“Like cold water to a thirsty soul, so is good news from a far country.” —Proverbs 25:25
The Son, who was sent forth by the Father to redeem us (John 1:14-18), is none other than the One who eternally enjoyed communion with the Father (John 1:1, 18). Not only that, but he also fulfilled all the Father’s will with every breath he took from the moment he was conceived to the very second he died. The good news of the Gospel is that when that faithful Son became man, his communion with the Father became incarnate, and along with his incarnation perfect obedience to the Father permanently lodged itself within the human race. In the incarnate Son, thirst-quenching communion with the Father and perfect obedience to His holy will burst into the far country of our alienation from the Father (see Luke 15:13 and Proverbs 25:25).
Through the incarnation, Jesus (who is fully God and fully man in his one Person) became not merely the means but the place—the locale—where communion with and obedience to the Father happens in all its unimaginable fullness. It is only in the Person of Christ that God and man finally meet in loving communion. The understated good news of the gospel is that the humanity of Jesus has become our communion with and obedience to his Father. Only in Jesus can true radical obedience and unending loving communion be found.
The Son of God came into the far country of our estrangement, not as an outsider or a detached observer, but as a true man among men, like us in every respect yet without sin (Hebrews 2:17; 4:15). James B. Torrance explains it this way:
Christ does not heal us by standing over against us, diagnosing our sickness, prescribing medicine for us to take, and then going away, to leave us to get better by obeying his instructions—as an ordinary doctor might. No, he becomes the patient! He assumes that very humanity which is in need of redemption, and by being anointed by the Spirit in our humanity, by a life of perfect obedience for us, by dying and rising again, our humanity is healed in him.
By being “born of a woman” (Galatians 4:4), the Son of God journeyed into the far country that he might heal us of our estrangement and conflict with God from within his own Person. Jesus wasn’t merely the means of our reconciliation. He was the Place of our reconciliation to the Father. As soon as Jesus was conceived by the Spirit in the virgin womb of Mary, the healing and sanctifying of our humanity began. When Jesus said, “I am the resurrection and the life” (John 11:25), he was not merely referring to what he was about to do with Lazarus in the tomb, nor to what he would eventually do in his death and resurrection, but to the entirety of his incarnate life. Jesus was the Resurrection and the Life from the moment he was conceived in the virgin womb all the way to his resurrection from the dead and forever beyond. It was from that very moment that he began to heal and sanctify our humanity—to progressively bring his resurrection power to bear upon all our inability, estrangement and disobedience—from the inside out.
By being “born under the law” (Galatians 4:4), Jesus lived out a life of perfect communion with the Father in our place, as our substitute. What we did not do in the Garden of Eden—lovingly obey and commune with the Father—and what we do not do now, Jesus did for us in the far country outside the Garden in his incarnate Person that he might bring us home to the Father in himself. Jesus’ humanity has become the place of our communion with God. In his humanity, Jesus actually became Eden restored and expanded for us. By virtue of his union with us and our subsequent union with him by the Spirit, we are amazingly and wonderfully brought to participate in his very own knowing of the Father. The almost-too-good-to-be-true good news of the Gospel is that Jesus is where our live-giving, life-changing, thirst-quenching communion with the Father happens, and Jesus is the only place where it happens.
To read more on the life-giving, life-changing, thirst-quenching good news of communion with the Father, here are a few books you should get:
Come hear adult adoptees Angela Tucker, Nemili Johnson, and Tara VanderWoude at our November 5-7 conference at The Summit Church in Durham, NC. We’re excited that all three of them are giving main session talks, participating in a main session adult adoptee panel, and leading workshops. Click here to learn more about this year’s conference. Will you join us?
Click here to learn more about this year’s conference.
Join JD Greear (pictured above), Tony Merida, Dr. Sharen Ford, Brandon Hatmaker, Angela Tucker, John Sowers, and many more November 5-7 for Together for Adoption 2015 at The Summit Church in Durham, North Carolina. Click here to learn more.
