Friday, December 26, 2008

THE HEART OF THE GOSPEL:THIS IS A FAITHFUL SAYING, AND WORTHY OF ALL ACCEPTATION, THAT CHRIST JESUS CAME INTO THE WORLD TO SAVE SINNERS


John MacArthur on "The Ugliness of Christmas"

I don't agree with MacArthur, that there is any spiritual beauty in Christmas, because Christ-mass is the invention of the Roman Catholic church in its attempt to gain converts by syncretizing paganism with their dead orthodoxy. I cringe when I hear the story of Christ's birth referred to as "The Christmas Story", because the Christmas Story is the story of the history of the Roman Catholic church and its attempt to entice the whole world into a spiritually dead entity by creating a "holyday" (holiday) for some very unholy, and spiritually dead people.

The early church did not celebrate Christ's birth. Their focus was on His death and what it meant to them: new life in Christ and the death of their sinful flesh. But what MacArthur says about Christ's purpose for coming to earth is right on: Jesus Christ came into this world to save us from our sin. If you miss this truth, you miss everything. All four of the gospels mention Christ's death, but only two of them His birth. I think that says something about how we should spend our time. In our culture, the whole month of December , and sometimes even most of November is spent preparing for and joining in various Christmas festivities. I believe it is high time true followers of Christ take a careful look at their involvement in these activities, and ask themselves if it is a true reflection of their faith, if the time spent is a true reflection of their love for Christ. I can't help but believe that it detracts from the message of the cross, or rather eclipses it. Some will say that we have Easter for that. But once again, Easter (Astarte/Ishtar) is the syncretization of paganism and dead orthodoxy, and then it is only for the span of three days. How disproportionate compared to the time we focus on His birth each year. The true Christian church has been duped into following in the footsteps of the Roman Catholic church once again.

I was having a conversation with my husband today about how we and other Christians have allowed ourselves to be swallowed up by our culture. It is a very gradual process, being barely perceptible. It has been rather interesting for me to note that since I have abandoned the celebrations of Christmas and Easter in our home, that living the crucified life has become much more important; or maybe it is the other way around, that learning the significance of Christ's death for me, and the necessity of living a crucified life myself, that the attractions of these two seasons has been lost to me. I have actually experienced a real freedom in this; and not only that, I have found I have many more opportunities to witness to people I see everyday when they ask me if I am ready for Christmas (or Easter, if that is the time of year). The question we need to be asking people is whether or not they have dealt with their sin, and whether or not they are ready to face Christ. I see the majority of Christians these days la-de-da-ing through life as if there is no eternity, so caught up with this world that they have become ineffective in their ability to witness the truth to those around them. We are kidding ourselves if we think we can follow in the pattern of the world and have any true impact. I hate that phrase, "He (or she) is so heavenly minded he is of no earthly good". That is a phrase that contradicts Scripture. We are supposed to set our minds , hearts and affections on things above, not on things of the earth.

As this season is coming to a close, let us examine whether or not we are truly focusing on what is important about the Christian life. I have come to learn that the Christian life is first and foremost a cross-centered life. We must first of all come to the cross, and then we must stay there until Christ calls us home. We cannot lead others to the cross if we have wandered away from it ourselves. If you have found yourself in this situation, I call you to ask God to give you a fresh view of your soul. Look intently into the Word, let it be your mirror, and agree with God about what He says about your condition. Remember that apart from Christ there is no good thing that dwells within you.

There is a beauty in the cross, in that it deals thoroughly with our sin, the very ugliness of our own souls. When you understand this, you will cling to the cross, carrying it with you wherever you go. As we enter a new year, it is my prayer that you will carry the cross as your standard; that you will experience the true freedom and joy that comes from living the crucified life so that you can look forward to seeing Christ face to face with great anticipation, and upon seeing Him hear those wonderful words, "Well done, thou good and faithful servant".

For further reading: THE FOOT OF THE CROSS
by Octavius Winslow, 1864.

From the preface ~

"It is finished!" -but what mortal dare
In that triumph hope to share?
Savior, to Your cross I flee;
Say, It is finished! and for me.

"Then will I sing, The cross! the cross!
And count all other gain but loss;
I'll sing the cross, and to Your tree
Cling evermore, blessed Calvary!

2 comments:

lamouriaam said...

