It is the deconstructive work that is painful because we have learned to emotionally invest , not in Jesus, but in our theology. A good test to determine whether Jesus or our theology takes precedence is to discern the degree to which we are willing to unlearn something and learn something new about Him. Michael Hardin
Ooh that one hits home. The truth is our theology is never perfect, but are we actually open to having it be changed by God? Are we actually willing to unlearn something, to learn something new?
As I look back on my life as a Christian, pastor, and theology-nerd the amount of stuff that’s changed is dramatic. The question though isn’t how have I changed, but am I willing to continue to be changed by the prompting of God’s Spirit and Truth? Because one thing is for sure, I don’t have it all perfectly together. And I need to invest in Jesus, not in my theological thoughts about Jesus. And the difference between those two things can sometimes be wider than we think.
But what about you? How have you changed and grown in depth with Jesus? How has your theology changed? How is it changing?
Because one thing is sure, we all need to become more like Jesus and that process involves change and it never ends. May we be open to that process and to the prompting of God’s Holy Spirit to conform us more and more into the likeness of Christ.
Well on Sunday we are launching a brand new series here at church: Finding God on your iPod. We are going to be looking at songs that reveal truth, and have impacted my relationship with God.
Some of the songs you might know, some you might not. But the beautiful thing is that God is all around us and ready to speak to us through so many ways. And we hope to find one way that God speaks to us on Sunday is through music.
I’ve found that at very specific and important times in my life God’s spoken through a song.
So we want to explore some of those over the summer.
But before we get there, what about you? What songs has God used to speak to you? How did he reveal his truth or a thought to you? I’d love to hear what songs God has spoke to you through, and who knows maybe I’ll use one!
On Sunday we took a look at the surprising connections between science, the Bible, and our relationships. We looked specifically at what happens when we get angry or enter into conflict and how while our physical systems are amazingly designed to avoid physical danger, they sometimes increase our emotional danger.
Here’s what we learned. That when we encounter or perceive danger we enter into a flight or fight response. This response does a few things: it short-circuits our higher level thinking and shuts it down, it dumps a bunch of chemicals into our system to fight or flight, and it reacts sometimes instantly.
And now this system is amazing for us to respond to physical threats: like a snake that we jump away from, or a falling rock we instantly respond to. This system though is not as amazing when it comes to social threats such as criticism, emotional hurt, or intense arguments.
Our fight or flight response can “hijack” our higher level thinking in these moments and we can end up either shutting down or becoming very aggressive. We talked about the different physiological responses, but asked a very simple question: how do we overcome this? Because we all have probably been in fights and in that state where we’ve said things we regretted (fight), or not said the things we should have (flight). So what do we do?
Well we looked at three concrete biblical steps, that amazingly correspond to science as well. The first is something we can do to help prevent being “hijacked” by our emotional response, and that this: to let heaven fill your thoughts. The truth is what we fill our minds with leave traces and predispositions. So if your mind is filled with negativity, junk, anger, and rehearsing of hurts, we are actually encouraging those very things. So Paul gives some very practical advice, “Let heaven fill your thoughts”. Focus on the things that are good, healthy, true, and life-giving. Focus on the truth of the gospel, and let that fill our minds more than the normal stress, anger, and hurt we carry.
The second thing we noticed is that when we feel that “fight or flight” response coming on, we can shut it down. Sometimes it builds, and it is possible to actually exercise self-control. We talked about how the Holy Spirit can give us self-control and how to pray for it, and practice it.
And last but not least, we talked about what to do when we’ve had a really in-depth hurtful argument. Solomon gives this really wise advice. He says this: Fools vent their anger, but the wise quietly hold it back (Proverbs 29:11). And what he means here is not to deny your anger or your hurt, but not to actually vent it all around.
Venting your anger all around doesn’t actually lessen, but encourages it. When we have difficult conversations our tendency is to share and spread it, rather than dealing with it. And when we do that, we get angry and in the flight or fight response…again. So Solomon gives this wise advice: don’t spread it, deal with it. Don’t put it on Facebook, process it. Don’t keep repeating it, own it.
