People of the Second Chance

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A little while ago, I was reading the book, People of the Second Chance by Mike Foster. In it, he lists what he calls “The Five Condemnments”:

1. “I don’t deserve a second chance.”
2. “I am my shame. I am my secrets.”
3. “I will always feel and be this way.”
4. “I am defined by my worst moments.”
5. “My life, my dreams, my hopes no longer matter.”

As I interact with people, I see so many who live under these condemnments. That somehow a second chance is for others, not for them. That somehow what defines them most is their shame, failure and worst moments. They feel trapped in a cycle of no hope because yesterday was bad, so tomorrow will be bad, and they feel they deserve it. In essence, they start listening to the lies other people say about them, rather than what the Gospel says about them.

But, Jesus has a radically different promise and pronouncement for all of us. Here’s what He has to say about you:

1. “You do deserve a second chance, because I died to secure that for everyone.” (John 3:16)

2. “You aren’t your shame and secrets. You are forgiven and free.” (John 8:1-11, when Jesus encounters the woman caught in adultery).

3. “Your future isn’t full of darkness and repeats of defeat. If you believe in Me, you will have full and abundant life today.” (John 10:10)

4. “You are not defined by your worst moments, but rather by My calling on your life.” (John 21, when Jesus restores Peter after his worst moment).

5. “Your dreams do matter, because I, the Good Shepherd, know you and all that you need.” (John 10:14) – In fact, the first words of Jesus in the book of John are, “What do you want?” (John 1:38). So, your wants, dreams and desires do matter to God.

I write all this to remind you of something: The Gospel of Jesus Christ is freeing, transforming and totally life giving. The condemnments we so often live under aren’t part of living under God’s reign, love and grace.

So, today I want to remind you that if you feel like you don’t deserve a second chance – that shame owns you, that your past failures define you, that life can’t change, that your wants and desires don’t matter – than, well, Jesus begs to differ. Come and experience Him, and find that difference in your life.

Quit Keeping Score

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Today’s blog post is a little honest or vulnerable for me to write, but I think it’s important. I want to let you in on where I struggle the most…

I struggle with a deep desire to be perfect, to succeed and be good.

And, that doesn’t sound that bad on the surface. It makes me driven, it makes me get things done, it makes me be a better dad and husband in many ways. It means that I don’t tend to drop things, and I will push things forward. It means you can count on me.

It also means I carry a brutal weight around, all the time.

Because, I can’t be perfect and the truth is (while it’s awkward to say), sometimes my desire to be perfect is greater than my desire for God. This is where this becomes downright dangerous, because all of sudden what matters more is my expectations, rather than God’s. What matters most then is moving things ahead, rather then sitting with God. What matters most is perception of perfection, rather than the real, honest, messiness of life. And, what this leads to at its most base level in my life is this…

I keep a scorecard of success and losses.

While you may not personally be driven to be perfect (that may not be your struggle), what I think you can relate to is this idea of keeping score. Because I believe this “keeping score” mentality drives so much that we measure ourselves  against our brother or sister, our parent’s expectations, our co-workers, or that neighbour down the street. We measure ourselves by what “other parents do” or what “society says we should do.” And, we end up keeping score to know that we are worthwhile and meaningful.

We keep score to know that we matter.

In my desire to be perfect, I keep score all the time. But, this is just absolutely true: There is no keeping score in God’s kingdom.

Because whether you are perfect or not, whether you can keep up with your perfect sister, or that co-worker, or your perfect parent friend, you have this truth…

You are loved by God.

You are a child of God

You are redeemed by God.

I think what we need in life is less keeping score, and more submission to the fact that you matter and are already included in God’s kingdom. I write this as much for me as anyone else.

What if you gave up keeping score?

What if you gave up striving for all that stuff around you? What if you just rested in the fact that you are loved, you are okay and God is for you? What if we let that centre us and lose the scorekeeping cards? What would life look then?

Because the short answer is this: Your life would look better, wholer, and certainly more full of God. 

So, give up the scorecard this week and see how it feels to simply be accepted by God.

 

Salvation – Its Not Just About You

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We are currently in the season of Lent. This is a time when we would traditionally pay more attention to themes such as confession, sin and sacrifice. This is an important area of our lives because, as I’ve often even wrote here, sin kills things. That’s simply what it does. But, the flipside is that salvation heals things.

Here, though, is what I want to unpack today: Sin isn’t just what we do (actions), it’s also part of our systems and relationships (systemic).

Pentecostal theologian, Amos Yong at Fuller, puts it this way, “Sin itself is undeniably social in character. … Because all creation labors under the bondage of sin, human creatures struggle with sinful relationships, life systems and environments from their conception. But, if sin has this inextricably social dimension, then so has sanctification.”

He goes on to write that “the purification from sin and the consecration to holiness therefore inevitably have to involve the reconciling of alienated relations, the redemption and renewal of social structures, and the healing of the world.”

What this all means in theological jargon is this: Salvation isn’t just about you and your sins; it’s about everything in the world – that in and through Jesus’ death and sacrifice, He wants to save not only us from our personal bad actions, but also the broken relationships we have in the broken social structures around us.

What this means is that salvation isn’t only individual, it’s also relational and cosmic. Meaning it involves everything. And, this is really really good news.

