Cross or Resurrection 7: Jesus is Coming Soon

I have just one more brief part to add to my series on what is determinative for the Christian life, before drawing my conclusions. I have looked at John the Baptist, at the life and teachingthe death on the Cross, and the Resurrection and Ascension of Jesus, and at Pentecost. Finally I want to look at the expected Second Coming of Jesus, and at those Christians who seem to centre their faith on looking ahead to that coming – to the Rapture, to the Millennium, or to the final Day of Judgment.

Harold CampingThis year’s most notorious preacher of the End Times has of course been Harold Camping, whose prophecies of the Rapture on 21st May and Judgment Day on 21st October attracted widespread ridicule, especially when nothing unusual happened on either day. Camping’s clearest error was to ignore the clear biblical teaching that the exact dates of the end have not been revealed to human beings, as Jesus taught:

But about that day or hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.

Mark 13:32 (NIV)

It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by his own authority.

Acts 1:7 (NIV)

But Camping’s error was deeper than that, and its depths are shared by many more Christians, especially those of a more Fundamentalist persuasion. Their fundamental mistake is to focus more on what is coming than on what needs to be done in the present. Yes, Jesus warned us to be ready for his coming, but also that we need to be working faithfully until he does. Paul had no time for those who gave up work to wait for Jesus to come.

We mustn’t forget that Jesus is coming. But we can’t expect to know when. As Jesus told us, wars and earthquakes are not signs that the Day is imminent (Mark 13:7-8). So we shouldn’t make this the centre of our Christian life.

Concluded in Cross or Resurrection 8: Finding the Balance.

Cross or Resurrection 6: New Life After Pentecost

Pentecost, by El Greco (1600)In this series on what is determinative for the Christian life I will move on past John the Baptist and past the life and teachingthe death on the Cross, and the Resurrection and Ascension of Jesus, to look at the coming of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost, and at how some Christians put an unbalanced emphasis on this.

It will be no surprise that here I am referring to Pentecostals, and to their successors in the Charismatic Movement. For many centuries the practical implications of the coming of the Holy Spirit, and especially the supernatural gifts which he gives, had been neglected in churches. These gifts were put back into use by the Pentecostals in the early 20th century, and in the second half of that century started to be practised in established denominations, as well as in numerous independent charismatic churches which would not label themselves as Pentecostal.

Whatever one might think of the more spectacular charismatic gifts, I hope my readers would agree with me that it is wrong to focus on them as the centre of the Christian life, especially if that leads to a neglect of Jesus Christ. In the past some Pentecostals have made speaking in tongues the determinative mark of a good Christian, but I am happy that that is no longer typical. Others in the charismatic movement have been accused of putting too much emphasis on healing, even though in most cases they see this at least in principle as glorifying Jesus and bringing people to him.

Less controversially, it is largely but not only in the Charismatic Movement that a new emphasis has been found on ordinary Christians living the Resurrection life. This is a biblical emphasis:

Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. 2 Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. 3 For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. 4 When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.

Colossians 3:1-4 (NIV)

The implication here is that Christians should move on from focusing on the sinful old life which they have died to, and instead live the new life for which they have been born again. But the danger comes when people presume that they have already reached the perfection of Resurrection life, that they are already reigning with Christ in his perfect kingdom. This view was widespread in the Corinthian church, and Paul responded to it with cutting irony:

Already you have all you want! Already you have become rich! You have begun to reign—and that without us! How I wish that you really had begun to reign so that we also might reign with you! 9 For it seems to me that God has put us apostles on display at the end of the procession, like those condemned to die in the arena. … 13 … We have become the scum of the earth, the garbage of the world—right up to this moment.

1 Corinthians 4:8-13 (NIV)

Clearly the Corinthians had gone too far in claiming to “reign”. Paul brings them back to reality by calling himself “the garbage of the world”, a point not about his sinfulness but about how people treated him. His life was not always the victorious one which some were claiming to live; he was often “hungry and thirsty”, and even “brutally treated” (v.11). He wanted to teach the Corinthians that the Christian life, following God’s call, would often be like this.

Yes, as Christians we have been raised with Christ. But we are still living in an in-between world. The kingdom of God is breaking through into it but is not yet fully established. And it is only within that kingdom that we can reign with Christ. To the extent that we are not surrounded by that kingdom, but are in a world that is under the control of the evil one (1 John 5:19), we can expect to struggle and suffer. If we retreat from that world into a Christian bubble, we are insulated in part from that struggle. But while there may be seasons for such retreat, the Christian calling at least for most people is to take the kingdom of God out into the world, and to risk the suffering which may come as we do, while expecting in the long term to see Jesus Christ bring the victory.