Blog post written by Scott Crawford, T4A Conference Coordinator
It is our pleasure to announce that — after months of working on this — we have enlisted a team of ASL (American Sign Language) interpreters for T4A. They will be available for all the main sessions, workshops as well as serve as language facilitators in the childcare areas. Here is the statement from the director of Signs for Hope, Becky Lloyd:
After my initial contact from Scott Crawford about the possibility of securing an ASL interpreter for his deaf son, Luke, during the upcoming T4A conference in November, I began to ask about the possibility of securing additional ASL interpreters for the entire conference to give access to Deaf pastors and Deaf lay-leaders across the southeast. Scott felt this would be an awesome opportunity to give these folks the ability to benefit from some of the best teachings in this area of ministry and I set out to secure qualified ASL interpreters for this event as I have done for multiple Empowered to Connect conferences across the US and two CAFO conferences over the past 5 years. I am pleased to inform you we now have ample qualified ASL interpreters secured for T4A 2015. Be assured we are praying God will bless this event for His glory and cannot wait to see how God will work in every aspect of it.
Join us this November 5-7 for Together for Adoption Conference 2015. Visit the conference website to learn more.
As God, Jesus is himself the definitive Giver of God’s words. Only God can give God’s words. God’s words originate with God. He decides how they will be given to us or to angels.
As man, Jesus is the perfect Receiver of God’s words. Man was created to be the receiver. God gives life and breath. We receive both. God gives love and gifts. We receive them. God is the Giver; man is the receiver.
But here’s what’s unique about Jesus. Truly, he is one of a kind. There is—nor will there ever be—another Jesus. Since Jesus is both fully God and fully man, he alone Gives as God and Receives as man in his one Person.
As the God-man, Jesus is the definitive Giver and the Perfect Receiver. If Jesus is not both fully God and fully man in his one Person, there is no Gospel for us. If Jesus in only God speaking to us, we stand judged and forever sentenced to eternal condemnation. If Jesus in only man hearing and receiving God’s words to us, we will forever be prodigals, with no hope of a party in the Father’s House. For there to be Gospel for us, Jesus must be both fully God and fully man in his one Person.
This should be the paradigm through which we preach, study, interpret and apply the words of God, and listen to the preached Word as we gather as the children of God on the Lord’s Day.
If we neglect either side of the “equation” (Jesus is fully God or Jesus is fully man) or overlook the miraculous reality that Jesus is fully both in his one Person, we’ll ultimately lose hope. As Christians we are quick to affirm, “there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus” (1 Tim. 2:5), but for Jesus to be mediator means much more than he stands between God and us. It means, stunningly, that he is the one and only Mediator in his one Person, since in his one Person he is fully God and fully man at the same time—all the time.
Unfortunately, and terribly so, we sometimes conjure up Jesus as mediator with this kind of image in our head: we picture God looking down on us from above (whatever “above” means) and picture ourselves desperately looking up for some serious help. Fortunately for us, we think, Jesus stands between God and us. Jesus’ right hand is holding his Father’s right hand and Jesus’ left hand is tightly grabbing our right hand (and with our left hand we’re clamping onto his left hand’s wrist just to make sure we don’t slip from his grasp).
But that’s not the way the Gospel works! If you have that image in your head, or one similar, banish and replace it with Gospel Truth.
But Jesus is Mediator in the following way or in no way:
Regardless of the words of God given to man, “[Jesus] fulfills all righteousness by being the truly obedient human being. Here at last is a human that hears the word of God and obeys it perfectly. Jesus is thus the God who speaks the creating work at the beginning. He is the God who speaks now the new-creating word. He is himself the message of that word, and he is the faithful hearer of the word…[To preach] this way [God] justifies us as we struggle to preach faithfully, and he justifies the congregation as they struggle to listen faithfully” (Graeme Goldsworthy, Preaching the Whole Bible as Christian Scripture, p.43).
So how should Jesus as Mediator serve as the lens through which we read the words of God? For example, what should we do with these verses?
