27/04/2007

That He might be Lord

There have been some important posts in recent days concerning the nature of the atonement. Adrian Warnock has reported the decision of Word Alive and Spring Harvest to separate over the issue of the atonement. NT Wright has also commented on the issue of the atonement, in particular commenting on Steve Chalke's position and also on the book Pierced for our Transgressions. Sam Storms has also written an excellent post on his blog.

It is sad when any matters divide the people of God and it is to be avoided if possible. It might be said that we should concentrate on matters such as revival rather than divisive issues. Yes, it is vital that we talk about revival and pray for it. However, if revival is to last then it must be build upon sound doctrine. Therefore we must understand and proclaim the truth. The truth is the foundation of the church, and the church itself is "the pillar and foundation of the truth" (1 Tim 3v15).


Staying focused

Yet such controversies must not distract us from the mission of the church to extend God's kingdom. I believe that the voices that have been raised in defence of the doctrine of penal substitutionary atonement are right to be raised. But it is also important that those who are praying passionately for revival and seeking to restore the church continue to do so. Praise God for His apologists and for great theologians. But not everyone is called to be an apologist and/or theologian. There is a danger of getting on a bandwagon and blogging (or writing) on the latest controversy simply because everyone else is.

For example, the issue of the Da Vinci Code led to numerous books, videos, sermons and blogs. It is right to defend the truth, but it is not right that we all come to a stand-still in order to defend the truth. Let those who are so gifted and called do so, and let the rest of us be equipped through their preaching and writing, but not get distracted from the mission of building His kingdom.

I am grateful for all those who have written on the subject of the atonement (and indeed for the material on the Da Vinci Code - although we may be suffering from information overload on that one), but at the present time I don't see my role on this blog to write about either. In my original post I wrote:

"[The church]... has a great future. The Lord has promised that He will build His church and the very gates of hell will not prevail against it. Despite the pressure and the seasons of decline, Jesus Christ is returning for a radiant church without spot or blemish. The church will grow and the gospel will impact every nation, tribe, people and language in the world. Jesus Christ will win through His church.

This great victory is my vision and the vision behind this blog. I will be sharing this more in the days that lie ahead."


The risen Christ

In the light of this vision, the post which really caught my eye on Adrian Warnock's blog was one on the resurrection called "The Resurrection Empowered Life" (there is also an earlier post here). It is so exciting that, in the midst of all that is being said about the atonement of Christ, God's people are being stirred to look again at the resurrection (for another example, see my last post). This is so important. In looking at Revelation 1, Adrian says:

"We see here once again, as so frequently in the Scriptures, the death of Jesus linked with His resurrection. It struck me that “even those who pierced him” will see Jesus. Then it hit me — how will they see Jesus? How do we see Jesus now? If I say the name Jesus, what image fills my mind? If you are like me, it is probably an image of the cross. Now it is not wrong for us to gaze upon the cross in our mind's eye. But I would put it to you that it is not that image alone that will transform us. For we will not see Jesus again on a cross. Instead, we will see Him in all His glory.

I also turned this morning to the book of 2 Corinthians, which I am more and more convinced is critical for us to read and understand when considering these twin themes of the atonement and the resurrection of our Lord Jesus. I cannot encourage you enough to read it through from beginning to end. Consider in particular these four verses carefully:

“We all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another.” (2 Corinthians 3:18)

“. . . the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.” (2 Corinthians 4:4)

“For God, who said, 'Let light shine out of darkness,' has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.” (2 Corinthians 4:6)

“For we who live are always being given over to death for Jesus' sake, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh.” (2 Corinthians 4:11)

To me the conclusion of these verses is simple. We are supposed to gaze upon the glory of Jesus, the Risen Lord, and as we do so, we will be transformed into His image and live a resurrection empowered life."

Amen to that!


Jesus the Lord

Thinking on the resurrection led me to these verses:

"For if we live, we live to the Lord; and if we die, we die to the Lord. Therefore, whether we live or die, we are the Lord's. For to this end Christ died and rose and lived again, that He might be Lord of both the dead and the living." (Rom 14v8-9).

We see here, the glorious ultimate purpose of both the cross and the resurrection. That He might be Lord! That He might reign, all-glorious on the victor's throne. We belong to Him, and we will give and account to Him - that's a challenge. Yet we can also have great confidence - the Lamb is upon the throne. Victory is assured - both our personal welcome into glory and the ultimate victory of His church.

"For we see Jesus enthroned on high..."

4 comments:

Don said...

It's wonderful to see you posting on this theme, Peter. God has been impressing on me these same Corinthians verses in recent days, as He's renewed in me the need for contemplative, meditative time alone with Him 1) just to please His heart, and 2) to receive downloads of transformative power (dunamis) as Paul describes it in Eph. 3 as I gaze, in the spirit, upon Jesus.

It's always been interesting to me that the New Testament states the Holy Spirit both falls on us, and flows out from within us. I used to try to understand, with my mind, how this works. I've given up on that now, and just know that transforming power is an intended by-product of intimate fellowship with God. We're not going to see the Spirit do amazing things through us as a result of mere Bible study, but we will see amazing things happen, when the Spirit bursts out through us after we lovingly read about, worship, fast over, pray to and contemplate the risen Christ.

Peter Day said...

Thank you, Don, for visiting and for your comment. It is fascinating and challenging to read the Biblical accounts of encounters with God - Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Paul, and others, were transformed by meeting with the Lord. And David was desperate for the Lord - "My soul thirsts for God, for the living God."

My old pastor said "you become what you behold." And we behold in the secret place as we seek Him, worship Him and meditate upon Him.

And, yes, I have always found it amazing, "if anyone is thirsty, let him come to Me and drink..." that is such a glorious promise! But, then it says- "He who beleives in Me, as the Scripture has said, out of his heart will flow rivers of living water." As we drink, we overflow!! Wonderful.

Don said...

Hi Peter,

Yes, it's wonderful to read the accounts of the great people of the Word. It wasn't until I had some experiences with God, though, that I realized those people didn't just have intellectual encounters with God. They provided very dry and laconic descriptions of amazingly powerful encounters that truly left them changed, but almost no one realizes this when reading the Word, unless the Spirit truly reveals it deep inside.

How could Moses or Elijah have witnessed God's glory passing by, without having been pierced to their hearts and overwhelmed at the beauty of his holiness and his unfathomable power?

And as you say, it's obvious from his writings and actions that David was -- dare I say it -- a mystic from an early age, and only got "worse" after being anointed by Samuel, as the Spirit filled him even more fully.

No one ever TOLD me that these things can happen to anyone, and should even be desired. As a result, for years as a believer I was like the child looking through a window at other people having fun -- not thinking I could have "fun" with God, too. It wasn't till he mercifully gave me my own experiences that I realized his desire is to affect our entire being through encounters with him, and not just our intellect.

Peter Day said...

Don

Amen! I spent many years doing intellectual Christianity. I thank God for the sound doctrine I learned during that period, but there is so much more. I thank God I was told that I could have experiences with God and encouraged to pursue them. And He mercifully met with me, too.

The result for me as that I feel unsatisfied with anything less. Yes, it is vital to still seek understanding, but it is also vital to seek Him. "One thing I have asked of the Lord..." (Ps 27v4).