Things that matter

21 11 2008

It seems to me that there are lots of things that matter in life. But, sometimes one is faced – or confronted, with the brevity of life. Like when someone you know is suddenly taken from this life. Death, can come so quickly. It catches us, it takes by surprise. It leaves its deep shock in our spirit.

So then, what matters? Just having fun? Doing lots of good things? Having lots of friends? Laughter? Joy? Or, as the cynics, might say… nothing. 

No. There are things that matter.

In the end it comes down to relationships. Many will agree. But sort of beyond that, is the matter of purpose. And that can be summed up in two things:

(1) Participating in the “mandate”, the great agenda, for creation. Which is, having been blessed, to then…: ‘Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth and subdue it; and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the air and over every living thing that moves upon the earth’ (see Genesis 1:28) 

(2) Participating in the “gospel”, the great hope, and certainty, for the future of creation. That is, pausing long enough for the resurrection and crucifixion, to have their full effect upon one’s life, causing a great change of mind… for the better.

So then, may you be in the things that matter. Mowing a lawn, or catching a fish, or studying the galaxies, or nursing a sick child – these are creational things.

And, unfolding the mystery of life – Christ Jesus – that is a gospel thing.

Both are good to do. Both need each other, not just for balance, but for fulness of life, and for exercising our true humanity; and for joy – ah yes, joy, and for – well, making true sense of it all.  Cheers!





Expectations of Culture

19 05 2008

UNREALISTIC EXPECTATIONS

AND THEIR OUTCOME

 

Study 2

 

Trevor Faggotter

 

WHY THEODICY IS AN ISSUE

                       

Analysis and commentary upon the major problems in the world, nation, city, family or environment, can be heard daily on radio talkback segments across the globe.  The blame, for our current or impending woes almost always rests with someone else. Cynicism abounds. Theology within the Christian church can all too easily become more a reflection of the popular, or dominant culture of the day, than a proclamation of the mind, and action of God – as revealed in Scripture. Only a thoroughly biblical theodicy can meet the world with the Word of grace, amidst dire judgments, as the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and wickedness (Romans 1:18).

 

From Genesis 3 we hear that ever since the entrance of sin into the world, human beings have sought to place the blame for their circumstances upon someone else – mostly God, but also other people and other creatures. Guilt is deeply at work in every human heart, provoking a skewed view of the truth, globally. This is especially so, as God draws near:

 

They heard the sound of the LORD God walking in the garden at the time of the evening breeze, and the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the LORD God among the trees of the garden. But the LORD God called to the man, and said to him, “Where are you?” He said, “I heard the sound of you in the garden, and I was afraid, because I was naked; and I hid myself.” He said, “Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten from the tree of which I commanded you not to eat?”  (Genesis 3:8-11)

 

The reflex response to God’s simple, but probing, existential question ‘Where are you?’ finds expression in the deflecting the blame onto another. The man quickly pointed to the woman as the leading cause of his present fear. He also blamed God – who gave the woman to be with him. The woman in turn, blamed the ancient serpent, the devil:

 

The man said, “The woman whom you gave to be with me, she gave me fruit from the tree, and I ate.” Then the LORD God said to the woman, “What is this that you have done?” The woman said, “The serpent tricked me, and I ate.” (Genesis 3:12-13)[1]

 

Human beings will view God very differently, depending upon whether they have a pure or an impure heart.  Where a person has a pure heart, or cleansed heart, God reveals himself to be pure.  Where genuine faith is not present, God’s wrath acts against the conscience of the guilty person, so that God appears to be unjust, unkind and wrong.

 

…with the pure you show yourself pure; and with the crooked you show yourself perverse (Psalm 18:26).

 

Sinful human beings frequently view the world by placing God in the Dock[2] in order that he may give account of himself.  In our humanly devised, God-blaming kangaroo court, we human beings exercise the self-appointed role of prosecutor, and judge.  If God is creator, we reason, then he must answer for the state of the world he has created!  However, the Lord sits in the heavens and laughs (Psalm 2:4).

 

In his Foreword to our text, The Justification of God, Dean Carter exposes the heart of sinful humanity in asking erroneous questions. Dean writes – in brackets:

 

(after all, theodicy is only an issue where there is a rejection of the light).[3]

 

This comment reflects the teaching of Jesus, in John’s gospel, who said:

 

And this is the judgment, that the light has come into the world, and people loved darkness rather than light because their deeds were evil. For all who do evil hate the light and do not come to the light, so that their deeds may not be exposed (John 3:19-20).