So those are some of the connections we looked at, and ended with a simple challenge: deal with and prevent anger and conflict. Take these steps and try to put them into practice to not only seek to prevent extra anger and conflict, but to deal with it when it happens.
Big Idea: Our brains and bodies are complex and amazing
The amygdala perceives and responds to danger around us
The amygdala is incredibly fast but it’s actually not all that discerning
Two reactions: fight or flight.
Hijacking is when our emotional state shuts down our higher reasoning.
Let heaven fills your thoughts…
Pray for Self-Control and Practice Self-Control
Deal with anger, don’t vent it.
Adult Discussion Questions:
What stuck out to you from the sermon? What was challenging to you? How did God speak to you through it? What was new? Which type of response do you most often do – fight or flight? Can you relate to any of the examples shared? Have you ever seen how venting anger can make things worse? When and how? Is there anger that you need to deal with? Who can help you with that?
Discussion Questions for Young Families
Today use our learning to help with your kids. If they get upset remember it can take a while for them to re-centre. Give them space and encourage them even when things get angry and hard.
Challenge for the Week: Deal with and prevent anger.
On Sunday we discussed two controversial topics: heaven and hell. I think around these two topics there has been so much fuzzy thinking, so much conjecture, so much just silliness sometimes that many people just avoid thinking about them.
Well that’s what we tried to clear up.
We took a look first at heaven, looking at the picture of life painted without sin prior to the fall in Genesis and revealed in Revelation. What we see so clearly is that we will continue to have deep relationships with others, with creation, with tasks and purposes, and most of all, with God. Heaven is not a place where we float around in the clouds, singing songs on harps to Jesus. Heaven is here on earth – where we move, live, and create with God, others, and creation. Heaven is a beautiful continuance of all that is good and worthy in our lives. And it’s a beautiful thing.
N.T. Wright describes it this way:
The redeemed people of God in the new world will be the agents of his love going out in new ways, to accomplish new creative tasks, to celebrate and extend the glory of his love.
And that sounds anything but boring.
With that we turned to discussing the doctrine of hell. Now this is a confusing, and unclear doctrine for most people at the best of times. Much of their thinking has been more influence by popular culture, Dante, and poor theology than the actual Biblical account. And something we want to at least acknowledge up front is that there isn’t a lot of Biblical material that deals with this directly. And that much of it is metaphorical. That doesn’t mean hell’s not real, but perhaps not every image is meant to be taken literally (i.e. hell is discussed as a place of darkness and fire – which seem to be mutually exclusive).
So with those provisos we dived into the topic by addressing first and foremost: why do we even need this doctrine?
Many people struggle with the idea of hell, and so I discussed why I still believe we need to retain the doctrine. First, is that I do believe that the theme of hell, and judgment are in scripture. Secondly, that God honors free will. And thirdly, that justice requires putting things right.
So I want to expand on the idea that God honors free will. I don’t believe in what’s called “universalism” (that everyone gets to heaven), because I believe in free will. I believe that God, out of love, created us with free will. Which means we are free to reject God, and even reject heaven if we choose. And I don’t believe that God will override that free choice. Robert Farrar Capon writes,
Both heaven and hell are populated entirely and only by forgiven sinners. Hell is just a courtesy for those who insist they want no part of forgiveness.
Also I believe in justice, so I also believe in the necessity of hell. I don’t believe that justice can just pretend that evil doesn’t have consequences. I believe in hell because I believe that ultimately true and deep evil needs to be confronted and made right. Part of that making right is there being justice for the victims and oppressed in the world. And in this then we need to be clear – God does not torture. As Michael Bird shares, “Hell is about justice, not torture”. And I think that Dale Allison gets to the heart of why my view of justice entails some doctrine of hell by writing this:
I do not know what befell Mother Theresa of Calcutta when she died, nor what has become of Joseph Stalin. But the same thing cannot have come upon both. If there is any moral rhyme or reason in the universe, all human beings cannot be equally well off as soon as they breathe their last and wake again.
