Month: December 2016

Saved For, Not From

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I’m almost finished reading N.T. Wright’s new book The Day the Revolution Began. I HIGHLY recommend it. It’s a little lengthy (just over 400 pages) and it will take some mental strength, but it’s worth it. And the chapter on Romans is worth the price alone.

Wright does an excellent job explaining the early Christian understanding of the death of Jesus. Our simple formulas that narrow the cross down to a simple sacrifice or legal exchange so we can “go to heaven” fall short of the gospel writer’s and Paul’s understanding of the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus. It would take me more blogs than I have time or desire to write to get into this book, but let me share with you three quick take aways that might spur you to grab a copy.

  1. The story of the cross cannot be taken out of the story of Israel. Our tendency is to pay very little attention to the ancient Israelite story and jump straight ahead to the gospels. When we do this, we rob the cross of its meaning. We need to hear the overtones of exodus, passover, exile, and God’s work to set his people free. The cross and resurrection come in line of this all to important story. (As a side note, this might also inform how we teach the story of Scripture to our children. That is, first and foremost as a STORY.)
  2. God is not a pagan god who longs to unleash wrath and fury on humanity, but Jesus steps in to take the blow. Sometimes our simple formulas make it sound this way, and God sounds more like an angry pagan deity than a loving and just God who wants to redeem and set right his broken world. The cross is God’s way of dealing with and destroying once and for all the power of sin and evil. God is angry at sin and the brokenness of the world, but he’s not a toddler full of rage destroying everything in his path.
  3. Rather than creating a false dichotomy of God the Father killing God the Son, we need to see the cross as the full revelation of God. It was sin and evil that took Jesus to the cross, so that he could once and for all defeat it. And this act of dying to destroy evil and save his people was the full revelation of his love. The self-emptying Jesus on the cross is the God of Israel fully revealed. As Wright puts it when discussing the hymn from Philippians 2, “this action was not something Jesus did despite the fact that he was ‘in God’s form’ and ‘equal with God,’ but rather something he that he did because he was those things” (257).

So I could go on and on, and certainly these things need some deep explanation, but you will have to read the book yourself to get that. It is worth it!

And to give you something to walk away with, remember today one of the best things that Wright shares in this book, in my opinion. After we move away from a paganized understanding of the cross, we begin to see that we are not saved FROM creation and simply to “go to heaven” when we die (though that is part of it). Rather, we are saved FOR creation. God defeated the power of sin and death on the cross so that we could get back to the very purpose he created us for; reflecting his image into the world.

Today, remember you are saved FOR the world, not from. And that ought to shape how we treat our neighbors, coworkers, children, spouses, and everyone with whom we interact.

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The Blessedness of Unity

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Today was an unexpected surprise. Today is the first Wednesday of the month, and just so happens to be the day that the Prattville Christian Minister’s Association meets. The problem is, I’m pretty busy today. In fact, I’m busy all week, and next week, and the next. So to be honest, I was struggling to get excited to meet today. However, since I was hosting, I thought I should attend the meeting also.

As is tradition, the host also shares a devotional thought, which I did. I just shared a short thought about advent, and then I asked everyone to go around and share something we were stressed about this holiday season, someone we were praying for, etc. I started and one of the ministers asked someone to pray for me. And around and around we went, sharing and praying. At the conclusion of this hour, it dawned on me what a beautiful blessing this time is for me.

I believe one of the things that greatly grieves the heart of God is the brokenness of his church. Churches have been fracturing and splitting over the silliest of things the past 1,000 years or so. Granted, we don’t all have to meet together on Sunday (I get it!), but can’t we work together and fellowship together? And so this gathering is a picture of the unity that can be accomplished when we all proclaim Jesus is Lord.

I know at that table there are ministers I agree with and disagree with on various issues. If we went around the table, you would hear a plethora of views on predestination and election, end times, the gifting of the Holy Spirit, politics and the church, and much more. Yet we can all come together and claim unity because Jesus is Lord, and we all belong to him and his kingdom. We may not sort all of that other stuff out to the point of uniformity, but we can all agree on Christ to the point of unity. This is one of the reasons I stay committed to the Church of Christ. Though we haven’t embodied it throughout our history, our goal was to seek a way to find unity among the Body of Christ.

So, nothing greatly profound here, but a little hope that the church may not be as divided as it always appears. Though we are a part of different churches with some varying beliefs, we all come shoulder to shoulder together to do the kingdom work of washing feet, welcoming sinners, and loving God and our neighbors. And that’s a little bit of good news on a busy Wednesday.

“How very good and pleasant it is when kindred live together in unity! It is like the precious oil on the head, running down upon the beard, on the beard of Aaron, running down over the collar of his robes. It is like the dew of Hermon, which falls on the mountains of Zion. For there the Lord ordained his blessing, life forevermore.”

-Psalm 133