Imagine a New Story

From Rankin Wilbourne, Union With Christ:

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Most of us have wondered, at one time or another, if we were switched at birth. “Are those really my parents?”

Now, imagine if your parents are mean and critical, that you have always been a disappointment to them and they to you. But then, one day, you find a dusty trunk in the attic. You quietly pick the lock and open the trunk and discover papers that prove you had, in fact, been abducted as a baby. These aren’t your parents after all–they’re criminals!

You discover your real mom was a painter at the Sorbonne in Paris and your real dad was a Nobel Prize-winning scientist and a professional baseball player. And you say to yourself, “Of course, this explains everything! I am extraordinary! I knew it all along.” You also read that they are fabulously wealthy and have a lavish inheritance waiting for you.

It’s a fantastic story, but you get it. Such a discovery would cause you to reinterpret everything about your life: where you came from, your true identity, your capacities and capabilities, the resources available to to you, your future, and your destiny. After that day, your life would never be the same. You would come down from that attic with new eyes for everything and everyone. Your whole life would feel new, changed, and invigorated.

But here’s the thing–it had always been true. It was the truth underlying your life even before you discovered it. It was rooted in history, and you had the DNA to prove it. It was true while it was hidden from your sight. But it didn’t change your life until your eyes were opened to it…

Union with Christ tells you a new story about who you are. If you are “in Christ,” you too have been given a new identity. God has called you into a new life, rooted in a history that predates you, anchored in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus. You discover who you are “in Christ,” and you are given the DNA to prove it, the Holy Spirit. You once were lost, but now you are “found in him” (Phil. 3:9).

This truth can change everything for you, but living in this reality will require your imagination. The Christian message is simple enough for a child to understand. At the same time, the Bible says that because of the new life you have been given in Christ, “from now on, therefore, we regard no one from a human point of view” (2 Cor 5:16 NRSV). Coming to see your union with Christ is like finally putting on a pair of desperately needed glasses–Wow! Look at that! We see ourselves, and everything else, with new eyes.

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Immanuel in life and evangelism

“At its heart the Christian message is a common statement on the part of certain men, i.e., those who are assembled in the Christian community. It includes a statement about themselves, about the individual existence of these men in their own time and situation. And it is essential to it that this should be so. But it only includes it. For primarily it is a statement about God: that it is He who is with them as God. Only with those who dare to make this statement, who as the recipients and bearers of the Christian message, as members of the Christian community, must date to make it? With them, to the extent that they know that it is actually the case: God with us. They dare to make this statement because they were able to become and can constantly become again the recipients of this message. God with you, God with thee and thee, was its first form, and they are what they are to the extent that they hear this again and again.

“But as recipients they are also bearers of the message. And to this extent it is not only to them. They dare to make the statement, that God is the One who is with them as God, amongst men who do not yet know this. And it is to such that they address the statement. They do not specifically include them in that ‘us.’ Their aim is to show them what they do not yet know but what they can and should know. What? About themselves, and their individual existence in their own time and situation? That is certainly included. Much depends on their coming to see that it applies to them. But everything depends upon their coming to see that it all has to do with God; that it is God who is with them as God. For it is this that applies to them.

“‘God with us men,’ but with the clear distinction, with us men who know it but are always learning it afresh — and as the word of our declaration to all others, and therefore with ‘us’ other men who have always to learn it afresh because we do not yet know it, although we can know it. In this movement from a narrower to a wider usage the statement ‘God with us’ is the centre of the Christian message — and always in such a way that it is primarily a statement about God and only then and for that reason a statement about us men.”

– Barth, Church Dogmatics, IV.1.i
(This was all one paragraph in the original, but I divided it. You’re welcome.)

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The craftiness of Jesus

I’m reading a draft of a new work by my friend & mentor, Warren Gage. It looks to be maybe his best work yet. Check out this paragraph:

There was a divine mystery at work in Jesus becoming like the serpent on the cross, a fact stated directly, for Paul the apostle claimed that the wisdom of God worked through a “hidden mystery” ordained before the ages, whereby the “rulers of the age” (always a periphrasis for Satan and his demons) were tricked into their own ruin. Continue reading

What does the church have to do with salvation?

‘Ask the average Christian about the relationship between “church” and “salvation,” and you are likely to get one of two answers: either (if the Christian is a rather old-fashioned Roman Catholic) that the Church is the reservoir of salvation, to which one must repair to receive grace; or (if the Christian is a rather common sort of evangelical) that salvation occurs apart from the Church, though it is a help along the way.

‘Despite the apparent differences between these two views, they are fundamentally similar. Continue reading