 

Facing the plain truth concerning God, humanity and the world is terribly confronting, if ultimately gloriously liberating.  In the day that you eat of it [the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall die. Yet, everyone who lives and believes in Jesus will never die.

 

MAN-CENTRED CULTURE INSTEAD OF GOD-CENTRED FAITH

 

Man-centred cultures and religions, rather than God-centred faith in Christ, seeking his Coming Kingdom, are at the heart of all human evil and mayhem.  A world that ignores the redemptive gift and gracious will of the Living Father soon becomes addicted to the narcotic agendas of progress, technology, escalating wealth, cultural mysticism, religious escapism, substance and environmental abuse and a yearning desire for more power.

 

Everything has come to turn on man’s welfare instead of God’s worship, on man with God to help him and not on God with man to wait upon Him.  The fundamental heresy of the day, now deep in Christian belief itself, is humanist.[4]

 

Humanism had a bitter outcome for those who had embraced it, in the years prior to and during World War 1, as Forsyth points out:

 

I say it is inevitable that world calamities should encourage the denials of those who denied before.  Their shock also makes sceptics of many, whose belief had arisen and gone on only under conditions of fine weather, happy piety, humming progress…[5]

 

Elated by our modern mastery of nature and cult of genius, and ridden by the superstition of progress (now unseated), we came to start with that excellent creature, man, his wonderful resources, his broadening freedom, his widening heart, his conquest of creation, and his expanding career. And, as with man we begin, with man we really end. God is there but to promote and crown this development of man, if there be a God at all…. The Father is the banker of a spendthrift race. He is there to draw upon, to save man’s career at the points where it is most threatened.

 

He is Father in a sense that leaves no room for love’s severity, its searching judgment … He is Father only so long as He meets the instincts and aspirations of man’s heart.[6]

 

GOD ENTERS THE PULPIT AND CASTS US

UPON A GOD OF CRISIS

 

It takes enormous discomfort, in order for humanity to come to grips with the necessity of the cross of Christ, and with the seriousness of the evil in our own human hearts, and the evil endemic among every nation. The sheer kindness and mercy of God, we so badly underestimate. Forsyth recounts something of the type of public conversation that took place prior to World War One.  It sounds all too familiar. He says:  

 

World calamity bears home to us the light way in which, through a long peace and insulation, we were coming to take the problem of the world, and especially its moral problem. ‘We do not now bother about sin’ was said with some satisfaction. The preachers protested in vain against that terrible statement – those of them that had not lost their Gospel in their culture.  But they were damned with the charge of theology.[7]

 

He then goes on to include the war itself, as God’s way of dealing with the human race; it is the disaster that ends dainty and dreamy religion:

 

And now God enters the pulpit, and preaches in His own way by deeds.  And His sermons are long and taxing, and they spoil dinner.  Clearly God’s problem with the world is much more serious than we dreamed.  We are having a revelation of the awful and desperate nature of evil.[8]

 

The task which the Cross has to meet is something much greater than a pacific, domestic, fraternal type of religion allows us to face. Disaster should end dainty and dreamy religion, and give some rest to the winsome Christ and the wooing note…. It is a much wickeder world than our good nature had come to imagine, or our prompt piety to fathom.[9]

 

We, who have known much of the grace of God in our personal lives, know that God has both spoken and enacted a great word of hope, for the nations of the world in the death and resurrection of Jesus.  It is a great victory. It is a very great victory. It is The Victory. A godless world needs yet to hear this word, and respond. The church needs to rediscover not only the God of order, which Christendom has enjoyed, but also the God of crisis, who is God most chiefly in the chief tragedy of things.[10] He alone is the One who from the nettle of perdition plucks the flower of salvation.[11] 

 

THE GLOBAL DIMENSIONS OF THE GOSPEL

 

It was world war one, which drew from Forsyth the rich insights he imparts.  We too are faced with many a crisis, on a global scale.  We are equipped with the same cross, and the same Christ, and the same gospel, to which we must make recourse. The gospel has always been of global proportions. We need a theodicy, which is adequate to the task. Let’s take Forsyth words slowly, again and tease out each of these important points:

 

We begin and end with a faith, not in Jesus simply but in His world work…[12]

 

We begin with the faith in which our own soul calls Him its Saviour from what seems an infinite and hopeless evil.  He delivers us from a sin whose guilt lies on our small soul with a pressure from the reservoir of all the high wickedness of the world.[13]

 

It is not from our moral lapses nor from our individual taint that we are delivered, but from world sin, sin in dominion, sin solidary if not hereditary, yea, from sin which integrates us into a Satanic Kingdom.  …An event like war at least aids God’s purpose in this, that it shocks and rouses us into some due sense of what evil is, and what a Saviour’s task with it is.

