Archive for the ‘Redemption’ Category

Saving the Lost

Wednesday, March 21st, 2018

But there is a further difficulty in the way of the popular creed. Who are those whom it represents as finally unsaved? — the finally impenitent, the most obstinate sinners. And what is that but to say, in so many words, that those precisely whose case furnished the strongest reason for the Saviour’s mission are unsaved? Admit their guilt, recognize as we do to the very utmost the need and the certainty of retribution; still, when all this has been said, it remains true that Christ came to save the “lost,” and if so, the more “lost” any are, the more Christ came to seek and to save them, and if he fails, the more marked his failure.

— Thomas Allin, Christ Triumphant, p. 39

[Photo: South Riding, Virginia, March 21, 2018]

God Is Not Mad at You.

Friday, March 16th, 2018

What I want you to know is that God’s attitude, God’s spirit, toward you is one of unwavering fatherly-motherly love. You have nothing to fear from God. God is not mad at you. God has never been mad at you. God is never going to be mad at you. And what about the fear of God? The fear of God is the wisdom of not acting against love. We fear God in the same way that as a child I feared my father. I had the good fortune to have a wise and loving father, and I had deep respect, reverence, admiration, and, perhaps, a kind of fear for my father, but I never for one moment thought that my dad hated me or would harm me. God does not hate you, and God will never harm you. But your own sin, if you do not turn away from it, will bring you great harm. The wisdom that acknowledges this fact is what we call the fear of God. Sin is deadly, but God is love.

I know some will be quick to remind me that the writer of Hebrews tells us, “It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.” And no doubt it is. In the hands of God, there is no place to hide. We have to be honest with ourselves about ourselves. In the hands of God, we can no longer live in the disguise of our lies. In the hands of God, we have to face ourselves. And that can be terrifying. When the prodigal son returned home and fell into the arms of his father, I’m sure the boy felt afraid. We can tell by how he immediately speaks of his unworthiness: “I am no longer worthy to be called your son.” This wayward son has fallen into the hands of his father; his fate is in his father’s hands . . . and he is afraid. But there is no better place to be! This gracious father in Jesus’s parable is given to us as a picture of our heavenly Father! When the prodigal son fell fearfully into the hands of his father, forgiveness, healing, and restoration began. Just because the prodigal son felt fear as he fell into his father’s hands doesn’t mean he had anything to fear from his father. In his father’s hands was the only safe place to be. It was in the far country that the prodigal son was in danger, not in his father’s hands. When we fall into the hands of the living God, we are sinners in the hands of a loving God.

— Brian Zahnd, Sinners in the Hands of a Loving God, p. 19-20

Just Like Jesus

Friday, March 9th, 2018

I believe that God is just like Jesus, only greater yet, for Jesus said so. I believe that God is absolutely, grandly beautiful, even as the highest soul of man counts beauty, but infinitely beyond that soul’s highest idea — with the beauty that creates beauty, not merely shows itself beautiful. I believe that God has always done, is always doing, his best for every man, that no man is miserable because God is forgetting him, that he is not a God to crouch before, but our Father, to whom the child-heart cries exultantly, “Do with me as thou wilt.”

I believe that there is nothing good for me or for any man but God, and more and more of God, and that alone through knowing Christ can we come nigh to God.

I believe that no man is ever condemned for any sin except one — that he will not leave his sins, come out of them, and be the child of him who is his Father.

— George MacDonald, Unspoken Sermons, Third Series, “Justice,” quoted in Discovering the Character of God, compiled by Michael R. Phillips, p. 269.

Make the Story Our Own

Friday, March 2nd, 2018

Even before we get to Paul, we find the challenge of the cross reaching us in quite new ways. It is indeed revolutionary. Nothing is lost. We do not (of course!) have to give up the idea of Jesus “dying for our sins.” Indeed, that remains at the very center. But that idea is refocused, recontextualized, placed within a narrative not of divine petulance, but of unbreakable divine covenant love, embodied in the actual person, life, actions, and teaching of Jesus himself. This means that in order to appropriate this for ourselves, to benefit from this story, it is not simply a matter of believing a particular abstract doctrine, this or that theory of how “atonement” might be thought to “work.” No doubt that can help, though with the abstractions can come distortions, as we have seen.

No, the gospels invite us to make this story our own, to live within the narrative in all its twists and turns, to see ourselves among the crowds following Jesus and witnessing his kingdom-bringing work, to see ourselves also in the long-range continuation of that narrative that we call, in fear and trembling (because we know its deep ambiguities), the life of the church. In particular, as followers of Jesus from the very beginning have known, we are to make the story our own by the repeated meals in which the Last Supper is brought to life once more. If that was how Jesus wanted his followers not only to understand, but also to appropriate for themselves the meaning of the death he was to die, there is every reason to take it seriously as the sign and foretaste of the eventual kingdom, carrying within it the assurance that we too are those who share in the “forgiveness of sins.” And, with that, the gospels give to those who read them the energy and the sense of direction to be Beatitude people for the world, knowing that the victory was indeed won on the cross, that Jesus is indeed already installed as the world’s rightful ruler, and that his way of peace and reconciliation has been shown to be more powerful than all the powers of the world.

