Every Monday (and every other Friday), I have the joy of meeting with a group of men to read, study and get into the habit of applying the Bible to our lives. We’ve been working through Romans, and it has been a great time with these men. I found this quote today and think it may be helpful in light of our discussion on How Justification Works in Romans 5:1-11.
Yesterday I was finishing up some work and studies on the Lord’s Supper, and could not shake this thought from John Calvin on the “great exchange” that is offered up to us by being united in Christ by the power of His Holy Spirit. Definitely more robust than even I am naturally accustomed to thinking.
“Pious souls can derive great confidence and delight from this sacrament, as being a testimony that they form one body with Christ, so that everything which is his they may call their own. Hence it follows, that we can confidently assure ourselves, that eternal life, of which he himself is the heir, is ours, and that the kingdom of heaven, into which he has entered, can no more be taken from us than from him; on the other hand, that we cannot be condemned for our sins, from the guilt of which he absolves us, seeing he has been pleased that these should be imputed to himself as if they were his own. This is the wondrous exchange made by his boundless goodness…
“Having become with us the Son of Man, he has made us with himself sons of God. By his own descent to the earth he has prepared our ascent to heaven. Having received our mortality, he has bestowed on us his immortality. Having undertaken our weakness, he has made us strong in his strength. Having submitted to our poverty, he has transferred to us his riches. Having taken upon himself the burden of unrighteousness with which we were oppressed, he has clothed us with his righteousness.”
4.17.2 (pp. 896-897). OSNOVA. Kindle Edition.
Came across this quote while doing some research work this week and thought it
worthwhile to share.
“The God who remained apparently silent on Good Friday is having the last word. He is answering the unspoken questions of Jesus’ followers, and the spoken question of Jesus himself on the cross. And what God is doing is not just an extraordinary miracle, a display of supernatural power for its own sake, or a special favour to Jesus. What God is doing is starting something new, beginning the new world promised long ago, sending the disciples to Galilee in the first place but then, as we shall see, on to the ends of the earth and the close of the age with the news of what has happened. A whole new world was opening up in front of them.”
I had the privilege the other week of assisting with a friend’s wedding in a Catholic wedding service. One of the many surprises and joys of that experience was meeting and serving alongside Father Pablo Migone. He is a great guy. I’ve enjoyed following some of his blog posts and found this one in particular to be very illuminating (Link to the whole article below).
On the nature of being surprised by God:
“I am convinced that God loves surprises…Unfortunately we oftentimes dislike surprises because they tend to destabilize things. We want everything to be under control. We get flustered and aggravated when things do not go exactly according to plan. Yet consider this, had the Virgin Mary not been open to surprise and had she wanted to retain control over her life, she probably would have said “no” to the archangel. The more open we become to the presence of God in our lives, the more He will surprise us through ordinary and extraordinary events. The more we trust Jesus Christ has truly overcome the world, the more moldable we will become, gladly allowing His surprises to mold our will according to His own.
I wonder what would happen in my life, and the life of those in the church, if we really believed that God knows everything about us and our sins, and still loved us enough to send His Son to die for those sins? And what if He really did love us enough after that to also send us His Spirit to be free to struggle with those sins, and gave us the gift of community to help us bear up under that struggle without having to fake, hide or pretend we’re anything other than redeemed men and women?
Saw this posing by a friend on Facebook (HT: Jeff Kerr) and thought it worth re-posting here for further discussion:
In a discussion elsewhere on the interwebs, I saw this statement. I think this gets directly to the heart of why most Christians in most contexts are afraid of confessing anything beyond “disorganization” and the like:
“I visited a Mom’s Bible study at a friend’s church years ago. When it was time for prayer requests, all the other moms said, “better time management” and “get organized”. This was met with understanding clucks and nods from the other moms. When it was my turn I said, “I yell at my kids.” I got a lecture about how wrong and damaging yelling was and how concerned the leader was that I would start “hurting my kids.” There was a moralistic lecture because there was no possibility of repentence and forgiveness.
Here’s what I’ve thought since then: Since grace is so cheap these days, our sin isn’t allowed to be very bad. That leads to confessing things like disorganization. Jesus’ blood can cover that one. But REALLY bad things? There’s no cure for them, so let’s not bring them up.”
via (5) In a discussion….