Continued in Cross or Resurrection 7: Jesus is Coming Soon.

Cross or Resurrection 4: The Centrality of the Cross?

I continue this series on what is determinative for the Christian life by looking at the Cross. I have already looked at the life and baptism of John and at the life and teaching of Jesus as possible focal examples for our own life, and have concluded that the former is sub-Christian and the latter is inadequate apart from what follows. Now I want to move on to consider what very many Christians consider to be the very centre of their faith, the Cross, or more precisely the death of Jesus on it.

Dali, Christ of St John of the CrossFirst I want to make it very clear that for me this Crucifixion is absolutely vital for the Christian faith. The atoning death of the Son of God, however one might understand it and formulate it doctrinally, is the only basis for the forgiveness of sins and the reconciliation of sinners to the holy Trinity. Its significance goes beyond this into the cosmic realm, as it effected the reconciliation to God not just of humanity but of all things (Colossians 1:20, Romans 8:21).

However, for many Christians, especially those in the Reformed tradition, the Cross is treated as more than just one of the central aspects of their faith. For them it is THE centre, the one focal point of Christianity, relative to which everything else is secondary. Their presentations of the Gospel tend to begin and end at the Cross: Jesus died for the audience’s sins, and nothing more need be said.

These Christians of course accept that Jesus was the Son of God, and was born and lived as a man among us. After all, apart from that his death had no special meaning. For the most part they also accept that he rose again and ascended to heaven. But these parts of the story rarely if ever figure in their preaching, either as part of the narrative or for their theological significance. In part 1 of my review of Adrian Warnock’s book Raised with Christ I noted how, for example, people could be assured that they had become Christians without even learning that Jesus had risen again – and I expressed my amazement that it took a voice from God to prompt Adrian to preach on the Resurrection on Easter Sunday.

This focus on the cross alone has its effect also on what these people understand the Christian life to be about. I started this series by linking to a post by Daniel Kirk (no relation) Resonate: Matthew (Ch. 11), in which he writes:

life in the kingdom is not about seeing fortune and glory here and now. It is as much or more about crucifixion. But resurrection awaits for those who are faithful to the end.

Well, it is good that Daniel does not ignore the Resurrection, but he seems to see it as relevant only in the distant future. For now, it seems, we should only take up our cross and expect to suffer with Jesus.

Now I certainly don’t deny that this is one aspect of the Christian life. Yes, Jesus did say

Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me.

Luke 9:23 (NIV)

But immediately before that he said

The Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests and the teachers of the law, and he must be killed and on the third day be raised to life.

Luke 9:22 (NIV)

For Jesus there was no Cross without the Resurrection to follow. Similarly those who follow him should take up their cross only in the hope of resurrection. And this is not just something for the distant future. Jesus also said

no one who has left home or wife or brothers or sisters or parents or children for the sake of the kingdom of God 30 will fail to receive many times as much in this age, and in the age to come eternal life.

Luke 18:29-30 (NIV)

Yes, giving up all that is dear to us for the sake of the kingdom will be painful. At times it will feel like being crucified, and for some it may even literally mean that, or its equivalent. But Jesus promises us far greater rewards, not only in the age to come but also in this life. The apostle Paul fills out some of the details which Jesus left unclear, for example in this favourite verse of those who focus on the Cross:

I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.

Galatians 2:20 (NIV)

What is sometimes missed in this verse is that the Christ who lives in the believer is not a person who is dead from crucifixion, but the One who rose again from the dead. So Paul’s teaching is that Christians are living the Resurrection life of Jesus, in the body here and now. He makes this explicit elsewhere:

because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, 5 made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved. 6 And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus …

Ephesians 2:4-6 (NIV)

The consequence of this is that our salvation depends not only on the Cross but also on the Resurrection, as Paul also made very clear:

if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins.

1 Corinthians 15:17 (NIV)

What this means is that a Christian faith centred around the Cross, with the Resurrection considered as a secondary matter, is seriously unbalanced.

Continued in Cross or Resurrection 5: Risen and Ascended Lord.

 

Cross or Resurrection 3: What about Jesus’ life?