 

While the Church cannot begin to measure the problem of evil, we need the assurance of its defeat in the cross.  For evil affects and invades every area of human life, and the theology of the cross always applies as God’s Victory, and the only true victory:

 

Is the principle of the war very different from that of a general strike, which would bring society to its knees by sheer impatient force, and which so many avoid only as impolitic and not as immoral?[14]   …It is impossible even to discuss the theodicy all pine for without the theology so many deride.[15]


[1] Rev. 12:9 … that ancient serpent, who is called the Devil and Satan, the deceiver of the whole world…

[2] C.S. Lewis, God in the Dock, Eerdmans, 1970, is a book, which contains a series of short articles.

[5] P. T. Forsyth, The Justification of God, p. 24

[7] P. T. Forsyth, The Justification of God, p. 28

[8] P. T. Forsyth, The Justification of God, p. 28

[9] P. T. Forsyth, The Justification of God, p. 28-29

[11] Ibid.

[12] Ibid.

[13] Ibid. p. 30-31

[14] Ibid. p. 34

[15] Ibid. p. 37





And the Rock was Christ

17 05 2007

One of the most important things ever said, was: “And the rock was Christ”.

These words appear in a letter sent to people, living in the port of Corinth. It was sent by the Apostle Paul to the early Christian church; this group of believers, had been founded by the Risen Jesus Christ, through the ministry of the Apostle Paul, around about 51-53 AD. Paul spent 18 months there, while he lived with, and worked as a tentmaker, alongside 2 Jews, Priscilla and Aquila (see Acts 18:1-18).

“And the rock was Christ”: The words are most important, because of what they means now, and what they refer back to. They hark back to the rock, which, strangely supplied Israel, God’s people, with water, during their years in the wilderness (about 1250 BC; or 1400 BC according to traditional scholars).

This is part of Paul’s letter:

I want you to know, brethren, that our fathers were all under the cloud, and all passed through the sea, and all were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea, and all ate the same supernatural food and all drank the same supernatural drink. For they drank from the supernatural Rock which followed them, and the Rock was Christ. Nevertheless with most of them God was not pleased; for they were overthrown in the wilderness. (1Corinthians 10:1-5).

What is this? They drank from the supernatural Rock, which followed them? How does a rock follow a group of people? (Exegetes must deal with the text).

One passage worth reading to get the background is Numbers 20:2-13

Now there was no water for the congregation; and they assembled themselves together against Moses and against Aaron. And the people contended with Moses, and said, “Would that we had died when our brethren died before the LORD! Why have you brought the assembly of the LORD into this wilderness, that we should die here, both we and our cattle? And why have you made us come up out of Egypt, to bring us to this evil place? It is no place for grain, or figs, or vines, or pomegranates; and there is no water to drink.” Then Moses and Aaron went from the presence of the assembly to the door of the tent of meeting, and fell on their faces. And the glory of the LORD appeared to them, and the LORD said to Moses, “Take the rod, and assemble the congregation, you and Aaron your brother, and tell the rock before their eyes to yield its water; so you shall bring water out of the rock for them; so you shall give drink to the congregation and their cattle.” And Moses took the rod from before the LORD, as he commanded him. And Moses and Aaron gathered the assembly together before the rock, and he said to them, “Hear now, you rebels; shall we bring forth water for you out of this rock?” And Moses lifted up his hand and struck the rock with his rod twice; and water came forth abundantly, and the congregation drank, and their cattle. And the LORD said to Moses and Aaron, “Because you did not believe in me, to sanctify me in the eyes of the people of Israel, therefore you shall not bring this assembly into the land which I have given them.” These are the waters of Meribah, where the people of Israel contended with the LORD, and he showed himself holy among them.

