5/28/2011

Christ: Revealing God and Reconciling His People to Him

One problem in theology especially confuses me. This is not a big surprise. I am not a professional theologian and have no formal seminary training. Yet, theology is a passion for me because I know a little of what God is like, and I know how little of God’s character I reflect. In this post, I will set up the problem and suggest one possible solution.


God is holy. This means He is separate and different from me, primarily in the fact that He is completely without sin or sinful desires. My understanding of God’s holiness comes mainly from reading and studying the life of Jesus.

I can see out into the expanse of Christ’s life by looking through the window provided in the New Testament of the Bible. I have read this collection of 27 books many times.

I have rarely questioned whether these records were true, at first because of the fact that the people I respected held the New Testament to be God’s Word and without error. Later I had the opportunity to explore the evidence for the basic truthfulness of the New Testament documents for myself. I accepted The New Testament as true for my own reasons without depending on the testimony of others. (For a summary of some of that evidence, please see this link.)

The New Testament presents a terrifying picture of what holiness because it shows us the Person of Christ. Christ shows knowledge beyond that expected of a human (John 1:48-49). He heals the sick (Matt. 15:29-31). He stops the wind and the waves (Mark 4:35-41). He raises the dead (John 11:38-44). He teaches the most strict version of morality I have seen, including actions and attitudes of the heart (Matt. 5-7, Mark 7:14-23). He accepts worship (Matt. 16:16-17, Luke 5:8, John 9:38, John 20:28-29). Moreover, and certainly not least, He rose from the dead Himself (1 Cor. 15:1-8). (For scholars' defenses of the resurrection, please see this link.)

Christ claimed to be God (John 8:58, John 10:30). He convinced a group of Jewish monotheists that He was God in the Flesh (Phil. 2:5-11). (For a scholar’s view of reasons to believe Jesus is God, see this link.)

Why is this so scary? He created the world (John 1:1-5) and holds it together (Col. 1:16-17). As my creator, He has the right to tell me what to do, and He requires perfect obedience (Matt. 5:48). He teaches that sin requires an eternal punishment (Mark 9:42-50).

In the words of Phillip Yancey, He is resurrected and “out there running around loose somewhere,” capable of upending all of my plans and dreams at any time. And He has reason to do exactly that in view of my sin.

However, the story does not end there. We see Christ promising to reconcile people to God by taking away their sins (Matt. 20:28, Luke 24:46-49, John 3:10-21, John 14:6-7). We learn of the marvelous chance to take credit for what He has done for us by placing our trust in Him (Luke 18:9-14). We see the picture of God’s action: “in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them” by making “[Christ] to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” (2 Cor. 5:21).

I am confused about this one thing: How could a God so perfect and holy love me, a professional sinner?

The atonement, what Christ did for us on the cross, is a partial explanation for that love. The idea is that God could love His people because He sees their sin as paid for by Christ's suffering on the cross. He sees them as having Christ’s righteousness credited to their account.

Many within the church obscure this marvelous, incomprehensible love of a holy God. I read books that treat the atonement as a kind of overarching story without explaining any of the particulars. I read and hear sermons that hide God’s holiness, His requirements, and man’s sinfulness under a mountain of practical advice and modern psychological methods. I find Sunday School materials that omit God’s requirements and holy nature while pointing to the example of God’s love, leaving much of God’s character unexpressed. I find intellectuals who bury the simplicity of the gospel under a mountain of technical jargon and obtuse arguments over fine points of archaic “theories” that have often been rejected by the church in most of history.

Only Christianity even begins to explain God’s holiness and God’s love at the same time. Why do we hide our uniqueness under the mundane?

We see a light that blinds us in its intensity and permanently changes the way we see. Why do we hide this light, the very light of the world, under a bushel? Why do we hide the very words that could gain a hearing from the world and the cultures we live in?

God, have mercy on us because of Christ. Grant that we would be overwhelmed with your claims and your actions. Give us a change of heart that overflows into the lives of those around us.

12 comments:

Steve Martin said...

"I am confused about this one thing: How could a God so perfect and holy love me, a professional sinner?"

I have a son who doesn't want to get with the program. He is a souce of a lot of pain and grief to me. But I love him more than I can say.

The wonderful thing about Jesus is that the one who died for us, is the same One who will be judging us.

I find that fact very comforting, and I think you do as well.

Thanks, J.K..

LPC said...

How could a God so perfect and holy love me, a professional sinner?