Tim ChestertonI want to start by thanking my blogging friend Tim Chesterton for naming Gentle Wisdom as the first of his ten favourite Christian blogs. His own blog Faith, Folk and Charity is one of my favourites, when he finds time to post in his busy life. It is hard to believe that it is more than four years since I met Tim, when he was on sabbatical here in England. I regret that much of the excellent material from his former blog An Anabaptist Anglican was lost when that blog was closed after his sabbatical.*

I also want to thank Tim for a comment on my post on the central message of the Bible, in which he pointed out an issue with how I have set up the series of which this post is the third part. I started the series by posing a binary question: which is determinative, the Cross or the Resurrection? But in fact there are other choices which could be made on the basis of the New Testament. The one which I dismissed in part 2 of this series, that the example of John the Baptist is normative, is hardly a Christian one. But, as Tim reminded me, it is a Christian position to take the life and teaching of Jesus Christ as the basis for Christian living. This is in some ways a third alternative to focusing on the Cross or on the Resurrection. It is one especially associated with the Anabaptist movement, as well as with the strand of Catholic spirituality associated with the classic book The Imitation of Christ by Thomas à Kempis. So in this post I will look at that alternative focus.

I want to affirm strongly that the life of Jesus is a good and important example for Christian living today. This has been a consistent theme on this blog. Five years ago I wrote that Jesus is Our Fully Human Example. Three years ago I suggested, rather controversially perhaps, that the faith of Jesus Christ should be a model for our Christian faith. I would also affirm, against some dispensationalists, that the teaching of Jesus is directly relevant for Christians today. We are even expected to live according to the Sermon on the Mount - although there is grace for us when we fail.

"The Sermon On the Mount" by Carl BlochBut this mention of grace illustrates the inadequacy of making the life of Jesus the centre of Christianity. Can we really be expected only to follow the teachings of the Great Teacher and to live as he lived? It is for good reason that many have concluded that the Sermon on the Mount was intended as an impossible standard to live by. It is indeed impossible if we try to live by it in our own strength, treating it as a new law to replace the one given through Moses. But the Sermon is surely intended as more than an unattainable standard given to force us to repentance.

While some might just be able to live for a time in obedience to Jesus’ teaching, there are clearly ways in which no one can hope to do as he did in their own strength. Jesus was best known in his own time, and perhaps in ours, for the healings and other miracles which he performed. As I have argued before, he was able to do such things not because he was God but because after his baptism he was filled with the Holy Spirit. And he expected his followers to do not just similar works but also greater ones (John 14:12). That is clearly impossible for ordinary human beings without the power of God.

Thus both the teaching and the miracles of Jesus point us beyond his life on earth. It is only through his death on the Cross that men and women can receive forgiveness, without which even a perfectly amended life is pointless as it cannot atone for past sins. It is only through his Resurrection that people can receive a new life with the ability to overcome evil and live according to Jesus’ teaching, even in the Sermon on the Mount. And it is only through Pentecost which followed them that anyone can receive the power of the Holy Spirit to perform the even greater works which God has prepared in advance for them to do (Ephesians 2:10).

So we have to conclude that, important as the life and teaching of Jesus are for the Christian life, they are not its central focus. True Christians need to look beyond following his example and his instructions to what follows, which alone is able to effect achievements with eternal consequences.

Continued in Cross or Resurrection 4: The Centrality of the Cross?

* UPDATE: Tim tells me that all the significant posts from Anabaptist Anglican have been transferred to his main blog Faith, Folk and Charity, where they can be found in the April, May, June, and July 2007 archives.

Who can forgive sins but God alone?

Jesus and the paralysed manWhen Jesus declared that a paralysed man’s sins were forgiven (Mark 2:5), some people were not happy:

Now some teachers of the law were sitting there, thinking to themselves, 7 “Why does this fellow talk like that? He’s blaspheming! Who can forgive sins but God alone?”

Mark 2:6-7 (NIV)

Their final question was of course intended as rhetorical: on their understanding, only God can forgive sins, and anyone else who claims to do so is blaspheming. But I want to look at it as a real question, one which came up while I was working on my post Cross or Resurrection 2: Greater than John the Baptist.

So what was Jesus’ response to the Jewish legal experts’ criticism? Well, he healed the paralysed man, but first he said that by doing so he would demonstrate, not that he was God, but that

the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins.

