For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will scarcely die for a righteous person - though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die - but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God. For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life. More than that, we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation. (ESV)
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Dare to Believe
Wednesday of Advent 2
9 December 2015
If we demand that God only do what we could conceive or what we might think of as reasonable, we will be left with something quite a bit less than Christianity. The religion of reason prosecutes a war against the distinctive teachings of the gospel. The religion of reason reduces the church to a socially-constructed do-good society. Now as helpful as such do-good religion may be in the world, it hardly suffices in the sight of God. This is true because it does not properly deliver the divine gift of salvation, nor does it have any other-worldly goals. Yet many "churches" and "Christian" theologians embark upon the course of de-mystification of the Christian religion, a reduction of church's theology, which a previous generation called "de-mythologization." It is thought that if we remove the mystifying or mythological content of Christianity, we will be left with a pure and purely spiritual religion. Of course, this is correct. The problem is that a purely spiritual religion is a correct religion, not God's religion. If God only intended to save spirits rather than flesh and blood human beings, it would be an adequate religion.
God does not intend to save mere spirits, but real people; people of flesh and blood like us. God has come into the world in flesh, in the person of His own Son, born of the Virgin Mary. This happened that Christ might bear the sins of the world in His own flesh on the tree of the cross. This is a totally unexpected and unaccountable teaching according to human reason. It is no wonder the Apostle Paul says, "'What no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man imagined, what God has prepared for those who love him'- these things God has revealed to us through the Spirit" (1Co 2:9-10
). The great miracle of the church's existence is not the delivery of the divine revelation itself, but that anyone should believe it. We so easily want to revise the divine revelation to suit our own needs and presuppositions. How easy it is to believe that the first thing that comes into your head is the voice of God, when in fact it is probably your own perverted heart speaking and, indeed making the first commandment-busting claim to divinity. This human arrogance can only be defeated by a gift of God's Spirit in the divine Word (1Co 2:13-14
As we stand below the cross, watching the humiliation of the eternal Son of the Father, only God's Spirit in the Word of God can tell us what this woeful scene truly means. Only God can tell us that the blood shed is shed for us, is shed by God, and is shed from God. Human reason will never see it, understand it, or acknowledge it. Human reason will only mock the weakness of this God and ridicule it (Mt 27:41
). Reason cannot see how God could permit the humiliation of His only-begotten Son as the victim of a slave's death at the hands of the Romans. Human reason will never understand the willingness of God to suffer. Only those who have the Spirit will dare to believe that this was done to God and that it was done for them. We should dare to believe anything and everything the Spirit says to the churches.
"The Moabites and Ammonites must not be allowed to enter (Deut 23:3) the Church of God. I mean those sophistical, mischievous arguments which enquire curiously into the generation and inexpressible procession of God, and rashly set themselves in array against the Godhead. They think it necessary that those things which are beyond the power of language to set forth, must either be accessible to them, or else have no existence because they have not comprehended them. We however, following the Holy Scriptures, removing out of the way of the blind the stumbling blocks contained in such arguments, will cling to salvation, daring to believe anything and everything, rather than succumb to arrogance against God. As for the evidence, we leave it to others, since they have been set forth by many, and by ourselves also with no little care."
Gregory Nazianzus, Theological Oration, 42.18
Dear Jesus, send Your Spirit to me that I would follow the Holy Scriptures. Remove from the way of the blind like me stumbling blocks that arise from reason. Give me the humble faith to cling to salvation, daring to believe anything and everything You have said, rather than succumb to arrogance against You. Amen.
For Jo Lodholz, that the Lord would grant strength to her and the peace of God which surpasses all human understanding
For Holly Elizabeth Gazda, born to Jennifer and David, that the Lord would grant her strength and every blessing
For Timothy Scharr, who will be undergoing foot surgery today, that the beautiful feet which carry the good news would also be feet healed by God
For those who have suffered the loss of their earthly homes in an apartment fire in Houston yesterday, that their loss would point their hearts to their heavenly home where there can be no loss
Art: VOUET, Simon Annunciation (1640s)
© Scott R. Murray, 2015