keeping hold of the gospel

The gospel is at the heart of our faith, and therefore central to the well being, not only of us, but of the world. Faith, hope, and love depend on it. No wonder then, when it can become such a point of contention. I commend N. T. Wright and his writings, along with other writers and teachers such as Scot McKnight and Craig Blomberg, and many others.

The gospel essentially is the Jesus revealed in scripture, and all the truth that surrounds him in his person, life, teaching, works, death and resurrection, ascension, and the promise of his return. 1 Corinthians 15 is a key passage, but actually Matthew, Mark, Luke and John are all accounts of the gospel. The good news in Jesus in which scripture is fulfilled.

It is imperative for us to hold on the gospel, not simply because of the life it promises after death, but also because of the life that is promised to us here and now. It is a life in God, one of no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because of Christ’s redemptive work of the cross, and the freeing activity of the Spirit (Romans 8). I find that we have to hold on to faith to get out of survival mode, though in spiritual warfare, simply to stand our ground is all that’s required (Ephesians 6:10-20). This is all about the gospel: the good news in Jesus, and holding on to that.

God wants us in Jesus to be more than conquerors, actually in him we already are (Romans 8), victorious (Revelation 2-3) in and through Jesus by the good news, regardless of what we face, or our past, as well as present. It may be in the midst of much weakness, and fallout. Nevertheless God wants the truth of that gospel in Jesus stamped onto our lives, so that it defines and centers us in all of life. The good news, by the way, is as big as all of life, if one reads the pages of scripture in full. It is no less than new creation, God making all things new. It is not a matter of hiding in a cave somewhere with bread and water. At the same time, though, it does involve a following with others of Christ in identification with him, which in this life can spell trouble, even death. But in the midst of that, we know from the good news that nothing in all creation can separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

We need to pray and ask God to help us grasp and hold on to this good news in Jesus. That it might correct us where need be, and set us on the path of life, even of immortality, the eternal life and everlasting way in and through Jesus.

 

truth will prevail

If truth does prevail, then what about God’s judgment? Of course we do well to shudder (Romans 2 and 3), since we indeed are all sinners. But without God’s judgment, how will justice, and yes, truth prevail? That is part of God’s atoning work in Christ, to take the judgment of sin upon himself in his death. So that all can be forgiven and given new life, justified in the sense of given status in God’s covenant family and thus made right, and reconciled to God and to each other in Christ. The final judgment is the purging of evil from the world to bring in the final and full salvation.

In the meantime we often find in this present life untruth and evil having a heyday. Untruth and evil do seem to go together against truth and goodness. It seems like the universe is wired, or at least ought to be wired for truth and goodness. Without a doubt we’re all in need of God’s grace in Jesus. If truth prevails, again, we’re all in trouble, since we have been and can be full of falsehood and the evil that accompanies that. And again, a big part of the good news in Jesus is that God took that evil upon himself on the cross in the Person of his Son, Jesus. The result of that is that by faith we’re forgiven, and given a passion for truth in the Truth himself, Jesus.

We have a passion for truth, while at the same time always and forever, along with the rest of the world being in great need of nothing less than the Truth himself. In the Truth, truth will prevail even here and now in the grace of God in that Truth himself. And we find out again and again that God does not condemn us in Jesus, but in and by Jesus- the Truth, God helps us to look for and see, even if seemingly only by faith, a better day, the day when all truth prevails, and to experience a true measure of that even in this present evil age when truth seems irrelevant to so many, and all but lost.

And so that is where we in Jesus hang our hats, not in a supposed progressive order in which the world is getting better and better on its own. But only in Jesus, the Truth himself, which should and can give us heart in the promise of God for the future beginning even in the present- in the here and now, in and through Jesus.

as is

When we buy used cars, they are normally sold “as is,” meaning you are stuck with your purchase. And when we look at our lives and circumstances, there is no turning back the clock and doing this or that, or something else differently.  So that wishing, wishing, and wishing some more that we wouldn’t have made that either “fatal,” or stupid mistake does no good for us at all. In fact, it probably does harm.

