Monday, July 7, 2008

For God So Loved the World

part 2

For many the definition of what it means to be a Christian is having a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. Now, I don’t want to offend anyone unnecessarily. A personal relationship with Jesus, being best friends with Jesus, is absolutely vital for anyone to be truly happy and filled with the life of God. But, defining what it means to be a Christian simply in terms of having a personal relationship with Jesus, or being buddies with Jesus, is drastically missing the mark. Each of us are involved in relationships at different levels, and we all have a couple of “good buddies”. Yet the majority of these relationships are nothing like the relationship we have with Jesus Christ. Out of all the relationships we can be involved in, the one that resembles most closely the relationship we have with Jesus, is marriage. The marriage relationship is distinct, and separate, from all other relationships because when one gets married they have entered into a formal and defined relationship, which is shaped by promises of blessings and curses.

The Bible’s term, and the theological term, for this type of relationship is covenant.
Whenever the Bible describes our “relationship” with God, our “friendship” with God it is always in terms of his covenant. This covenant began in eternity past within the life of the Triune God willing creation, fall, and redemption. All of history can be understood in terms of these three categories. God spoke all things into existence and on the final day of creation he created man, Adam and Eve, in his image. This, being created in the image of God, has been defined in many different ways, but the Bible makes it clear that it primarily refers to the fact that Man was created into a special relationship with God, a covenant, which was defined by the Sabbath (Adam and Eve’s first full day of life was the Sabbath), and the dominion mandate; a call to reflect God in taking care of and enjoying all of creation, and being fruitful and multiplying. This was and is God’s intention for this “world”. God has created man to glorify him and enjoy him forever through worshiping him and serving him. Our first parents failed at this calling but God graciously promised to restore man and creation. The rest of the Bible is the unfolding and fulfilling of God’s promise in and through his people. What Adam failed to do God promised to accomplish through Abraham and his Seed.

This has ultimately been accomplished in and through Jesus Christ, the true Jew, the son of Abraham and David, who faithfully obeyed his Father at the Cross. Through the love of the Cross a new creation has dawned through the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Yet, the story does not end there. Rather, it is the beginning of the end. When Christ after his resurrection met with his disciples he did not inform them that now they can go to heaven someday. Rather, Jesus told them to get to work. And this work is completing the task that he has triumphantly begun, bringing heaven to earth. Christ told his disciples that he had received all authority in heaven and earth and therefore called them to go and disciple the nations. He called them to go and bring his kingdom to bear on earth as it is in heaven. Christ then ascended to heaven, he sat down on his throne, and sent forth his power and life through the Holy Spirit that the Church would reflect the life of God bringing forth the good news that Jesus is King.

One cannot have a personal relationship with Jesus, and be saved, apart from being united to Jesus through the Body of Christ. The Church, the people of God throughout the ages, is the Body of Christ. Prior to the Cross, Jesus (we see this in John 17) prayed to his Father, and in this prayer we see Christ’s ultimate desire for his people. Christ realizes that he is leaving this world but his disciples will remain in it (v.11). And his desire is that his Father would make them one as He and His Father are one. Jesus desires this because as His Father sent him into the world Jesus is now sending them into the world (v.18). Notice that he doesn’t send a bunch of separate individuals into the world to do the same thing he did. He sent an army, one that is unified in the same way the Father and Son are unified, which is in the power of the Spirit. Jesus’ prayer at this point goes beyond his present day disciples to all who would be united to them (me and you), and once again his prayer for his disciples throughout all the ages is that they would be one as he and the Father are one. He prays this because it is going to be through the Church living and loving one another, in Christ and the Spirit, that the world will be saved (v.20).

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