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This Is the Image of Jesus Christ Gracing the Cover of Newsweek | TheBlaze.com

“For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us. For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God. For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now. And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. For in this hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience” (Romans 8:18-25).

The article above blatantly begs for some comments and questions. It is obviously a very postmodern take on Christianity. The message? If you are going to be a follower of Christ, do as He did and live as He lived…but keep it to yourself. Christianity must be confined to religious gatherings and private residences and is not to interfere with the public domain of politics, education, government, and society at large. Although it’s silly to think that following Jesus wouldn’t impact the way we engage all of life, culture, and creation, this gives us pause. Is God primarily interested in redeeming His creatures (people), our culture, or His creation?

First, let me say, I believe He is in the process of redeeming all of them. This is what Paul is saying in the passage above. God’s creation is in bondage in the same way unredeemed sinners are. This passage tells us that God’s chosen and His creation will ultimately be freed from the futility and slavery of their corruption. We live in a fallen world filled with fallen people but a day of final reconciliation and redemption is coming. God created all things. When humanity disobeyed, all things He created fell and were marred by sin. Therefore, eventually, He will redeem and restore all of His creation to its original beauty and perfection. And, according to Paul, this is a critical part of our hope and we are urged to wait patiently for it in unseeing faith.

The Apostle further elaborates in Colossians 1:15-20:

“He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For by him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things were created by him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. And he is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything he might have the supremacy. For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross” (Colossians 1:15-20).

So in both passages we see God’s purpose to redeem, restore, and reconcile “all things” to Himself is larger in scope than just personal salvation for human beings. In a broader sense, the mission of God in Christ is to reconcile everything back to Himself for His own glory. But how does this happen? By the cross and the shed blood of Jesus (Colossians 1:20). This is the means for God’s ultimate plan of restoration and reconciliation – the redemption of His children and the redemption of His creation. This is how He is doing His work. We don’t always see it but its progress is unthwarted by all the forces of evil and rebellion – all that we see that is so very wrong.
 
So what is our part in this mission? Clearly Christ’s followers are to engage every nook and cranny of our culture. But how? Some would argue that it is primarily through political and social activism – we should dedicate most of our efforts in cultural redemption by trying to change our world from the outside in. I would say otherwise. Although we are to be involved in all of His creation (and that includes social and political activism), I’m of the persuasion that most of our resources and energy should be committed to changing our culture from the inside out. Again, how? By the heralding of the cross and the power of His blood. By being conformed to Jesus’ image and communicating His Good News. I believe our primary calling is the living and proclaiming of the Gospel.

To state it in overly simple terms, we should be more concerned with seeing His creatures (people) transformed by the shed blood of Christ and the power of the cross than we are who is running for Congress. For in focusing on the advance of the Gospel and the building of His true spiritual kingdom (which Jesus said is “not of this world”) we will be most effective in doing our part in His redemption and reconciliation of “all things.”

So let’s be ambassadors for Jesus by engaging those outside of Christ, no matter their domain. If God is willing and enough receive His salvation and embrace the truths of His Word, Congress and culture will soon fall in line. In other words, let’s not keep it to ourselves but actively connect with our culture and watch to see how God works in redeeming and reconciling all things to Himself…for His own glory!

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“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should   but have eternal life” (John 3:16).

*This is a continuation of a earlier post entitled, John 3:16: What Does “Believe” Mean?

In our Life Group we were studying this verse – probably the best known in all of Scripture. The study breaks down this verse by its critical components: God loved, God gave, we believe, and we live. If this sounds familiar, it is based upon Max Lucado’s 3:16: Numbers of Hope guide. Although admittedly not a huge Lucado fan, the lessons have stimulated some lively discussion. And rightly so: this verse is pregnant with meaning often overlooked because we are so familiar with it. The 4th session turned to the word “believe” found in this powerful text.

Earlier we had defined “believe in Him” as a surrendered trust in Jesus as our only hope for salvation (eternal life) and a “faith” that suggests following after Christ with a transformed life that includes the desire to be obedient to Him as Lord. In our time together the question was raised: “This verse says that we have everlasting life if we “believe in Him. If so, does it make any difference what we believe as long as who we believe in Jesus?” In other words, is believing in Jesus all there is to saving faith or does what we believe about Him really matter? Or, for clarification: is the most important thing “who” or “what” we believe in? Good question! What do you think?

Karolyn spoke first and quickly said, “You can’t separate the two.” Exactly! History has been filled with those who claim to trust in Christ for salvation (or a form of it) but denied the essence of who He is. Early in the church, the Gnostics come to mind. Today, there many cults, sects, and religions which suggest that faith in Jesus can be central to redemption but cast Him in a lesser light than Scripture itself does. Pluralism does this by saying, Jesus is one way to heaven, but not the only way.” This, of course, discounts Christ’s own claim that He was the only way, truth, and life by which one can know God (John 14:6).

What about believing in a Jesus who wasn’t sinless, really didn’t perform miracles, or was never physically raised from the dead? The latter of these was the constant drumbeat of the early church’s preaching and foundational to true faith. What about a Jesus that wasn’t really God and isn’t the only hope for fallen humanity? Or what about a Messiah who never will return again to rule and reign as He promised?

