into a ministry effort, only that they may trust Him that it will not be in vain. 

Grace and peace in the Spirit to you…

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The Foundation of Prayer

“Audacious prayer, which perseveres unflinchingly and ceases not through fear, is well pleasing unto God,” wrote Luther. “As a shoe maker makes a shoe, or a tailor makes a coat, so ought a Christian to pray. Prayer is the daily business of a Christian.”  Martin Luther

“God does nothing but in answer to prayer.” John Wesley

imagePrayer is central to our identity as Christians. It is a distinctive that speaks volumes about the singular nature of our faith. We have personal communion with the God of the universe. Our prayers are not issued into the void in hope that some anonymous deity will take pity upon or show favor toward us. We speak directly to God and he will speak to us.

No spiritual discipline has meaning without prayer. Training ourselves to pray effectively is a primary step that is to be mastered before the other disciplines are attempted. When we live a Christian life without prayer we deprive ourselves of the strength, power and transformation that any other discipline might bring about.

To pray is to change.

A foundational truth regarding prayer is that it is simultaneously natural and unnatural. We do not naturally come to prayer and we must be intentional about pursuing it. Prayer requires effort and a long period of apprenticeship. Unlike the apprenticeship of a silversmith however, our initial prayer has power and effect. God knows our abilities and His grace extends his patience with our first, faltering words.

We must sit at the feet of the Master and learn to pray just as His first disciples did. One day Jesus was praying in a certain place. When he finished, one of his disciples said to him, “Lord, teach us to pray, just as John taught his disciples.” (Luke 11:1) These will be our words as well, Lord teach us to pray.

Grace and peace to you.

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Faithfulness Despite Appearances–Fourth Sunday in Advent 2010

imageOur Advent meditations have to do with an event that none of us were present for. The life and death of our Lord passed before our era and, despite numerous predictions, His return has yet to come. Our entire system of faith is rooted in the apologia that supplements our intellect and the discernment provided by the indwelling Spirit who tells us that we can trust in the words recorded long ago. Every Christian since that day at Golgotha has had to trust the beliefs passed from one to another through the centuries. We trust in the work of Christ by faith alone.

Every Christian since that Friday afternoon has lived in a world of chaos. The dimensions of this chaotic environment have varied from era to era and person to person. Many have looked upon the severity of their trials or the universality of evil and pointed to these as proof that God does not exist. Many of us might be tempted to believe them when we see the horrors that man visits upon man or in the death and loss caused by natural events. Disease surrounds us, getting stronger in some cases. Limited resources threaten the existence of many. Pregnant women are run down and left for dead in the intersections of our cities. Evil abounds.

Joseph looked upon his pregnant fiancée tempted to act on appearances. His scriptures provided a way out for him and he loved Mary enough that he planned to divorce her quietly. By all appearances, her story was incredible–almost unbelievable–and yet, at the prompting of an angel, he remains faithful.  He trusts the word of God provided for him, despite outward appearances.

There is subtle encouragement in the angels words to Joseph, “Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife” (Mt 1:20). God does not command him to stay with Mary. Instead, the angel tells him not to be afraid, that despite what things may seem to be all will turn out well. These words echo for us as well.

This Christmas may not be the best time in your life. You and your family may be facing difficulties. It may be the first holiday without a family member at home. Your faith may be being tested to the very limits of your endurance. Despite appearances, there is reason to celebrate. Christians, you know the end of the story. You know that God has proven faithful to his promises time after time through history and He will continue to be faithful until the end of this history. Trust Him, do not be afraid. Celebrate your Savior.

 

Grace and peace to you.

image by VickyV