Mark 2:10 (NIV)

Now as orthodox Christians we believe that Jesus was not only the Son of Man, the representative Human One, but also the Son of God, himself God and the third person of the Trinity. But it is interesting that Jesus did not suggest that this was why he was able to forgive sins.

The point is clarified in Jesus’ teaching after the Resurrection, when he breathed on his disciples and said to them:

Receive the Holy Spirit. 23 If you forgive anyone’s sins, their sins are forgiven; if you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven.

John 20:22-23 (NIV)

In other words, the authority which Jesus already had to forgive sins has now been passed on to those who believe in him, to his continuing body on earth.

Similarly James wrote that as believers we should confess our sins to each other, not as a weekly ritual but when we have something specific to confess, and expect to be “healed” which surely includes being forgiven (James 5:16).

In churches within the Catholic and Eastern Orthodox traditions, including Anglican churches, only ordained priests can pronounce the absolution, which is generally presented and understood as the priest not forgiving sins but declaring that God has forgiven them. But in the biblical material it is the believer, not God, who forgives the sins, and there is no hint of a restriction to a special priestly caste.

So the answer to the question is not “Nobody except for the three persons of the Trinity”, but “Anyone to whom God has given authority to do so”. And he has given this authority not just to Jesus, and not just to a few selected priests, but to his whole new “royal priesthood” (1 Peter 2:9) consisting of all Christian people.

No, Mr C, that’s not the central message of the Bible

As the Guardian reports, the Prime Minister, David Cameron, has contributed to the People’s Bible project, a copy of the King James Version handwritten by celebrities and ordinary people. Thanks for the link to David Keen on Twitter.

David Cameron at his home in OxfordshireApparently the PM ignored his office’s suggestions and chose his own verses to write. And this was his choice:

Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things. 9Those things, which ye have both learned, and received, and heard, and seen in me, do: and the God of peace shall be with you.

Philippians 4:8-9 (KJV)

Now these are good sentiments for a top politician, who should hopefully not just “think on these things” but also put them into practice. But I am concerned by the following words, a spokesman’s explanation of Cameron’s choices:

The reason he chose those verses is because he’s always liked them.

They contain the central message of the Bible about leading good lives and helping each other as best we can. There is no hidden meaning and I wouldn’t read between the lines.

No, Mr Cameron, that is not the central message of the Bible. So if this is really the whole reason why you chose these verses, then you clearly don’t have much understanding of the Scriptures.

This morning I read this on Google+:

To most Christians, the bible is like a software license. Nobody actually reads it. They just scroll to the bottom and click “I agree.”

It seems as if, apart from a few favourite verses, that is what the Bible is to David Cameron. Without a firm scriptural foundation it is no wonder that his Christian faith, in his own words, “sort of comes and goes”.

But if Bible believing Christians keep out of politics, from fear of “dominionism” or compromise, then of course we can’t expect any better of those do who find their way into high office.

St Martin, Soldier and Conscientious Objector

Statue of Saint Martin cutting his cloak in two, above the gate of Höchst CastleToday, on both sides of the Atlantic, we mark 11.11.11, Armistice Day (now known as Veterans Day in the USA), and also, as Shane Claiborne reminds us, the feast of St Martin of Tours (316-397). Claiborne marks the day by sharing the testimony of a modern equivalent of Martin, a soldier who became a Christian and chose not to fight any more. He writes:

As the son of a Vietnam veteran who died when I was 9, I can’t imagine a better way to honor the soldiers and veterans today than by sharing Logan’s testimony …

The testimony ends:

Let us follow this subversive centurion in the way of Jesus, our ultimate Commander and the last, best hope for human kind. There is an entire guild of contemporary centurions marching to the beat of a different drummer, a Prince that grants peace nothing like that of Rome. War has been conquered, it is over, if we want it…

Meanwhile Jim West quotes Erasmus, from his book Against War - I have updated the English:

Where is the kingdom of the devil, if it is not in war? Why do we draw Christ into war, when a brothel suits him more than war? St Paul says that it is wrong for there to be any disagreement between Christian people so great that they would need a judge to mediate between them. What if he were to come and see us now, making war all round the world for minor and trivial reasons, fighting more cruelly than any heathen or barbarous people?

So today, let us remember those who have lost life or limb fighting other people’s battles, often without caring or even knowing what cause they are fighting for. But let us also carefully avoid glorifying war or presenting it as God’s will. And above all keep out of the trap of expecting God to be fighting on your side and against your enemies. If you are not sure why this is important, read, as conveniently posted at Experimental Theology, Mark Twain’s short story The War Prayer.