I also do not know the answer to that too. I just live day to day that God loved us this way - he sent his son to die for our sins.

I find it hard to explain but I treat it like I treat water. I do not know how it quenches my thirst and could not explain the mechanics how, but I know I need it and would die without it.

So I guess the benefits of that love I just gratefully enjoy.

LPC

J. K. Jones said...

Steve,

Sorry to hear about your son. We wil add him to the prayer list at our church.

The post was intended to show my reliance on Jesus, but I may have gotten carried away by the extensive Scriputre references I tried to use.

Thanks for your comment.

JK

J. K. Jones said...

Lito,

Good to have you back!

Great analogy with water. The Gospel slakes my thrist as well.

Praise be to Christ, who takes away the sins of the world.

JK

Steve Martin said...

Thanks, J.K..

I really appreciate it.

I just want to relate how much we love our own kids, even when they cause us grief.

That's how a perfect God can love "professional sinners" (I love the term!)

Anonymous said...

"I am confused about this one thing: How could a God so perfect and holy love me, a professional sinner?"

Because man invented god so he would have pat answers for difficult questions. With the Hope that nobody realizes the "answers" don't really explain anything and only lead to more difficult and more complex questions than the original.


"I have a son who doesn't want to get with the program. He is a souce of a lot of pain and grief to me. But I love him more than I can say."

Good for him! Both for his unwillingness to be "Programmed" and for your continued love for him. I hope he continues to ask questions and finds the self respect to break free of a belief system that teaches people they are born solely to be tortured and utterly deserving of that fate unless they worship the same mythical bogeyman as their parents.


"I find it hard to explain but I treat it like I treat water. I do not know how it quenches my thirst and could not explain the mechanics how, but I know I need it and would die without it."

You don't have to live in ignorance. There is evidence, you can verify for yourself, that explains how your body uses water.

J. K. Jones said...

Anonymous,

I have presented plenty of evidence and argument all over this blog. Feel free to engage those arguments on those posts if you have the intellect and the time.

Since you are in the habit of making assertions without presenting arguments, I will make a few of my own.

God's existence is as plain as the nose on your face. You make up a world without God so that you do not have to be accountable to Him.

I hope you find the self-respect to break free of a belief system that requires you to live with the idea that life has no ultimate meaning and moral behaviors have no ultimate consequences.

JK

Anonymous said...

Handwaiving me off to links of other peoples apologetic arguments, and I don't have the intellect? HA.


Assert away.

"God's existence is as plain as the nose on your face."

If this was true there would only be one world religion.

Anonymous said...

"The atonement, what Christ did for us on the cross, is a partial explanation for that love. The idea is that God could love His people because He sees their sin as paid for by Christ's suffering on the cross. "



http://realevang.wordpress.com/2011/07/27/william-lane-craig-and-substitutionary-atonement/

J. K. Jones said...

Anonymous,
“Handwaiving me off to links of other peoples apologetic arguments, and I don't have the intellect?”

I have given many reasons during the course of this conversation for the truth of my faith as opposed to all of the others. I have given many arguments elsewhere on this blog.

I refer people to other sites run by experts because I am not one. There is nothing wrong with that despite your assertion that there is. Most researchers cite sources in their papers.


“If this was true there would only be one world religion.”

No, there would not. Man’s heart is what John Calvin called an idol factory. We make up new deities, or the lack thereof, in order to met the felt needs of our hearts.

Substitutionary atonement is discussed at length on other threads on this blog. I would refer you to any of the posts under the Christ’s Cross search label.

JK

Anonymous said...

"No, there would not. Man’s heart is what John Calvin called an idol factory. We make up new deities, or the lack thereof, in order to met the felt needs of our hearts."

I'm glad you agree that all deities are made up.

J. K. Jones said...

Anonymous,

You failed to note that I said that the lack of a deity could be made up as well. I think you are making up a universe without a God in which to enjoy yourself without being held accountable. You probably think I am making up a God as a form of wish fulfillment (avoiding death, calming storms, etc.).

The point is the ‘argument’ that Christianity is a form of wish fulfillment cuts both ways. It is not an argument; it is an explanation. You can explain religion, and I can explain atheism. We could go on like this for a long time, trading what amount to be insults.

You could look at it like this: I just believe in one more God than you do.

I had rather move on to positive evidence for the truth of Christianity. For some of the evidence for God’s existence, please see the search label “God Is: The Series.” For good evidence that Christianity is true above all other world religions, please see the search label “The Argument from Scripture.”

JK

Search This Blog