It’s not like we’re not going to have any regrets. I can only shake my head when I hear people say they have no regrets (especially older people), even if there might be an odd case in which that may make more sense than not. It’s what we do with our failures, sins, and follies that’s important. Harboring them, so that they continue to batter and put us in a numbing fear, along with a sense of condemnation and anxiety, not to mention even a pressure that seems more and more physical, downright oppression, that’s not going to do us or anyone else any good whatsoever.

What we need to do is take our problem to the Cross, if we’re in a church in the Great Tradition, to our priest, or to a pastor. So that we can confess whatever sin needs confession, which in this case might be the sin of holding on to something which has been forgiven already. And we need to accept the reality as it is, but beside another and greater reality, the Cross of our Lord Jesus Christ.

In spite of what faults Martin Luther had, he was a great Church Father, and he and his following are especially adept at taking us to the Cross to see that our only hope and salvation is always and forever in the crucified, resurrected Lord. That by his wounds, we are indeed healed. It may take us some time and serious effort, but it will be well worth every bit we put into it.

We come to the Cross, just as we are, as is, not dressing up anything. God’s Answer comes from that Cross, not just knowledge, indeed some of it will remain mystery to us. But because of the power of that Cross to bring forgiveness of our sins, and new life.

At every turn and juncture in this world, and in this life there is the potential for a predicament we’re not capable in and of ourselves to get out of. We do what we can to do what is right by this world in this life. But the remedy is in God’s free and full salvation in Jesus at the Cross, by his death. We want to hurry on to his resurrection, by which all that his death achieves is made real in the new day, the new creation. But we do well to simply remain there at the Cross in our meditation and prayer. Maybe using a stations of the cross to help us do that, asking God to help us receive from that saving act, all that we need, and what will help us through whatever it is that remains present. The full salvation in Jesus reaching us where we are. A practice that needs to become for us a habit of life.

fight on

Timothy, my son, I am giving you this command in keeping with the prophecies once made about you, so that by recalling them you may fight the battle well, holding on to faith and a good conscience, which some have rejected and so have suffered shipwreck with regard to the faith.

1 Timothy 1:18-19

One might as well face it: Trouble in this life is not only inevitable, but is practically endemic, meaning it’s a natural part of life as it is now, one could say from the story in Genesis, fallen, and incomplete. Add to that the possible torment that can come along with it, if we perceive what is isn’t good in some way that is concerning.

There are days for me, and yesterday was one of them, when I can’t help but think that if I don’t get over this, and get better help, I can’t do this anymore. Not really thinking about living in the Christian life, though every bit of that is 100% a gift of grace through which we can enter in and live. I suppose I’m thinking more in terms of ministry, even writing a blog, teaching or preaching, whatever in terms of service. The sense of condemnation and dread, and the accompanying fear can seem overwhelming. And every other possible problem that comes along our way, all added up, one usually coming to the fore and dominating our thoughts for a time.

And behind that one can sense an instigator, as in something of an agent of evil at work, a spirit always plotting and ready to throw in some different wrenching, threatening problem at us, that ordinarily pushes us toward inward condemnation, fear and dread.

As we find ourselves choking on such infernal fumes from the pit, we can fully realize that the source of such is not from God, and not in accord with God’s promises in Jesus, in fact in opposition to them.

And so we need to fortify ourselves with that realization, a good chapter to meditate on with reference to all of that, Romans 8. And we need to resolve and follow through to fight on, come what may. In fact it is good to be determined to fight all the more harder, when it seems all the more futile to do so. We are then basing our actions on the truth, and calling out the lie for what it is, just a bluff, a sheer out and out lie. And so when the enemy pours it on, we need to be determined to pour it on all the more. Certain that God’s outpouring of the Spirit in and through the grace of our Lord Jesus will be more than enough for us to overcome, to be “more than conquerors through him who loved us.”