“And the rock was Christ”? Numerous other references can be found in the Old Testament, which show that traditionally, God was referred to as The Rock.

  • “The Rock, his work is perfect; for all his ways are justice. A God of faithfulness and without iniquity, just and right is he (Deuteronomy 32:4).
  • “But Jeshurun waxed fat, and kicked; you waxed fat, you grew thick, you became sleek; then he forsook God who made him, and scoffed at the Rock of his salvation (Deuteronomy 32:15)
  • He said, “The LORD is my rock, and my fortress, and my deliverer, my God, my rock, in whom I take refuge, my shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold and my refuge, my savior; thou savest me from violence (2Samuel 22:2-3).
  • “For who is God, but the LORD? And who is a rock, except our God? (2Samuel 22:32).
  • “The LORD lives; and blessed be my rock, and exalted be my God, the rock of my salvation (2Samuel 22:47),…

Putting it together:

“And the rock was Christ”? Paul is equating this rock, with Jesus, the Christ. He is not saying that a man was with them, back there.  But he is saying, that this One, this Christ, was present throughout the Old Testament.

Now we know that Jesus of Nazareth, was born of Mary, as a baby. And that he was a true human being. He was NOT God stuffed into a skin, like air into a paper bag. He was truly a human being. No one really thought any differently of him. We also know that he was the Christ (or Messiah). This was the mystery of his personhood, revealed to Peter, by the God and Father of Jesus Christ – our Father in heaven (see Matthew 16:16-17).  This revelation has flowed out into the world.

The once very angry Saul, was met by the Risen Jesus Christ while Paul travelled the road to Damascus. This was a stunning confrontation. Saul had thought that Jesus, the man from Nazareth, was just plain dead. He had also thought that the early Christians were blasphemous. He was out to arrest them. But, he himself, was … arrested by Christ. He was faced with the facts. Jesus, the Nazarene, was the Messiah, (which means “the Christ”).

Saul’s life was radically altered.
 His somewhat pessimistic outlook was replaced by a strange new hope.
 His name was soon changed to be Paul.
 His character was changed too. He had seen what life was all about.
 He was no longer on the road to destroy Christians.
 He was on the road, to take part in a world-changing matter:

The resurrection of Jesus as Victor over death, in this world (not just the next!)

Paul’s new task, and new joy, was to make everyone see what is the plan of the mystery hidden for ages in God who created all things. Creation had a future. The mystery of creation was that it had a servant nation – Israel. And a rock had been with them all their days. And the rock was Christ.

Commenting, on this passage, Geoffrey Bingham says:

“I found it remarkable that not one commentator has even questioned Paul’s statement, nor found it extraordinary”.

He goes on to explain what Paul does here:

‘Paul takes the word ‘Christ’ and projects it back to the time when Israel was in the desert. We may say that Paul was using the term ‘Christ’ to show that in his being as Word and Son he was present in Israel.’ (G. C. Bingham, Christ and the Triune Glory NCPI, p. 43).

Do you know the plan of the mystery? It was hidden for ages. It has now been revealed, and is being revealed. The wisdom of God in its rich variety, is now being made known to the world, through the church!

Jesus was the one who ‘came down from heaven’ (John 6:38; 58). Prior to his coming he was not a fleshy man, but a person nevertheless. Indeed he was the Divine Person, the Eternal Word, the Second Person of the Trinity, the Living Christ, the Son of God.

“The Christ”, had been with God, at Creation. He had been with Israel in their journey. Israel knew that Moses struck a rock for water to flow for the people. (‘And the rock was Christ’). At this point in history, Christ helped Moses. He was the spiritual food. He was the supply of Living Water, in the wilderness. He was the Word, speaking to their hearts. He appeared and spoke to the hearts of the first believers, who knew: And ‘the Word became flesh’ and lived among us. And we have seen his glory. His resurrection from death is grand; his suffering on the cross was essential, that our sis be forgiven, and that we be reconciled to God, our Father.

Rock Solid – that is what God’s gift to us, is, in Jesus Christ. He is moveable, in that he goes with us, always. He is secure and stable for the human race, in that his Cross is founded deeply within the purpose of creation, securing eternal life, and gushing forth rivers of living water – to drink, as human beings.

“And the rock was Christ”. Remarkable words. Remarkable truth. Remarkable future.








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