What I Believe: Our Redemption

Let us think of our redemption in terms of things that are flawed or dysfunctional being made right. I believe redemption begins with the good news of Jesus’ work being received by those who are sufficiently poor in spirit to know their need for it. Next, there comes liberty for those people trapped in wrong behavior and not able to free their selves. Moral blindness is a sign of God’s disfavor. Having our sight restored means we can see ourselves, others and the world as it really is and agree with God’s judgment as to how things actually are.

When we are redeemed we are moved from God’s disfavor, where we all begin our moral lives, and brought into the effective righteousness of God. I do not think this means we are perfected but we become instead blessed by the fullness of God’s gifts to his children. In other words, I think we drink spiritually of the living water and eat of the bread of life. We are no longer subject to God’s condemnation. This is not because we have been ransomed from Satan but because we have been returned to our right position with God.

Being redeemed means we are not only spiritually made new but freed from oppression from outside ourselves. This is because we should be free from fear of financial disaster, imprisonment or death, which are the usual tools of oppressors.

In addition to a personal side to redemption there is a social side. It is not generally thought that when Jesus read from Isaiah in the synagogue of Nazareth he was defining also social redemption but let us look at the words. “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor” (Luke 4:18-19 ESV).

I think that Jesus was speaking of both personal and social redemption when he read this passage from Isaiah. Personal redemption produces a new kind of person. Social redemption results in a new kind of culture. Both kinds are fruit of effective Christian believers.

The people Jesus spoke to did not want redemption. They wanted miracles like Jesus had performed in other Galilean cities. When he did not give them what they wanted they tried to kill him. We have technological miracles and progressive hopes so many people of our time are not interested in nor see a need for redemption. I believe they are acting if Christ is dead and thus unable to do anything useful for them or their society.

 

What I Believe: The Work of Jesus Christ

Jesus had about thirty years to be prepared and prepare himself for the work he would do during his last three years on earth. In fact, it is not until the last week of his pre-crucifixion life on earth that he gets to the really heavy lifting. It is in that week he enters Jerusalem fulfilling the Old Testament prophecies concerning the arrival of the Messiah, finalizes his conflict with all the different sects of Jewish religious and political leadership, teaches and heals amongst the crowds, institutes the Lord’s Supper and is betrayed, manages and endures his trial and crucifixion, and rises from the dead, and then on that Sunday he begins wrapping up with his followers the loose ends he had left hanging.

What is to be noted about his last week is that it was probably only slightly more busy and dramatic than the other weeks of his active ministry. We, of course, do not have his calendar for that time but John assures us that if all Jesus did were written down there would not be room on the whole earth to hold the books (John 21:25).

So far I have presented you with just the earthly works Jesus did. What is difficult for me is to know how to tell you of the spiritual work he did in his ministry. I know that he did what was necessary to remove from us, and all others who believe in him, the inherent and evident sin of our natures through his obedience to the Father even unto death. And it was not an easy death. But it is not possible for me to understand how the death of a single person was sufficient to do all that had to be done to satisfy our guilt before God. There must have been something agreed between the Father and the Son that allowed all to be accomplished by Christ’s death that was needed. I do know I do not have anything I can add to the transaction.

What I Believe: The Person of Jesus Christ

Angels came from heaven to sing of the glory of Jesus’s coming to earth. Shepherds came in from the fields to worship the new-born-child. Eight days later Jesus was taken to the Temple for the ritual required by the Law. Two or three years later the Wise Men showed up to provide the means for the Holy Family to live in exile until the danger from Herod and his sons had passed.

When Jesus was twelve years he went to Jerusalem with his family and then stayed to talk theology with the priests and rabbis. This was not normal but it was natural for someone coming into their identity as the Son of God.

About eighteen years later, Jesus knows who he is and what he has come to do. He is the second person of the Trinity, truly God and truly human. He has the same power as created the world and he knows he is to fulfill all the prophecies in the Old Testament concerning the Messiah, the Anointed One of God. I believe Jesus is fully God—of one being with the Father and Holy Spirit as one person of the Holy Trinity.

Jesus used providential opportunities given him to show his power to perform miracles and thus demonstrate both his nature as deity and God’s care for his creatures. I like the account of the raising from the dead of the son of a widow just outside the Town of Nain (Luke 7:11-15). Jesus is moved by the sorrow of the widow and so does what he can do in the situation. Can you imagine her son sitting up and yelling, “Get me out of this shroud”! Awe followed and the news spread but the event was not a publicity stunt. It was a showing of Jesus as who he is.

It took an intricate weaving of events to get the Old Testament prophecies fulfilled. I started with Jesus’ birth but the fulfillment began nine months before that and lasted until Jesus died on the cross, and then was raised from the dead and ascended into heaven. In this time frame Jesus fully demonstrated he was the one described in Isaiah 9:6-7. Jesus was the child born who by the end of his life on earth could lay claim to being Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, and Prince of Peace whose power would have no end.

