Christianity 201

December 11, 2016

The Incarnation of Christ…For Atonement and More

by Russell Young

The Christmas season is upon us and with it the celebration of God’s gift to humankind–the incarnation of the Son of God– the birth of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.  Unfortunately, the fullness of God’s gift is seldom recognized.  God became flesh and dwelt among us. The great gift that the Father gave the world was not merely an appropriate propitiation for sin, but a means of destroying “the works of the devil” (1 Jn 3:8 NIV) in all his practices and with all of his effect.

It is true that Christ came to reveal God to humankind, and that he came as a propitiation for sin, but he also came to return those who would accept his ministry back to the image in which humans had been created…into the likeness of God. (Gen 1:27; Rom 8:29)

Satan’s evil work is not brought to completion by a person’s redemption from his or her past sins, but will be destroyed when he is no longer able to exercise his power or influence in the lives of those who are believing. Redemption from sins committed while under the jurisdiction of the first covenant (Heb 9:15) did not accomplish a person’s deliverance into the kingdom of God; it did not destroy the work of the devil.  Paul wrote, “He redeemed us in order that the blessing given Abraham might come to the Gentiles through Christ Jesus, so that by faith we might receive the promise of the Spirit. (Gal 3:14 NIV) The incarnation of our Lord allowed for his perfect sacrifice, redeemed believers from the curse of the law (Gal 3:13), and provided them with the Spirit so that they might gain victory over the practice of sin through his enlightenment, leading and power. The Spirit is the presence of the Lord in the believer (2Cor 3:17, 18; Col 1:27) and it is the Spirit who provides for the believer’s eternal salvation.  “[F]rom the beginning God chose you to be saved through the sanctifying work of the Spirit and through belief in the truth.” (2 Thess 2:13 NIV; Titus 3: 5─6)

The Lord had to be incarnated so that he might truly know the human condition.  Knowing the temptations that afflict humankind allows him to mediate for them and to make them acceptable for the kingdom of God. (Rom 15:16)  “[H]e had to be made like his brothers in every way in order that he might become a faithful high priest…because he himself suffered when he was tempted, he is able to help those who are tempted. (Heb 2:17…18 NIV) He not only knew the human condition through experience, he also suffered through it and became victorious over it.  Now as Spirit he can use this understanding to provide victory for those who are undergoing suffering through temptations. This understanding should provide encouragement that each believer can overcome ungodly attractions but it also needs to cause the person undergoing temptation to be sober of thought and of heart knowing that his or her judge will be the very one who had already won victory over the temptations that plague them and he is in them. It is through the knowledge gained as the Lord walked this earth in the flesh that he is able to defeat the devil’s work in the believer. “Christ in you the hope of glory.” (Col 1:27 NIV)

A limited perspective of the need of Christ’s incarnation will result in failure to give him the glory, honour, and love that he deserves. Christ came into the world to end the first covenant and to allow access to the New Covenant (Heb 9:15), the covenant of the Spirit, so that God’s righteous, eternal kingdom could be established through his life in the believer.

The Son of Man will send out his angels, and they will weed out of his kingdom everything that causes sin and all who do evil.” (Mt 13:40 NIV) The knowledge that the Lord gained through his incarnated life is available to enable believers to refrain from causing sin and from doing evil by succumbing to temptation in their time of need. The Lord will hand over the righteous kingdom—the completed creation–to the Father when Satan’s influence has been removed.

The baby in the manger was not just a baby, but God come in the flesh to redeem a lost world and a helpless people for himself.  In the Christmas child lies all hope for humankind, and all hope for the completion of God’s creation plan.  In him is the source of righteousness, the end of strife and pain and death.  Through him a holy people will be found, made suitable for God’s presence. Through Christ the devil and his lies and deceit will be brought to nought for those who are in him and who are obedient to his calls upon their lives.

The believer should not be content to relish the thought of what Christ did for him or her, but should humbly kneel before him and glorify him for what he is doing each day that he or she draws breath.  Christ is not only the atonement for sin, he is the life that provides eternal hope. The trinkets of Christmas should not be allowed to displace the wonder of God’s mercy and of his priceless gift of the babe whose birth is the hope of the world and should be the true cause of celebration and the true celebration.


eternal-salvation-russell-youngCheck out Russell Young’s book now in print and eBook — Eternal Salvation: “I’m Okay! You’re Okay!” Really? available through Westbow Publishing, Amazon, and Barnes and Noble; and in Canada through Chapters/Indigo.  9781512757514 $17.99 US


November 22, 2016

God is Bigger than our Churches

When he has done this, then the Son himself will be made subject to him who put everything under him, so that God may be all in all.
  I Cor 15:58

God did this so that they would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from any one of us. For in him we live and move and have our being.’ As some of your own poets have said, ‘We are his offspring.’
Acts 17:27,28

 

This is from Franciscan author and teacher Richard Rohr, whose writing is very popular right now among Christians from a variety of tribes. I don’t have the original link for this piece, but you can read current meditations by him at The Center for Action and Contemplation.

Bigger Than Christianity

The “Christ Mystery” is much bigger than Christianity as an organized religion. If we don’t understand this, Christians will have little ability to make friends with, build bridges to, understand, or respect other religions or the planet. Jesus did not come to create a country club or a tribe of people who could say, “We’re in and you’re out. We’ve got the truth and you don’t.” Jesus came to reveal something that was true everywhere, for everyone, and all the time.

Many Christians have a very limited understanding of Jesus’ historical or social message, and almost no understanding of the Cosmic Christ—even though it is taught clearly in Scripture (see John 1, Colossians 1, Ephesians 1, 1 John 1, Hebrews 1:1). Christ is often taught at the very beginning of Paul’s and other New Testament authors’ writings, yet we still missed it. But you can’t see what you were never told to look for. Once you do see the shape and meaning of this cosmic mystery of Divine Incarnation, you’ll be able to see that the Presence is everywhere—and the archetypal Jesus will not be such an anomaly, accident, or surprise.

God is saving everything and everybody, it is all God’s emerging victory, until, as Paul says, “God will be all in all” (1 Corinthians 15:28). If Christ is truly the “savior of the world” (see John 4:42), then God’s shape, form, meaning, and message are all far bigger than any single religion. Talking to the intellectual Athenians, Paul is wise enough to say: “God is not far from any of us. It is in him [sic] that we live and move and have our very being” (Acts 17:28).

St. Augustine writes that through love we come to be in “the frame of the body of Christ” so that in the end “there shall be one Christ, loving himself.” [1] You are chosen in Christ (see Ephesians 1:4), and the purpose of being chosen is to let everyone else know that they too are chosen! We are not making a triumphal statement about the Christian religion here, but we are making a triumphal statement about the nature of Divine Love—which will finally win the day!

Loving both Jesus and the Christ is essential to a Christian’s growth and transformation. You might begin with one or the other, but eventually you should be drawn to love both. Too many Christians have started and stopped with Jesus, never coming to know the Universal Christ. Many who are not Christian have started with the Christ by some other name—after all, there is only One God, One Love. I have met Hindus and Jews who live happily and fruitfully inside this hidden Christ Mystery, and I have met many Roman Catholics and Protestants who are running away from any notion of an all-pervading, loving Presence. Their stinginess and exclusivity gives it away.

You can have the right words and not the right experience, whereas if you enjoy the right experience, the right words are of much less importance. God did not become Incarnate Love in the universe to create “word police” and debating societies.