Monday, June 05, 2006

The Not-So-Calm Before the Storm

This will be a fast and furious week before we head out to Padre.

We leave next Monday to spend a week at The Tiki and purposefully spend time relaxing, playing, laughing, and learning who we are in Christ. The theme, blatantly stolen from Spencer over at The Ooze, is SOULARIZE.

In preparation for my teaching, I've been looking at the beginning of our relationship with Christ. What is the core of salvation? Why have we boiled it down to a simple prayer or some cognitive recognition of our personal 'state of the union'? Could there be more to it?

The bottom line is this: salvation is substitutionary. God provided a substitution in Christ (2 Cor 5:21, Isaiah 53:12) to accomplish what I could NEVER accomplish. My righteousness in Christ's righteousness, not 'self-righteousness' done through doing good things (btw...we do 'good works' out of obedience, not in order to make up for the bad things we've done. See Romans 3:10)

It's good to remember this: the lie of self-righteousness says that you must do good in order to please God. But God doesn't love me when I'm good.

He just loves me. Not because of me, but because of Christ in me. My identity is in Christ, he is my substitute, so my righteousness (right standing with God) is His. My righteousness is as filthy rags. (Isaiah 64:6).

Yes, we MUST read scripture, pray, share the good news, and give. But those things are NOT what fulfills me: God fulfills me. Those things are merely the menu that leads to the meal.

Don't stop at the menu. It never satisfies.

Get to the meal.


At 3:56 PM, Blogger scott m said...

I guess the question then becomes whether you limit it to a "substitutionary" death/sacrifice or if you allow it to encompass living the life we should have had. You know my thoughts, of course, already.

At 5:08 AM, Blogger Jimmie W. Kersh said...

If it is Christ and Christ alone, then it can never be about man.

Is it supposed to be about God or is it supposed to be about man?

There are major theological implications by the way these question are answered.

Tom, this is one of Bob Utley's donut holes, not the donut itself.

At 6:53 AM, Blogger nelda sue said...

i see it not as an either/or...but a both/and in regard to jimmie's posed question.

if Christ has said that when i do things to the "least of these" i do it unto him...then it is so. i don't see this as an exclusive truth but rather inclusive.

our walk is of all importance. so very important. the you have put it tom, is indeed so very important to our health, and found by so very few starving "christians".

At 10:37 PM, Blogger Jimmie W. Kersh said...


Just letting you know I was praying for you guys this week. I will be praying God does His thing with you guys.

At 11:06 PM, Blogger Jimmie W. Kersh said...

My Prayer today is that the Father of our Lord would pour out His spirit upon you during your times of gathering together.

Love you and Praying for ya.

At 12:27 PM, Blogger Jimmie W. Kersh said...

Praying for your safety as you travel home. I pray it was a great week.

At 11:53 PM, Blogger shaeman said...

Tom, you said:
"He just loves me. Not because of me, but because of Christ in me. "

If this is true, then how could he love you when you were still his enemy? Was Christ in you then? Help unravel that one for me, if you dare...

At 11:18 AM, Blogger scott m said...

Thanks for the prayers, Jimmie. Even though I didn't know about them until today, it's much appreciated. From my perspective, the week was fantastic. My guys, at least, mostly seemed to take something more from it than a vacation time on the beach. I'm sure Tom will add his thoughts when he has a moment to catch his breath.

Good question, Shae. I'm pretty uncomfortable taking Isaiah 64:6 to the extreme that there is nothing good about us and nothing God loves. Not only is that inconsistent with the entire theme of the Bible, but it doesn't really seem to fit the context of the prayer in Isaiah itself. Just step back to verse five and you begin to get a somewhat different picture. But it's really better in this case to go all the way back to 63:15 and read the whole prayer. And then read the Lord's response. I was particularly struck by 65:5.

I certainly agree that everything God offers us is a gift of grace, that there's nothing we can do to earn it or warrant it. However, that has always been a central tenet of the faith. It's hardly new or different. But then, Tom's familiar with my thoughts on the whole 'total depravity' thing.

I have no problem recognizing a substitutionary element in the atonement. Just as I have no problem detecting an element of satisfaction, an element of ransom, and an element of recapitulation. (It's the latter that speaks mostly deeply to me.) I do have a problem with two things.

First, I have a problem with those who attempt to limit the atonement to substitution or make that the most important element. I don't think any of the elements are 'most important'. It strikes me that to BE the atonement, all of it was necessary. Eliminate or reduce any aspect and it's no longer the atonement.

Second, the specific subset of substitutionary theory described as 'penal substitution' strikes me as troublesome and perhaps even overreaching. It feels like it reduces the atonement to a tally sheet and a 'tit-for-tat' accounting exercise rather than the grand mystery and gift of grace that it is.

But that's me. BTW, one of the books I read this week was Lesslie Newbigin's Proper Confidence. Tom said you have a section of your bookshelf devoted to Newbigin. I think it overcame my suspicion and reluctance to accept the label 'postmodern.' In many of the places where he described the experience of those within the postmodern turn of modern culture, he nailed my own experience of the world around me. Suspicion of labels and intent is hard to overcome, but I've moved from holding it at arm's length with a crinkled nose to something closer.

At 10:27 AM, Blogger tom cottar said...

Let the unraveling begin...
(not really)
In my unmedicated haste to post before we left, it's apparent I was pretty unclear with my thoughts.

God clearly loved me when I was his enemy--I was drawn by love. And Christ was definitely *not* in me as an enemy of God.

My *position* with God, as His adopted son, is attributed to the (yes, substitutionary) work of Christ...but not his love. According to Isaiah 64, Tom's righteousness is, at best, similar to a used tampon. (sorry for the graphic, literal redition). My stature in Christ and my priveledge of approching YHWH is by His blood. However, it has nothing to do with His love.

It began with Him.

It ends with Him.

I'm just a squirrel trying to get a his grace.

(...steering from the impluse to beg the moot determinist/free will question...)

At 10:38 AM, Blogger tom cottar said...

Dang it...I hit 'enter' too soon.

A couple of points of clarification:

First,I hope my statement "However, it has nothing to do with His love." is taken in context. Bottom line: He loved me first. Period.

Second, my reference to 'substitutionary atonement' is as a beginning point, not necessarily as an exhaustive summation of the Christ's sacrifice. It is also about satisfaction, ransom, glorifying God, etc....i just was trying to refer back to my original post instead of unravelling that thread today...

I'd agree that it's extremely difficult (impossible?) to place one characteristic above the others in that conversation. However, if it has to be one over the other, then it has to be about God's glory. Substitution brings YHWH glory. Ransom brings YHWH glory. Recapitulation....etc.

One of the reasons I hate (yes, HATE) when we sing the song Above All is that it is absolutely wrong in its theology. When we sing the last three lines of the chorus, it makes my skin crawl:

"Like a rose, trampled on the ground,
He took the fall, and thought of me
Above all."

hogwash. His task was to glorify God. To be obedient to death on the cross. I am just a benefit.

At 11:02 AM, Blogger scott m said...

Though for slightly different reasons, that line has always bothered me as well. I would tend to say it was his love for all creation above all and specifically me only as I am a part of it. None of which denigrates the idea that he loved me fully and wholly. Just that I'm not elevated above all.


Post a Comment

<< Home