“Do not withhold good from those to whom it is due, when it is in your power to do it. Do not say to your neighbor, ‘Go, and come again, tomorrow I will give it’—when you have it with you” (Proverbs 3:27-28).
“Open your mouth for the mute, for the rights of all who are destitute. Open your mouth, judge righteously, defend the rights of the poor and needy” (Proverbs 31:8-9).
“He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the LORD require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?” (Micah 6:8).
“Jesus said to him, ‘If you would be perfect, go, sell what you possess and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me’” (Matthew 19:21).
“Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world” (James 1:27).
“Only, they asked us to remember the poor, the very thing I was eager to do” (Galatians 2:10).
If we do not understand Jesus as Mediator as I’ve explained above, we’re very likely to grow terribly weary in well-doing (or frightening self-righteous in our do-gooding). Who of us can measure up to the meager handful of commands I provided above? Is there any one of us who can face those commands head-on and come out the other side unscathed? Not a one of us; unless, of course, we have a Mediator who is both fully God and fully man in his own Person.
Consider the following profoundly encouraging words as you seek simply to obey the words of God to you:
“[T]he neglect of Jesus’ human response [as our Mediator] to the Father has catastrophe consequences. The reason is that a failure to give appropriate attention to the vicarious humanity of Jesus means that everything, the whole of the Christian faith, life and ministry are not cast back on to us to do. At the last moment, it turns out, we are dependent on our faith, our worship, our obedience and so on, rather than on Jesus’ response for us. While our responses of course have their valid place, they are not the axis on which the gospel turns. Rather, Jesus is the axis on which the gospel turns. The resurrection of Jesus is the assurance that Jesus not only stood in for us while he lived, but that he stands in for us still, today and tomorrow and forever, offering us — who we are and what we do — in himself to the Father. Our lives, our worship and our ministries, as well as our prayers are given to the Father ‘through Jesus Christ our Lord’” (Andrew Purves, The Resurrection of Ministry: Serving in the Hope of the Risen Lord, p.101).
According to John 1:1-3, ultimate reality is not found in a single, solitary person, but in a fellowship of persons. The one who was with God and who also was God is none other than the Son of God, the Beloved of the Father. “All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made” (John 1:3). And this Son, who was in the beginning with the Father, became flesh (John 1:14) and lived among us, and his glory was beheld by humanity, the glory as of the only Son from the Father.
Ultimate reality, then, is not a single person God who creates in order that he might have creatures whom he may command. No, ultimate reality is the eternal love shared between the Father and the Son in the communion of the Spirit.
If the (ultimate) reality of the Father and the Son isn’t what dominates the headlines, then we would do well not to become so emotionally invested in the headlines we find on Fox, CNN, MSNBC, etc. Ultimately, those headlines will not make or break us. They’ll likely only encourage cynicism and an us-against-them mindset, neither of which serve humanity or us well at all. A steady headline diet of “The World Will Soon Implode” can drive us to make irrational decisions that make our world even more complex than it already is (see below).
The only headlines that can transform and enrich our lives both now and forever are those that announce something of this sort: “Our story is about what happened when the love between Father and Son was fleshed out within our world. As the Son took up our humanity, joining himself to us, our humanity was taken up in the interplay of love between the divine persons” (Gerrit Dawson, Given and Sent in One Love, p. 25).
Imagine if Fox News, CNN, and USA Today led with this headline: Our Humanity has been Taken Up into the Interplay of the Love Between the Father and the Son. Our lives would feel a whole lot simpler, wouldn’t they? We’d know what really mattered. We’d know that, ultimately, everything would be okay. As a result, we would be far less likely to experience analysis-paralysis. As Chip Heath and Dan Heath write in Made to Stick, “psychologists have found that people can be driven to irrational decisions by too much complexity and uncertainty” (p. 34).
