Posts Tagged ‘God the Father’

(Part 4 here)

Living in Hope, Faith and Love.

Being a Christian is not, like many religions in the world, assenting to a set of beliefs and following a set of rules. It is a dynamic, living relationship with God. It is knowing the powerful working of the Holy Spirit to fulfill the Father’s purpose for you in making you like His Son.

Jesus said:

‘Whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life. He does not come into judgment, but has passed from death to life. “Truly, truly, I say to you, an hour is coming, and is now here, when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God, and those who hear will live.’ (John 5:24-25)

A little while later he gave a vivid picture of this when he attended the grave of his friend, Lazarus:

Then Jesus, deeply moved again, came to the tomb. It was a cave, and a stone lay against it. Jesus said, “Take away the stone.” Martha, the sister of the dead man, said to him, “Lord, by this time there will be an odour, for he has been dead four days.” Jesus said to her, “Did I not tell you that if you believed you would see the glory of God?” So they took away the stone. And Jesus lifted up his eyes and said, “Father, I thank you that you have heard me. I knew that you always hear me, but I said this on account of the people standing around, that they may believe that you sent me.” When he had said these things, he cried out with a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out.” The man who had died came out, his hands and feet bound with linen strips, and his face wrapped with a cloth. Jesus said to them, “Unbind him, and let him go”. (John 11:38-44)

What happened here is a picture of what happens to every person who hears the Gospel and trusts Jesus as their only saviour. Lazarus was stone dead. A dead person cannot bring themselves back to life. Likewise, we were spiritually dead; slaves to sin, and completely helpless and unable to revive ourselves spiritually. When the word of Jesus (the Gospel) came to us, the Holy Spirit supernaturally brought us back from the dead, and enabled us to hear, believe and respond to Jesus.

When Lazarus was brought back to life he did not stay lying on the stone slab. A tomb is no place for a living, breathing person, and so, understandably, he came out of the tomb in obedience to Jesus’ call. He as restored to his family and friends, and he would have got on with the active process of living life. In a similar way, spiritual life is active and dynamic. It involves engaging with God and with those around us. It means being participants in the work that the Father is doing in His world.

““Truly, truly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of his own accord, but only what he sees the Father doing. For whatever the Father does, that the Son does likewise. For the Father loves the Son and shows him all that he himself is doing. And greater works than these will he show him, so that you may marvel.” (John 5:19-20)

Because Jesus is on about his Father’s business, when we are united with him we share not only his status and relationship with the Father, but we gat involved in what he is doing.

The next three studies unpack what that looks like.

(Part 6 here)

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Living in the presence of the Triune God

I put out here the first draft of the first part of a resource I am writing to help disciple brand new Christians. I decided to write my own after being unsuccessful in finding a resource that is thoroughly trinitarian. Many ‘New Christian’ resources, while excellent and solidly Biblical, always seem to fall short on communicating the character and nature of the God with whom we have entered into relationship: the God who is Love at His very nature, because He is, eternally, Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

There will be four parts, in four posts, in quick succession…

Beginning the Authentic Life

Welcome to the Family

If you are a Christian, then you have come into a relationship with the Triune God. God is the One and only God, who exists eternally as three persons in  perfect unity: the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. He is not three gods, nor is he one person who manifests himself in three ways.

“The Trinity is not a maths problem or an ancient riddle; it’s the good news that God is Love. Forever the Father has loved his Son in the unity of the Spirit.” Glen Scrivener

Because this is who God is, Christianity is the only ‘religion’ that can truly say, ‘God is Love (1 John 4:8).

The Authentic Life

As a human being, you are created in God’s image. This means that whatever God is, you are like that in some way. Supremely, because God is Love, you are created to be a person who loves – which is why Jesus said the two greatest commands are ‘Love God’ and ‘Love your neighbour.’