Jesus is not just interested in saving you, but also in saving your broken relationships, and the broken systems in and around us. Jesus is about a salvation that involves all the different aspects of “us.” Sin has a social dimension to it, and so does sanctification or salvation. Jesus wants to save every area of brokenness in the world, including our relationships and systems.

I write all this to remind us of one thing at Lent: That, yes, the world is broken and we can see it all around us – we don’t need to deny it. Instead, we can work against it, because Jesus is interested in saving every bit of creation.

Of course, we should confess our sins and brokenness during Lent. We absolutely should invite Jesus to work in our lives – to convict us, heal us and transform us. But, we should also ask how we might partner with Him in the healing of the world, because salvation has never been about just “you,” but about all of “us.” Sin does have a social dimension to it, but redemption does too.

So, during Lent, as we focus in on our sin and brokenness, let us not forget the broken systems of the world and the relationships around us that need to change. Because, while we might sometimes forget this, Jesus certainly does not, so neither should we.

Theology 101: Soteriology ~ How Does Jesus Save Us?

1442779_37518210On 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

 

 

Sermon Notes:

Big Idea: Jesus’ death and resurrection has secured our freedom

Teaching Points:

  • 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

How Does Jesus Actually Save Us?

Well come Sunday we are going to be talking about one area of theology that has had the most discussion. It’sOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA called Soteriology – the study of salvation. And specifically we are going to be examining what is called “Atonement Theories”. These are explanations for how Jesus’ death and resurrection actually saves us. If the question is “how are we saved” ~ atonement theories try to give us some answers.

Here’s the thing though that is interesting: there is no standard answer.

The early church in the creeds developed lots of theology around Jesus, the Trinity, and lots more. But there is no standard, all encompassing, or definitive statement. What all Christians believe is that it is through Jesus Christ that we are saved. How this actually works is where there is lots of discussion.

So we want to wade into this discussion and go over some of the different alternatives, viewpoints, and theories. The hope through this is that not only will we come to a better understanding of how Jesus saves us, but that we might continue to be saved and transformed by Jesus.

So before we get there why not give this some thought. How does Jesus’ death and resurrection actually save us? And come Sunday I’ll give you my best answer

Lenten Reflections: Stations of the Cross 12

Station 12: Jesus Dies on the Cross

Written Reflection:

Jesus breathe becomes slow and ragged. He cries out in a loud voice, “Father into your hands I commend my spirit”. And his drops heavily onto his chest, and his spirit and body shudder and Jesus dies. Look up to him hanging on the cross. Look up see the pain, the hurt, the disgrace. Look up and see our salvation. As you look share with him any of your deepest fears, needs, or hurts. Because this is a God who understands loss, hope, pain, and hurt. Share with our savior

Faith is Trust in Action

On Sunday we talked about how faith is really trust. It’s an active trust in Jesus. Brennan Manning writes this;

“If a random sample of one thousand American Christians were taken today, the majority would define faith as belief in the existence of God. In earlier times – almost nobody took that for granted. Rather, faith had to do with one’s relationship to God – whether one trusted in God. The difference between faith as “belief in something that may or may not exist” and faith as “trusting in God” is enormous. The first is a matter of the head, the second a matter of the heart.”

That’s what we explored, the matter of the heart trusting in Jesus. The point isn’t to believe that there is a God out there. The point is to have active trust in the person of Jesus as the Son of God who gives us life through his grace and gift. This is the point of being an apprentice to trust in Jesus. But this type of trust isn’t intellectual assent, or rational agreement. This is the type of trust with action, with movement, that actually has feet. Meaning that this type of trust needs to change how we live. That’s the whole point, that what we truly trust in we need to act on.

So I ended with this challenge and I think it’s a good challenge for anyone. To ask ourselves: What is one way we can actively trust Jesus this week? What is one thing we can do to act on our trust?

And depending on where you are at with Jesus what he might tell you is different. But I know he will be telling us all to take a step, and to take action. Because that’s what faith is – trust in action.

Sermon Notes:

Big Idea: The heart of an apprentice is active trust

Take Aways…

  • The most crucial challenge for the church is whether or not we will become disciples of Jesus.
  • The world needs more people living like Jesus
  • Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. Jesus Matthew 7:24
  • Can you say, “I know my next step to grow…”?
  • Faith is active trust in something, or someone.
  • Being an apprentice of Jesus starts with trusting in him
  • The difference between faith as “belief in something that may or may not exist” and faith as “trusting in God” is enormous. The first is a matter of the head, the second a matter of the heart.” – Brennan Manning

Adult / Group Discussion Questions: What do you think the greatest challenge facing the church is? Where is your relationship with God right now – are you exploring him, growing with him, close to him, or centred on him? What is your next step to grow? What next step do you need to take to put your trust into action? What might Jesus be asking you to do? What is faith to you?

Discussion Questions for Young Families: Take a moment to talk with you kids about “faith”. Say how it is like trusting, that just as how your kids trust you to provide for them, help them, guide them, by actively trusting – asking for help – and obeying. That trusting Jesus is like that. Ask them if they would like to trust Jesus or if they do.

Challenge for this Week:

Find one way to actively trust Jesus this week