If you want my opinion (and if you read this entire paragraph, you’re at least interested in my opinion enough to read it), these types of headlines we find on our major media outlets play into the hands of the chief enemy of God’s good creation and His image bearers. Timothy Keller nails it when he writes, ”The one thing [the evil one] does not want is that God’s words ‘You are my beloved child’ power the engine of your life and heart” (Timothy Keller, Encounters with Jesus: Unexpected Answers to Life’s Biggest Questions).
Do you long for headlines and “talking heads” that enrich, empower, encourage, inspire, and simplify life for you (I apologize that the words “inspire” and “simplify” did not begin with the letter “e”. The alliteration part of my brain unexpectedly froze up)? Let me invite you to join us for our November 5-7 conference in Durham, NC. Our conference theme is: Simple. Solutions are closer than you think. I promise, if you join us, you’ll leave encouraged and equipped with simple solutions to complex problems.
A cesspool of wicked and deviant dehumanization of the unborn for the love of Mammon: Planned Parenthood and the Atrocity of Corpse-Selling (http://www.russellmoore.com/2015/07/14/planned-parenthood-and-the-atrocity-of-corpse-selling/).
What is at stake is the systemic eradication of the being and nature of the unborn child. Scottish theologian Thomas F. Torrance masterfully deconstructs Planned Parenthood’s hellacious attempt to dehumanize the unborn for the sake of financial profit. The quotations at the top of this post can be found in the following full PDF article: http://www.togetherforadoption.org/wp-content/media/Torrance-paper-on-the-Unborn.pdf.
You’ll find this brief article to be the most theologically robust treatment on the rights and human dignity of unborn children. It’s prophetically profound. #PlannedParenthood
It’s not unusual for me to meet orphan care advocates, foster care and adoptive parents, and orphan prevention activists who feel burned out. The energy and enthusiasm that once characterized their efforts to advocate for orphaned and vulnerable children has all but evaporated. They are weary and heavy-laden (Matthew 11:28).
Being an orphan-caring, orphan-loving, orphan-serving advocate is eternally significant work. James tells us that the actual practice of true religion involves caring for orphans and widows in their distress (James 1:27). To selflessly give yourself to orphaned and vulnerable children is really good work. There’s no doubt about that. But there is danger lurking in any and every good work we do (see Luke 15:11-32). We can do immense good “in the name of Jesus”—like caring for orphans with radical commitment, like giving our lives to Jesus for the sake of the fatherless—and yet subtly lose sight of what Christianity actually is.
The heart and soul of Christianity is not you giving your life to Jesus or doing things for Jesus. Christianity is the uncomplicated news that Jesus has given, is giving, and will forever give himself to you! It’s really that simple. [Tweet""The heart and soul of Christianity is not you giving your life to Jesus. It's...""]
Do you ever wonder why you have become weary in well-doing? Are you on the verge of feeling bone-deep weary because of all you do “in Jesus’ name”? If so, here’s what the good news of the Gospel says to you: “Stop giving your life to Jesus!” What we often forget is that the Gospel is always counter-intuitive: When we stop “giving our lives to Jesus” but begin to rest in the reality that he gives himself to us and for us, we actually become increasingly refreshed and empowered to walk in the good works for which we were created (Ephesians 2:10). If what I’m saying isn’t sinking in, you’re in luck. In just 8 minutes, Glen Scrivener’s spoken-word video will begin to refresh and rejuvenate you with the simplicity of Jesus for you (I’ve included the text below the video). Enjoy!
I gave my life to Jesus about a thousand times,
At teenage shrines of rare experience,
They’d blare Delirious then dare obedience,
I’d swear allegiance, soul-bared and serious,
Each prayer more daring than the previous.
On stage, the preacher saw we staunch hard core,
who flocked to the fore to knock, knock knock on heaven’s door.
He claimed salvations like he was keeping score.
Yet none were sure but he…
And none doubted more than me.
So I prayed again, to firm cement it,
Making sure I really meant it.
Vowed my life to be amended,
Willed my all to dust descended,
Gave my heart to be expended.
Then when all my prayers were ended…
Nothing, but my self lamented…
Oh I pretended all was mended and extended lifted hands
But within I could not understand:
What more could He demand?