God enables a human being to truly reflect His character of love by giving them two wonderful gifts: Hope and faith. Hope is the certainty that God is the faithful Creator who has a plan for this universe: to fill it with the knowledge of His glory (Habbakuk 2:14). Faith is being able to entrust ourselves to Him, knowing that we are part of this grand purpose, and trust that He will only ever do what is good for us. This hope and faith then results in us living as we are designed: in love towards God and towards our fellow human beings.

Life lost… and restored!

This hope, faith and love were lost by us in our rebellion and rejection of God’s good purpose, and have been replaced with ambition, fear and selfishness. We faced God’s certain judgement, as our sin is cosmic treason against Him, the loving Ruler of the universe. We were left in a hopeless and helpless situation; unable to save ourselves from Gods wrath even if we wanted to – we were God’s enemies.

Jesus the Son did for us what we are unable and unwilling to do for ourselves. He entered into our humanity and lived the life we have failed to live – a perfect life of hope, faith and love, led and empowered by the Holy Spirit. His great love for his Father and for us led him to give of himself by living a self-sacrificial life which culminated in going to the cross, where he died the death we deserve. Here he was actually abandoned by the Father because of our own guilt and shame. He did this as gracious, merciful act of love to reconcile us to the Father.

When Jesus rose from the dead, it was like the Father’s way of saying, ‘I am pleased with this sacrifice that Jesus has made for sinners. I accept his voluntary death as a substitute, and declare that all who trust what he has done may have all their sin and rebellion forgiven.’

Brought back to the Father

We receive the benefits of all that Jesus the Son did for us by simply trusting him (faith). We cannot do anything to earn God’s forgiveness, it is purely a generous gift from God – called grace:

“It is by grace you have been saved, through faith —and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast.” (Ephesians 2:9)

I trust that in becoming a Christian, this is what you have come to know – and that it is not mere intellectual belief, but trusting in Jesus to do what you cannot do: reconcile you to the Father. The Father’s intention for you is that you know what it means to be His child by being united to His Son and filled with his Holy Spirit, and in so doing, live an authentic life of hope, faith and love. This promise is not just for this short life, but for all eternity. Jesus will one day return, all evil and sin will be banished, this whole world will be renewed, and we will live forever in a face-to-face relationship with the triune God.

How to use this booklet

This booklet contains a series of studies that will help you understand more about what God has done for you in Jesus, and something of what it looks like to live this authentic life. Each section contains a series of statements, the part of the Bible that these statements are based on, and some questions to help you dig into what these passages are saying. They should be worked through at a pace that you are comfortable with. Look up the passage, think about what it is saying to you, and pray that the Father will enable you, by His Spirit, to come to know him better.

It is recommended that you work through these studies with a friend who has been a Christian for a while, as they will be able to discuss it with you, and hopefully answer any questions you may have. Organise a time to meet with them regularly to talk about what you are learning, and so they may support, encourage and pray for you.

(Part 2 is here)

In Revelation 18 we see a mighty angel take a large boulder and throw it into the sea, declaring:

‘So will Babylon the great city be thrown down with violence, and will be found no more…’

He is speaking of the final Day – the conclusive Day of the Lord when ‘The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ, and he shall reign forever and ever.’ (Rev. 11:15)

The final judgement and defeat of sophisticated rebellious humanity – in Revelation dubbed ‘Babylon’ – is conclusive. Like a large stone thrown into deep water, the shock and violence of it is great, yet once it is done, it is done, and there is no return. It doesn’t take long for the ripples to subside and the water to cover any memory that the stone ever existed.

What should be our response to this certainty of final judgement? Through five chapters of the Book of Revelation (15-19) we see an occasional call to God’s people in the midst of this devastation. They are both the response that will actually happen at that time, but they are also to shape our response as we look forward to these events.

Worship God for His faithfulness throughout history (15:2-4).

The final day is the day that all of history has been leading up to, and with the eyes of faith we can look at the revelation of this in the Scriptures and understand the faithfulness and justice of God. We are called to be thankful for all that God Has done and to have a thankful confidence that History with be brought to a conclusion exactly the way God has planned, where, ‘…every knee will bow… and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God the Father.’ This knowledge and thankful spirit is the key to us living faithfully as the expression of God’s family in this world (Philippians 2:1-11)

Be prepared for Jesus’ return at any time (16:15).