Or as N. T. Wright comments:
I find it quite impossible, reading the New Testament on the one hand and the newspaper on the other, to suppose that there will be no ultimate condemnation, no final loss, no human beings to whom, as C.S. Lewis put it, God will eventually say, “Thy will be done.” I wish it were otherwise, but one cannot forever whistle, “There’s a wideness in God’s mercy” in the darkness of Hiroshima, of Auschwitz, the murder of children and careless greed that enslaves millions with debts not their own.
And I’ll close my thoughts on hell with this quote from Daniel Migilore:
Hell is not an arbitrary divine punishment at the end of history. It is not the final retaliation of a vindictive deity. Hell is self-destructive resistance to the eternal love of God.
And I think that’s true. You don’t miss heaven by a bit, but by a constant and consistent refusal of the love and person of God.
So that’s what we looked at. It was a tough sermon, but I think one that will for sure spur more thinking and discussing. And certainly there are lots of other views out there. What I think is really important though is to be sure on what you personally believe. I think the hard doctrines and big ideas deserve thought and aren’t to be swept under the rug.
We ended with a reminder that the main point was that in the end all will be made right. That’s the purpose we are heading towards – a world put to right. A world that is finally fixed from evil, sin, and destruction. A world we live on in full communion with God, others, and creation.
We gave three simple little practical points with this to close. To focus on loving and not judging. Focus on sharing Jesus, not figuring out the details. We should be encouraged, it will end right. These are some practical ways that this should actually affect us. We should focus on loving and not judging who is in or out. We should be focused on sharing Jesus, not just debating details to death. And we should be encouraged that no matter what we see in the end God will make it right.
It helps, now and then, to step back and take the long view. The Kingdom is not only beyond our efforts: it is beyond our vision. We accomplish in our lifetime only a tiny fraction of the magnificent enterprise that is the Lord’s work. Nothing we do is complete, which is another way of saying that the Kingdom always lies beyond us. No sermon says that all should be said. No prayer fully expresses our faith. No confession brings perfection. No pastoral visit brings wholeness. No program accomplishes the Church’s mission. No set of goals and objectives includes everything. That is what we are about. We plant the seeds that one day will grow. We water the seeds already planted knowing they hold future promise. We lay foundations that will need further development. We provide yeast that affects far beyond our capabilities. We cannot do everything and there is a sense of liberation in realizing that. This enables us to do something, and to do it very, very well. It may be incomplete, but it is a beginning, a step along the way, an opportunity for the Lord’s grace to enter and dot the rest. We may never see the end results, but that is the difference between the Master builder and the work. We are workers, not master builders; ministers, not messiahs. We are the prophets of a future that is not our own. Archbishop Oscar Romero
Big Idea: That in the end all will be made right
Heaven isn’t just a heavenly location but the place where God’s reign is full and comprehensive.
Heaven is a place where we have this clear, immediate, and personal connection with God.
The redeemed people of God in the new world will be the agents of his love going out in new ways, to accomplish new creative tasks, to celebrate and extend the glory of his love. N.T. Wright
“There is more to heaven than clouds, angels, and elevator music”. Michael Bird
The necessity of hell: free will and justice.
“Hell is about justice, not torture”. Michael Bird
Hell is not an arbitrary divine punishment at the end of history. It is not the final retaliation of a vindictive deity. Hell is self-destructive resistance to the eternal love of God. Daniel Migilore
We need to focus on loving not judging.
Focus on sharing Jesus, not figuring out the details.
We should be encouraged it will end right.
Adult Discussion Questions:
What stuck out to you from the sermon? What was challenging to you? How did God speak to you through it? What was new? What lingering questions do you have about heaven or hell? Who can help you to wrestle through them? What you most looking forward to with heaven?