The core Christian belief is that through the death and resurrection of Jesus, sinful humans can be reconciled to God and thereby are offered salvation and the
promise of eternal life. Essential beliefs held by Christ-followers include his divinity, humanity, and earthly life as depicted in Scripture. Adhering to authentic Christian faith requires a belief that Jesus is the Son of God and the Messiah. As one theologian has said, “The whole of Christian teaching would fall to the ground if it were the case that the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus were not events in real history, but stories told to illustrate truths which are valid apart from these happenings.” Also, true disciples of Christ believe that Jesus was both human and the Son of God: God in human form—sharing human frailties and temptations but never acting on them, only seeking to do the will of His father in heaven, never once seeking to make Himself happy in any way but willfully submitting to God as a man, never doing what He wanted to do but what He saw His Father in heaven doing.

Beyond this, believing in Jesus means that He, as God, spoke for God. He was both the message and messenger of the way God expects us to live. The Sermon on the Mount is but one example that Jesus claimed His teachings had the very authority of God. What we believe is that His words are truth and life: “…If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free” (John 8:31-32).

So, just as Karolyn said (and the group concurred), the answer to the question, “who or what?” is, “Yes!” To “believe in Him” is part and parcel of trusting in what the Word of God reveals about Him. “Who” we believe in and “what” we believe about Him are two sides of the same coin. To believe the “what” of Jesus to be something other than what Scripture reveals and He claimed to be is, in essence, a failure to “believe in Him” with the kind of faith that, as Jesus said, allows us to “not perish but have eternal life.”


“For this reason, since the day we heard about you, we have not stopped praying for you and asking God to fill you with the knowledge of his will through all spiritual wisdom and understanding. And we pray this in order that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and may please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God, being strengthened with all power according to his glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience, and joyfully giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in the kingdom of light. For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins” (Colossians 1:9-14).

As Paul writes to the Colossian church, although he didn’t know them all that well, he had heard of their faith and love (Colossians 1:3-8). This compelled him to pray nonstop for them. He desired spiritual maturity for these fellow believers and this is my prayer for all of us for 2010. I beseech God that we:

  • are “filled with the knowledge of His will through all spiritual wisdom and understanding” (v. 9). The Greek word for “knowledge” in this passage is epignosis and it signifies practical, personal and experiential understanding and not just academic or intellectual knowledge. I desire that we all become imitators of Jesus (Ephesians 5:1-2) and thus spread the sweet fragrance of His beauty (2 Corinthians 2:14). How do we do this? “Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is–his good, pleasing and perfect will (Romans 12:2).
  • live a life worthy of the Lord and may please him in every way (v. 10). The  Lord we serve, and the calling we have received, is certainly a worthy one! In Ephesians 4:1 Paul considers himself to be a slave to the Lord and this worthy calling. In a similar vein, Paul writing to the church at Thessalonica says, “For you know that we dealt with each of you as a father deals with his own children, encouraging, comforting and urging you to live lives worthy of God, who calls you into his kingdom and glory” (1 Thessalonians 2:11-12).
  • are bearing fruit in every good work (v. 10). Not just “one” or “some”, but “every” good work.  What sort of good works? Empowered by the Holy Spirit we demonstrate His fruit: “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness,  gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the sinful nature with its passions and desires. Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit” (Galatians 5:22-25). These attitudes and attributes should permeate our every effort to please God.
  • are growing in the knowledge of God (v, 10). We need to grow in the knowledge of God Himself, not just His will. Knowing Him is man’s highest pursuit and the essence of seeking after Him as our greatest treasure. Paul said, “I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death(Philippians 3:10). These are the desires of those so in love with their Lord that they are obsessed with knowing Him (in the most intimate sense) and all about Him. As Jesus said, “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (Luke 12:34).
  • are being strengthened with all power according to his glorious might (v. 11). It is God’s desire that we demonstrate His strength in our living for Him. There is indescribable supernatural power available to the Christian. By trusting in Him and reliance upon the Holy Spirit Paul says we can “…be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes (Ephesians 6:10).
  • may have great endurance and patience, with joy (v. 11)  Paul captures the essence of joy and patience in enduring for Christ when he says “Rather, as servants of God we commend ourselves in every way: in great endurance; in troubles, hardships and distresses;  in beatings, imprisonments and riots; in hard work, sleepless nights and hunger; in purity, understanding, patience and kindness; in the Holy Spirit and in sincere love (2 Corinthians 6:45-6). Endurance with patience and joy is the mark of those that are “in Christ”.
  • are joyfully giving thanks to the Father (v.12). The Psalmist captures this so beautifully: “Shout for joy to the Lord, all the earth.  Worship the Lord with gladness; come before him with joyful songs.  Know that the Lord is God. It is he who made us, and we are his; we are his people, the sheep of his pasture. Enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise; give thanks to him and praise his name. For the Lord is good and his love endures forever; his faithfulness continues through all generations (Psalm 100:1-5).

And why can we receive all of these marvelous requests? Because God “has qualified [us] to share in the inheritance of the saints in the kingdom of light.” (v. 12). Because our Savior “has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves” (v. 13). And, most importantly, because “we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins” (v. 14).  Furthermore, how can we have the full experience of this New Year’s prayer?  Abiding in Him and His Word – “If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be given you” (John 15:7).

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