I gave my life to Jesus a thousand different ways,
No single day would pass without this act.
I would contract to yield my every part,
To make one more fresh start,
To be more set apart,
And in return I’d yearn for Him to impart the merest trace
of grace into my heart.
I gave my life to Jesus, though faith continued flagging,
though doubts were ever nagging, zeal sagging
dragging down to duty’s basement.
But at least I had my bracelet!
O dear bracelet, give me strength anew.
The bracelet counseled: What Would Jesus Do?
And to answer all I could think was that He would sink
to His knees in passioned pleas,
like at Gethsemane.
And with almighty self-surrender,
there He rendered ALL to God who, silent, let Him fall.
So what should I do?
I too would heed that call,
and likewise sprawl before the Splendor.
This crawl became my pattern,
each new day I’d flatten self
before the Lord, pressed down to gain reward
that never came. But all the same I’d call.
And all the while the preachers told me
“Give control, not part, but wholly,
Give your heart, your life, your all.”
But rarely do I recall
Being told what He gave, my Lord to save.
Except… they slipped it in… to conscript us they gripped us
With “Jesus whipped, our Saviour stripped,
the blood it dripped from the cross,” but they ripped it from it’s gospel frame
To say “Now YOU. YOU DO THE SAME.”
And thus Christ’s offering was flipped, we were guilt tripped
by the very act that saved us.
So it was engraved, instilled:
The cross was a standard unfulfilled by us.
Oh but we’d try, my how we’d try, we’d bow the knee and bear the load,
It was the very least we owed.
I gave my life to Jesus… but somewhere down the road I slid,
my faith undid even amid my church, my prayers,
even as I bid for heaven’s care,
beneath the lid, the venom hid.
I was your youth group’s keenest kid,
But no-one hated God more than I did.
With Him it’s just take, take, take, there’s no break,
His thirst for blood who can slake?
At least vampires get you just once,
But this God held perpetual hunts.
I gave my life to Jesus but I guess it was no good.
I did what I could to appease Him,
but no pleasing seemed probable,
So this elder brother turned prodigal.
And I could chronicle the years headed east.
A far country unpoliced,
It was a famine disguised as a feast,
A pig-sty passed off as release.
But there… at the end of the track, with life out of whack when all was pitch black…
THERE – what brought me back?
Cos THIS BOOK, as I read, didn’t say what they said,
To those with bowed heads, under piety’s dread, by their leaders misled,
THIS BOOK said: REPENT and BELIEVE the GOOD NEWS.
The KINGDOM of God is at hand.
There He stands in your stead,
your King lifts your head,
He has shouldered your dread,
arms outstretched till they bled.
As I read, I met HIM: the Father’s sheer Gift,
now offered to lift us from cowering,
The feeble empowering,
The filthy clean showering,
the lowly now towering in Him.
So that night on His knees? Gethsemane’s pleas?
Those prayers they were said for me.
Cos I am not Jesus there in the garden, begging for pardon,
Despite all my boasts, I’m asleep at my post,
And Jesus does it all for me.
Can you give your life to Jesus? Talk about cart before horse.
Can we resource the Source who flows like a river
He is the Giver and we just receive, that’s what it means to believe.
So I’ll leave an appeal. To the preachers who feel
that they must stir up zeal, then let it be His we reveal.
You say “Give your heart”
This says “Christ is the donor”
You say “Yield your life”
This says “He was always the owner”
You say “Get on fire.”
This says “You are the Light.”
You say “Keep running to God.”
This says “Walk in Christ.”
You say “Dare to be a missional, intentional, incarnational, contextualised, no-compromise, counter-cultural, radical, red-letter, fully-devoted, disciple.”
This says “Follow.”
You say “Get hungry for God.”
This says “Take, eat, swallow.”
You say “Press into God”
This says “You’re hidden in Christ”
You say “Be a world changer”
This says “Lead a quiet life.”
You say “Surrender all.”
This says “You’re not your own.”