Discussion Questions for Young Families
Today talk to your kids about heaven and what it’s like. Talk about how we’ll have friendships, relationships, and tasks in heaven. Talk about how best of all we’ll have a relationship with God that is deeper and fuller than anything else.
Challenge for the Week: Keep being faithful to God.
So on Sunday we’re talking about hell. I know a topic that is…well…divisive to say the least. Some pastors love talking about – hellfire and brimstone – and all of that. Other pastors avoid it because they don’t know what to do with it.
But I want to deal with it honestly. I want to deal with objections. I want to deal with the Biblical passages. And I want to deal with this doctrine and topic in light of Jesus Christ.
So if you’ve ever had questions about hell, well you’re in good company, because I have lots. And I’m going to do my best to deal with them, talk about them, and hopefully even answer some of them.
And we’ll also talk about heaven, an equally misunderstood topic. And I’m going to do my best to do it all in 30 minutes. So if you’re around, are interested, and have ever wondered about heaven or hell – this is the Sunday to be there 🙂
On Sunday we really opened up a pretty deep and difficult topic: eschatology. This is the study of last things, and what will happen at the end. This includes heaven, hell, the second coming of Jesus, who will be saved, and lots more. So we actually have given it two weeks to discuss, and this week I covered why eschatology matters and what’s called corporate eschatology.
But first why does eschatology matter?
Well the simple reason is that it’s practical and crucial for our everyday lives.
At first this seems like…well…a lie. I mean for many of us we don’t think that what happens at the end of the world does affect our lives all that much. But my contention is that it should, and it should shape our lives. And here is why: our view of the future, shapes our present. How the world ends, is how we should be living now.
So practically this really matters. We believe that Jesus is coming again, and when he does he will put the world to rights. He will fix all that is broken with the world. We will live in harmony with one another, with God, and with the earth. So what this means is if this is our destination – we need to start to live it now.
This means the church should be talking about racism. Why? Because in the end all the peoples of the earth will worship together as one. So we need to be challenging racism, sexism, and all that divides us now. We need to practice inclusion.
This means the church should be taking seriously creation care. Why? Because the Bible tells us that the earth will be renewed, not burnt, and we are to steward the earth. So we should be caring for the earth now. Eschatology shapes our present.
Michael Bird puts it this way:
“Eschatology is not just pie in the sky. There is a deeply practical side here, for how we act in the present is deeply impacted by what we think of the future. What we think about evangelism, justice, ecological responsibility, pastoral care, budgets, the church, and ethics is based on what God has done and will yet do for his people through Jesus Christ. If our actions echo into eternity, if we contribute something to God’s coming kingdom, we will be constrained to operate with a kingdom perspective.”
And he is right. So eschatology matters and is practical.
So we gave that big overview, and that what we believe in a nutshell is this: Jesus is coming again to set the world right. That Jesus coming isn’t something to be feared, but longed for. That when Jesus comes it will be a good thing, and he will fix all that is broken. He will come again bodily, imminently, and personally.
This is what orthodox Christians believe. But where orthodox Christians disagree are some of the details and sequence of events of Jesus’ second coming. So we moved from discussing the big picture, to some of the details, specifically found in Revelation 20:1-8. We discussed the three major camps people fall into when thinking about how Jesus will come again: postmillennialism, premillennialism, and amillennialism.
Postmillennialism believes that Jesus will come after a 1000 year reign. This view was popular before WW1 and WW2 but the world wars really killed some of the optimism that we could move into a golden age (millennium) without a dramatic intervention of Jesus Christ.
This leads us to the second camp – premillennialism. This is where people believe Jesus will come before (pre) the millennium. This view is very popular in culture currently, and is probably the default position of most of the evangelical world.
Lastly, there is amillennialism which believes that we are currently living in the millennium rule of Jesus and he will arrive again.
We outlined some of the pros and cons to each view, and which one I personally lean towards. But we ended with discussing the main point: that Jesus is coming again and we need to be ready.