In the midst of the sixth bowl, in which the kingdoms of the world are gathered for destruction, we are reminded that we do not know the day or hour of Jesus’ coming as judge. No thief sends an advance schedule to tell his victims what time he will be coming to steal their VCR, but this doesn’t preclude householders being alert and watching for when it will happen. Christians likewise should not become complacent, and think that since it has been nearly 2000 years since His promise to return then He is probably not coming soon, if at all. He could easily come before you finish reading this sentence, because the timing of His return is not dependent upon historical events or our own evangelistic activities, but is in the hands of the Father.

To be prepared for His coming doesn’t mean passively waiting. It means actively serving God: proclaiming the good news of Jesus Christ, and living a life of service and sacrifice towards our fellow human beings, regardless of whether they are those who stand beside the glassy sea or those who are heading for destruction in Babylon. It is this action of God through His people – ‘the righteous acts of the saints’ that make up the beautiful gown of the bride of Christ. (see  19:8).

Come out from Babylon and be separate (18:4).

There is obviously a clear call here to separate ourselves from the immorality of the world’s standards, and to be an example of the transforming righteousness of God which we have received in Christ. But there is another dimension to this call. In our zeal to serve our neighbours and proclaim the Gospel to the world, we need to be sure that we in no way participate in its actions. This may not seem possible, but it can happen when we try so hard to package and present the Gospel in ways that are ‘relevant’ and ‘easy to understand’ that we actually end up compromising and diluting the Gospel itself. We may leave out the ‘bits’ that are controversial to avoid confrontation and persecution. We may overemphasise or exaggerate the earthly benefits of being a Christian in order to make the Gospel sound attractive. We may rely on humanistic methods of marketing, entertainment and psychology to draw people rather than rely on the power of the Gospel itself to save. We may unquestioningly adopt a cultural expression in the church without noticing the damage it does to our witness to the truth. We may follow the lead of the world in its statements about gender, sexuality, racism, social action and politics instead of leading the world in our prophetic proclamation of the Biblical view on these issues.

What we see today in the liberal arm of the earthly church, in all its compromise of Biblical truth and its partnership with the secular world and its agendas, began three or four generations ago as an evangelistic zeal to reach the whole world with the Gospel, and to present the Gospel in a way the world can relate to. Some current trends in the evangelical community today demonstrate that we have not learned this lesson of history, and are in danger of living in Babylon instead of coming out – fleeing, as Abraham and Lot did Sodom and Gomorrah, without looking back or wondering whether we can hang on to just a small piece.

Rejoice in the justice and vindication of God (18:20, 19:1-5).

God’s certain and coming judgement should and will raise a triumphant shout from all His people. It may appear cruel for us to rejoice over the condemnation of sinners; but we are called here to celebrate the victory of God and His complete vindication of us. Every injustice will be paid for, every sin will be called to account, and those who have oppressed the saints – be they spiritual or human agents – will receive the full due for what they have done. Be assured of this: God will not finally condemn anyone in whom there is still the ‘potential’ for repentance. As we have seen, the impenitent will face judgement acknowledging the truth of Christ’s rule, but they will remain in their anger and the hardness of their hearts right to the end and into eternity. Our call is not to focus on or question their fate, but to celebrate the fact that this defeat of evil assures our place at the wedding feast of the Lamb.

The gaudy, worldly, widowed prostitute Babylon has been dethroned, and in her place stands the pure, beautiful bride of the Lamb.

sneak preview of the talk I am about to give 2-4 times these two weeks as part of Jesus Week – ‘Meet the Real Jesus’ at Flinders Uni:

Text: Mark 8:27-38

The concept of God judging is not a palatable idea for many people. It’s the reason why some people reject all forms of religious belief altogether, saying, ‘I can’t believe in a God who will send me to Hell simply for not believing in Him,’ or, ‘God would be a moral monster if he demands that we meet such an unreachable standard, and then sends us to hell if we fail.’