My friend Daniel Siedell has written another excellent article over at Patheos discussing the intersection of faith, grace and life through art (see below). It is well worth your time to read what might be the best perspective I’ve heard on Serrano’s Piss Christ. And his thoughts on what it means to be a Cultural Theologian are even better.
I remember my first exposure into both topics – Piss Christ and being a Cultural Theologian – came from my dad. He is an artist, and I have benefited greatly from growing up in a home where art was celebrated and questions were asked that forced us to think, not just regurgitate or rearrange preconceived prejudices. When I fist came to know Christ, I remember one such question my dad asked: “What would you do if you saw a picture of Jesus in a toilet [or jar or urine] as a work of art?”
My answer then was somewhat astute for someone my age and maturity in Christ. I answered, “Well, Jesus was crucified in a trash heap which was the equivalent of a toilet back in his day. Whether the artist meant it or not, I think it’s an excellent picture of the beauty and grace of God in the midst of the crap of life.”
My response has not changed to this day, and thanks to Daniel, I know now that I was on to something back then.
Addendum: To learn more about how to see and perceive art with eyes of faith, and not through culture-war jargon, I highly recommend Daniel Siedell’s book God in the Gallery (Kindle edition here) Also, for something philosophically similar but addressing cinema and movies, I would encourage Brian Godawa’s Hollywood Worldviews (Kindle edition here).
People ask me often, “What is a good book to read to better understand the Bible as a whole?”
My answer has been for the past five years, “The best single book to better understand the Bible as a whole is Sally Lloyd-Jones’ The Jesus Story Book Bible.”
And you can Pre-Order it for Kindle for only $3.99 by clicking the link below (this is a steal, trust me).
Hardcover edition (click here)
Curriculum Kit (click here)
This is a great one from Tim Keller. Enjoy!
The past few weeks have seen a myriad of eruptions among Christians of all stripes in our country. I have been encouraged by some of the discourse, but disheartened by most (here is an example of an excellent article). The following quote by Miroslav Volf has helped me wrap my head and my heart around the problems inherent in these kinds of debates – we try to delineate too neatly between the “right” and the “wrong” over these issues, blaming the other for all that is wrong, and exempting ourselves in the process. Just once, I would like to see the flavor of our rhetoric match the flavor of God’s love, mercy and grace each of us have received in Jesus.
“Solidarity in sin underscores that no salvation can be expected from an approach that rests fundamentally on the moral assignment of blame and innocence. The question cannot be how to locate ‘innocence’ ether on the intellectual or social map and work our way toward it. Rather, the question is how to live with integrity and bring healing to a world of inescapable non innocence that often parades as its opposite. The answer: in the name of the only truly innocent victim and what he stood for, the crucified Messiah of God, we should damask as inescapably sinful the world constructed around exclusive moral polarities – here, on our side, ‘the just’, ‘the pure,’ ‘the innocent,’ ‘the true,’ ‘the good,’ and there, on the other side, ‘the unjust,’ ‘the corrupt,’ ‘the guilty,’ ‘the liars,’ ‘the evil’ – and then seek to transform the world in which justice and injustice, goodness and evil, innocence and guilt, purity and corruption, truth and deception crisscross and intersect, guided by the recognition that the economy of undeserved grace has primacy over the economy of moral deserts. Under the conditions of pervasive non innocence, the work of reconciliation should proceed under the assumption that, though the behavior of a person may be judged as deplorable, even demonic, no one should ever be excluded form the will to embrace, because, at the deepest level, the relationship to others does not rest on their moral performance and therefore cannot be undone by the lack of it….[At] the core of the Christian faith lies the persuasion that the ‘others’ need not be perceived as innocent in order to be loved, but ought to be embraced even when they are perceived as wrongdoers.” – Miroslav Volf, Exclusion and Embrace: A Theological Exploration of Identity, Otherness and Reconciliation (84-85)
Jesus continues his public ministry and the crowds keep coming to him. People are expecting him to do great and good works and they can’t get enough. That’s what makes this episode about a man being lowered into the middle of a very crowded house so fascinating. First, imagine you’re crowded into the home of Jesus along with everyone else, and suddenly you notice part of the roof collapsing.