Jesus also used his time of earthly ministry to teach his disciples, and the crowds, about himself, about the Father and Holy Spirit, and about their human natures. In addition he spoke often of the kingdom of heaven (kingdom of God) that was soon to arrive. I think that soon was in human time and not “God time.” In other words, some of the people he was speaking to would experience its arrival. I believe the kingdom of heaven came to us at Pentecost as the Holy Spirit inaugurated a body of believers who would live, starting with their rebirth, forever. We start on earth and then continue our existence in heaven.

We need to remember that the human nature of Christ was fully present in him during his time on earth. When he obeyed the Father, as we must, in seeking baptism, the Holy Spirit came upon him and made his human spirit immortal. This is a picture of our redemption and was necessary so that Christ would be first among his brothers and sisters.

When Jesus was tempted in the desert, Satan’s offers of food, acclamation by the world, and earthly power were directed at his human nature. They were not an attack on his divine nature but directed at a person in a redeemed condition like ours. That is, he had trust in God and had faith in what was written in Scripture but nonetheless he was susceptible to the possibility of sin. It was a real test. Needless to say, but I will write it anyway, Jesus passed this test and overcame all the other temptations that came his way.

Jesus was one with us in his human nature and he is the One who is making us like him in that nature so I believe he should always be recognized as at the center of our Christianity.

What I Believe: Non-Christian Views of God

One non-Christian view of God is that held, in different ways, by Unitarianism and Islam. This is the idea that God has a unity as one person and which denies the deity of Jesus and the deity and personality of the Holy Spirit.

Deism sees God as out there somewhere (transcendent) and having once acted as creator is not further active in earthly affairs (immanent).

Pantheism goes the other direction. It sees God in all that exists and all that exists in God.

Polytheism is any religious system than contains more than one god. Hinduism is an example. So are the various pagan religious ideas that occur all over the world.

Buddhism has at the center of its beliefs nothingness (Nirvana).

Other systems of thought that do not contain a God are Agnosticism which believes that God is either unknowable or unprovable, and Atheism and various secular ideologies which deny the existence of God.

There are belief systems that have their roots in Christianity but whose ideas are not orthodox. These beliefs are rejected by implication in the Nicene Creed.

These beliefs are not alternate paths to God as some people think. I believe they lead people away from the true knowledge of the triune God.

What I Believe: Miracles

Miracles are events that are beyond human power and outside the normal operations of nature. Thus they are described as supernatural. When I think about miracles I realize how many there are, how persistent they are and how unique each is, even though there are categories for those that are similar. For example, the bringing back to life of the son of the widow of Nain is not like the bringing back to life of Lazarus which is not like the Resurrection of Jesus.

Somebody has undoubtedly counted the number of miracles in the Bible and come up with a large number. They are all through the Old and the New Testaments from beginning to end. I believe that there is no reason they should have ceased when the canon was closed. After all, each Christian’s spiritual rebirth is a miraculous and unique event and there have been millions and millions of those.

When we consider miracles, providence, continuing creation and special revelation we can believe in a far richer reality than that of any secular dream. Not to live with awareness of God’s presence in our lives and in our world is not to live a natural life but to exist in an impoverished unnatural condition.

What I Believe: Providence

Providence is God working his will on what exists in the physical realm to accomplish his purposes. It is what we pray for when we say, “Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven” in the Lord’s Prayer. God uses the products of original creation and continuing creation to control all that exists for his purposes.

The secular mind is baffled by providence and even Christian believers often do not see God’s hand in what is happening around us. This is because providence can only be distinguished from nature by grace acting through faith. If we are to know providence then we must have faith that God is working and that by his grace he will give us a sufficient, but not all encompassing, understanding of what is going on. I believe we will not be left in ignorance if we seek understanding.

Providence is moving the world to the end God intends for it. There are various opinions as to what this is. However, we can be sure God’s control will take it to where it is he has in mind and to what he intended for it before the earth’s creation.

What I Believe: Continuing Creation

Continuing creation is God’s enduring and effective activity in nature and human events. I believe continuing creation allows both God and people to have options while allowing God’s purposes to be accomplished. The dialogue in Exodus 32 between Moses and God following the worship of the golden calf indicates that both God and Moses had real choices they could make. Fortunately for the Israelites, Moses persuaded God to honor his promises to the patriarchs and form the Israelites into an enduring nation.

 

Continuing creation has brought humanity to where it is now and will continue to change the world we live in. Not all change is of God but what prospers and blesses humanity is. There are too many beneficial things given to humanity by God since Adam and Eve to list.