Yet regardless of what intellectual conclusions we make, there is an undeniable reality that human beings have sense of justice, fairness, and an innate desire to see evil and wrongness corrected. If this were not the case, I would have no basis for rejecting or refuting the Christian belief in God as Judge. If I reject the idea of God because, in my view, God is unjust, I am betraying my implicit belief in and desire for truth and justice by saying God does not meet my standard of what is good and right and fair.

We all agree that justice is a good thing, especially when it impacts us directly; if we were to witness our own loved ones brutally killed in front of us, we would feel/know it to be a great travesty if the murderer was set free. We agree that it is right to be angry about the human rights abuses that happen in the world, and we feel a sense of satisfaction when dictators are toppled and criminals are captured, or even when we are simply vindicated and shown to be right when we have been falsely accused. Justice is in our bones, and you could argue that it is a foundation of civilised society.

So why do we get upset when we hear the idea that God will bring justice to this world through Jesus Christ? Why are we happy for human beings to carry out justice, but struggle with the idea of God doing so? Who is more qualified to bring about justice – a good and loving, all knowing God, or imperfect human beings with mixed motives and limited knowledge?

Mark 8:27-38 is a passage that can help us understand something of what it means for Jesus to be our judge.

Twice in this passage Jesus refers to himself as ‘The Son of Man’. This term comes from the Old Testament (The first part of the Bible), from a prophecy by the 4th century BC prophet Daniel. In a vision he saw God on his throne just like a judge in a courtroom; before him were all the nations and peoples of the world. A person whom he described as, ‘One like a Son of Man’ was brought directly into the presence of God, who gave him authority over all the nations of the earth, and all people worshipped him. This ‘Son of Man’ is essentially God’s representative; he rules with God’s full authority.

By using this title for himself, Jesus is claiming to be the one whom Daniel saw in his vision. At another time Jesus said that because he is God’s Son, God the Father has entrusted him with the role of judging the whole world; so each one of us will have to stand before Jesus and be assessed at to whether we meet God’s perfect standard.

This is what Jesus is talking about at the end of this passage when he says in verse 38:

‘Whoever is ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of him will the Son of Man also be ashamed when he comes in the glory of his Father with the holy angels.’

The word ashamed here does not just mean ‘embarrassed’ in the way that we might use it. It is a word that means being wrongly aligned, a bit like backing the losing football team, or  being loyal to the wrong side in a war. Jesus says that rejecting Him and his words now, will result in him rejecting us when he comes as judge.

So, what is it about Jesus and his words that is so important for us to not reject? We see this in the first section of the passage.

In verses 27-30 Jesus has asked his disciples who people say he is – and who they say he is. Jesus considers it important that people understand who he is and what his mission is. The public have some ideas, but when Peter says, ‘You are the Christ’, we know from other accounts of this event that Jesus commended him – his view was the right view. ‘The Christ’ means ‘God’s appointed King’ – the one who would set up God’s kingdom; he was promised to the Jewish people over 1000 years earlier, and they had been waiting for Him to arrive all this time. They knew that the Christ would be the king not just of their people, but of the whole world; that he would bring peace and justice to the world, and enable people to truly know and worship God.

This description may sound very similar to the description I just gave of the ‘Son of Man’, and that is because the titles ‘Christ’ and ‘Son of Man’ meant the same thing. They are speaking of the same person – and Jesus is this person.

However both the public and the disciples thought – wrongly – that when the Christ came, he would use military strength to set up his kingdom. That is why Jesus told his disciples not to tell people about him – because he knew the people might start a violent revolution.

Jesus goes on in verses 31-33 to explain how he will set up God’s kingdom: He would suffer, be killed, and rise again after 3 days. This does not sound like a great and powerful king, which is why Peter rebuked him. However he did not understand why Jesus had to die and rise again.

