Tuesday, 30 October 2007

The Poor and the Gospel

The middle class gospel says this:

I'm basically good and I can sort out my life by making free choices and working hard.

But Jesus said that to be saved we must be poor in spirit. In other words, we may be outwardly wealthy, but we must become like the poor if we are to be saved.

In other words:

I'm not basically good. I can't just sort out my life by trying hard. I don't have the power and there are lots of things that enslave me. I need a Saviour to come and rescue me.

The poor teach us the gospel and this is why the gospel is for the poor. The rich can only access it by becoming like them, by realizing their need of Another's spiritual wealth to help them.

Monday, 29 October 2007

Union with Christ from and for eternity

The wonder of our union with Christ is truly breath-taking. It spans from before the beginning of time into eternity.

1. We were elected in Christ, chosen in Him before the world ever was.

2. We were created through Him. All things owe their very existence to Him.

3. We were born again in Him and have become a new creation through His death and resurrection.

4. We live by faith in Him now and are united with Him as a branch in a vine or a brick in a temple or as a bride with her bridegroom.

5. We will die in Him. My final breaths will be taken in His presence and with His loving care.

6. We will be with Him for all eternity - He will be the object of our affections and words.

This is really vast! This relationship is the most significant relationship we can and will ever have. It is more important, eternal and solid than anything else. He is the A to Z of our very existence. He is there before me, in my life and after my death. This has massive implications for every other relationship I have and every other thing that I value.

Union with Christ and sufficiency

Ephesians 1:3 "Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ."

Some questions....

Where are the spiritual blessings located? Answer: in Christ

How do I get spiritual blessings? Answer: from God the Father through the Lord Jesus Christ

How many spiritual blessings can I get? Answer: all of them

What do I have to do to get these blessings? Answer: you get them through faith in Christ

So, what do I need in addition to Jesus Christ? Answer: nothing

What am I lacking if I only trust in Christ? Answer: nothing

What else do I need to contribute to get them? Answer: nothing

Conclusion: union with Christ alone and by itself gives me every single possible blessing that it is possible to get from God.

Union with Christ and Quiet Times

I remember being struck a couple of years ago by how much I relied upon prayer, Bible reading etc (basically all spiritual disciplines) as ways of bringing me into the presence of God. I thought of my QT as leading me to God in some way and that if I didn't have a QT then I had not been in the presence of God. It struck me, though, one day that actually it had all become a works religion. For, the thing that brought me into the presence of God was my union with the Lord Jesus. He had done it all and won it all. He had finally and eternally and completely made me right before God. My relationship with God was based upon this very thing - Jesus had established it and He maintained it.

What does this mean? It means that evangelical spirituality must always begin with union with Christ and not spiritual disciplines. It must always begin with the covenant I enjoy in Christ. If someone asks me, "How is your relationship with God going?" I must answer, "Very well because the Lord Jesus has done everything to secure it and maintain it." Whatever I feel and however zealous I am, my relationship with God is very good indeed! If I don't do this, then everything I do will be legalism. I'll be trying to win something I cannot get any other way than through Christ. And how on earth could I ever think that my prayers could bring me to God without the Lord Jesus??!! Subsequent to this, I have always started my QTs by rejoicing in the gospel and my union with Christ. This must come before and after every spiritual discipline.

Wednesday, 10 October 2007

Union with Christ and Church

The great covenant promise of the OT is "I will be your God and you will be my people". The irony of the promise is that it is actually quite 'difficult' for God to do it. The tabernacle/temple gives us a 'contradictory' message - "come near/don't you dare come near". It is really very hard to see how a truly holy God can dwell amongst His people. For God the people's sin is offensive, and for the people God's presence is deadly. This 'problem' is only resolved in Christ. In Christ, the great promise is fulfilled and completed. God can not only dwell amongst us, but He is in us. Through union with Christ, God's holiness becomes redemptive and salvific.

But the really striking thing here is that the OT promise is not an individualistic thing, but a corporate thing. It is addressed to a community. We are meant to experience God together as a people. So often I think of God's presence in my life, rather than our life. Union with Christ, seen in this way, is about the church, not simply my relationship with God. Jesus speaks to us collectively "I wll be your God and you will be my people." So, to know this covenant promise being worked out in "my" life, I must see "my" life as part of a "we". The great blessing of knowing Christ is a corporate experience.

Monday, 1 October 2007

Deliver us from Dawkins?

Richard Dawkins is continually his campaign against religion - now in political terms. He's seeing to help the victimized lobby of atheists in America to gain public political influence. Read about it here. I can't help thinking that Dawkins fails to appreciate the difference between religious and secularized. The US is much more religious than Europe (a shock to liberals) but still incredibly secular (a shock to religious people). I don't think Dawkins has all that much to worry about to be honest. The media constantly hype up the role religion plays in American politics. Just mentioning God does not mean that God is really taken seriously. Anyway, there is an (unusually) excellent comment on this in the Guardian which gives his whole approach a great critique. Here's a taster.

"I have been chided in the past for referring to the "militant" atheism of Dawkins and his like. But the desire for one's creed to spread, in order to make the world a better place, surely merits the label. Atheists reply that there is nothing dangerous or sinister in the desire to see more rationality, less superstition. Really? Dawkins was asked what he hoped an atheist bloc in the US might achieve, and this is the first part of the answer he gave: "I would free children of being indoctrinated with the religion of their parents or their community." Is this not amazing? I have seldom read a sentence that has induced such a sharp shiver of revulsion. This man evidently dreams of a state in which it is illegal to take one's children to a place of worship, or to say prayers with them as one puts them to bed."