We closed with some wise words from Augustine: Unity in essentials (i.e. Jesus is coming again), liberty in non-essentials (i.e. how that all works out), and love in all things (no matter what we believe). And I think that’s a pretty wise stance.
We challenged ourselves at the end to discuss with a friend what we think the end looks like, and then to reflect about how we need to live now. Because eschatology isn’t just about where we go when we die, but how we live now.
Big Idea: Eschatology sets our focus and direction
Theology is a pilgrimage. It never stops thinking, questing or questioning. Following Jesus means that every morning begins a new part of the journey. Michael Hardin
Eschatology is the study of last things.
The end sets our direction and our focus.
From first to last, and not merely in the epilogue, Christianity is eschatology is hope, forward looking and forward moving, and therefore also revolutionizing and transforming the present. Jurgen Moltmann
Eschatology is about hope.
Jesus is coming again and we should be ready.
Three Views: postmillennialism, premillennialism, and amillennialism.
Eschatology sets our focus and direction
Adult Discussion Questions:
What stuck out to you from the sermon? What was challenging to you? How did God speak to you through it? What was new? What do you think happens at the end? Had you given it much thought before today? What was most interesting to you from the sermon? What did you think of Andrew’s talks on the three different camps? What personally do you need to change now in light of what happens in the end?
Discussion Questions for Young Families
Talk to your kids about how Jesus is coming again. Tell them that when he comes back he will fix the world and put it back right again. Ask them if there is anything that they think Jesus will fix when he gets back. Ask them how they might start to fix that now, and pick one way to do that and do that together.
Challenge for the Week: Have a discussion about what the end is like, and live in light of the end.
On Sunday we are going to be learning about eschatology. What’s that you might ask? Well it’s the study of last things. It’s the study of what might happen at the end of the world. And we all have ideas about that. Hollywood certainly does and it mostly involves zombies I think. But I’m not interested in what Hollywood says will happen at the end, I’m interested in what the Bible says.
So that’s what we are looking at on Sunday. We are going to be exploring some difficult passages and asking the question: what will happen at the end?
And here is why this matters and isn’t just idle speculation: because our vision of the end directs our actions now. And this is just true. If we believe in the end the whole world will burn, why bother caring for it? But if we believe the world will be renewed, then we had better steward it.
The point is that our view on what happens in the end will affect how we live now. So that’s what we are looking at on Sunday. And before we get there why not think through a little bit on your own. What do you think will happen at the end? What do you think and why? And on Sunday I’ll tell you what I think, and what I think the Bible teaches.
On Sunday we looked at Bibleology, the study of the Bible. Specifically we looked at two things: how the Bible came to be, and how to read the Bible.
We talked about how the Bible came to be over a period of years, and how there were different criteria for books to be included in the Bible. These criteria were: Apostolicity, Orthodoxy, Antiquity and Catholicity or Usage.
Apostolicity is that the writings needed to be connected to an apostle. Orthodoxy meaning that it conformed to the overall emerging tradition. Antiquity meaning that it was written early and close to the time of first-hand and eye witness accounts. And lastly, Catholicity or usage meaning that it was used by the majority of the early church, and attested to its usefulness.
From there we moved on to discuss three poor ways to the read the Bible, and three helpful ways to read the bible.
The first poor way to read the Bible was what I called foundationalism. This is where the Bible is the foundation of our faith. Where we build up a historical, reasonable, and irrefutable arguments for the validity of the Bible and of faith itself. And while I believe in apologetics and using reason and history to demonstrate the reliability of the Bible, this view has one major flaw for me. And it’s this: the Bible is not the foundation of our faith. I know that sounds controversial but it shouldn’t be. The foundation of our faith is Jesus Christ. And yes, the Bible attests to that fact, but it is still not the foundation of our faith.