Lance Wallnau on Occupy Wall Street #OWS

Lance WallnauLance Wallnau has just released a new video (21 minutes) on the front page of his website, entitled Seize This Moment in Time. In this video he touches on the Occupy Wall Street situation, while also sketching and referring to his Seven Mountains picture. Here is my transcript (slightly tidied up) of the relevant part of the video (starting at 18:13):

This is the reason why when I started looking at social transformation, and I became frankly fatigued with the realisation that most believers still don’t have a handle on how it happens. Well, you just take a look at what’s going on with the Occupy Wall Street situation. What you have is you have the government creating policies that help to produce a problem in the mortgage market. You have them doing it and then you’ve got the business mountain over here and the banking and the Wall Street deal over here. These business guys fund the politicians. The politicians are helping make these people money.

You know, the people in the streets are actually picking up with a sense of outrage that there is an element of dysfunctional self-interest going on. Where? In the high places of these systems that it’s in a sense taking the rest of the country for a ride it should not be on, over a precipice, a financial collapse.

But we that are the believers have to be able to pray for government and pray for business and start to raise up champions in these areas who can begin to influence these systems, because over here in the church realm, if you’re going to be in the church, in the religion compartment over here, and you do not raise up believers that are in proximity to the tops of these systems, then you wrap these systems up and you give them to the enemy. This is what I have been saying for years.

But never before have I seen so conspicuously the power of media. Now look at this. Government, politicians that are even capitalising on economic unrest, media which is capitalising on the opportunity to get viewership over the phenomena, and economics which is the issue of where our whole system is going – where those three come together, government, media and business, you have the tipping point of the entire dialogue going on in our country right now. Media has the spin control, economic engines are the issue, and government is the legislating player that is trying to capitalise on it.

I say it is time more than ever for believers to get together here and start invading all seven [mountains]. I say take all seven into a new realm, because we are in those mountains, it is time to mobilise and go up those mountains.

Is this “dominionism”? Well, it is certainly better than when “you wrap these systems up and you give them to the enemy”. His final point here is an important one: as Christians we are already in the mountains, because we are in the world. God has sent us into the world, and we shouldn’t seek to be taken out of it, but to be protected in it (John 17:15,18). So it cannot be wrong for us to seek to succeed, to climb to the top, on whichever mountain God has placed us on.

Packer: “A totally impassive God would be a horror”

J.I. PackerFollowing the death of John Stott, J.I. Packer is surely now the unchallenged elder statesman of Anglican* evangelicalism. He is a special hero among the “Reformed” Calvinists, whether Anglican or not. But is he in fact a Calvinist? Or is he more an Open Theist?

According to traditional Christian theology, one of the key characteristics of God is that he is “impassible”, i.e. he “does not experience pain or pleasure from the actions of another being”. This view has its origin more in Neo-Platonism that in biblical teaching, but came to dominate Christian thinking through the influence of Augustine. The Reformers such as Luther and Calvin took on this idea, and it has become enshrined in “Reformed” theology through doctrinal statements such as the Thirty-Nine Articles (1562) and the Westminster Confession (1646), which both describe God as “without body, parts, or passions”.

Most of today’s “Reformed” Calvinists would follow their heroes and their confessions and teach that God is impassible. But in recent years many other theologians, evangelicals among them, have challenged this doctrine. Some of those making this challenge are associated with Open Theism, a teaching which is anathema to Calvinists.

It is in this context that Roger Olson has had some interesting things to say about Packer.

A few days ago Olson quoted Packer as writing that “Arminianism is an intellectual sin”, and so writing off Olson, and myself, as sinners. Ironically Packer justifies his position by quoting the Arminian Charles Wesley. But this is from something which Packer wrote in about 1958, and so may not represent his current views.

Today Olson shows he bears no grudge for being called a sinner by posting And now…kudos to J. I. Packer for this brilliant article, about a 1986 article in Christianity Today. It is this article which is relevant to the impassibility debate, because in it Packer seems to reject this doctrine, at least in its classical form. Olson quotes him:

Let us be clear: A totally impassive God would be a horror, and not the God of Calvary at all.  He might belong in Islam; he has no place in Christianity.  If, therefore, we can learn to think of the chosenness of God’s grief and pain as the essence of his impassibility, so-called, we will do well.