— N. T. Wright, The Day the Revolution Began, p. 224-225.

Grace Making All Things New

Sunday, February 25th, 2018

Grace isn’t about God creating humans as flawed beings and then acting all hurt when we inevitably fail and then stepping in like the hero to grant us grace — like saying “Oh, it’s OK, I’ll be a good guy and forgive you.” It’s God saying, “I love the world too much to let your sin define you and be the final word. I am a God who makes all things new.”

— Nadia Bolz-Weber, Pastrix, p. 50

God Doesn’t Do Control.

Wednesday, February 7th, 2018

What does the power of the cross mean for us? Or for those who suffer? It means the same Christ crucified on Good Friday now fills the universe with his cruciform love. He does not passively and powerlessly witness the abuse of his children or the oppression of the poor and ‘do nothing.’ Rather, enters the suffering, experiences the anguish, lives the sorrow for all, with all, for all the time. The Christlike God drinks our cup of suffering. The Lamb slain bore it all, right down to the foundations of the cosmos. Secondary causes nailed him to the Tree of affliction. And what did Christ do? In love, he consented to co-suffer with us in solidarity.

In that sense, I say God is in charge, but he is not in control, because he doesn’t do control. Sometimes I wish he did, but as I scan history and humanity, I don’t see him controlling. Sometimes he seems and feels absent, distant and silent, weak or maybe even dead. Did God simply die and abandon us all to go to ‘hell in a hand basket’?

No! Rather than control and coerce, God-in-Christ cares and consents to suffer with and for us. We don’t concede to the false image of a ‘lame duck’ dad who sits by silently, watching his kids getting beaten by the bully. Instead, we look to the true image of the cruciform — Christ himself — the One who heard our groans and came down to suffer and die with us in order to overcome affliction, defeat death and raise us up to live and reign with him.

— Bradley Jersak, A More Christlike God, p. 133


Tuesday, January 23rd, 2018

When God looks at sin, what he sees is what a violin maker would see if the player were to use his lovely creation as a tennis racquet. But here is the difference. In many expressions of pagan religion, the humans have to try to pacify the angry deity. But that’s not how it happens in Israel’s scriptures. The biblical promises of redemption have to do with God himself acting because of his unchanging, unshakeable love for his people.

— N. T. Wright, The Day the Revolution Began, p. 132

True Salvation

Thursday, January 4th, 2018

The notion that the salvation of Jesus is a salvation from the consequences of our sins is a false notion. The salvation of Christ is salvation from the smallest tendency or leaning to sin. It is a deliverance into the pure air of God’s ways of thinking and feeling. It is a salvation that makes the heart pure, with the will and choice of the heart to be pure.

To such a heart, sin is disgusting. It sees a thing as it is — that is, as God sees it, for God sees everything as it is. Jesus did not die to save us from punishment. He was called Jesus because he should save his people from their sins.

— George MacDonald, Unspoken Sermons, Third Series, “Justice,” quoted in Discovering the Character of God, compiled and edited by Michael R. Phillips, p. 262.

Called for a Purpose

Sunday, December 24th, 2017

The normal Greek word for “sin,” namely hamartia, means “missing the mark”: shooting at a target and failing to hit it. This is subtly but importantly different from being given a long and fussy list of things you must and mustn’t do and failing to observe them all. In the story the Bible is telling, humans were created for a purpose, and Israel was called for a purpose, and the purpose was not simply “to keep the rules,” “to be with God,” or “to go to heaven,” as you might suppose from innumerable books, sermons, hymns, and prayers. Humans were made to be “image-bearers,” to reflect the praises of creation back to the Creator and to reflect the Creator’s wise and loving stewardship into the world. Israel was called to be the royal priesthood, to worship God and reflect his rescuing wisdom into the world.

— N. T. Wright, The Day the Revolution Began, p. 99.

Intrinsic Results

Sunday, October 15th, 2017

It ought to be clear from all this that the reason “sin” leads to “death” is not at all (as is often supposed) that “death” is an arbitrary and somewhat draconian punishment for miscellaneous moral shortcomings. The link is deeper than that. The distinction I am making is like the distinction between the ticket you will get if you are caught driving too fast and the crash that will happen if you drive too fast around a sharp bend on a wet road. The ticket is arbitrary, an imposition with no organic link to the offense. The crash is intrinsic, the direct consequence of the behavior. In the same way, death is the intrinsic result of sin, not simply an arbitrary punishment. When humans fail in their image-bearing vocation, the problem is not just that they face punishment. The problem is that the “powers” seize control, and the Creator’s plan for his creation cannot go ahead as intended.

— N. T. Wright, The Day the Revolution Began, p. 86-87.