For me foundationalism misses the point because it raises the Bible above Jesus. So to put it clearly I don’t believe in Jesus because of the Bible, I believe in the Bible because of Jesus. That’s the correct order of priorities of things. And yes, of course, we get to know Jesus through the Bible, but the Bible should never become more important or foundational than Jesus. The Bible actually has a word for that, and it’s idolotary and leads to poor readings of Scripture.
Secondly, we talked about how a poor way to read the Bible is to read it flat. We read it as if each part is equally authoritative for our lives right now. All of the Bible is God-breathed, absolutely!, but we do prioritize or privilege certain parts – specifically Jesus. When we read the Bible we need to take into account the overall arc or trajectory of Scripture, and interpret in light of that. So what this means to give a practical example, we no longer practice “eye for an eye” because Jesus says not to do that. To read the Bible flat though makes these two teaching authoritative even though they contradict. Instead, we need to read the bible through the light and revelation of Jesus Christ, the full revelation of God. So reading it flat is taking each part equally without placing the commands of God, in the history, context, and overall scope in which they are given.
The third issue is that we read the Bible plainly or naively. Sometimes people say, “The Bible says it, I believe it, and that settles it”. But that is a really naïve way of reading, because we interpret all of the Bible even the clear parts. Because what is clear to you, might not be clear to others. Most of us in the West who are very wealthy do not take Jesus clear words “Go and sell everything” as his clear command. We take them metaphorically, even though they are clear. My point is that we need to learn to read the Bible not naively or plainly but deeply. And ask some key questions is this text just describing a time, or prescribing how we should relate for all time? What is the context here? How does this relate to other parts of the Bible? I think that to approach the Bible with just a forced naivety without a willingness to study is problematic.
And lastly, I gave three other quick ways to read it correctly. First, was to read it through the lens of Jesus. If Jesus is the complete revelation of God, we need to read the Bible through that revelation. Jesus is the standard, so we need to start there.
Secondly, we need to start reading the Bible through not only the lens of Jesus, but also the lens of love. This is because this is what Jesus explicitly says. When he summarizes all of the Old Testament he says its summary is to love God and love others. That this is the trajectory or goal of the Old Testament to teach how to love. So we need to read the Bible in light of that. And St. Augustine agrees, saying this: “Whoever, then, thinks that he understands the Holy Scriptures, or any part of them, but puts such an interpretation upon them as does not tend to build up this twofold love of God and our neighbor, does not yet understand them as he ought”
And lastly, I argued that we need to read it looking for things to practice. The classic verse that is used to argue for the inspiration of Scripture actually points us to the meaning or purpose of Scripture. Paul in 2 Timothy 3:16 says:
All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful to teach us what is true and to make us realize what is wrong in our lives. It corrects us when we are wrong and teaches us to do what is right.
The purpose of Scripture is to teach us how to live. That’s the point of it, “teaches to do what is right”
So when I come to read the Bible this is what I try to do:
To not place the Bible above Jesus, but to help me discover Jesus
To not read the Bible flat, but to look for how to act
To not read the Bible plain, but through the lens of love
We ended with this main point: The Bible matters, but what matters most is following Jesus. And when we keep that priority and relationship right, it helps everything. So the challenge was simple this week. To go home and read your Bibles, to really dive deeply into them, to wrestle with them, and read them through the lens of love, through the lens of Jesus, and looking for things to place into action.
The truth is reading the Bible flat, plainly, or as the main priority are just immature ways of reading it. They are great starting places, but we need to grow deeper than that. And that happens through practice. So read, study, and let God guide you in that.
Big Idea: The Bible matters, but what matters most is following Jesus
Criteria for the Bible: Apostolicity, Orthodoxy, Antiquity, Catholicity or Usage
The Bible isn’t the foundation of our faith, Jesus is.
I don’t believe in Jesus because of the Bible, I believe in the Bible because of Jesus.
Scripture has a trajectory and a goal to it.
Don’t read it flat, but in light of Jesus.
Reading the Bible “plainly” or “naively” rather than deeply isn’t helpful.