In other words, Packer agrees with the biblical text that God suffers grief and pain, and tries to turn the definition of “impassibility” on it head. In doing so he goes not only against Islam but also against the Westminster Confession, and against the Thirty-Nine Articles of his own orthodox Anglicanism. Olson comments,

In fact, I believe IF that article were to be published today WITHOUT the author’s identity attached, many conservative evangelicals would assume it was written by an open theist or a “leftwing evangelical” and attack it as dangerous.

Personally, I do not see how the article’s central thrust can be reconciled with classical Calvinism. … Classical Calvinism is closely tied to classical theism.  It certainly does not believe that God can change his mind or “make new decisions as he reacts to human doings.”

So what can we conclude? Is Packer’s thinking inconsistent? I suspect not in quite the same way that Olson claims. Clearly the mature Packer of 1986 is not the same as the young Packer of 1958. But even while misrepresenting Arminianism in 1958 he could agree with the Arminian Wesley that a key effect of God’s grace is “my heart was free”. And by 1986 his position seems to have embraced much more freedom and openness than classical Calvinism would seem to allow.

Packer is a hero of “Reformed” Calvinists worldwide. No doubt he would still reject with horror any suggestion that he might be an Arminian or an Open Theist. But what he has written seems to put his current position closer to Arminianism and Open Theism than to Calvinism. It is also further from Neo-Platonism and closer to biblical Christianity.

* Packer is apparently still an Anglican, despite leaving the official Anglican Church of Canada in 2008. The church where he is Honorary Assistant Minister, now known as St John’s Vancouver Anglican Church and meeting at a new location, states that “We remain in communion with the greater part of the worldwide Anglican Communion through the auspices of the Anglican Network in Canada.”

Be In The 1% Who Get God’s Grace

Morgan Guyton and familyMorgan Guyton writes at Red Letter Christians I Want To Be In The 1% Who Get God’s Grace.

What does he mean? Is he making some Calvinist point, that only 1% of people benefit from God’s prevenient and irresistible saving grace, and that the 99% are predestined to eternal torment? There are plenty of preachers around who would agree with that, at least if pushed. But I don’t think Morgan Guyton is one of them – he is a United Methodist pastor, and so unlikely to be a Calvinist.

No, by “get God’s grace” Guyton doesn’t mean “receive and benefit from God’s grace”. He is using “get” in a different colloquial sense and means “understand God’s grace”. And on that point I can agree with him. From my experience, barely 1% even of professing Christians come near to understanding this grace. But, I am glad to say, God is gracious enough that he gives his grace even to those who don’t understand it.

And his grace is not just that we can be saved from our past sins but must now work hard at being godly. Louie Giglio, in his DVD series Grace: The One & Only, has called this “half the gospel”, but it is all of what is preached in many churches – a gospel focused on the death of Jesus but forgetting his resurrection, a gospel framed by justification but ignoring justice, a gospel of individual salvation with no mention of the Kingdom. No, God’s grace is far more than that: it is the offer of his resurrection power enabling us to live lives which please him, starting now and continuing into eternity.

We are the 99%Morgan Guyton is of course alluding in his post to the “We are the 99%” slogan of the Occupy protesters. But he notes that both these protesters and their “anti-99%” opponents are trying to justify themselves:

One side justifies themselves by talking about how hard they work (which means that other people who aren’t as hard-working should stop whining). The other side justifies themselves by talking about how hard their lives has been or how well they sympathize with people who have hard lives (which means that people who lack sympathy should recognize their moral inferiority). Both forms of self-justification cause us to be presumptuous, judgmental people who either call all rich people greedy or all poor people lazy … Self-justification is the basis for most hatred in our society …

But, Guyton argues, instead of being in this 99% of self-justifiers, we need to be among “The 1% of people who understand God’s grace to be the foundation of their being”. Then,

let’s be grateful for all that God has given us and use it as responsibly as we can, so that we can be extravagantly generous in how we share it with other people. Then maybe we’ll get to be part of the 1% who actually experience the joy of living under God’s grace, which is a joy I hope to experience one day when I’m finally free of my poisonous self-justification.

To this I would only add that, by God’s grace and to the extent that we live in Christ, Guyton and all of us are already “free of [our] poisonous self-justification” and indeed of all our sinful attitudes. We just need to live in that freedom and joy in the power of the risen Jesus.