You say “Step up to the plate”,
This says “You’re raised to the throne.”
You say “Burn out”
This says “Shine”
You say “Work on your relationship with Jesus.”
This says “I am my beloved’s and He is mine.”
Folks, look at the book and unhook from this wearisome, will-driven view
Stop giving your life to Jesus, He’s the Giver delivered for you.
“When the eternal Son of God became man, he ushered his infinite, flawless communion with the Father into the depths of our sin, pain, and suffering (see Mark 14:36), not impersonally but in a profoundly personal manner. Jesus’ communion with the Father and the Spirit did not detach or distance him from the brokenness of our world. To the contrary, it thrust him into the darkest depths of our fallen world in order that he might heal and deliver us through his death, burial, and resurrection.
“At what point did the Father declare, ‘This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased’? It was just before the Spirit led Jesus ‘into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil’ (Matthew 3:17-4:1). The Trinitarian enjoyment of communion did not lead Jesus away from suffering but into it. According to T.F. Torrance, ‘[W]e learn from [Jesus’] incarnate self revelation that God does not will to exist for himself alone and does not wish to be without us, but has in his eternal purpose of love freely created a universe, within which he has placed human beings made after his own image and likeness in order that he may share his love with them and enable them to enjoy his divine fellowship’” (emphasis mine).
Question #4: What impact does the belief that God’s adoption of his people is metaphorical have on the way we understand Paul’s language?
Our endeavor to clear the ground for a fresh perspective on the biblical teaching of adoption has led us to engage a series of questions. In answering the first three, we have disentangled the filial or familial language of the New Testament relevant to the new birth from that of adoption. Adoption, it is now clear, is the explicit teaching of the apostle Paul alone. His unique use of huiothesia ~ the sole New Testament term for adoption ~ is, we reckon, metaphorical.
This fourth question, vague as it is at first sight, offers us an opportunity to consider what we mean when we say that the language of adoption is metaphorical. The answer is more involved than we might imagine. Accordingly, in the postings to come, we speak of one facet at a time, taking up the following in turn:
The character of the adoption metaphor: How metaphors differ from other figures of speech such as similes.
Summary: It is the fact that adoption is a metaphor which nullifies fears of moving away from a literal reading of the language.
The power of the adoption metaphor: Why Paul makes use of huiothesia on only five occasions.
Summary: The argument that adoption is not very important in Paul’s theology is based on a want of awareness of how metaphors function.
The substance of the adoption metaphor: Whether it is better to categorize adoption as a model (robust metaphor) or a metaphor?
Summary: The long-established habit of mixing the metaphors of Scripture (notably the new birth and adoption), without explicit exegetical warrant for doing so, can be explained in part by the belief that adoption is more akin to a one-time analogy than to a substantive and coherent framework for understanding the believer’s acceptance in Christ.
The uniqueness of the adoption metaphor: How the character, power, and substance of adoption all confirm the inappropriateness of mixing biblical metaphors and models where Scripture does not do so.
Summary: Establishing this inappropriateness is essential to considering Paul’s language of adoption on its own terms. Such a consideration offers us a chance to exchange some of the muddled exegesis of the past for a view of adoption that is more historically, linguistically, biblically, theologically, and practically aware.
Doubtless, some of this sounds cryptic right now, but I trust clarity will come as we look at each aspect of a metaphorical understanding of adoption in turn, beginning next time with a discussion of the character of the adoption metaphor.
To follow the conversation from the beginning, go to: www.fromhisfullness.com
“Any leader looking to create change in his organization need not look beyond this little book. It is packed with examples and hands-on tools that will get you moving right away. And it really is a fun read.”
Join us for this Together for Adoption Pre-Conference Switch Workshop, November 5, from 1:00-4:30pm at The Summit Church, Brier Creek Campus (2335 Presidential Dr., Durham, NC 27703). Register for just $35 per person.
Note: You do not need to register for the November 5-7 Together for Adoption National Conference in order to register and attend this Pre-Conference Switch Workshop.
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