The Image
I agree that Christ came into the world to deliver us from sin, but He did that by doing something else. What do you think about this?
Jesus said, "The Son of Man came to seek and save that which was lost." (literally-"Apolwlos" without an article or an object). Luke 19:10
Zaccheus was a small man of no intrinsic stature and little integrity in any. Besides this and very important was the fact that he was a Jew. Jewish Law was very strict when it came to integrity and relationships with others. Zaccheus had all but disowned his heritage in order to gain for himself a stature of dignity that he did not see in himself otherwise. He desired power, position and wealth over humility, dignity, and faithfulness. He had abandoned his primary calling as a Jew to Glorify God in his life.
In response to questions about Jesus' association with Zaccheus, Jesus says that he came to seek and save what was lost. What was lost was not humanity. Infact, humanity had taken over and continued to produce nothing but depravity in it's broken state. The issue is that humans were not created simply to display humanness; they were created to display God's glory. After the fall, however, man could never do that without the direct intervention of God.
Jesus had to come as a human, or "the God-man", because he had to restore the Image of God in man that had been lost.
Jesus came to seek and save His own Image in His Creation. That is the mystery of Christ's Righteousness covering us. The Father does not see us, but He sees the Son if we are saved.
Jesus had to redeem the Image though, as a human, in order for humanity to be redeemed as an Image Bearing vessel.
What does this imply was Jesus' main mission? Well, if we properly translate the great commission, "AS YOU GO into all the world, make disciples...", the emphasis isn't on evangelism as it would be if it actually did say, "Go into all the world...". The emphasis is on making disciples. Colossians 3:10 says that we are being renewed in the knowledge in the Image of our Creator. Ephesians 4:11-13 says, "It was he who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers, to prepare God's people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ."
Again, for us too, the emphasis is on making disciples, mature believers who are being built up, unified, gaining knowledge of and attaining to the fullness of the measure of Christ(not perfection; rather a holistic identity). That is what Paul says is the reason why God gave us these spiritual gifts. He does the saving as we go, it is our responsibility to promote the growth the right way so that God is glorified as the end result. This is why I say again that evangelism is not the purpose of the Church. It is a mandate. The Purpose is to glorify God through the proper stewardship of the Image that He redeemed, evangelism will naturally flow out from this as we live accordingly, but the central focus is no longer man's salvation, but God's glory.

BONNIE said...

lamouriaam:

Thank you for your comment. I heartily agree that our purpose is to glorify God, and that our mandate or mission is evangelism, not the other way around.

I think you have made the whole salvation issue more complicated than it is however. Where in Scripture does it say that God needs to redeem His image in man? This doesn’t appear to me to be a Scriptural concept. I also find it hard to understand why it is necessary to make a distinction between humanity and the "Image" within humanity. I don’t see anywhere in Scripture that supports this idea. (What is the purpose of capitalizing the letter “i”? Are you saying that the “Image” within man is Christ? Does an unredeemed Christ dwell within all people, within all of humanity, even those who are not born again by the Spirit of God?). ALL of God’s creation (the universe, including mankind) continues to bear His image, although it is marred by sin. Psalm 19:1 -“The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands.” Psalm 97:6 - “The heavens proclaim his righteousness, and all the peoples see his glory.” The heavens continue to tell the glory of God after the fall of man, and man is still in His image (a tripartite being). Nowhere in Scripture does it say that the image in which man was created was lost.

I am a little confused about some of your statements. You said, "I agree that Christ came into the world to deliver us from sin, but He did that by doing something else.” Are you saying that He delivers us from sin by doing something else (something other than His death of the cross), or that by delivering us from sin He also did something else (that by delivering us we can once again give Him the glory He is worthy of, which while in this body of sin we still only do in a limited sense)?

When you say “humanity had taken over and continued to produce nothing but depravity in it's broken state”, you are contradicting your previous statement, in which you say, “What was lost was not humanity.” If humanity produced nothing but depravity in its broken state, that would be evidence that it is lost, would it not?

You said, “Jesus had to redeem the Image though, as a human, in order for humanity to be redeemed as an Image Bearing vessel”. I have a question for you: has all of humanity been redeemed? Jesus has made atonement for all of mankind, but only those who by faith repent and receive His gift of salvation are redeemed in His sight. He covers those who have repented and received this gift with His righteousness, but all of humanity is not now considered righteous.

You also said, “He does the saving as we go”. The new birth is a one-time event. The time leading up to the new birth may be a process, just as the process of a woman being in labour before her baby is born. You come by faith to the cross initially at a certain place in time. From then on you continue to rely on God for on-going cleansing as He reveals areas in our lives which need correction. Our sanctification is an on-going process, just as the growth to maturity is in a human being, but the new-birth is an event. If you have truly been born again, you cannot get “unborn”.

It is true that we are to be conformed to the image of Christ, but this is referring to His character. You are correct in saying that it is an identification with Christ. It is not an assimilation of His personhood. We become more Christ-like in our character as we are sanctified by the Holy Spirit as He corrects us and directs us.

Lastly, God did not redeem HIS IMAGE in us who are saved, He redeemed US. We will receive a full redemption, including our physical bodies, at a future time. We now have the Holy Spirit who is the promise of that guarantee.

I find it a little odd that you have found it necessary to make salvation rather complicated by making a distinction between the person (human) and that part of his person which you call the “image”. The gospel message is a simple thing. In 2 Corinthians 11 Paul warns against being corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ. Let us not endeavour to make something complicated which God has made simple. Christ died to save sinners from their sin. For this and all things we are to give Him the glory, for that is the chief end of man.