Read the Bible through the Lens of Jesus
Read the Bible through the Lens of Love.
Whoever, then, thinks that he understands the Holy Scriptures, or any part of them, but puts such an interpretation upon them as does not tend to build up this twofold love of God and our neighbour, does not yet understand them as he ought. St. Augustine
Read the Bible for action and praxis.
Adult Discussion Questions:
What stuck out to you from the sermon? What was challenging to you? How did God speak to you through it? What was new? How can reading the Bible without context lead to difficulty? Which way of reading the Bible (lens of love, Jesus, or action) do you really need to focus most on? How often do you read the Bible? What are your struggles with reading the Bible? Who can help you?
Discussion Questions for Young Families
Today rather than asking questions, why not do something together. If you’re not already in the habit of reading the Bible with your kids daily – why not start? There are some great Story Bibles even for little kids like Whirl Story Bible. Pick one up and start reading.
Challenge for the Week: Read the Bible everyday this week.
Well on Sunday were are looking at something so obvious you may even wonder why we are looking at it: how to read the Bible.
At first glance this doesn’t seem to be something we need to be taught…but it is. And here is why. Because we have probably all encountered bad readings of the Bible.
This is where people use the Bible, but leave feeling like they missed the point. Or they used it poorly, or hatefully, or just plain wrong. Let’s be clear, you can use the Bible to make almost any point you want. And just because something is in the Bible, doesn’t mean just quoting it – makes it right. Just look at Satan in the temptations with Jesus; he uses the Bible as a weapon to try to actually stop him from accomplishing his mission.
So there are healthy and unhealthy ways of reading the Bible. And even though if you’ve grown up in the faith and it seems pretty straightforward, I think this could be one of the most revealing and interesting sermons all year. So I hope you can make it. I know it’s a long weekend ~ but I promise not to preach…too long 🙂
On Sunday we looked at Soteriology, or the study of how Jesus saves us. We looked at different Atonement Theories. These are theories that seek to explain how Jesus’ death and resurrection actually saves us.
So we began by looking at what’s called Ransom Theory. This is the idea that Jesus pays the price, to buy our freedom from Satan. That we are held by Satan, and Jesus is exchanged for us. This view might be familiar if you’ve ever seen or read the Lion, the Witch, and the Wardobe which is used there.
The next we looked at recapitulation. This is the view that the “Son of God became man so that we might become God” (Irenaeus). The basic idea is this; that Jesus fully participates in God, so that we might fully participate in God. And like Ransom theory this theory too has biblical support, particularly Romans 5:17-19.
And there are lots of other views including Moral Influence Theory, Governmental Theory, Satisfaction Theory, and even more. Yet we finished by focusing on the two most current or prominent views, Penal Substitutionary Atonement, and Christus Victor.
Penal Substitutionary Atonement states that Jesus took our place (substitutionary) and took on our punishment (penal). Jesus died to pay the price of our sin and disobedience to God. And since God is just and holy he abhors sin and its need to be punished. So Jesus takes on the punishment rightly deserved for us. John Calvin puts it this way, “This is our acquittal: the guilt that held us liable for punishment has been transferred to the heart of the Son of God”.
And while this view is probably the default view of evangelicalism, and quite popular, it has some issues inherent within it. For example, God, as an act of justice, punishes an innocent person, which raises questions about God’s justice. This view also traditionally sees sin in a very individualistic manner rather than systemic. This view can also lead people to fear the Father (who pours out his wrath on Jesus) rather than embrace the Father.
So while this view is very popular, and has been incredibly helpful in leading people to Jesus (myself included!) – there are some complications or questions with it. So with that understanding we then dove deeply into my preferred, or privileged atonement theory: Christus Victor.
Christus Victor in short is: A picture of God in Christ liberating humanity out of bondage from sin, death, and the devil (Derek Flood). Jesus dies, not simply as payment for sin, but to destroy death, evil, and sin. Jesus enters into the dungeon of death, and breaks its chains and leads us to resurrection.