Any kingdom need two elements to be a true kingdom: a King, and citizens. A King without citizens is not really a king. So in order to be the King of God’s kingdom, Jesus must gather for himself those who will be citizens of His kingdom. However, there is one problem. There is not one human being who is worthy or qualified to be a citizen of his kingdom. The Bible tells us that all of humanity has rebelled against God – we have become God’s enemies. We have chosen not to live under God’s loving authority, but instead set ourselves up as the rulers of our own lives and of this world. This is what the Bible calls ‘Sin’. Sin is not primarily bad things we do, but an attitude in our hearts that says, ‘No’ to God. It is a rejection of the relationship with God that we have been created for. As a result, our lives are filled with actions and deeds that reflect this – things we call ‘sins’.

God is rightfully angry at this, because He is good and just and loving, and so He will not tolerate Sin. If we reject a relationship with Him and want nothing to do with Him, the fair punishment for this is Him rejecting us in the same way. And because this sin of rejecting God is so serious – it is essentially ‘cosmic treason’, the punishment must also be just as serious – being cut off from God and all his goodness, forever. And so, as we have seen already, those who reject (are ‘ashamed of’) God by rejecting His Son Jesus – will also be rejected.

Because the core problem of sin is a problem of the heart, we cannot fix this simply by trying to do good things or changing our behaviour. We need to be reconciled to God. The attitude of our heart that causes us to be under God’s anger needs to be dealt with; we owe God a massive debt, and it is a debt that we cannot pay or make up for. If a criminal is found guilty in a court of law, he cannot say to the judge, ‘Please let me off, because I feel really sorry for what I did,’ or ‘I shouldn’t go to prison because I promise to do good from now on.’ If a crime has been committed, the penalty must be paid, otherwise there would be no justice.

This is why Jesus said that he had to die. The penalty we deserve for our treason is death, and since we cannot pay it ourselves, Jesus, the Son of God, has paid it for us. All of God’s anger that was rightfully directed against us, was instead directed against Jesus in our place. And by rising from the dead, Jesus demonstrated that this penalty has been fully paid: the fact that Jesus is no longer dead means that the penalty of death has been paid!

What does this then mean for us right now?

God has given us the means by which we may be reconciled to Him, and by being reconciled, we may become citizens of His kingdom. Through trusting in Jesus – and not in ourselves – we may know with certainty that God has brought us back to Himself.

We see this in the next verse – 34.

Jesus tells people that they should ‘deny themselves and take up their cross and follow him’. He is describing here what in other places the Bible calls ‘repentance and faith’ – or ‘turning and trusting’.

To ‘deny ourselves’ means we recognise that there is nothing we can do to fix our broken relationship. The problem is just too big, and so we need to be prepared to call out to Jesus for Him to save us.

To ‘take up one’s cross’ was quite a shocking thing to say – as in that time and place only the worst criminals – murderers and traitors – were crucified. So it means that we recognise that we actually deserve to face the required punishment for our treason against God! It was not coincidence that God allowed Jesus to die in this way, as him being crucified was a picture of our own crime against Him. This is what ‘repentance’ means: to turn from where we are in our sin and rebellion – to say ‘I am wrong, and God is right!’

The third thing Jesus says is ‘follow me’. This is a picture of trusting. We would only follow someone wherever they go if we knew we could trust them – or rather, if we knew they could be trusted fully. To follow Jesus means to completely depend on him to bring us back to God the Father; to accept that His death and resurrection is the only way that we can come into His Kingdom, since it is the only thing that can fix our problem.

What is the result of this? What does all this mean for someone who turns and trusts in Jesus?

It means we will be citizens of God’s kingdom, with Jesus us our good, loving, fair and just ruler – the Judge of all humanity who loved us so much that He came to bear the judgement for us. What a wonderful person to have as our ruler! It means also that we will have hope – hope for ourselves that we will never be rejected or abandoned by a divine Father who loves us so greatly, and calls us to know Him personally; and hope for this whole universe, that Jesus is ruling over it in its entirety, and will one day return to gather us to be with him, and to renew this whole world and remove all that is evil, unjust, painful and sad. This is the kind of promise that Jesus makes for all who trust Him.

So, will you repent and trust in Jesus?