Homes in Jesus’ day in Capernaum would have been constructed largely with some wooden beams and mud-patch work for the roof. As this band of friends climbed up the roof and began to carve into the mud in order to lower their paralytic friend, they undoubtedly would have caused a commotion down below. Mud pieces falling from the ceiling, maybe bits of straw or hay scattering around the room. As their eyes were directed upwards, they notice several sets of eyes in a circle in the newly formed skylight, and then a man being lowered on a mat. You may think, “What never!” or “What boldness!” but the fact is that everybody notices and everyone is thinking something.
What do you think Jesus was thinking? It was after all his home that just had the roof torn open so that a helpless man could get help. Jesus tells us what he was thinking: while some were thinking “What nerve!” and others were thinking “What boldness!” Jesus was thinking “What faith!” These men believed that if they could just get their paralyzed friend in front of Jesus, his life would be different. He would be healed. He wouldn’t need to be carried along by his friends anymore. He could be restored to a healthy, vibrant life. And they were right. That is what happens when people meet Jesus. With Jesus, life gets restored and things get set back to the way they are supposed to be.
So Jesus speaks to the paralytic man and says, ”Be healed?” No! He tells the man that his “sins are forgiven.” What was Jesus doing here? Jesus is meeting the man’s need in a way that neither the man, nor his friends, nor anyone else in the house expected – he is meeting his need for forgiveness of sin. Tim Keller is helpful in understanding what is going on when he writes:
Jesus knows something the man doesn’t know—that he has a much bigger problem than his physical condition. Jesus is saying to him, “I understand your problems. I have seen your suffering. I’m going to get to that. But please realize that the main problem in a person’s life is never his suffering; it’s his sin.” If you find Jesus’s response offensive, please at least consider this: If someone says to you, “The main problem in your life is not what’s happened to you, not what people have done to you; your main problem is the way you’ve responded to that”—ironically, that’s empowering. Why? Because you can’t do very much about what’s happened to you or about what other people are doing—but you can do something about yourself. When the Bible talks about sin it is not just referring to the bad things we do. It’s not just lying or lust or whatever the case may be—it is ignoring God in the world he has made; it’s rebelling against him by living without reference to him. It’s saying, “I will decide exactly how I live my life.” And Jesus says that is our main problem. (Tim Keller, King’s Cross, 25-26)
Jesus isn’t denying that the man needs healing in a physical sense, but he is challenging everyone’s notion that Jesus is a really good guy, doing some really good things. He’s more than that. New Testament scholar N.T. Wright links the authority Jesus claims for himself, with the authority promised to “one like a son of man,” in Daniel 7, where:
There, ‘one like a son of man’ is the representative of God’s true people. He is opposed by the forces of evil; but God vindicates him, rescues him, proves him to be in the right, and gives him authority. In Daniel, this authority enables him to dispense God’s judgment. Here, in a fascinating twist, he has authority to dispense God’s forgiveness. (N.T. Wright, Mark for Everyone, 17).
Jesus by forgiving the man’s sins is claiming to be the one promised by God to battle against the forces of evil that conspire against God and His people. Jesus is saying that He’s one with the authority of God, and this demands a response.
Well this episode certainly provoked a response among the scribes, or religious professionals. They got the message and were questioning whether Jesus had the authority to do what he was claiming to do. If this man’s problem was a sin-problem, then his friends should have taken him through the proper channels. Forgiveness is something only God can offer, and if that was what this man needed, he needed to be brought to the Temple in Jerusalem, in front of the credentialed priests; not a wandering preacher and healer in his home?
Jesus does the unthinkable. He doesn’t just claim this authority for himself, but he wields it. He executes his authority and the result is the man who was once paralyzed, now picks up his mat and walks away. Something greater than the Temple and someone greater than their priests is now here.
Mark tells us that “they were all amazed and glorified God” and said “We never say anything like this before!” (Mark 2:12). That’s because no one and nothing like Jesus had ever been seen before. He is the long-awaited “one like a son of man” to oppose evil in all it’s forms, and do for God’s people what they could not do for themselves.