Derek Flood continues writing,
“Christus Victor understands our salvation within the larger picture of a cosmic victory over evil. It is about our healing, and the healing of our world. This is tremendously significant because it means salvation is not simply a private religious affair, but entails putting all of life under Christ – our social, political, economic, nation and legal systems all need to reflect Christ’s way. Christus Victor captures the full scope of the redemption of both us and our world”.
And so while I personally lean toward Christus Victor, none of these atonement theories are necessarily in competition with one another. You don’t need to believe one to the exclusion of another. Michael Bird, an evangelical systematic theologian, writes this: The doctrines of penal substitution and Christus Victor do not compete against each other. And he personally holds Christus Victor as primary, yet also believes that Penal Substitutionary Atonement explains the specifics of God’s salvation.
So the main point though is that regardless of how you believe that Jesus saves us, that you believe that Jesus is the one who saves us. This is the centre.
And we ended with the main idea that Jesus’ death and resurrection has secured our freedom. Our freedom from sin, evil, injustice, death, and all that is anti-God. So we can have hope. Even if we don’t fully understand how Jesus saves us, that doesn’t stop us from experiencing his salvation!
Derek Flood writes, “What happened to Jesus was horribly unjust, and yet it was how God brought about justice. It was wrong, but God entered into that wrongness and turned it around to make things right. This is the great reversal of the cross. God enters into our darkness and makes justice come about despite injustice. God chose to make something good out of something bad. This does not mean that God condones evil and pain, but that God overcomes evil with good. It means that God can enter into all of our ugliness, evil, and hurt, and turn it around.”
And that’s he beauty of the cross. That Jesus can enter into all our ugliness, evil, and hurt and turn it around. That was our challenge on Sunday; to let God into all our evil and turn it around. That whether for the first or hundredth time to let God in, to save us, and transform us.
The essence of salvation is not to obtain something but to live with God…Salvation is not a possession but a relationship. Andrew Sung Park
Big Idea: Jesus’ death and resurrection has secured our freedom
Soteriology ~ Study of Salvation
Atonement means “at-one-ment”
We want to be unified in our belief that Jesus saves us, and allow diversity for how we believe that happens.
Ransom theory: Jesus died to ransom us back from Satan.
Recapitulation Theory: For the Son of God became man so that we might become God – Irenaeus
This is our acquittal: the guilt that held us liable for punishment has been transferred to the heart of the Son of God. John Calvin
“The justice of God is not primarily or normatively as retributive justice or a distributive justice but a restorative or reconstructive justice, a saving action by God that recreates shalom and makes things right”. Chris Marshall
Christus Victor is a picture of God in Christ liberating humanity out of bondage from sin, death, and the devil. Derek Flood
What we see Jesus doing specifically in his life (healing, freeing, forgiving); Jesus is doing universally on the cross.
What happened to Jesus was horribly unjust, and yet it was how God brought about justice. It was wrong, but God entered into that wrongness and turned it around to make things right. This is the great reversal of the cross. God enters into our darkness and makes justice come about despite injustice. God chose to make something good out of something bad. This does not mean that God condones evil and pain, but that God overcomes evil with good. It means that God can enter into all of our ugliness, evil, and hurt, and turn it around. Derek Flood
God can enter into all of our ugliness, evil, and hurt, and turn it around. Derek Flood
Adult Discussion Questions:
What stuck out to you from the sermon? What was challenging to you? How did God speak to you through it? What was new? Had you ever heard any of the theories before? Which one resonated most with you? How would you explain why and how Jesus saves us? Do you have any questions that still need answering?
Discussion Questions for Young Families
Talk to your kids about Jesus’ death and resurrection. Talk about how Jesus is stronger than even death, and how he conquered all sin, death, and evil. Ask them is there anything in your life that you need some freedom from? (Fear, worry, etc). And then pray to Jesus about it.
Challenge for the Week: Open yourself to Jesus today