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Archive for March, 2015

I’ve been spending time in recent mornings poring over the apostle Paul’s remarkable letter to the Galatians – specifically, meditating on the theme of sonship.

The thread of the idea of sonship runs throughout the New Testament – maybe it’s not one of the most prominent themes by volume of word usage, but I can’t help concluding that it is, in fact, a dominant theme of the entire gospel.

Jesus Christ, God’s Son, came to redeem and re-create fallen people, and make them God’s sons (and daughters).

So why has this amazing truth been so hard for me to digest over the years? I mean, really digest on the level of emotions. Having and enjoying a conscious relationship of sonship with my God.

Why would I hold back from a loving Father? What’s with the nagging, overarching feelings of dread and doubt that have seemed to swirl in my heart despite such clear teaching? If I’m a beloved son, why don’t I feel like a beloved son?

I see others who so easily take in these bright beams of gospel light and rest, at peace, knowing that God’s smile is not faded, fickle, or dependent on today’s state of mind. I always been jealous of such brothers and sisters.

After all, are my children any less my children, any less loved, on any given day? Is not our father-son relationship something of enduring permanence, simply because…it just is?

The fact is, I think we all tend to worship a God partially carved in our own image, and much of the Christian life is spent unlearning this idolotry, and replacing these defective God-pictures in our hearts with truth. Some think God is unrelentingly harsh and live in cringing fear. Some feel that He is so full of gushy-love that holiness is way at the back of the bus. Maybe our internal “wiring” and past experiences have much more to do with our view of God than the Bible does.

I’m a systems-thinker. I am compelled to figure out how things proceed from one thing to another, how things fit together – I ask questions and poke and prod and try to understand inter-relationships. Undoubtedly, this is why I gravitated, early on in my Christian experience, to theological studies. Figuring out God’s truth, His plan, His…(here’s where the trouble begins)…system.

God and truth as system.

Systems have outlines and connections and flow charts. Systems have right and wrong. Systems don’t have…heart. Systems don’t have children. Systems don’t dive into the messiness of live and embrace returning prodigals.

No wonder it’s been taking me so long to absorb sonship. I’ve preached sermons on it. I’ve known the theology of it. I “get” how sonship fits into the redemptive purpose (system).

But what I really need is to learn to be a son.

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A Spring of Grace

I love springs.

You’re going along, hiking in the woods, and all of a sudden you see water seeping – or flowing – out of the ground. It’s fascinating – how does that happen?

In simplest terms, when a (perched) underground water table meets the surface of the ground (almost always there’s a slope involved – see image below), the water has no choice but to flow out. Spring water then flows downslope until it joins with a valley stream.

spring water table

When the water table is pure, springs are a wonderful place to drink – especially during a long walk. If you’re not thirsty, a spring is a nice curiosity; but when you’re parched, it’s a huge bounty.

As long as the water table is recharged via regular rainfall, the spring won’t run out – it just keeps flowing. You can stick a cup under there, you can put a barrel in, you can sit and bathe in the discharge basin, you can drink all day long – you’re not going to empty it out. It just keeps flowing.

This is why God’s grace is compared to a fountain. No matter how desperate your need, no matter how unclean your sinfulness – the spring of God’s cleansing mercy is ever-flowing, ever-fresh, always available. You cannot exhaust the resources of the God of the universe.

spring water

Your thirst – your need – is finite, even though great. God’s grace is infinite.

Let us drink deeply today. And tomorrow.

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Jesus = All

(a meditation on the book of Colossians, chapter 1:15-20)

As we noted in the prior 2 verses, the salvation promised in the Christian gospel involves being transferred into a new kingdom – we are delivered out of the dominion of darkness, and brought into the grace-filled realm of God’s beloved Son, Jesus Christ.

But is this Jesus really such a big deal? Aren’t there lots of prophets and religious leaders trotting out various schemes of religious “salvation”? Why Jesus and not, say, Mohammed? Or Buddha? Or my own efforts? Or why bother with any of this business – can’t I just go my own way and ignore Jesus and this Christian message entirely?

In fact, you can close the door of your mind and soul to Jesus Christ, and many have; but before you do, let’s take a look at some of the startling descriptions of Jesus made here by the apostle. Because clearly, He is not displayed as just another mere mortal. Low thoughts of Jesus certainly don’t find their genesis in the Scriptures.

15 He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. 16 For by Him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through Him and for Him. 17 And He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together. 18 And He is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything He might be preeminent. 19 For in Him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, 20 and through Him to reconcile to Himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of His cross.

Now these are some way-out-there claims. In fact, if you take every supreme ruler, every conquering king, every president or potentate or pope or CEO or any other earthly wielder-of-authority, roll them all up and stack them against THIS description, they are as mere ants in comparison.

Jesus is the image of the invisible God. In His unfolding plan to reveal Himself, God did not settle for mere words, or displays of power. He came, incarnate in the form of man, to show forth His glory – and love. Do you want to know God? Get to know Jesus.

Jesus is the firstborn of all creation. There are deep theological mysteries here, but think of Him this way – all creation came into being through Him; and all will be summed up in Him. Jesus, the image of God, is Creator and King. All things, seen and unseen; all subordinate rulers; EVERYthing derives from Him.

Jesus is the all-powerful sustainer of the universe. There is not a thing in existence (including you and me) at any moment which is not under His rule and control. All things hold together, not by impersonal forces, but by the hand of the living God. From thousands of years past, to endless eternity future, nothing has had or will have its ongoing existence apart from Jesus Christ.

Jesus is the head of His church. Jesus rules over every inch of His creation, true; but there is a special rule that He exercises over His chosen people on earth. He has joined Himself to those who call upon Him in faith; His church is His body, and He is the resurrected forerunner of His people, who will also be raised in Him to newness of life. In all things, Jesus has gone first, and occupies first place, for His spiritual family.

Jesus is the fulness of God. All of the riches of God’s divine, immortal, and immeasureable bounty are shared by His Son. Jesus was never about being a mere spark of the divine. He is the divine.

Jesus is the God-creation reconciler. Somehow, the gap of sin that created a huge gulf between God (perfectly holy) and man (defiled and fallen) had to be bridged. In the curious and wondrous genius of God, it was through the once-for-all sacrifice of His Son on a cross. The curse on the creation will be removed; those fallen in their father Adam who call upon the second Adam, Christ Himself; we will be renewed, forgiven, and glorified. All of heaven and earth will be reconciled and restored.

We who are Christians are never to have low thoughts of Jesus – as if he were some slightly elevated man-angel, barely able to hold his own against the forces of evil, and regularly thwarted by creatures who don’t acknowledge his rule. Re-read the passage above and look at the repeated use of the word, “all.” We worship the One who has created all, is above all, rules all, knows all, and will bring all into subjection to Himself. Away with wimpy thoughts of Jesus! We ought never to slink about in fear when such a King lives among us and in us.

— Prior posts in this series —

Colossians 1:1-2: Why Listen to this Paul Character?

Colossians 1:3-8: A Harvest of Gospel Fruit

Colossians 1:9-12: Praying for Progress

Colossians 1:13-14: The Great Transfer

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