Sunday, December 18, 2016

Advent Week Four: A Fire in the Belly of God

What motivated the Triune God to come to this dark world to win it back to himself? What was God seeing when he looked at the world prior the incarnation of his only-begotten Son? What was God feeling when he looked at the world? The first thing God sees is his creation, but not as he intended it. This world was created by a self-giving God to be a Temple where God dwells with us to give us life. As sons and daughters of Adam, however, we have refused God’s gracious presence and his gift of life. This is called sin. How does God respond to what he sees? Again, his response is to give himself because this is what God is like (see Philippians 2.5-11). C.B. Kruger writes: “In marked contrast to the gods of human imagination, the Christian God is not self-centered, not a taker at all, but a giver.” This generous, self-emptying nature of God is on display, not only the Story of Creation (Genesis 1-2), but also in the Story of Christmas (Luke 2). This self-emptying love motivated God to send the Savior. Remarkably, the labor pains that lead to the birth of Jesus, point to the fire in God’s belly that is an unquenchable love. This love stoops in humble service to absorb and exhaust the consequences of sin so that we might be raised to God. “Here in Christianity, we have a God who stoops, writes,” C.B. Kruger, “who wants to be united with us and who is prepared to humble Himself and even to suffer to accomplish such a union.”
An unquenchable love in the belly of God is the theological rationale for the Incarnation. It is the love of God come all the way down to us that we celebrate at Christmas. Thanks be to God!
Click here to download and listen to our message, Christmas and the Undoing of Adam.
For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. (John 3:16–17, ESV)
I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. (Galatians 2:20, ESV)

Sunday, December 11, 2016

Advent Week Three: The Tender Mercy of Our God

“Love is the fundamental divine attribute in that God is love apart from the creation of the world, love characterizes God. Love is the eternal essence of the one God.” These words from the late Baptist Theologian, Stanley Grenz, capture the central truth of the songs that come from the lips of Mary and Zechariah. Jesus’ mother and his uncle declare that the saving deeds of God are driven by the inward compassion of God. Let’s take a closer look at the central section of Zechariah’s prophecy. 

And you, child, will be called the prophet of the Most High; for you will go before the Lord to prepare his ways, to give knowledge of salvation to his people in the forgiveness of their sins, because of the tender mercy of our God, whereby the sunrise shall visit us from on high to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace. (Luke 1:76–79, ESV)

As Zechariah holds his promised firstborn son in his arms, he declares over him the plans our promise-keeping God has for him. Zechariah’s son will be the Most High’s prophet whose preaching will prepare God’s people to receive what the Lord is giving them. According to Zechariah the Lord is offering two gifts. First, the Lord is giving salvation. This salvation, announced and embodied by Jesus, includes an announcement of forgiveness. In other words, our debt has come due, but God is paying it it on our behalf. Secondly, the Lord is giving light. We who are rendered helpless by darkness and the shadow of death, are being given the Light of the world. What’s more the Light of the world came into the darkness but was not overcome by the darkness (John 1.5-9)  To summarize, the God of Christmas is a generous Giver who gives himself. 

Who is this generous God who gives himself? If we were to ask Zechariah to peal back the layers in search of the most fundamental essence of this generous God, he would show us the tender mercy of our God. This is similar to what Paul says in Romans 11.32. After exploring the mystery of Israel’s unbelief, the gracious in-grafting of Gentiles into God’s one vine, and the thorny issue of divine hardening, Paul states rather clearly, “God has consigned all to disobedience, that he may have mercy on all” (ESV). The story of salvation is intended by God to display his mercy. This is who God is and what he wants to be known for. Jesus’ uncle proclaimed the tender mercy of God. Jesus’ mother sang the mercy of God. Jesus’ servant, Paul told the story of God’s mercy. 

Against the backdrop of God’s mercy we are prepared to understand the judgment of God, or more forcefully, God’s wrath. The most basic thing that can be said about God is: “God is love.” “There is no God but the Father and the Son throughout eternity bound together by love, a relationship concretized by the Holy Spirit” (Grenz). The answer to every question that starts with, “What was God doing” (Before creation? Before sin?) is experiencing divine love. Furthermore, the purpose and goal of creation is the formation of one human family to share in the eternal love of God. Sin (see Genesis 3) enters the scene and love demands a response. This is what we call the wrath of God. It is the loving response of God to preserve, protect, maintain, and avenge that which threatens his relationship with his beloved. Brothers and sisters the Bible has much to say about God’s wrath, just as it says much about his love. We must believe all that the Bible teaches about God’s love and God’s wrath. However, we must also speak the way the Bible speaks about God’s love and God’s wrath. With the Bible we must assert that the love of God is primary. The wrath of God is secondary. The wrath of God is temporary. The love of God is eternal. Brothers and sisters, if we are asked to describe what God is like, and if our answer claims to be biblical; we must declare without qualification that God is love. Love is God’s most basic disposition. 

Monday, December 5, 2016

Advent Week Two: The Incarnation

Probably my favorite English speaking theologian is Thomas Torrance. His writing about the doctrines of Christ and the Trinity never cease to stimulate within me deep thought and sincere worship. Incarnation refers to the eternal Son becoming human, for us and our salvation. Referring to this incarnation, Torrance writes:
"The very fact that God became man in order to save us, declares that the humanity of Christ is absolutely essential to our salvation … The virgin birth tells us that here in the midst of our humanity God is recreating our humanity as an act of pure grace." 
Theologians call what Torrance is describing the hypostatic union. This ten-dollar word describes what the Bible teaches about Jesus. Jesus is "the miraculous bringing together of humanity and divinity in the same person, such that he is both fully divine and fully human" (Stanley Grenz). Brothers and sisters this is the beautiful miracle of Christmas. Jesus Christ is God coming all the way to us.

Jesus Christ is God coming all the way to us. 

Jesus is fully God. He is one with God in his God-ness. He fully possesses the divine essence. These statements attempt to declare what the Bible teaches. Jesus is visible display of the invisible God. 

The Son is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. ...  For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him (Colossians 1.15, 19, NIV). 
The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word. After he had provided purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty in heaven. ...  
But about the Son he says, “Your throne, O God, will last for ever and ever; a scepter of justice will be the scepter of your kingdom (Hebrews 1.3, 8, NIV).

Jesus Christ is God coming all the way to us.

Jesus is fully human. He is one with us in our humanity. He fully possess the human essence. These statements describe what the Bible teaches. Jesus fully possesses the human nature we possess.

The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth (John 1.14, NIV).
For there is one God and one mediator between God and mankind, the man Christ Jesus (1 Timothy 2.5, NIV).
Brothers and sisters, this is the theological reality that Christmas is. The baby in the manger is eternally begotten of the Father. He is fully God. This same baby, however, is a human descendant of Mary. From the Father he eternally receives his divine nature and from his mother he received his human nature. Jesus Christ is what God has planned for humanity forever - oneness between God and mankind forever. Joy to the world! The LORD has come.

Listen here to our exposition of Luke 1.26-56 in which we hear the narrative of the announcement to Mary that she would give birth to the eternal Son of God.

Here's what I'm reading. The Prodigal: A Ragamuffin Story by Brennan Manning.